Novel Review: ‘Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures’ Delivers An Exciting Tale Tied To Star Trek History

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.

Canon connections

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.

Bottom line

“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.

Available tomorrow

Star Trek Discovery: Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward will be released on Tuesday, February 6th. You can can order it at a discount at Amazon in Large format paperback and Kindle ebook.

It is also available as an Audible Audiobook. You can get it for free and get a 30 day free trial by joining Audible (and help support TrekMovie) by visiting audibletrial.com/trekmovie.

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This is a great way to use the novels: as a way to enrich, expand, and connect Discovery by tying it in to existing Trek canon. As I understand it, the DISCO books will now be considered canon, which has been the case in the new SWU books that have connect the course of events from A New Hope to The Force Awakens. As long as they can do this without tying up creativity, it’s a good sign.

And as for all the Star Wars Expanded Universe and nearly 50 yeas of Star Trek novels? They all still exist, and the best of them are every bit as good a ride as ever. David Mack’s Khan/Assignment Earth books are books that both enhance and flesh out two of Trek’s most intriguing untold tapes by intertwining them with other ancillary Trek characters. Great fun!

Greg Cox wrote the Khan/Assignment: Earth books.

Adrian is probably a reference to the original ep’s credited writer.

The original episode credited “Barry Trivers” as the writer, according to Memory Alpha. Trivers also wrote the original teleplay, which was revised by Steven W. Carabatsos and Gene Coon. I see an Adrian Spies listed in Memory Alpha, who wrote the episode, “Miri,” but I see no indication that he worked on “The Conscience of the King.” What am I missing?

Sorry, I thought Adrian Spies was the credited author, my bad. I remember Ellison mentioning him as a good writer, and somehow conflated CONSCIENCE with MIRI, which is not a fave of mind (CONSCIENCE isn’t either, but there’s more going for it, plus it has early Spock/McCoy, though I assume that is due to a Coon rewrite.)

‘Conscience’ had one of the best McCoy & Spock scenes in TOS.

It does rank as one of my favorites, even accounting for some of the stage-y acting and the ’60s “new” technology of voiceprint identification ;^D

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of “Miri” either. I first saw it as a kid, and I didn’t like any episodes that involved kids speaking some kind of made-up slang. I didn’t like “And the Children Shall Lead,” either.

I don’t know why I find it strange but it feels much more like there was real cohesive thought process into this phase of Star Trek with the novels building on what we see in the episodes and the way that the episodes have been both new and modern while still using Trek canon in a way that honors the legacy and fitting in with what has come before. It works for what it’s supposed to be quite well. Now if only I could get one really good Trek video game again – something that’s genuinely in the same family as Mass Effect.

In between my writing/editing I’ve been finding “Desperate Hours” kind of weird and hard going because David Mack tries very hard to meld the Prime Uni TOS Enterprise [Pike, Number One, Lt Spock, Dr Boyce, original “Cage” uniforms] with “Discovery’s” Prime Uni Shenzhou. It’s a bit disorienting. And Pike, so far, is coming across as awfully by-the-book.

That said, the sci-fi elements are pretty good and I like his characterization of Saru quite well.

So I look forward to seeing Dayton Ward’s character building.

I think that picture of Lorca has him looking a bit “shifty,” haha.

I really liked how Saru and Number One worked together as characters, and also the Spock/Burnham scenes. I guess I was able to make the combo work in my head.

Yeah – HEY, WAIT! THAT’S A PICTURE OF MIRROR LORCA, NOT PRIME LORCA!

Yeah, me too, Saru and Number One worked well together. It was good to see him as a curious scientist and valued colleague, not swapping snipes with Burnham. The Spock and Burnham scene late in the book was really well-done. I also like the way he wrote Georgiou.

My problem reading this book comes up mostly because I tend to visualize the action like a movie in my head, and wow, that was challenging, mixing today’s images and trying to update ’60s images …. yikes.

My copy is on its way!

I’d love to know what you think of it once you’ve read it!

Ditto what Denes said, let us know!
I want some Lorca right now!

Great, yet another novel suffering from Small Universe Syndrome

I agree, that this novel is suffering from small universe syndrome. You can only meet so many people from other treks in the same story that it makes everything seem ridiculious. And no way i am paying $11 for a kindle version. What a rip off.

Cool. First appearance of prime Lorca.

I liked it quite a bit. I really hope the “post-credits scene” is actual canon foreshadowing, and not a tease for way down the road. It would be an awesome thing to see it pay off in the finale this weekend.