Star Trek Discovery: Drastic Measures
Written by Dayton Ward
Published by Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books
“The revolution is successful. But survival depends on drastic measures. Your continued existence represents a threat to the well-being of society. Your lives mean slow death to the more valued members of the colony. Therefore, I have no alternative but to sentence you to death. Your execution is so ordered, signed Kodos, Governor of Tarsus IV.”
Those words, spoken by actor Anton Karidian (played by Arnold Moss) in the original Star Trek episode “The Conscience of the King” served as the tipping-point for Captain James T. Kirk’s identification of Karidian as Kodos, the Executioner. The episode is a stand-out example from Classic Trek’s amazing first season, featuring creative direction, a truly creepy villain, and the beginning of Trek’s fascination with the work of the Bard of Avon.
Those words also form the starting-point for Dayton Ward’s new Star Trek: Discovery novel, Drastic Measures. Set a decade before Discovery and twenty years before “The Conscience of the King,” Drastic Measures takes us down to Tarsus IV as the fungal plague ravages the colony’s food supply, and tells the story of Kodos’ horrifying decision, the aftermath of his murder of 4000 colonists, and the manhunt for one of Trek’s greatest monsters. As the cover photo implies, that story involves not just Kodos, but Commander Philippa Georgiou and Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Lorca (yes, the real Lorca from the Prime Universe), two of the key characters in the first season of Discovery.
The story of Tarsus IV and Kodos has been covered in a number of previous Star Trek novels, including the recent Autobiography of James T. Kirk, David A. Goodman, but Dayton Ward’s novel was written with the full cooperation and input of Star Trek: Discovery staff writer Kirsten Beyer, and the full knowledge of the Discovery writer’s room. This gives Ward’s book, and the preceding Discovery novel Desperate Hours by David Mack, a stronger connection to official Trek canon.
The resulting novel tells an exciting tale of a colony on the brink of death, of people recovering from unimaginable trauma and loss, of the difficulty of being a first responder to a horrific tragedy that is an ongoing situation, and of the attempt to bring a murderer to justice when all you want is revenge.
As the novel opens, Lt. Cdr. Lorca is a recent arrival at Starfleet’s outpost on Tarsus IV, but he has already begun to build connections with his teammates in the outpost and some members of the colony. As Governor Kodos declares martial law in an attempt to control the developing famine, Lorca’s lady love, a Tarsus colonist, is one of the 4000 people selected by Kodos for extermination.
Commander Georgiou is aboard a Starfleet transport vessel bound for Tarsus IV in response to the colony’s distress call. Her ship will arrive well ahead of the two-month estimate that Starfleet had given Tarsus IV. She is in charge of the hastily-assembled first response team of Starfleet engineers, scientists, security personnel, and medics that have been sent to render aid as quickly as possible. As the ship arrives at Tarsus IV, and the horrible deeds that had been done there just days before become evident, Georgiou finds herself also managing a manhunt, spearheaded by a grieving Lorca.
Of course, we know how the manhunt for Kodos has to end up. In order for “The Conscience of the King” to unfold as we know it must twenty years down the line, Kodos must escape, but be believed to have died in a fire. That pulls some of the suspense out of the manhunt story, though Ward manages to make the journey exciting anyway.
“Upholding a set of ideals can be difficult, and sometimes it’s damned cruel. Being able to do that, especially during times of adversity and crisis and even great personal tragedy, is the true test of anyone privileged to wear this.” Reaching up, [Georgiou] tapped her chest to indicate her Starfleet uniform. “we’re bound to uphold and defend those ideals, but the harder job is living up to them.”
The story features a number of twists and turns, and bravely gives us some insight into the mindset of Kodos the Executioner. It explores survivor’s guilt, the clash between humanistic ideals and the desire for revenge, and the trade-offs required of every leader in a crisis situation. It also serves to tie together many of the scattered details provided by “The Conscience of the King” about the Tarsus IV crisis, and the massacre.
One critique for the novel is that when it seems to end, it then ends again, and then again. And there is a mysterious and almost incomprehensible “post-credits” scene. It feels like, having “landed the plane” (so to speak), Ward had trouble letting us disembark. It comes off as a bit awkward, after a well-crafted story with a satisfying climax.
Drastic Measures features a Denobulan character as well as a Betazoid character, and I was pleased to learn a bit more about the history and ethics of the Betazoid people. The Benecia colony, the destination of the Karidian Company of Players in “The Conscience of the King” is mentioned. The book hints that the Bonestell Recreational Facility, where Jean-Luc Picard once left his heart (TNG: “Samaritan Snare”) may have been on Tarsus IV. There seems to be a nod to the Enterprise episode, “Horizon,” in a discussion about arming transport ships.
I was also pleased to see brief appearances by Captain Robert April and his wife Sarah, and Ward seems to take their characterization from their depiction in Diane Carey’s excellent novels Final Frontier and Best Destiny more than from the Animated Series episode, “The Counter-Clock Incident.” There’s a brief mention of zenite, and the planet it is mined from, Ardana (TOS: “The Cloud Minders”). There’s an oblique mention of Spock. And yes, a pivotal appearance by a teenaged Thomas Layton and James T. Kirk.
Memory Alpha tells us that the not-seen-on-screen bio of Ensign Hoshi Sato, prepared for the episode “In a Mirror Darkly, Part II” indicated that Hoshi and her family were among the 4000 people killed by Kodos on Tarsus IV. However, there is no indication of that in this book. Neither Kevin Riley nor his family are mentioned. Also, while “The Conscience of the King” does not mention Kodos’ first name, and The Autobiography of James T. Kirk gives it as Arnold, in Drastic Measures, his name is Adrian.
“Drastic Measures” is an exciting and worthwhile read, providing insight into the Prime Universe’s Gabriel Lorca and Philippa Georgiou. It is a compelling exploration of a community in crisis, and an exciting manhunt story. I highly recommend the book.