Series: Voyager: Full Circle (#5)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2014
Having returned from the dead, Kathryn Janeway returns to the Alpha Quadrant to face questions over her suitability for command. In the Delta Quadrant, a much-reduced Full Circle Fleet investigate a decade-old mystery . . .
After the relatively weak The Eternal Tide, the Voyager relaunch novels make a spectacular return to form with Protectors. Just as Beyer has hit her stride with these novels, so too the characters have settled in. With the original Voyager crew (sans Kes and Tuvok) in new postings and new faces occupying familiar seats, the new status quo took some getting used to. Surprisingly, Janeway’s resurrection doesn’t upset the new order all that much. Partly because she spends the bulk of the novel separated from her crew, but also because the ensemble cast no longer revolves around a single chain of command. By spreading protagonists across several ships and giving them all plenty to do, Beyer keeps momentum going in what is essentially the halfway point of this series.
One of Star Trek’s greatest strengths has always been its episodic nature. The simple formula of arrive, investigate, resolve, learn kept the franchise going for most of its first seven hundred episodes. Yes, there were longer arcs, such as DS9‘s Dominion War or Enterprise‘s Xindi crisis, but the show was rarely heavily serialised until Discovery. Even Sisko took time out from his intergalactic war to play the odd game of baseball. But the self-contained nature of the show could also be to its detriment. Voyager in particular has drawn criticism, often justified, for its use of the proverbial reset button. Usually it worked, because Voyager was always going to move on from a planet on its long journey home, leaving little room for follow-up, but this approach did leave a lot of mysteries unsolved. One of my favourite aspects of Beyer’s novels is the opportunity taken to revisit some of those mysteries, and now that the Borg threat has been set aside, the books return to investigation in earnest, and can finally follow up on past enigmas.
What I did not expect this book to be is a sequel to ‘Twisted.’ One of those episodes destined to be remembered as nobody’s favourite, ‘Twisted’ was a perfectly serviceable standalone about a mysterious energy wave warping the ship. At the end of the episode it left behind a large information dump, which was promptly never mentioned again. Until now. In the grand scheme of things, this is one of the lesser events to have happened during Voyager‘s original journey, and it’s only fitting that Harry Kim is the reason it gets mentioned. of course he’d be the one to have been decoding it for over ten years. I also love the fact that Chakotay orders the crew to investigate the information simply because there is nothing else to do. While there are important events happening back home, it’s good to see some parts of Starfleet are still boldly going for the sake of curiosity alone. Obviously that curiosity gets the crew into trouble, and sets up some intriguing conflicts for the next book, but the central conflict here is resolved by the book’s end. Like all the best episodes, this is just one adventure of hundreds, and that is why it works as well as it does.
This is one of the best Star Trek books in the relaunch series, and a prime example of what made Voyager work as a show. If the momentum can carry through the following books, then Beyer is surely onto a winner.