Star Trek S.C.E: The Belly of the Beast (#001)

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The U.S.S. Enterprise has defeated a gigantic marauding starship from parts unknown. Now that the immediate threat has been neutralized, the S.C.E. has been called in to probe the vanquished hulk in search of both new technology and the secret of its origin. Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge has temporarily transferred from the Enterprise to assist Captain David Gold and the crew of the S.C.E. ship, the U.S.S. da Vinci, on this fascinating mission. La Forge works with Gold and his top-of-the-line group of technical specialists to unravel the high-tech mysteries of the supposedly dead alien vessel, only to discover that the real danger has just begun!

Way back in the year 2000, hence the poorly photoshopped cover, there was an attempt at a new way of telling Star Trek stories. This series, in part inspired by the success of New Frontier, would not follow the crew of the Enterprise or other such people from the telly box but tell all new adventures on all new ships. This line would also be unique in the way they told these stories. While New Frontier had done short stories to get things going S.C.E would stick to these micro tales throughout their run. Originally these would be collected to a few per paper back. often with a far better cover, but I shall be sticking to these originally short stories. Before we go any further in case you’re thinking of reading along it should be noted that due to the lack of e-book exclusive short stories the stories were rather expensive even for the time and now can be beaten not just by the likes of the second hand book market but even by the collected works on kindle themselves. This book, fresh from Amazon, will cost you four pound. Have tech will travel which collects the first four stories will set you back five pound on the same format. As I say this was the early days of e-books and mistakes can be forgiven. In fact I wish they were more as it’s a format I would like to see more of from the big boys and girls and not just relegated to the indie crowd. But enough about this and lets looks at the book to hand.

Now the biggest concern going into such a series is that it focuses on the corps of engineers and there is the worry that this means that every solution is going to come through technobabble. I should say that this does not happen in book one. Of the technobabble is there but we do not save the day by reversing the tachyon flow at any point in the book. Now if we’re not going to be doing that the question is what will we be doing? The idea is that the crew of the Da Vinci are to go around and do all the back up grunt work that is too important for the likes of Picard and the Enterprise. Now this doesn’t really work here as Picard starts the ball rolling by stopping the super ship from wiping out the colony and I get the feeling, tbh, that is this were any other story he and his crew would be tasked with figuring out the how’s and why’s. But it gets the point across for the series. They are the clean up crew for when the main stars have gone. Speaking of main stars. New Frontier decided to shake things up a bit by filling their series with mostly new characters. There were one of two that Peter David had created in the past for other books but he shook things up by bringing the hot headed Elizabeth Shelby over from the ‘Best of Both Worlds’ as the Excalibur’s first officer. They will try and do the same here but the best they can manage is the ensign who spilled her hot chocolate over Captain Picard in one episode of TNG. This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t give us a brief bio for each main member of the team and have to name drop things like Enterprise and Defiant as though it meant something when in truth, some digging reveals, that some of the characters weren’t even named in the sole episodes they appeared in. At that point you have to ask why they don’t just have a whole new crew of whole new characters. Which in a way they do.

Let’s go from one negative to the next. The book is short. That’s kind of the idea. It takes four of these to make up a normal sized novel. Gene Roddenberry also had a ‘no conflict’ for his character’s. Something that I don’t think is as hard and fast as some people make out given the likes of Spock and McCoy. The thing is I feel that half the lines in this book are just people agreeing with each other. “I bet this is …” “No bet here…” or “I think this is …” “Oh I agree”. Something that is made all the worse by these being new characters that you are trying to introduce me to. By the end of the book you might remember Gold as the captain and Gomez as the first officer, just because the names are said so much. Duffy and Bart might be remembered for their names but I doubt you would be able to tell me anything about them by books end. Heck the award for most characterisation goes to Christine Vale, the head of security aboard the Enterprise, who comes along on the mission for something to do. For those who don’t know her she was one of the first real attempts at creating a novel only character for when they were planning to carry the adventure’s of the Enterprise forward past their screen life into a connected series of stories. Even from here I can say they did quite well with her it’s just a shame about the team I’m supposed to be caring about. Even Scotty, who gets pride of place on the cover, hinders this. Now they’ll do more with him down the line but here is a glorified, and pointless, cameo for the crew of tng who will be cameoing in the pilot episode for S.C.E. To go back to New Frontier they used Picard in that book and to look at McCoy in Encounter at Farpoint he was a nice nod that took no real time or attention away from the new characters we were supposed to be here for.

Overall this is a pricey and rather bland pilot episode. The general idea shows promise though and it’s not enough to dismiss the whole thing out of hand.

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