Monday, March 8, 2010

Star Trek: SCE - Foundations by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

Spoiler level: Low to Medium

Pocket Books' new Star Trek book for March is a MMPB reprint of last year's trade paperback New Frontier: Treason by Peter David. Since I already read that one when it first came out, I opted to read S.C.E.: Foundations instead.

The S.C.E, for the uninitiated, is the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. Pocket Books took an offhand comment by Carol Marcus in Wrath of Khan and turned it into an ongoing eBook series. Set in the Next Gen era, the series follows the USS DaVinci, a Sabre-class starship full of some of the best engineers Starfleet has to offer, solving messes that other planets and starships find themselves in. You know when Picard makes a captain's log saying "I've notified Starfleet Command of the derelict spaceship we discovered..." as the Enterprise flies off into the end credits? Well, the DaVinci is the team that Starfleet then sends in.

The eBooks run around 100 pages each, and it very much has the feel of an episodic television format. So SCE is kind of the Star Trek TV show that wasn't.

Foundations, by contrast, is a 300-page novel (originally published as a three-part eBook story) set in the classic-TOS era. (And isn't that an awesome cover?!? I love the worn look.) It shows how the SCE got its start, and it turns out Scotty had a lot to do with it. Although the story is all one novel, the three parts tell three separate stories of Scotty's life: just before accepting the job of chief engineer aboard the Enterprise, during TOS immediately following "The Return of the Archons," and two years prior to Wrath of Khan.

And surprisingly... it's kinda' dull.

Scotty is a great character, but part of what makes him great is (a) his love of the Enterprise, and (b) his different layers. Scotty was the kind of guy who would rather spend his downtime just studying engineering books, but every time you got him on shore leave he was getting in fights or carousing with women. And of course, his love of scotch is no secret. So yeah, you're darn right he'd rather stay on the ship during shore leave, because otherwise he knows he's gonna get into trouble. (Remember that great scene in Wrath of Khan when Kirk comes aboard the Enterprise, and Scotty says to him "I had a wee bout, but Dr. McCoy pulled me through." "'A wee bout?' A wee bout of what?" Kirk asks. "Shore leave, Admiral," McCoy mutters in Kirk's ear, who just turns away and says "Ahhhh.")

However, the Scotty portrayed here is really only interested in engineering. He even gets reuinited with Tomar, his drinking buddy from my absolute favorite Scotty scene ever in "By Any Other Name," and the two just pass off the incident with a little mild embarrassment. The layers just aren't there. If it wasn't for his accent, the lead character could have been anyone.

Having said that, the parts that are follow-ups to "Return of the Archons" and "By Any Other Name" are interesting, and the framing sequence with the regular SCE crew is enjoyable. Plus it introduces the USS Lovell, which became a part of the Star Trek: Vanguard books. So all in all it's a worthwhile read, just not the exciting epic I thought it would be.

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