Star Trek

Atonement (Star Trek: Voyager)

Oliver Brown

Although the title suggests this is just a review of Atonement (and is biased towards it), this is really a review of the three Voyager novels The Protectors, Acts of Contrition, and Atonement which essentially make up a single story.

As a warning, this book (and by extension this review) contains heavy spoilers for the Destiny series, and the earlier Voyager relaunch stories (Full Circle to Eternal Tide).

Voyager and its crew and allies face some of the consequences of their first trip through the delta quadrant, while Seven of Nine struggles with the changing attitudes of the Federation following the events of Destiny.

One of the reasons I like Star Trek now is the sheer wealth of material available. The novels have been going from strength to strength, expanding the material in ways that would not have been possible while the show was still on TV. Despite this, I was a little concerned when the Voyager relaunch series began in Full Circle and immediately introduced a lot of new characters at once, and did so in a way that suggested they were going to stick around and be important. I think this trilogy has proven the idea was worth it.

At its core, there are two stories going on simultaneously, one in the Federation and one with the Full Circle fleet in the delta quadrant. Plot-wise they have nothing to do with each other and could have happily existed in separate works. Despite this, they do work well together solely because of the complicated relationships between all the characters - partly the existing ones between the characters we all know, but also significantly with the new ones introduced. Characters’ actions were frequently motivated by their relationship with those in the ‘other’ story so this structure helped emphasize this in a way that would have been lost had they been separate.

The Federation storyline deals with unexpected fallout from the destruction of the Borg. Seven of Nine and Tom Paris leave the Full Circle fleet to help with this in a story centred around the ethics and morality of the Federation trying to rebuild too quickly. Both Seven and Tom have to deal with the fact that they’ve spent years with a crew who respect and trust them, but now have to face an outside world that doesn’t. After all, Seven is not only a former Borg drone, but also one of only a handful that didn’t join the Caeliar gestalt; while Tom is still regarded as rebellious (and only kept in Starfleet due to Janeway’s influence) as well as reckless because of his handling of the situation with his daughter in Unworthy.

Described broadly, this idea of characters redeeming themselves, and being better than they appear is a common plot for Star Trek. But it is also one that works well, especially because of the complex interactions with the secondary characters (The Doctor, Axum, Samantha Wildman, Icheb and Admiral Akaar all feature to varying degrees).

The Full Circle fleet storyline also follows another typical plot found in Star Trek: how the Federation deals with large powers that don’t quite match their ideals, and specifically what happens if they try to subject a member of the Federation to their own idea of justice. Unfortunately, the ultimate resolution to this ends up a bit weak, but as consolation it leaves the door open for more in the future.

Constantly switching between the two plots is a little frustrating at times, but only because each one is so engrossing. During it all, the new characters in the Full Circle fleet get enough time to get some depth and feel important (and in some cases like Liam O’Donnell, to stop feeling like one-dimensional caricatures). This didn’t blow me away like some have (like DTI: Watching the Clock or the Mirror Universe series), but it’s better than most other recent novels and is definitely the best of the Voyager relaunch and worth reading if you have any interest in Voyager. Although you should probably start at Full Circle and read them all.

Star Trek book reviews

Oliver Brown

Since I’ve now reached the point that I’m reading new Star Trek books as fast as they are being made, as well as slowly picking up older ones here and there, I figured I should start sharing the knowledge I have gained.

The first review I wrote is now available here (I actually wrote this several years ago - I just updated the formatting) and I intend to write more.

Of course, I’ve generally intended to write more before…

Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock

Oliver Brown

Star Trek novels have improved a lot since I read them previously many years ago. Not necessarily the stories themselves but that there seems to be a serious concerted effort to maintain continuity between them, but without requiring too much knowledge of other books to read any given book (although there are more series now which obviously do require you to read them all for it to make sense).

With that in mind, before reading DTI: Watching the Clock you should definitely read the Destiny series and possibly the Typhon Pact series and the Titan series. Everything you need to know about them is explained in the book but it does spoil them a little if you do intend to read them at some point.

If you ever thought time travel in Star Trek didn’t make sense (and would like it to) then this book is for you. Truly awesome.

