BOOK REVIEW: The Good That Men Do, by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin

-this review contains major spoilers for the Enterprise series finale, continue at your own risk-

Good_That_Men_Do_cover.jpg

Era: Enterprise

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 446

Publication Date: 2007

Verdict: 5/5

Everyone thinks they know the story of the NX-01’s finale voyage, and how Jonathan Archer helped found the United Federation of Planets. But what if the official version of events was a lie? What if the Federation’s foundation was a messier and darker story than anyone could have imagined . . ?

I’m not a big fan of retcons. From my perspective, something that has happened has happened, and shouldn’t be undone. I like unbroken continuities. And yes, I am aware of the irony that a Star Trek fan is saying this. All that being said, the rather unique nature of the Enterprise finale allows for a lot of leeway. When your entire episode is a holographic simulation, you can expect that people will be less credulous of the events therein. With The Good That Men Do, Mangels and Martin take full advantage of that to launch a series of post-finale Enterprise novel that kicks off with a complete rewriting of that controversial episode.

Like the Enterprise finale, The Good That Men Do has a framing narrative set two centuries after the events of the main story. In this case, it’s a far less obtrusive one. In the early twenty-fifth century, Jake Sisko and Nog meet to read through declassified files regarding the creation of the Federation. This may seem odd on the face of it, as it’s hard to imagine two characters with less connection to Archer and his crew. However, once you get into it, it makes perfect sense, for it was in Deep Space Nine that Section 31 was introduced, and that organisation plays a large role here. In fact, Section 31 may be one of the largest legacies of DS9, especially with its role in Discovery and its own upcoming spin-off show.

Going back to The Good That Men Do, Section 31 is shown as a (slightly) more benevolent organisation than it later becomes, at this point primarily concerned with preparing Earth for a war with the Romulans. To this end, they recruit Trip Tucker and fake his death. That’s the biggest retcon here: the survival of Trip. I doubt many fans will complain about this change. I know I won’t. I’m less than convinced that he’s a good choice for an undercover spy, but that is dealt with neatly. trip’s espionage takes up about half the book, and gives us a good look at the interior workings of the Romulan Star Empire.

The other half of the book is a retelling of the other elements of the Enterprise finale, reworked to better tie into the Romulan threat. Nothing here is too shocking, and it’s nice to see Shran getting a fair bit of page-time. Between Shran, Archer and Trip, the rest of the crew doesn’t get much to do. Phlox, Reed and T’Pol have important roles, but are mostly kept to the side. Hoshi and Mayweather are under-used (as they often were in the show itself) but everyone has a moment or two in the spotlight.

Despite my natural aversion to retcons, I found The Good That Men Do to be a brilliant start to the post-finale Enterprise novels. It’s a real shame that this era of Star Trek is so under-utilised, even in the Pocket Books continuations. An equal shame that thos ebooks that were printed are so hard to come by. Nevertheless, I’ll be rereading the Romulan War soon enough, and hunting down what other books I can.

If you’re a casual Star trek fan, this is a great story from an unfairly maligned part of the franchise. For the die-hards among you, it’s a wonderful return to an unexplored time, and a fascinating look at the pre-Federation era of Starfleet’s history.

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