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Enterprise: The First Adventure

September 12, 2008

A Book Review

You might be forgiven for not knowing that James T. Kirk’s first mission as captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise involved him delivering an interstellar circus to a distant station. Much hijinks ensue.

This is the plot of Enterprise: The First Adventure, by Vonda N. McIntyre. Published by Pocket Books in 1986, it has a higher page count than most Trek books of that era and thus seems a little more weighty.

Star Trek is a big part of my life, but I think I’ve read only about a dozen of the novels. I had the Blish episode books when I was a kid, and I know I’ve read Probe, and the novelization of TMP (I suggest that one; it’s better than the film) and the one where Vulcans make first contact with Earth (the title escapes me; it’s another one that has been obliterated by canon)

Enterprise: The First Adventure opens in the aftermath of a major battle at a place called Ghioge, a fearsome clash that nearly claimed the life of Kirk’s best friend, Gary Mitchell. Kirk has recently split with Carol Marcus and his life is in a state of flux as he prepares to assume command of Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Spock is saying farewell to Capt. Christopher Pike; their exchange is cold, formal, a pretty telling example of how Spock dealt with his human colleagues before he met Kirk. We also meet young Hikaru Sulu, who has been assigned to the Enterprise but would rather be somewhere, anywhere, else, and Kirk’s close friend, Leonard McCoy.

There’s some complicated Starfleet politicking that results in Kirk’s choice, the injured Mitchell, being turned down for the No. 1 spot (despite Kirk’s promises to him) in favour of Spock. Mitchell doesn’t appear in this story much; the suggestion is he comes along later, after recovering, and takes a lesser post. We saw this in Where No Man Has Gone Before.

So Kirk takes the Enterprise, and brings McCoy along. His family comes to see him off, so we meet his mother and brother, Sam. McCoy brings Chapel. Sulu spends a lot of time trying to get reassigned. Uhura and Scotty, meanwhile, are already aboard and the suggestion is clear that they had served under Pike for some time.

Their first assignment is to escort an oddball space vaudeville troupe, which includes an emotional Vulcan named Stephen who has ties to Spock (this was written before The Final Frontier), a flying space dinosaur of some kind and a sexy woman. Now, there’s a lot more going on, but that’s the gist. Over the course of the story, adventure ensuses, Kirk finds his feet, Spock starts to think humans might have some potential, and Sulu decides this Enterprise might be okay after all.

The subplot I enjoyed the most took me by surprise: the story of Janice Rand. It’s her first assignment in Starfleet, and, when she confesses to Uhura, we learn early on that she’s actually only 16 years old and lied about her age to get the job. She had been orphaned young and raised her brothers in a long-forgotten colony as slaves (shades of Tasha Yar’s future backstory) She’s nervous, bumbling, terrified of Kirk and desperate to keep her secret hidden. If Rand had been this well-realized on the series, she might have lasted longer.

  • Kirk: ‘Yeoman, stop apologizing for everything!”
  • Rand: “I’m sorry, sir.”

All in all, it’s a nice insight into that era, a piece of Trek history that has never been explored. Until now, of course, as the new film promises to be about this very thing. The new movie won’t have anything to do with this book, and that’s a very good thing.

As interesting as some of the backstories in Enterprise: The First Adventure are, it’s just not a very good book. It’s dull. It’s silly. If this had been launched as the actual introduction of this legendary crew, it would not have inspired much interest. It’s more like a comedy.

That being said, I got it in a five-for-a-buck sale at the public library and read it in an afternoon in the sunshine. So all in all, things evened out.

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