BOOK REVIEW: The Expanse, by J.M. Dillard

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expanse.jpg

Based on a Screenplay By: Rick Berman & Brannon Braga

Era: Enterprise, Seasons 2-3

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 247

Publication Date: 2003

Verdict: 4/5

 

Earth has been attacked. A probe from regions unknown has devastated the western hemisphere. Recalled to Earth, Captain Archer uncovers a shocking truth: The probe comes not only from a species known as the Xindi, but is supported by a faction in the Temporal Cold War . . .

Enterprise‘s first two seasons were firmly in the tradition of classic Trek. Standalone adventures in which the crew explored new worlds and encountered new civilisations. And those seasons were really good. But with the third season, Enterprise embarked on a voyage like no other. Not even Deep Space Nine went quite as serialised, and I would say it didn’t go quite as dark either. Sure, Sisko was complicit in the murder of a Romulan official, but Archer resorted to torture and piracy to get the job done. It’s no wonder the Xindi arc proved to be so controversial, and at times it felt too dark for what the show had previously been. There’s no denying, however, Season 3 changed Star Trek forever.

Dillard’s novelisation covers the finale of Season 2 and the Season 3 opener (‘The Expanse,’ and ‘The Xindi,’ respectively), blending them into a single story that feels pretty seamless, even knowing the original form. As with the other novelisations, it’s a beat-by-beat replay of the script, though I think some scenes here may have been cut from the final broadcast. Either that or I didn’t pay enough attention on my last rewatch. It’s a quick read that skews heavily towards the visual over the internal. there’re no inner monologues here that you wouldn’t be able to read from an actor’s face, and the action sequences are quick and clinical in their presentation.

For such a short book, Dillard packs in an impressive amount. Knowing that the focus is on the Xindi for the journey ahead, you could be forgiven for forgetting the Klingon blood-feud between Archer and Duras that proves a constant threat through the opening half. The scenes of devastation don’t quite carry the same weight in prose as they do on the screen, but Lizzie Tucker’s death in the opening chapter tips the scales firmly back into the world of tragedy. Trip’s ensuing battle with survivor’s guilt channels the same anger as Connor Trinneer’s performance, and so too does Archer’s stubborn determination that, this time, the ends justify the means. Even if the darkest parts of the journey are months in the future, you can see the seeds being planted here.

Of course, including everything from the script doesn’t always work in Dillard’s favour. The beginning of Trip and T’Pol’s romance is just as awkward on the page as it was when I first saw it on TV. No matter Phlox’s optimism, it doesn’t do either character any favours. Then there is the low page count, which makes everything seem very packed-in. There’s no breathing space on show here, though it does convey the urgency of the Enterprise‘s new mission.

For all these misgivings, The Expanse is a concise and accessible entry to a turning point not just in Enterprise, but in Star Trek’s history. Almost as strong as the episodes themselves.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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