REVIEW: Star Trek: Academy—Collision Course

Star Trek: Academy—Collision Course novel
Pocket Books, hardcover edition, 2007
Authors: William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

It has been said that all publicity is good publicity. When William Shatner and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens released Collision Course at the end of last year, I had not read a Star Trek novel in years. While various Trek novels provided me with countless hours of enjoyment dating all the way back to 1986, I simply lost interest in them at some point. Though the fine work of this particular team is always on my radar, I also did not have any plans to read this installment in the adventures of James Kirk.

Then I read a crushingly negative review of Collision Course on another site, and I knew I had to buy this one. I had to find out for myself if three of my favorite authors had really so mishandled Star Trek’s most important characters.

Collision Course is the first book of a new novel series from Shatner and the Reeves-Stevens, Star Trek: Academy. This marks their tenth collaboration. Academy will follow young Jim Kirk’s adventures at Starfleet Academy. Collision Course starts things off well with the first meeting of Kirk and Spock.

“Star Trek is about moving forward,” some whine as a protest against prequels like this one, or J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming Star Trek XI. We already know everything about Kirk so it will be boring, right? Wrong.

As viewers of Star Trek, we actually know far less about Kirk and Spock than we think we do. Most of their history prior to the adventures seen on the television series has been revealed in one or two lines in a scattering of episodes. Though references like The Star Trek Encyclopedia do a great job of tying all of those loose threads together with strings of conjecture, a lot of the details are still missing.

For instance, what really happened on Tarsus IV when Kirk came face-to-face with Kodos the Executioner? What drove Spock to choose Starfleet over his father’s more logical plan that he attend the Vulcan Science Academy? Collision Course offers some insight into these and other mysteries of our heroes’ early years.

One criticism that can sometimes be leveled at Star Trek and other series fiction is that there is little room for character growth. Authors are often forced to leave main characters in essentially the same emotional state that they start. One of the reasons that the novels of Shatner and the Reeves-Stevens are usually among Star Trek’s best is that they avoid this trap.

In Collision Course, we see the growth of Kirk, Spock, and even the Starfleet organization. Kirk and Spock may seem at first to be strangely different from the characters we know and love. If Kirk and Spock were exactly the same in early adulthood as they were on the original series, then what would be the point? While there is an interesting if occasionally predictable plot, Collision Course is primarily a journey of character. In that journey, Collision Course achieves tremendous success.

The authors know these characters well, too. During the Vulcan form of an argument with his son, Sarek states, “Spock, you are an alien on an alien world. What can you do?”

You can almost hear Leonard Nimoy (and, perhaps, someday Zachary Quinto) delivering Spock’s reply, “You are mistaken, Father. On Earth, you are an alien. But like my mother, I am not.”

Collision Course is definitely a worthy installment in the adventures of Kirk and Spock. For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to reading a Trek novel – Star Trek: Academy—Trial Run, which will continue these adventures.

Overall Experience: 8 (out of 10)