This week, a coronation ceremony brings Picard back into the orbit of his former coworkers. But when one among them starts putting the others out of commission, Picard’s crew will have to put on their Dixon Hill hats to suss out the culprit. Meanwhile, a subspace slipstream carries the Enterprise off course, and it’s too deep to ford the oxen across. What’s the real story behind Jack Crusher’s death? Which Earth foods do aliens enjoy? And what does Dr. Crusher do while she’s on the toilet? All this and more in Reunion, the book that remembers when the Yankees really did suck.
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Published: November 1991
Timeline: Between “Suddenly Human” (S4E4) and “Remember Me” (S4E5)
Prerequisites: “The Battle” (S1E9) is referenced, but you don’t have to go back and watch it or anything
Not to be confused with: “Reunion” (S4E7)
Summoned back to his homeworld Daa’V to fulfill his birthright as its ruler, Captain Morgen1 of the Excalibur assembles an honor guard consisting of old friends from the Stargazer, including his former captain, Jean-Luc Picard. One by one, they arrive on the Enterprise: Morgen, the Daa’Vit heir; Idun Asmund, now first officer of the Mansfield—raised by Klingons (a sort of reverse Worf), still doing mostly self-inflicted penance for foul deeds committed by her deceased twin sister Gerda; “Pug” Joseph, their old security chief, now a bitter alcoholic; Gilaad Ben Zoma, now captain of the Lexington; Carter Greyhorse, whom Beverly worked with at Starfleet Medical while she was gone during season two; Phigus Simenon, reptilian chief engineer turned Academy professor; and Tricia Cadwallader, a spunky Australian woman who mentored under Joseph and promptly left him in the dust once she got promoted ahead of him.
The Stargazer team’s arrivals and interactions with the Enterprise crew comprise Reunion‘s interminable first act. The book doesn’t kick into high gear until Worf and Morgen are nearly killed in an act of holodeck sabotage, forcing Picard to confront the unsavory possibility that one of his erstwhile crewmates is a cold-blooded assassin. Matters go from bad to worse when the Enterprise accidentally enters a subspace phenomenon called a slipstream; no matter how fast the computer says the engines are going, the current carries them along at warp nine point nine five. If they can’t get out and back on course with enough time to backtrack to Daa’V, the consequences for Morgen will be dire, albeit ill-defined.
Reunion isn’t the worst Star Trek book I’ve read so far, but it was without question the most boring. My dislike of seeing these characters used to solve detective mysteries is already well-documented. What I haven’t talked about as much, if at all, is why I don’t like it. I don’t mind internal drama, at least to a point, but whodunits run totally counter to the idea of discovering strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations. We could have learned more about the Daa’Vit and gotten embroiled in any number of conflicts involving their society and/or royal structure. But we don’t see Morgen’s home even once. Instead, we get a bottle episode stretched dangerously thin across the increased bulk of an event novel. What good is a starship if you never leave it?
Reunion spends dozens and dozens of pages on the most soporific crap imaginable. As mentioned earlier, it takes forever for everyone to converge upon the Enterprise, and then it takes another forever while everyone just kicks back and gets to know each other (not that that’s bad, it just takes a long time). The business with the slipstream takes almost half the book to solve, requiring just under 150 pages of the novel’s real estate. This is time that could be better spent, say, developing Worf and Morgen’s relationship. The Klingon and Daa’Vit have a mutual hatred of each other, but as Starfleet officers, Worf and Morgen commit to putting aside their prejudices and forging unprecedented bonds. Wouldn’t a story with Worf becoming part of the honor guard2 and having to win over Daa’Vit society been way more fascinating? You know a book really beefed it when a Worf-centric plot would have improved it.
It’s a shame stories are required to have conflict, because this one really only comes to life when the Enterprise and Stargazer crews commingle. Riker/Cadwallader and Wesley/Simenon stand out as the top pairings. Riker, naturally, develops romantic feelings for Cadwallader, though she makes an interesting enough foil to make the pursuit engaging. Simenon makes a good mentor figure for Wesley, never patronizing him or condescending to him and choosing wisely when to be forthcoming and honest. Morgen is also a well-rendered character—that is, when I can manage to stop picturing him with his leg hiked up on a barrel—and, as stated previously, there are far more intriguing possibilities in his fledgling friendship with Worf. It’s good that most of these characters are fun to hang out with, because we’re going to be seeing more of them later on when the Stargazer gets its own spin-off books.
