From the embers of his early childhood among Earth's blossoming
interstellar colonies, to the terrifying conflagration that
led him back to the world of his birth; from the mentor who
would ignite a young man's desire to explore the stars, to
the career he blazed in Starfleet that would end in supreme
sacrifice, the path of Christopher Pike's life leads through
fire again and again. But even amid the ashes of Talos IV,
the forbidden world on which he would live out the remainder
of his days, the dreams still smouldering within his radiation-ravaged
breast fan the flames of his spirit to accomplish one final
author Margaret Wander Bonanno puts it in her afterword, the
lack of information we have about Christopher Pike (the captain
who preceded Kirk in command of the Starship Enterprise)
invites our curiosity. On television he appeared only in the
two-part Original Series story The Menagerie
and the pilot episode from which half of that two-parter's
material originated, The Cage. Like the authors of
the early Eighth Doctor Doctor Who novels, who similarly
had only a single TV movie from which to draw inspiration,
Bonanno has only scraps of information to work with - but
from these scraps she has crafted a rich tapestry.
weaves together throwaway incidents and elements, such as
Pike's mother's recipe for chicken-tuna sandwiches; his horse,
Tango; and - more importantly - his torture by the Talosians
with the illusion of fire, to construct a convincing life
story of this tragic character. Bonanno has captured his capacity
to over-analyse his mistakes and the burden of command, and
imagines the events that led to the haunted expression that
his frowning face bears during all too many scenes of The
life story begins with his early years on Earth and the colony
world Elysium. These sections of the book are fascinating
enough, but if you are hungry for starship action, you only
have to wait until page 146 to get some of that, in a segment
that pays homage to the movie Crimson Tide. Even the
description of the maverick captain of the USS Aldrin,
whose authority is undermined by First Officer Pike, resembles
the likeness of actor Gene Hackman. Later sections detail
some of Chris's time on board the Enterprise and some
heart-rending return visits to Earth.
addition to Pike, Bonanno also fleshes out other characters
and events from The Cage and The Menagerie.
She manages to explain, for example, why the bipedal Talosians
were unable to rebuild Vina correctly; the reasons behind
the aliens' curious change of attitude from jailers to carers;
and Kirk, Spock and McCoy's debriefing following their return
from Talos IV. She grasps the proto-Guinan aspects of Dr Boyce,
who is as much a bartender and a listener as he is a physician.
The enigmatic Number One is callous but far from unemotional
(as some writers have seen her), as is demonstrated by her
jealousy of any other women who lust after her beloved captain.
There are plenty of Spock moments, too, as the Vulcan appears
in several different eras, including a framing narrative set
more than fifty years after the events of The Menagerie,
at which time the now ambassador makes a return visit to the
Talos star group.
Certain aspects of the book's chronology don't quite add up,
to my mind. For instance, page 6 states that Commodore Mendez
(portmaster of Starbase 11 in The Menagerie) was assigned
to relieve Commodore Stone (portmaster of the same base in
the episode Court Martial) shortly before the events
of The Menagerie. However, later chapters indicate
that Mendez ran the starbase for at least a year before the
time of both stories. Perhaps Mendez relieves Stone in the
sense that he takes on responsibility only for certain aspects
of the starbase's operation, or the two of them command it
on a rotational basis. I also feel that the stardate given
for Pike's exposure to Delta radiation (1709.2) is too early,
given that Court Martial occurs during stardates 2947.3-2950.1
and The Menagerie takes place during stardates 3012.4-3013.2.
all important respects, though, this is a brilliant and engaging
novel. The only problem now is that I wish I could read a
whole series of books about Pike's adventures, preferably
all written by Bonanno.
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