A minute ago you said we were out of options and that there was no chance of finding anything new.
I was simply trying to get the EMH to shut up. Have I mentioned yet how much I despise those things?
-Doctor Beverly Crusher and Doctor Tropp, U. S. S. Enterprise
In the time of Jonathan Archer, the Vulcan ship Ti’Mur picks up a distress call-one from a world in danger of complete destruction. Unfortunately, it has traveled a great distance, and the Vulcans have to go pull Archer’s fat out of the fire-and so the mystery of the danger to the Dokaalan people goes unsolved…. Until now. This is the present mission of the U. S. S. Enterprise in the books A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest. This is the second pair of novels detailing the events that bridge the gap between the Next Generation movies “Insurrection” and “Nemesis”; if you haven’t read the first books, A Time to be Born and A Time to Die, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, but this pair of books brings the casual reader up to speed nicely on their own.
Things have rarely been so bad for Captain Picard and his crew. Thanks to the events in the previous duology, the Enterprise is considered an unlucky ship, one that has a captain in the twilight of his career. Doctor Beverly Crusher is considering taking a position as Surgeon General at Starfleet Medical; Commander Data is dealing with the removal of his emotion chip; and the ship is under orders to investigate a 200 year old mystery which can be best described as “low priority”. This is not the kind of mission that the crew of this ship is used to having (the phrase “overqualified” comes to mind).
It isn’t much of a surprise to see that in one respect, the Enterprise arrives too late. There’s not much left of the Dokaalan homeworld. Yet the Dokaalan still live, and they’re in the midst of an ambitious project-transforming another world to allow them to settle upon it instead of surviving in a colony amongst asteroids. However, it seems that this first contact isn’t greeted with universal joy; Enterprise arrives as one of the Dokaalan outposts loses life support-and it is discovered that it wasn’t an accident. As the crew works to assist the Dokaalan, more acts of sabotage occur, some of the rescued Dokaalan are ailing, and unknown to the Enterprise crew, the flagship of the fleet is not immune to infiltration. If that isn’t enough, there are others watching the work of the Dokaalan with great interest.
While in some ways this is a fairly standard Trek book (see crew; see crew meet aliens; see one faction like crew, and one faction distrust crew; mix), I felt it was a stronger duology than the last one. Instead of trying to save a planet, they’re trying to help a race build a new one. It’s a bit of a twist on the usual formula, and one I appreciated. And I have to admit that I liked the Dokaalan attitude: one has to admire a people who have managed to survive such adversity, and get to the point where it’s very likely that they’ll have a new true homeworld in their own time.
There are a number of nice character moments; Picard and Crusher having dinner again for the first time in a real long time; a few scenes with the newer members of the crew (Vale, Taurik, and Perim); and a message from a Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire to Will Riker, which may have a bit to do with a future transfer of his own. Picard has to deal with the dangers of second-guessing himself after his recent fall from grace in Starfleet, while Geordie and Data have to deal with Data’s return to emotionlessness (although that quickly becomes the least of Data’s problems). And I’ll give points to Ward and Dilmore for using an alien race that I certainly never expected to see again. I take off, however, for how easily the Enterprise gets infiltrated-you’d think that after a war in which even tables could be shapeshifting Founders, the ship’s security procedures would be a mite better….
Still, A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest is a solid bit of storytelling, both on their own and as a part of the continuing story arc.