Picard’s time on the Stargazer is certainly a topic that is ripe for digging into, and although the characters are well-established here and seem like a decent bunch, this particular story gives them absolutely nothing interesting to do and nowhere to go. With the slipstream taking up so much of the action, Simenon does most of the heavy lifting with Geordi and Wes while most of the rest of the Stargazer characters remain on lockdown during the investigations. Some major questions about series lore finally get answered, most notably the details of the death of Jack Crusher, but even a revelation that major can’t do much to pull this one out of the mire.
MVP & LVP
- The MVP of the week is Phigus Simenon, the Gnalish chief engineer of the Stargazer who’s since gone academic. With Cadwallader laid out in a biobed for most of the proceedings, Simenon stands as the most sanguine of Picard’s old shipmates, contributing the most to the overall proceedings. I’d say he’s my favorite ex-Stargazerer for now, but we’ll see how or if that changes when we get to those novels.
- My LVP this week is Vice Admiral Kuznetsov on Starbase 81. Kuznetsov has to spend a few days accommodating Greyhorse and Simenon, who bicker like Spock and McCoy,3 and Idun Asmund, who just kind of behaves like an inscrutable weirdo, and yet he acts like he can’t palm them off on the Enterprise fast enough. Like, it’s a few days at most. Cool your warp nacelles, turbo.
Nuggets & Other Stray Bits
- p. viii: Friedman thanks the New York Yankees in his acknowledgments section, “who every day give [him] more reason to prefer the future to the present.” This is one of those things that feels like yesterday to me, yet there is an entire generation now living that has no concept of things ever being that way. As of 1991, the Yankees were entering the second decade of what would end up being a 14-year playoff drought, having last appeared in the World Series in 1981 and having last won one in 1978. David Letterman used to make fun of them all the time. It wouldn’t be long before Joe Torre coached them to four World Series wins in five seasons and reestablished them as the dominant force in Major League Baseball, but when this book came out, they were still just a bunch of bums.
- Friedman may have well and truly fallen back off the wagon when it comes to superfluous apostrophes, but he’s got a new habit as well: florid descriptions of beaming. Two exquisite examples:
- p. 17: “Ensconced in a shaft of blue light, Morgen began to take on shape and substance.”
- p. 41: “Under O’Brien’s expert touch, the shafts of shimmering light coalesced into flesh and blood.”
It almost makes me wish there was some kind of Bulwer-Lytton–type contest for purple transporter prose.
- p. 80: The Emmonites didn’t know what pasta was until they joined the Federation and had linguine with clam sauce at Admiral Manelli’s house. Sure, it’s a little Terracentric, but the idea of aliens getting hyped about Earth food is always amusing to me. Also, if you subscribe to theories that pasta may have been introduced to Italy from civilizations such as Arabia, Greece, or China, it can be read as a cleverly subtle way of paying it forward.
- p. 82: Worf calls chicken “an acquired taste”. Seriously, can I somehow get a reaction video of Star Trek aliens tasting and critiquing Earth foods?
- p. 199: Simenon is credited with introducing Picard to Earl Grey. It seems both odd and highly unlikely that an alien would be the one to get an extremely British Earth dude into an extremely British Earth beverage, but I suppose stranger things have happened.
- p. 247: “The thought of [Jack] made [Beverly] turn to the box of tapes on her commode. She wanted—needed—to hear his voice.” — Until reading that and looking the word up, I didn’t realize a commode was a portable washstand with a cupboard on bottom. I just figured Friedman had slipped into unusually informal tone4 and pictured her keeping the tapes on her toilet tank, the way some people keep a stack of magazines there, and popping one in to relax with while she takes a dump. No, YOU’RE too much information!
- p. 271, Geordi recalling the Romulans: “No one’s more merciless.” — Really? Out of all the species you’ve confronted, none is more merciless than the Romulans? Not one? Are you sure? Think hard about this, Geordi. I’m sure the time you spend won’t be [cough] futile…
I give Reunion 1.5 out of 5 subspace slipstreams. Man alive, this one is a dreadful bore. I had the hardest time I’ve ever had wanting to pick this one up. It was such a difficult drudge that it managed to derail the 86-week streak I’d had going, posting one review a week without fail from the beginning of the site in October 2017 until just recently. There’s barely enough here to make a regular numbered installment interesting, but when you stretch it out to event novel length, it’s completely hopeless. The new characters that are introduced are solid enough, but most of them are knocked out of the game early or stuck in a position where they’re not able to adequately contribute solutions to the problems that arise. This one just does not cut the mustard, at all.
NEXT TIME: Spock works with the Romulans to achieve Unification