The last time I made one of these posts, it was on Alien: Out of the Shadows, and some of the pitfalls I find tie-in fiction falls into. In the interest of fairness and positivity, I’d now like to examine some good examples of tie-in fiction; Kirsten Beyer’s recent Star Trek Voyager relaunch.
Okay, it’s time for me to admit a deep, dark secret. I was a Voyager kid growing up. I was a bit too young to catch The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine was too political and philosophical at the time (though it has become my favourite in recent years), but Voyager hit me at exactly the right time.
The sad thing was, it wasn’t even the first run through. It was the second. Sky One would air an episode every weekday at 5, and I managed to tape most of them on long play VHS (hey, remember VHS?) to watch at the weekends. Star Trek Voyager was probably the first sci-fi show I watched start to finish.
But the truth is, going back to it in recent years, it’s not so great. Don’t get me wrong, it had great potential. I love the story of the two crews (Starfleet and Maquis) being forced to integrate in order to survive the dangers of the Delta Quadrant, and make a 70,000 light year journey home. It even had the occasional great episode. I would happily put Scorpion, Year of Hell, Timeless, and Living Witness up there with the best of Trek, and even season seven’s Author, Author makes a valiant attempt at equaling TNG’s Measure of a Man.
The problem really lies in the characters and arcs. In that, there really aren’t any. Due to an edict from on high or interfering producers or constrained creative vision, Voyager was a strictly episodic show. Whereas DS9 told the sweeping epic of Bajoran sovereignty, Cardassian politicking, religious figures, and the Dominion War, Voyager was stuck with monster and anomaly of the week storytelling for seven whole seasons.
Which all comes back around with Kirsten Beyer’s excellent novels. Starting with Full Circle in 2009 and continuing through several installments; Unworthy, Children of the Storm, The Eternal Tide, and most recently Protectors, these tie-ins have taken the core framework of the Voyager characters and idea, and given it a much needed shot in the arm.
Characters actually have arcs now! Chakotay had to deal with the death of Kathryn Janeway during the Borg invasion (from the Destiny trilogy of novels). Remember Ensign Kim? He’s now a Lieutenant (finally!) and with the addition of a single character trait, he’s now an ambitious young officer looking to get on the command track. Even Seven of Nine gets dialogue that doesn’t contain Borg standards like ‘adapt’ and ‘assimilate’.
Simply put, it does what a tie-in should. It takes the fundamentals of the original show (Starship Voyager, its crew, the Delta Quadrant) and adds something new. In this case, what Beyer added is the Star Trek fundamental of exploration for the betterment of humanity. Voyager is equipped with a new warp drive (the slipstream drive as seen in Timeless) and is sent with a fleet to explore the Delta Quadrant.
So far, the stories have been interesting, and have managed to keep the focus on the characters while getting wider in scope. Somehow, The Eternal Tide managed to balance all of its small character arcs while dealing with a malevolent equivalent to the Q continuum and the fate of the very universe itself.
And while I’m only about halfway through Protectors, it looks to be a very worthy follow up, both dealing with the fallout from the monumental events of The Eternal Tide, while setting up new plotlines as part of a new trilogy. It even managed to tie back into the early season 2 episode Twisted, an otherwise forgettable anomaly episode that has been elevated by this extra canonical context.
And that’s what it should all be about really. Supporting and elevating the existing material. Tie-in fiction has a bad reputation, perhaps undeservedly, especially in the case of something like the Voyager relaunch. All I can really say for myself is, as long as Kirsten Beyer continues to write them, I will continue to buy and read them.