(Based on the screenplay by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga)
Era: Enterprise, Season 1/2
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2003
Enterprise has been blamed for the destruction of a mining colony, and now the future of Starfleet is at stake. But is this the tragic accident it seems to be, or is there something more sinister at work . . ?
Though the franchise has historically thrived on individual episodes, Star Trek has its fair share of two parters, from ‘The Menagerie’ way back in the Original Series, to ‘Terra Firma’ in the latest season of Discovery. One of the hallmarks of Star Trek‘s heyday was the season finale cliffhanger, made famous by ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ and used in all but a handful of other series. Enterprise followed in this proud tradition with Shockwave, which straddled the first and second seasons. In the novel of the same name, Paul Ruditis novelises both of these episodes as a continuous whole, though the dedicated Star Trek fan will recognise the point where the episodes split.
Shockwave is a great story, particularly coming when it does in the canon. At this point, Archer has been away from Earth for less than a year, and has already got into a number of scrapes, not all of which have ended well for humanity. Or indeed, for anyone else. Archer’s rashness is a key quality of early Enterprise, and this is the moment where it comes back to bite him. As he is constantly reminded, his ‘innocent exploration’ has led to trouble with the Klingons, a brewing war with the Suliban Cabal, and renewed tensions between Vulcan and the Andorians. The latter two plotlines coincide nicely here, with the Cabal making their move and the Vulcans seizing the opportunity to question humanity’s place among the stars.
As with all novelisations, Shockwave has both the burden and the benefit of already being seen on screen. Ruditis captures the characters brilliantly, having had a whole season of material to work from. With dialogue taken directly from the show, it’s beat-perfect with the onscreen performances. But the pacing of a TV show doesn’t always translate well to a novel, and the breakneck pace of an action-driven season finale means that we don’t get much in the way of the thoughtfulness that Star Trek does so well. Not to say it isn’t there, as the whole first act has an introspective Archer brooding over past mistakes, but this is much more action-centred than a lot of Star Trek. Not a pad thing as such, but something to be aware of.
It’s been a while since I saw Shockwave on television (I really must do that full rewatch at some point) but there are some moments that feel like deviations from the script. The most obvious are the flashbacks to the events of previous episodes, which I don’t remember at all from the televised episode. As well as allowing for breathing space, these interludes allow for an additional dose of continuity, showing how those prior actions still linger in the memories of the crew. Furthermore, the prologue and epilogue set back on Earth shed light on the early days of Starfleet Command, reminding us that it’s not just the fancy spaceships that matter, but also the people back home.
Shockwave is a fine adaptation of a great two-parter, and would be a fine addition to any Star Trek enthusiast’s collection.