It’s been four long years since Star Trek New Frontier‘s last entry was released (2011’s ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’) and I for one eagerly awaited its return. I hounded Pocket Books Twitter account with questions of when the series would be back and I regularly asked New Frontier author Peter David for updates on its comeback.
So you can imagine my excitement and anticipation when it was announced that New Frontier would return, again written by David, in the form of a trilogy of eBooks, released periodically throughout 2015. So I hit pre-order and eagerly awaited the 6th July 2015, the date when the first instalment would appear on my tablet.
In that time I wondered, would the new stories be a soft reboot of themes and concepts to cater to new readers? Would long burning questions left lingering by the series hiatus finally be answered? Would the series return and hit the ground running, retaining the high standards fans of New Frontier have all come to expect?
The answer to that last question is an emphatic YES!
Set three months after the events of ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’, the new book, ‘The Returned Part 1’ see the crew of the USS Excalibur not only mourning one of their own, but its captain, the incomparable Mackenzie Calhoun, grieving for the complete and utter destruction of his people the Xenexians by the mysterious and powerful alien race: the D’myurj.
‘The Returned’ starts with Calhoun scouring the surface of Xenex, searching for possible survivors of its attack, feeling utterly responsible for not being there to be its saviour, as he was as a teenager when the planet was under occupation and feeling an all-conquering need for revenge against the D’myurj.
Now this is a Calhoun we are not used to seeing. Normally brash, cool under pressure and completely confident in his abilities, now he’s now second guessing himself and shutting out the people closest to him. It’s Calhoun’s quest for vengeance that drives him (and the plot) forward by reintroducing old allies to aid him, they themselves much changed, as they should be considering all they’ve been through in the course of the series.
The characters are far cry from where they started when the series began and in Robin Lefler’s case, nearly unrecognisable from her appearances on The Next Generation.
I for one loved the character development. Under David’s deft hand the crew of the Excalibur feel like real people, always changing, with real failings but are ultimately trying to do the right thing, sometimes against impossible odds.
The relationships between the characters are as real as they always were, including my favourite New Frontier pairing: Calhoun himself and his wife (Admiral!) Elizabeth Shelby.
The plot is full of twists and turns, with plenty of surprises for New Frontier readers with the return of characters thought long lost and even a passing reference to David’s Starfleet Academy trilogy.
The story is a treat for long time New Frontier fans but new readers picking up ‘The Returned’ may find themselves completely lost. Star Trek New Frontier is 17 years old this year and ‘The Returned Part 1’ is a deliberately direct continuation of all that has come before.
The choice not to do a ‘soft reboot’ of sorts was a bold one, one that for me, paid off. The writing style is classic Peter David – descriptive, fluid and deliciously dosed with his trademark humour.
One scene I loved in particular was in a breath taking chapter featuring a confrontation in front of The Guardian of Forever that had me frantically swiping my tablet screen to see what happened next!
The Star Trek universe is a much changed place since New Frontiers last instalment with the events of Destiny, Typhon Pact and The Fall all fresh in our minds. By setting this story before these events David ensures we can concentrate fully on where the New Frontier characters are after such a long gap between stories. New Frontier had enough lose ends to cover before it entered the wider Star Trek universe again but this is something we will hopefully see in the further instalments of the trilogy.
‘The Returned Part 1’ is an action packed, promising start to what looks to be an excellent trilogy, with a cliff-hanger so good you’ll be eagerly awaiting Part 2.
Not only is ‘The Returned Part 1’ the return of favourite characters and the hopeful beginnings of a return to Calhoun’s former self, it is the return of New Frontier to Star Trek fans, and it was well worth the wait.
It is also the return of Peter David writing Star Trek and that is something to be celebrated.