Because it proved impossible to get a novelization of "Endgame" on the shelves at the time the episode aired, Pocket Books instead has released an oversized paperback containing Diane Carey's version of Star Trek: Voyager's final episode plus a sneak preview of Christie Golden's relaunch novel Homecoming. Fans must decide whether it's worth $12 for a volume that doesn't include any photos from the episode and offers mostly a tease in terms of the new material. Both pieces were written in a hurry to get this book out on schedule, so readers should prepare to find a few errors in the pages; they're not a big deal, and the editor should be commended for attempting what the series lacked either the creativity or the courage to do by allowing us a glimpse of the crew's lives off the ship.
In this review I will withhold most of my comments about the script of "Endgame," which in my opinion constituted the worst two hours of Star Trek in its 35-year history (you can read why here). Carey shouldn't be blamed for the faults of the teleplay, written by Kenneth Biller and Robert Doherty based on a story by Biller, Brannon Braga and Rick Berman. Nor can Golden be faulted for being unable to undo in 48 pages the character sabotage that took place beforehand. The novelists struggle valiantly with the material they're given and deserve credit for maintaining a consistent tone.
As she did with Deep Space Nine finale "What You Leave Behind" and Voyager episodes like "Flashback," Carey speculates plausibly on what characters might have been thinking or feeling during their scenes. She does a wonderful job making up for Captain Janeway's silly queries to Admiral Janeway by having the captain think things like, "Ah, stupid question time. The value of the senseless blurt." Though Carey doesn't really manage to soften the blow of Seven's harsh treatment of the Doctor, nor compensate for Chakotay's unprofessional suggestions that he turn off his comm badge and give his girlfriend a day off, at least she makes the effort.
Unfortunately, the book can't capture all the nuances of the performances that made "Endgame" enjoyable even for critics who wrote otherwise scathing reviews of the finale. In the novel, we can't see the energy of Mulgrew's performance as the two Janeways interact, nor can we compare the subtle details of how she differentiates the older woman and the younger one. Though Carey describes Tom Paris' emotions at having to leave his wife's side while Torres is in labor, she must explain what's going on in his head, rather than showing the subtleties of Robert Duncan McNeill's facial expressions. In general, Carey fails to capture the looks and winks between crewmembers familiar to most fans after years of watching them interact. One wonders whether Carey is a fan of this show, for this adaptation seems flat, unlike her version of What You Leave Behind, which showed real understanding of most of the characters.
Carey tries to add small details to "Endgame," for instance by having Janeway state that she decided early on in the voyage against letting crewmembers have children. This sort of controlling dictatorship would be plausible for current-canon Janeway, but it's the antithesis of the behavior we saw in "Elogium" from a captain who was adamant about her crew's right to make their own decisions about their personal lives. Maybe Janeway did think about the issue offscreen before we saw her try to hash it out with Chakotay early in the second season, but here the declaration just sounds like an attempt to rewrite a past that we've already seen established differently on the show. There are several similarly contrived moments when Carey tries to bring the present Janeway in line with the character from the first few seasons, yet they don't really gel.
But rewriting history is "Endgame"'s modus operandi. Carey doesn't try to justify Admiral Janeway's vast violation of the Temporal Prime Directive, yet the scene in which the admiral warns the captain of Seven's impending doom seems devoid of emotion, with almost no attention to what might be going through either Janeway's mind. Seven and her newly deactivated cortical implant get the bulk of the emotional development -- though hearing more details about her tedious picnic with Chakotay where he compares her with his mother doesn't enhance the story at all. And Carey can't do a thing with the atrocious dialogue. After Janeway begins what's supposed to be a rousing speech by remembering that Voyager was once "just a starship" to her, Carey adds, "She paused, to see if this very odd statement would have some effect on [her crew]." Scenes like this that should be powerful, earnest testaments to the enduring power of Star Trek instead become comical.
After the end, not even Christie Golden can redeem the characters. Oh, she's fine writing Torres in her new Leave It To Beaver persona, she does a wonderful job with the heroic homecoming of Tom Paris, she reminds us why we love the Doctor's wry wit and underlying selflessness. She's particularly good at creating a personality for Chakotay, whose inexplicable behavior in "Endgame" gets very little attention once he's back in the Alpha Quadrant. But for the first time in her wonderful Voyager-writing career, Golden's Janeway is as poorly characterized as Biller and Braga's. This Janeway, who has just agreed to rewrite the history of the universe as Admiral Janeway knows it to save a few crewmembers, is ready and willing to surrender Chakotay, Torres and the rest of her Maquis crew to Starfleet for arrest if it comes to that. After fighting so hard to get them home, we're supposed to believe Janeway would even consider letting her people go to jail? I don't think so.
To make matters worse, this Janeway decides to go say goodbye to Michael Sullivan and gets emotional doing so. For all the atrocious things they did to to Janeway in "Endgame," at least Biller and Braga didn't send her back to Fair Haven, which most of us hoped she'd stopped using as a sexual crutch after "Spirit Folk." Then she has her reunion with Mark Johnson, the man who didn't wait for her, and is about to get weepy over him when she discovers she really likes his wife -- a woman whose sole positive characteristic is her obvious worship of Janeway. It's emotionally implausible that Mark's sweet young housewife has always admired Janeway rather than resenting her, and laughable when Janeway feels better about life after Carla wrecks a souffle. She's somewhat in character from "Endgame" -- the self-sacrificial Janeway who wants to be everyone's mother -- but she's not the Janeway from Golden's previous books, let alone the admirable captain from a few seasons back.
Is it possible to have a strong Trek series without a strong captain? Perhaps -- I keep reading that Seven of Nine is the most popular character on Voyager, followed by the Doctor. Maybe I really am too old for Star Trek, but I can't find a way to rationalize the selfish motives and lack of heroism on the part of most of Voyager's crew, and nothing Golden hints at in the future makes me believe that she can get the series on track to approach The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. Even for those readers who enjoy it, this brief glimpse into Golden's vision of the future of Voyager may frustrate more than satisfy. Few conflicts of a personal nature get resolved in the scant 48 pages here, while the Starfleet debriefing seems ridiculously scant, even given the circumstances explained in the book. There are teeny, tiny hints that Golden prefers pairing Janeway/Chakotay and Doc/Seven to Chakotay/Seven, primarily because she gives each of the first two couples scenes alone together yet not the latter. But there's no backtracking from the events of "Endgame," nor real growth. Perhaps that will all take place when Golden's first post-Voyager novel is released, but it's not in this rather expensive paperback.
Buy Endgame if you saw the episode and loved it or if you're a Voyager completist, keeping in mind that the new material may not be canon by the time Paramount gets done organizing Voyager crew cameos in the next movie. Otherwise, if you want a Voyager fix, I'd recommend Golden's excellent Dark Matters trilogy (which costs only a few bucks more) or the Section 31 novel Shadow (which costs a few bucks less). And if you want to recapture the epic feeling that drew many of us to Star Trek in the first place, splurge on The Eugenics Wars, where Janeway's ancestor Shannon O'Donnell ponders the future from Area 51 while James T. Kirk gives noninterference directives the serious contemplation they deserve.
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