Shadow The Machine (Star Trek: The Original Series) by Scott Harrison

With the recent death of Leonard Nimoy on my mind, I thought it was a good time to preview this Star Trek Novella. I attended college in Buffalo at UB (a SUNY school) and had signed up to be a reporter for the school’s newspaper – The Spectrum. This afforded me the opportunity to be a part of the interview team for a Q and A session with Leonard Nimoy who was promoting his book of poetry. It was a day of firsts, first meeting of a cast member of Star Trek and first time getting drunk at a bar (also the last time). It was my nineteenth birthday, the last year of my teens, probably the best year of my life where I’d both get accepted into my major and find true love all in the same week. The Press Pass for the Spectrum opened doors at the Star Trek Convention I attended in NYC that same year. I met all the characters from the TV show (except for “Captain Kirk”) in a much smaller setting than the crowded ballroom where the rest of the fans congregated. While I was not a total Trekkie (i.e. I didn’t have episode names and numbers memorized), I was a big fan of the show which had been off the air for a few years. This was the pre-movie era (although there was a Saturday morning cartoon – one which Chekov complained did not use his character). Over the past forty years the thrill of the show has faded – although I did catch most of the Star Trek movies. I am no longer a huge science fiction fan, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy revisiting the SF genre on occasion. This is one of those days.

In college, my best friend and I were writing our own Star Trek stories where we were ensigns on the USS Enterprise, fresh out of Star Fleet Academy. (I guess that makes me more of a Trekkie than I’m willing to admit). Shadow of the Machine (Star Trek: The Original Series) by Scott Harrison reminds me of our attempts to be a part of the Star Trek phenomena. The setting of this short story is immediately following the incident portrayed in the 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The crew is on leave while the “ship” is being refitted for its next five year mission. Scottie is staying aboard the USS Enterprise to supervise the process. Lieutenant Uhura and Chekov are traveling on earth. Spock has personal business on his home planet of Vulcan, while James T Kirk and Hikara Sulu are “going home”. So what happens on those off years when our heroes have some down time?

Everyone has been affected in some way by the events surrounding the V’Ger incident (see the movie), Sulu has nightmares, Kirk has guilt, and Spock has doubts about his purpose. By returning back to their roots, these three men find some sort of closure towards recent events. Sulu rushes to be with his wife who is in the hospital after prematurely delivering a baby girl. Spock touches base with his parents to try to deal with his failure to complete the Kolinarh process. Kirk goes back to his roots in Iowa where he attempts to help his teenage nephew overcome feelings of uncertainty over the future. The farm is surrounded with memories of Kirk’s boyhood days spent adventuring with his now deceased brother, Sam. Uncle Abner and Aunt Hannah are counting on “Jamie” to help Peter deal with the tragic death of his parents. By reaching out to his nephew, Kirk is able to resolve some of his own issues.

Luckily this was a short piece because there wasn’t much substance to it. The message could have been summed up with a couple of paragraphs instead of a hundred or so pages. Part of the story consisted of flashbacks to the V’Ger tragedy with the rest being reactions to that event as it affected the current lives of the three main characters, with a look towards what would happen in the future. Spoiler alert: They will all head back to the USS Enterprise, leaving their loved ones behind to mop up and deal with everyday realities – ones that are not connected to “the mission”. This obvious conclusion isn’t exactly rocket science.

So, despite a walk down memory lane (non Star Trek fans don’t bother) there really wasn’t much content to deal with, even for a short story, let alone a novella. Back to the drawing board. Two stars.

A thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free me download of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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