Series: Department of Temporal Investigations (#1)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Time Travel
Publication Date: 2011
The Department of Temporal Investigations is all that stands between the Federation and total disaster. These brave men and women toil in obscurity to ensure the timeline stays intact. But how can anyone prevent an attack from the far future . . ?
Star Trek has a very, very long history with time travel. Take a look at ‘Past Tense,’ or ‘Future’s End’ for a pair of two-parters that show radically different approaches to the topic. However, a with a lot of things in Trek history, consistency is far from the name of the game. Pretty much every episode or book that deals with time travel has a different means of achieving said travel, be it gravity slingshots, stellar phenomena, Bajoran Orbs, or time crystals. Throw in all those alternate timelines and parallel universes, and you’ve got a big old tangled mess. Trying to build a universal theory of time travel in the Star Trek universe is essentially impossible. Yet that is exactly what Christopher L. Bennett is tackling here.
Two main stories feed into this book. The main characters Lucsly and Dulmur were originally introduced in Deep Space Nine’s ‘Trials and Tribble-ations’ in a nod to the famous investigators of the strange, Mulder and Scully. That event is one of dozens referenced here as we follow the DTI partners on a series of escapades across time and space. Characters from a number of other time travel episodes crop up, some in passing and others in key roles. There’s even a cross-over with Titan. But the main story is a continuation of the temporal Cold War story-line from Enterprise. Specifically, it wraps up the mystery of who the ‘future guy’ sponsoring the Suliban was. I’m always appreciative of references to Enterprise, and getting closure on an arc that was aborted on the show is a welcome surprise. The route to that satisfaction, however, is incredibly rocky.
This is a long book by Star Trek standards, and the pages of authors notes at the end show just how much research went into its writing. Yet time travel is an incredibly complicated theory when you get into the details of it, and so, so much of this book flew well over my head. There are entire chapters of this book that I still don’t understand. Some of the different methods of time travel are essentially irreconcilable, and a Time War is fought on such a staggering scale that my mind just can’t process it. This book certainly has its share of sense of wonder, but often in the form of ‘I wonder what i just read?’
In a rare case, it’s the flashbacks of Watching the Clock that I enjoyed the most. While the book does skip all over the place (and time), the individual follow-ups to selected episodes is a great insight to how the DTI works. I particularly enjoyed their interview with an utterly unrepentant Janeway post-‘Endgame’ but if you have a favourite time travelling Trek, you’re likely to find it referenced here.
Though it’s a real head-scratcher, Watching the Clock is an admirable effort at tackling some of the most confusing parts of the Star Trek mythos, especially now that the Litverse itself is on the verge of becoming an aborted timeline itself.