Review: “Star Trek Voyager: The Murdered Sun” By Christie Golden (Novel)

Well, since the weather was still extremely hot, I still only really felt like reading shorter and/or “easier” novels. So, after remembering that I still had quite a few unread “Star Trek” novels left over from when I used to read these books more often (in 2011-13), I decided to take a look at Christie Golden’s 1996 novel “Star Trek Voyager: The Murdered Sun”.

Whilst this novel tells an original and self-contained spin-off story that takes place sometime during the events of the first or second season of “Star Trek: Voyager“, it is probably worth watching at least a few episodes of the TV show beforehand if you want to get the most out of this novel.

So, let’s take a look at “Star Trek Voyager: The Murdered Sun”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 1996 Pocket Books (US) paperback edition of “Star Trek Voyager: The Murdered Sun” that I read.

The novel is set in the distant future – aboard the United Federation of Planets starship U.S.S Voyager, which has been stranded in a distant region of space called the Delta Quadrant for the past few months and is trying to find a way back to Earth.

Anyway, it is two in the morning and Captain Janeway can’t get to sleep. So, when she gets an urgent message from the ship’s bridge, it is a welcome distraction. Voyager’s sensors have just picked up both a mysterious wormhole and a warning beacon from a spacefaring empire called the Akerian Empire threatening anyone who strays into their space.

Initially, the wormhole seems to be a potential way back home. So, after some thought and discussion, Janeway crosses the boundary. However, it soon becomes obvious that there’s something off about the wormhole. It is leeching hydrogen from a nearby sun. This threatens to wipe out the inhabitants of a nearby planet called Veruna Four. But, before Voyager’s crew can study the phenomenon too much, they soon find themselves in the middle of a conflict between the Akerian Empire and Veruna Four…..

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is excellent πŸ™‚ During some parts of the novel, it almost felt like I’d returned to the Sunday evenings of my childhood when I used to watch “Voyager” on TV every week. This is to say that this novel is basically like an extended episode of “Voyager”, but with a bit of extra depth/character/atmosphere and a larger special effects budget πŸ™‚

It is also a perfectly balanced novel, expertly mixing science fiction, character-based drama, political drama, suspense and thrillingly spectacular action scenes. Although the novel’s story takes a little while to really get started and there are a few slow-paced “treknobabble“- filled scenes earlier in the story, it soon becomes a very gripping story πŸ™‚

In addition to several well-placed epic space battles, this novel also remains compelling in lots of more subtle ways too. For starters, one of the story’s sub-plots involves the Voyager’s crew trying to uncover information about the history of both the Akerians and the inhabitants of Veruna Four. Likewise, there’s a lot of tension about how much assistance Voyager can offer Veruna Four whilst remaining within the limits of Federation law etc… Seriously, this is a brilliantly compelling tale.

Yes, some elements of the story are a little bit stylised and will seem familiar to fans of the show (eg: a corrupt militaristic empire vs.a peaceful spiritual civilisation etc..). Likewise, one of the novel’s dramatic plot twists is teased at least twice but, when all is eventually revealed, it will come as no surprise to people familiar with “Star Trek” storylines. Even so, this novel still remains surprisingly gripping, compelling and immersive.

The novel’s science fiction elements are as good as you would expect too and, in addition to the usual futuristic technology (eg: gravity weapons, starships etc..) and a few long-winded scientific explanations, there’s also other interesting stuff too such as a scene which shows how an alien society with a tradition of oral storytelling experiences less linguistic change over time when compared to languages that rely more on writing.

As you would expect from a “Star Trek” story, this novel also covers a variety of real-world topics – such as colonialism, the US’s treatment of Native Americans, militarism, the environment and prejudice. Although these themes could have been handled in a more subtle (and less lecturing/preachy) way, this never really distracts from the story too much and is in keeping with the TV show it is based on.

In terms of the characters, they are absolutely stellar. In addition to a reasonably well-written cast of background characters (from both Veruna Four and Akeras), the novel focuses heavily on Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay and Tom Paris too – with Chakotay and Paris each getting their own sub-plots too. Likewise, although the main characters are reasonably similar to the TV show, this novel adds a bit of extra emotional depth and personality to them too πŸ™‚

In terms of the writing, this novel’s third-person narration is really good. In addition to being very readable, Golden’s narration strikes a really good balance between descriptions, dialogue, characterisation and action, which really helps the story to flow really well. If you’ve read other “Star Trek” novels from the 1990s before, then the narration is fairly comparable to these.

In terms of the length and pacing, this novel is excellent πŸ™‚ At a reasonably efficient 277 pages in length, the novel manages to tell a full story (with a couple of sub-plots) without ever feeling bloated. Likewise, although the story gets off to a little bit of a slow start, the pacing is absolutely superb and most of the story is really gripping. The highlight has to be during one of the mid-late parts of the story, where Golden expertly juggles several story threads (with mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter) before suddenly speeding things up by focusing on just one dramatic story thread.

