Star Trek Comes to an End
My Reflection on the Coda Trilogy and My Star Trek Fandom
This fall, the storyline which has spanned twenty years of Star Trek novels will come to a close with the Coda trilogy by Dayton Ward, James Swallow, and David Mack. To this lifelong Star Trek fan, in a very real way, this will mark the end of Star Trek. And that is a momentous statement. Obviously Star Trek episodes, movies, comics, and even books will continue to come out, and I will undoubtedly watch and read many of them (not to mention rewatching the old stuff). But the road of following these characters which began back in my earliest memories and has continued unbroken for three decades will end here in the way that is most important to me. So a bit of reflection on that seemed appropriate.
My earliest Star Trek memory was seeing an ad for the premiere of The Next Generation on TV in what must have been 1987. At four I already knew that my dad would be excited to hear about this new show. As the episodes were aired after my bedtime on a school night, I rarely got to watch TNG for years. But I could hear my dad watching it in the next room every Sunday night as I lay in bed wishing I could stay up to experience it too.
In the early 90s three things happened that cemented me as a huge Star Trek fan. Watching the constant stream of replays of the TOS movies on cable, getting a VCR and being able to record TNG and watch it every week, and most impactful, starting to collect the Micro Machine Star Trek ships in 1993. Those little ships set my 10 year old imagination on fire, and life became all about Star Trek for the rest of the 90s. I’d spend countless hours drawing diagrams of my Micro Machines and then every other onscreen ship, rewriting aspects of the Star Trek Encyclopedia with new information from each week’s episodes, and taping up huge, wall covering maps of the Star Trek galaxy on my bedroom wall.
In 1994 we finally got access to a channel showing Deep Space Nine, and the huge experience of The Next Generation’s finale, complete with favorite episode countdown and behind the scenes documentary. Soon came Voyager, and Deep Space Nine continued to get better and better. Star Trek was now a huge universe, and though most people don’t think of it, Trek in the 90s was the first to try “it’s all connected,” twenty years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Worf would be on DS9 one week, then appear on a TNG movie the next, and a few weeks later the events of the TNG movie would be mentioned on DS9. They were mostly minor crossovers to be sure, and they were rare, but they made Trek something more than just any other show. It was a whole interconnected world to be explored.
But mostly Star Trek was my hobby, the world I could escape to when the struggles of being a young teen, and the pains of middle school were just more than I wanted to deal with. We’ve all been there. Having something to lose myself in during those challenging years left Star Trek imprinted on my heart for life. Honestly Star Trek became so important to me that when our local UPN affiliate transitioned to the WB, causing me to miss three years of Voyager’s first run, I sunk into quite a depression. Though my adulthood exposed that many of Star Trek’s overarching messages were increasingly at odds with my own philosophies, the years have proven that that accustomed emotional refuge, and that childhood love, is difficult to erase.
And when Trek began to wane in the early 2000s, and the novels (which I had never read as they were NON-CANON, a dirty word to someone who had learned at the feet of the Okudas for almost a decade) gained fame for continuing the stories of Picard, Sisko, and Janeway beyond the series, I gave in. I read A Stitch in Time, and the rest was history. What began as a plan to read a few DS9 stories back in 2004, just to see what happened after the series ended, led to me still not having completed reading the ever expanding list of all those interconnected novels seventeen years later.
Trek Literature became the real continuation of those stories I so immersed myself in as a kid, the stories of Sisko, and Janeway, and Picard. The fight against the Borg, the exploration of the Delta Quadrant, the politics of the Federation and the Klingon Empire. And the story just got better because prose eliminated so many of the restrictions of live action TV. Janeway meeting Picard, Tuvok serving with Riker, the Enterprise crew teaming up with the heroes on Deep Space Nine. Anything was possible in the novels and the story never had to end. And from interactions on the Trek BBS, to social media, to my website, to joining the Star Trek Timeliners, I’ve made some great friends all stemming from my interest in Treklit. It was the natural and enjoyable continuation of my onscreen fandom in the 90s. For twenty years, through narrative high points like the Borg invasion, the return of Data, and the destruction of Deep Space Nine, and even to low points like leaving us hanging with that Ascendants cliffhanger for more years than I could barely swallow, the pages kept turning and more and more adventures were always on the horizon for our heroes.
Until Picard. Returning onscreen to the 24th century was a thrilling prospect when it was announced, as that was “home.” Where we had all spent so much time. It had been almost twenty years since we had last left that time period onscreen, and seeing Patrick Stewart as Picard again was hard to argue with. But mostly I was disappointed, because I knew the novels would lose the freedom they had had during those decades, and that one way or another it would all be ruined going forward.
The 24th century novel line slowed to a crawl, and it looked like it would end with a whimper. Picard premiered, and I was actually thrilled. On the night of the premiere I actually felt that the first episode was my favorite onscreen Star Trek production ever. The things I loved, though, were actually all the great things about Treklit. Moving those stories from the 90s forward, taking advantage of the huge universe and looking into some of those rarer nooks and crannies. Using the entire cast of characters that were available when appropriate. Picard meeting Seven of Nine! I’m hooked!
But by the end of the season, things hadn’t ended up staying at the highs they started out on, and as more and more of our real world controversies made their way into the new shows, my interest has waned and waned. I never watched Lower Decks, and Discovery season 2 gave me a perfect jumping off point for that show. It seemed a horrible trade off to lose continuing the amazing story in the novels which I had been enjoying for twenty years, in exchange for some less than stellar live action episodes. But little tidbits came across my radar, and I never lost hope that at least we’d get one last adventure with the heroes of Treklit. After seemingly years of waiting and hoping, it was finally announced: an epic finale trilogy, reminiscent of the Destiny trilogy (Treklit’s brightest moment). Anticipating this, I had decided months earlier to put all other reading aside and get fully caught up on the 24th book series, something I had been behind on since the Typhon Pact began, which had left us with that Ascendants cliffhanger and gotten me majorly disgruntled. Coincidentally, I was right on schedule to read the latest novel, TNG: Collateral Damage, just weeks before Coda would begin.
I am thrilled to be getting this conclusion. The alternative, leaving this story without a fitting and grand finale, would have been a huge letdown.
Like I’ve said, I know for a fact these won’t be the last Trek novels I’ll ever read, and I’ll watch Picard (though perhaps a different Picard than “mine”, the husband of Beverly and father of Rene) next year on screen again. But this is the end of the line for this continual strand of fandom and storytelling which stretches back through my whole life. Saying goodbye to Picard, Riker, Worf, Sisko, and Dax will be tough (just as bittersweet as it was saying goodbye to Janeway again in the final Voyager novel). But I’m so grateful for the chance. Thank you Dayton Ward. Thank you James Swallow. Thank you David Mack. Thank you editors and licencing people and everyone else involved in making this happen. Giving Treklit fans this opportunity is an amazing gift.
In a bittersweet way I’m ready to let Trek reach somewhat of an ending, as more and more real world differences separate Star Trek and I. But despite that, and even after I see the final heroic moments of Picard, Riker, Worf, Sisko, and Dax, Star Trek will always hold a special place in my life and in my heart. I’m so excited to pick up that final book, and look forward to that moment on the last page, when with what I’m sure will be tears in my eyes, Star Trek comes to an end.