Since Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) premièred September 1987 with the pilot episode Encounter at Farpoint, Star Trek fans have clamoured for a story telling the beginnings of the relationship between the Enterprise‘s William T Riker & the ships Councillor Deanna Troi. In the episode Troi communicates with Riker through thought-speak and refers to Riker as ‘Imzadi’, but what does that really mean? Throughout the entire run of the show hints were dropped as to the depth of their relationship but nothing was ever specifically said.
Until Imzadi came along.
Published during the summer of 1992, Imzadi focuses on previously untold story of the relationship between Riker and Troi. It was one of the last novels Gene Roddenberry commissioned before he died and If you search lists of the top 10 Star Trek novels you will almost always find Peter David’s (PAD) Star Trek: The Next Generation novel: Imzadi.
But is it THAT good? You bet it is!
Imzadi starts in an alternate future, with an older, broken Admiral William Riker serving as commander of a Space Station in the middle of nowhere, filled with regret and grieving for the loss of one Councillor Deanna Troi, who died suddenly some 40 years before.
The way PAD writes the old jaded Admiral William Riker is nothing short of stunning. Down, broken and filled with so much unfulfilled potential you can’t help but empathise with him. A mere shadow of the man he was, even a now Captain (!) Wesley Crusher can’t recognise him as his old Commander. Filled with heartache and internal despair, Riker recounts to Crusher (now Captain of the USS Hood) the entire history of his and Trois relationship. From youthful first meetings on Betazed, up to and past there reunion in the turbolift in Encounter at Farpoint and to Deanna’s tragic and mysterious death.
In many ways Imzadi is an inversion of the perennial Star Trek: The Original Series episode City on the Edge of Forever (PAD even thanks that classic episode’s writer Harlan Ellison in Imzadi‘s dedication page). In City on the Edge of Forever, Kirk had to sacrifice a woman he had come to love for the sake of the timeline, but in Imzadi, Riker comes to the realisation that it had to have been someone from the future that killed Troi and so he sets out against his old friends to literally change history, save his beloved and in the process, just maybe, save himself.
Fans of Riker and Trois relationship will be in Star Trek heaven as the two characters entire history dominates the book with the majority of the story showing their romance from the beginning as Admiral Riker finally tells the story of his time as a young Lieutenant posted on Betazed and his meeting with a mysterious and beautiful Betazoid who in every possible way, changed his life. The supporting characters come in the form of alternate future versions of Wesley and Data with some particularly great work done with Deanna’s mother Lwaxanna Troi, with the relationship between both Troi women written wonderfully. David writes her so well you practically hear the voice of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry delivering the lines!
A Star Trek book relatively light on action (although when it does it’s all fantastically written as you’d expect from PAD) Imzadi is a story about relationships. Not just the relationship between Riker and Troi but also relationships between mothers and daughters and the sometime unreasonable expectation of parents. The relationship between Troi and Lwaxanna did get some development on TV but seeing them here on their home planet Betazed, with Deanna growing up and Lwaxanna desperately trying to steer her daughter down a life full of Betazoid responsibility and tradition felt new and fresh to me.
The writing style is fast, fluid and descriptive with PAD arguably giving more character development to Riker & Troi than they had in seven years of The Next Generation, I certainly feel like I know them both so much better since reading Imzadi.
An interesting observation is that Imzadi pre-dated the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale ‘All Good Things‘ by two years, and in that episode we also get a jaded Admiral Riker mourning the death of Deanna years before so I wonder if Imzadi had influenced the writers in any way? If they were it’s easy to see why as Peter David writes Riker so well.
Imzadi is also extremely new-reader friendly, with only basic knowledge of TNG needed to be pulled into this gripping story with even brilliant Star Trek author David Mack suggesting it in Dayton Ward’s ‘Ten Star Trek Novels for the New Star Trek Novel Reader‘ article for Star Trek.com.
Near the end you could be forgiven for thinking you were reading a book based on the Terminator franchise as an android (alternate Data) follows Riker back in time to try to stop him from saving Troi and even go to the extreme lengths of murder to help preserve the last forty years of the timeline. It is epic high concept stuff written with the kind of flair only the great Peter David could provide.
Imzadi is a fast paced, stand-alone romantic adventure filled with first loves, alternate universes, time travel and epic plot twists. I like to think of Imzadi as not only a coda to Riker and Troi’s relationship but it also serves as a prequel to the Star Trek: Titan novel series where we see them not only as the new Captain and Diplomatic Officer of a new starship but as a married couple and even new parents. I can totally see why Imzadi is held in such high regard, I really enjoyed this amazing story from a fantastic writer and I think you will too.
If you are looking for TNG novels set while the show was on the air, in my opinion you can do no better than Imzadi