As for how this twenty-three year old novel has aged, it has aged really well. Although there are possibly a couple of mildly dated descriptions, the story is just as gripping, atmospheric, nostalgic and dramatic as an episode of the TV show it is based on πŸ™‚ Plus, since it is a book, the “special effects” and location design during many scenes look just as impressive today as they did back when “Voyager” was still a modern TV show.

All in all, if you’re a fan of “Star Trek: Voyager”, then you’ll enjoy this novel πŸ™‚ It’s like a totally new episode of the show, but with deeper characterisation, a more complex plot, more atmosphere and better special effects πŸ™‚ Yes, some elements of the story are a little bit clichΓ©d/predictable and the story also takes a little while to become really gripping, but this was a really enjoyable novel to read πŸ™‚

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Star Trek: Voyager (Season Four)” (TV Show)

2014 Artwork Star Trek Voyager season 4 review

Well, since a second-hand boxset of this series was going fairly cheaply on Amazon, I decided to check it out. Being a massive “Star Trek” fan, I knew that I was going to like this season, but I didn’t realise exactly how much I’d like it. Before I go any further, I’ll say it again, I’m a fan of this show (so this review should be read with this in mind).

Although I still haven’t watched every episode and every season of “Voyager”, season four is probably my favourite one so far.

In case you’ve never seen “Star Trek: Voyager” before, it’s a sci-fi show which follows the crew of a spaceship (called the USS Voyager) that has been stranded in a distant corner of the galaxy and is trying to get home to Earth. On their way, of course, they get into all sorts of interesting situations and meet lots of new civilisations and forms of life (some, of course, are benevolent and some aren’t).

This season also introduces Seven Of Nine, a former member of the Borg (a large group of cyborgs with a hive mind who “assimilate” almost everyone they encounter into their collective) who ends up joining Voyager’s crew. Although her character is developed quite well over the next few seasons, it was interesting to see how she started out. Still, saying that, she’s pretty much the same character as she is in seasons 5-7 for quite a bit of season four (although there is one amusing scene where she organises a group of people under her command in a similar way to a Borg collective).

“Star Trek: Voyager” is one of those TV shows where, apart from the occasional two-part episode, pretty much every episode is a stand-alone story. So you don’t need to have watched the previous three seasons in order to enjoy this one. However, season four starts with the second half of the final episode of season three – although there is obviously a re-cap at the beginning of the episode, so don’t let this worry you.

One of the first things I will say about season four is that it is probably the “darkest” and most dramatic season of “Voyager” that I’ve seen yet. Thankfully, it never gets too depressing though (despite a couple of rather sombre episodes like “Mortal Coil” and “Retrospect” – which deal with the questionable reliability of repressed memories and the possible absence of any kind of afterlife).

Even so, “Star Trek” is one of those great shows which knows exactly how to walk the line between entertaining drama and wallowing in depressing melodrama.

In addition to this, there are some surprisingly good (and creepy) horror episodes too, such as “Nemesis”, “Revulsion”, “Scientific Method” and “One”. All four of these episodes are also surprisingly inventive too. For example, in “Scientific Method”, Voyager has been invaded by invisible aliens who are performing secret medical experiments on the crew – and only Seven and the Doctor can see them.

“Revulsion” is a vaguely horror-movie style episode where Voyager discovers a drifting spaceship after receiving a distress call. All of the ship’s crew is missing and the only sentient being on the ship is a sentient hologram who seems to be disgusted by “organic” lifeforms. Although there isn’t really a big plot twist in this episode (since the fate of the crew is shown in the first two minutes), it’s still a surprisingly dramatic and creepy episode thanks to the characters, atmosphere etc…

In “Nemesis”, Commander Chakotay’s shuttlecraft crashes on a planet which is embroiled in a Vietnam-esque civil war between two alien species. I’m not going to give away too much about this episode, but the writing in it is absolutely excellent (even if at least one part of the ending becomes absolutely obvious from about halfway through the episode). Not only that, some of the creature and set designs in this episode are quite reminiscent of “Predator” too, which is never a bad thing.

In “One”, Voyager has to travel through a radioactive nebula in order to shorten their journey home by a year. Since Seven and the Doctor are the only crew members who can survive the radiation, the rest of the crew has to go into stasis whilst Voyager spends a month passing through the nebula. Of course, since Seven used to be part of a hive mind, it isn’t long before the relative solitude begins to affect her mind in all sorts of disturbing ways.

Both of the two-part episodes in this season are absolutely amazing and crammed with drama. “Year Of Hell” takes place over an entire year, where Voyager is under constant attack by a spaceship which has the power to alter the past – I vaguely remember watching this episode on TV when I was a kid and it was just as dramatic as I remembered.

“The Killing Game” is probably the best two-part episode of “Voyager” that I’ve ever seen. Before the events of the episode, a group of aliens (whose lives revolve around hunting other species for trophies) called the Hirogen have taken over Voyager and turned most of the ship into a giant holodeck (a room which can realistically simulate other environments).

Most of the crew has been placed inside this holodeck, which resembles WW2 France, but with their memories altered – so that they believe that they are either French resistance members or American soldiers. The Hirogen play the role of the Nazis and try to hunt down and gravely injure (but not kill) any resistance members that they can find.

