Series: Department of Temporal Investigations (#2)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Time Travel
Publication Date: 2012
The Department of Temporal Investigations has weathered a new front in the Temporal Cold War, but now they must face the dangers of their own history. A timeship has emerged from the past – a timeship that should not have existed in the first place . . .
The second (and final) Department of Temporal Investigations novel is a lot easier to follow than the first. This is particularly impressive given that it is both a prequel and a sequel to Watching the Clock. It’s a sequel in that it follows the core DTI agents (Lucsly, Dulmur, et al.) after the events of that previous novel. But the majority of this book is concerned with the origins of the DTI itself. In these scenes we follow the infamous James T. Kirk (among others), rendering the main body of the story a prequel. If nothing else, it’s an origin story. And a very good one at that.
As both the Original Series and the Animated Series show us, the 23rd century was a fairly lawless time when it came to time travel. Several times a year, Kirk and crew would be dragged into some temporal or dimensional crisis. A lot of Forgotten History is dedicated to bringing cohesion to these events, in much the same way that Watching the Clock worked to create a unified theory of time travel in the Trek universe. here it’s more of a narrative than a mechanical connection, as many of Kirk’s encounters are reframed as experiments by the fledgling research team that will eventually become the DTI. It brings a sense of continuity to the early voyages without losing the grand sense of adventure that defines the period.
As an aside, I want to say how much I love the idea that Kirk is seen by the DTI as some kind of time-travelling bogeyman. Given how often he roamed the timelines, it makes perfect sense that he would be regarded as one of Starfleet’s greatest menaces by the DTI. I adore these opportunities to examine the legacies of these characters, and Bennett does a fantastic job of it.
The sections involving the DTI of the late 24th century are unfortunately not quite as strong as those set a hundred years earlier. The problem is that Lucsly and Dulmur don’t really do much other than walk form interview to interview in search of the next part of the story. Even as a framing narrative it’s too light to justify itself. Things do heat up for the 24th century characters in the latter end of the book, but ultimately they feel like side characters in service to the story of Kirk and the early days of the DTI. This is a real shame, as I’d like to have seen the DTI take on a problem not directly related to time travel we’ve seen on screen. As fun as the mop-up operations are, they feel like snippets more than they do a full story.
What the Department of Temporal Investigations series proves is that the long history of Star trek is a wealthy resource to mine. The episodic nature of the show leaves plenty of questions for books to answer. It would have been fun to see the DTI continue, especially given how much time travel is showing up in the modern Trek shows. These two books have been a fun,albeit somewhat head-scratching, ride through the time travel of Trek, and are definitely worth checking out if you’re interesting in connecting all the dots.