Era: Enterprise, Season 3
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Military SF
Publication Date: 2006
Following the devastating Xindi strike on Earth, Enterprise seeks out the alien aggressors. On this voyage they are armed with a new weapon, the MACOs, elite soldiers who will stop at nothing to defend the Earth . . .
Last Full Measure occupies an odd slot in the history of Enterprise novels. technically, it’s the first book in the relaunch series that begins in earnest with The Good That Men Do. But it’s also set during the events of the series, season 3 in particular. Most of the other novels set during the series’ run have been smaller affairs, one off adventures that slot easily between existing episodes. But Last Full Measure forms a part of the Xindi arc that spanned the third season. Sliding new stories into such a serialised narrative is a hard trick to pull off, and Last Full Measure doesn’t quite succeed in this. Focusing on the side characters allows Mangels and Martin to inject real jeopardy into a setting famous for letting main cast members survive improbable odds. It’s still a shame though that you know these events will never be referred to on screen. In spite of this relatively minor quibble, however, Last Full Measure is a strong book that sets the ground for the brilliant relaunch.
One of the best things about a franchise as expansive as Star Trek is that it allows for all sorts of storytelling. Most episodes fit somewhere between space opera and social SF, but we’ve also got comedy (Lower Decks), romance (DS9‘s ‘Looking For Par’Mach in All the Wrong Places’), crime (Voyager’s ‘Ex Post Facto’), and heaps of time travel. Last Full Measure taps into a vein that Star Trek has dabbled with on many occasions, taking us into the murky realm of military SF. The introduction of the MACOs in Enterprise showed the possibility of a more militarised Starfleet that thankfully never came to pass. Major Hayes was a recurring character who embodied the MACO spirit, but the rest of his team rarely got any meaningful screen-time. That’s corrected here, as it’s the MACOs who dominate this book.
The role of the military in Star Trek is a fascinating one. In one sense, everything about Starfleet apes a military force. They have uniforms, ranks, and fight battles. But they are primarily scientists and explorers. In Last Full Measure we see Archer grappling with the reality that some kind of military presence is essential as humanity expands. We see glimpses of his moral battle as he begins using force to get answers from a prisoner, which hits harder knowing he’ll take things even further later in his mission. But while Hayes is an eager participant, the question remains: Is the military presence affecting Archer’s judgement, or are they just following his orders?
We do get to see the PoV of two Enterpise regulars here. The first is Reed, who is an obvious fit for a story like this. His rivalry with Hayes has its seeds here, and we get a brief flashback to Reed’s childhood which explains a lot of his perspective on the necessity of violence. More surprisingly, we also get to see Travis Mayweather shine. Travis was served poorly in the show, even worse than Hoshi (who is unconscious for much of this book, by the way) and even in the novels he hasn’t seen much action. It’s nice to delve a little deeper into his character, and his dedication to Archer and lifetime’s experience in space prove an interesting counterpoint to the MACOs’ struggle adapting to shipboard life.
All in all, Last Full Measure is a very strong book wedged a little awkwardly into an existing narrative. Even though it’s largely free of consequence, there is a lot of good material in here.