Of course, the Hirogen can’t place every member of the crew into the holodeck, so the remaining members of the crew (who are forced to maintain the ship and to treat wounded crew members, before returning them to the holodeck to be hunted again) have to work out a secret plan to get rid of the Hirogen and restore everyone’s memories.

Not only is it great to see 1940s versions of almost all of the main characters, but the special effects in this episode still stand up pretty well for something made in the late 1990s. Plus, of course, the episode is also filled with lots of drama, suspense and good writing too.

All in all, season four of “Star Trek: Voyager” is worth watching if you like inventive, well-written and well-acted sci-fi. If you’re a “Star Trek” fan, then this season is an absolute must-watch. As I said earlier, it’s probably the most dramatic season I’ve seen so far of this excellent show.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would get a six.

Review: “Star Trek: Voyager (Season Seven)” (TV Series)

Ok, this review may be... slightly... biased.

Ok, this review may be… slightly… biased.

Well, I’ve been a fan of “Star Trek: Voyager” ever since I used to watch it at 6:45 every Sunday night on BBC2 (or possibly channel four, I can’t remember) when I was a kid. So, when I found a fairly cheap second-hand copy of season seven, I knew that I had to add it to the collection of “Star Trek” DVDs I’ve built up over the years.

In a nutshell, “Star Trek: Voyager” follows the crew of a spaceship called USS Voyager (led by Captain Janeway) which has been stranded in a distant corner of the universe and is trying to find a way home. On the way, they end up being involved with all sorts of planets, adventures, mysteries etc…

“Star Trek: Voyager” keeps the sense of adventure and utopic futurism that made “Star Trek: The Next Generation” so great, whilst also including some of the slightly more gloomy and emotionally realistic storytelling found in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.

Although most episodes of “Star Trek: Voyager” are stand-alone episodes and you certainly don’t have to watch every episode and every season in order, it’s probably best to have at least a basic knowledge of the premise of this show and who the main characters are before you watch this season.

Not only that, there are a fair number of character-based episodes in this season which might be confusing if you’ve never watched “Star Trek: Voyager” before. This is both one of this season’s strengths and one of it’s weaknesses. Although there’s still a fair amount of exploration and adventure, this series is probably very slightly more “introspective” than the other complete seasons of the show that I’ve seen (seasons three and five).

It’s kind of difficult to review an entire 26-episode season in a fairly short space of time, so I’ll start by saying that all of the episodes are of the usual high standard.

About the closest thing to a “bad” episode in this season is probably “Human Error” – an episode which focuses on Seven’s slightly obsessive fantasy relationship with a holographic version of Chakotay. The characterisation and acting in this episode is absolutely excellent, although the sub-plot (Voyager accidentally straying into an intergalactic weapons testing range) feels slightly weak and the episode also ends slightly abruptly and the main storyline feels slightly unresolved.

The best episodes in this season include “The Void”, where Voyager is trapped in a completely empty and seemingly inescapable region of space that absorbs unsuspecting spacecraft. All of the spaceships in the void survive by plundering each both other and new arrivals for resources, so Voyager must fend off attacks whilst Janeway decides whether to stick to her Starfleet principles or whether to start plundering the other ships. I don’t know why, but this is probably the ultimate “feel good” episode of “Star Trek”.

“Shattered” is another excellent episode where Voyager has been trapped in some kind of temporal fracture and Chakotay must travel through different parts of Voyager (each one of which is stuck in a different period of the ship’s history) in order to get things back to normal. Although I haven’t seen too many of the early episodes of this show, I’m guessing that this episode is probably twice as good as it already is if you have.

“Q2” is a fairly amusing episode where Q returns to Voyager with his teenage son, in the hopes that Janeway can teach him empathy and responsibility. Although this episode gets a little bit didactic and preachy, the scenes at the beginning of the episode where the younger Q wreaks havoc on board Voyager are absolutely hilarious.

There are also a surprising number of two-part episodes in this season, all of which are surprisingly good. Although “Workforce” seems more like a fairly compelling modern low-budget sci-fi thriller movie than a “Star Trek” episode, this is a huge compliment given that it was from a TV series in the very early 2000s.

“Flesh and Blood” is a fairly dramatic episode about a group of holograms who rebel against the Hirogen – a species of hunters who hunt and kill holograms repeatedly. These holograms end up enlisting the help of the Doctor, but things get a bit more complicated when the doctor has to decide between loyalty to the holograms and loyalty to Voyager.

“Endgame” is the conclusion to the series as a whole and, although it’s fairly dramatic and gives us a brief glimpse into some of the main characters’ futures, I’d have liked to see more. Even though it’s a fairly satisfying conclusion to an amazing TV show, I still can’t help but wish that this episode was at least a couple of minutes longer.

All in all season seven of “Star Trek: Voyager” is an excellent season of an excellent show. Although there slightly more character-based episodes than usual and this season is aimed more at fans of the show than at new viewers, it’s still worth watching. Yes, it probably isn’t the best season of “Voyager” that I’ve seen so far, but it certainly isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would probably get four and a half at the least.