Time travel in Star Trek has always been a slightly problematic topic. Featured as the primary plot device in many episodes (and several movies), it was always handled differently and never followed any discernible rules. This book tries to straighten this all out (or as Douglas Adams once said make it, at least, firmly crooked) and on the whole, succeeds.

The book feels like a collection of short stories about time travel, tied together with an over-reaching story arc (complete with seemingly insignificant events in one “story” that become important later). Many of them are about how the DTI dealt with the aftermath of different time travel events in the show. In fact practically every Star Trek episode that dealt with time travel is mentioned (except for new Star Trek movie) and explained to some extent. A couple of the big ones (specifically Star Trek: First Contact, the Temporal Cold War and the whole of Voyager) are more central to the story.

Aside from the technical aspects of time travel, the book also devotes time to expanding the main characters, Dulmur* and Lucsly, who were introduced to us in the Deep Space 9 episode, “Trials and Tribulations”. As the blurb says: “There’s likely no more of a thankless job in the Federation than temporal investigation”. Considering how interesting the time travel elements are, I expected to find these parts more boring than I did. In fact after seeing how they deal with some of the Starfleet officers (and more specifically how the Starfleet officers deal with them) I thought about Sisko’s reaction to them and found him downright annoying.

So the bottom line is, the only reason I can think for a Star Trek fan not to read this would be that you want to read some of prerequisite books first (Destiny, Typhon Pact, Titan).

*Dulmur or Dulmer? I always thought Dulmer since their names were supposed to be anagrams of Mulder and Scully. The author however uses Dulmur consistently and there is a point in the story where the spelling confusion is referenced explicitly.

Cardassian Galor class cruiser

Oliver Brown

Star Trek Online recently gained a new loot drop that has been generating strong opinions, a Cardassian Lock Box. Inside each lock box is a random item. Possible items include a special tribble, some special team commodities, some cross faction consoles, a DS9 uniform set, or a few others. On the whole people aren’t interested in those, the only item they actually want is the Cardassian Galor class cruiser.

The actual odds of getting a cruiser are unpublished but assumed to be very low, possibly in the 0.5% range. This wouldn’t be very interesting in itself without one final piece to the puzzle: you require a “Master Key” to open the box and the keys have to be bought on the C-Store for real money. They cost 100 c-points each, or 10 for 900, making them £0.72 each (I think).

Many people have complained about this, and with some justification. My post isn’t really going to touch on that. Instead I’m going to reveal that I got one, and without spending any money on keys. You see, the ship is tradable via the exchange for normal in game energy credits. When it first launched prices were around 500 million. In three days they were down to 100 million. I snagged one for 82 million.

This amount of in game cash is not a small amount by any means. In fact when I bought it, 82 million was the most I’ve ever had at once, but at level cap there is very little else to spend energy credits on. There are also a couple of ways to earn a lot quickly. The first is Ker’rat. It’s a space warzone in Eta Eridani that features the Federation fighting the Klingons while simultaneously trying to complete some Borg related objectives. If you can win the warzone you get a very rare drop. If you’re second or third you get a rare drop. If you’re at max level the drop will be at least MK X, sometimes even MK XII. Also, all the ships you destroy drop loot in the MK X to XII range. The second way is STFs. Most STF runs on normal succeed with the optional these days. They also drop quite a bit of loot now (especially Cure). Between those two methods you should be able to amass your millions with relative ease (I had 40 million when the Galor was first released and reached 82 million in a week). Also, as an extra bonus, Ker’rat has a wrapper mission that gives you 1440 dilithium for every three completions (and is not a daily so you can just keep running it).

So with all that information aside, here’s a couple of pictures of the Galor in an STF:

Improving sector space in Star Trek Online

Oliver Brown

Perhaps I should just go ahead and rename my blog “Star Trek Online Forum Highlights”…

Pendra37 on the STO forums has come up with the first idea to improve sector space in Star Trek Online that actually seems it could be done without majorly overhauling the game engine.

The coolness basically boils down to one change: “If you hit the Drop out of warp button, you drop out of warp. A random deep space instance map loads up. The map may be completely random.” For more detail, read the post Sector space makes sense.

This reminds me of the fantasy RPG Rings of Power on the Genesis/Megadrive. In that game, for most of the time you controlled and oversized character walking through the landscape. At any time you could press B and the map essentially zoomed in showing you were you “really” were (and that the oversized character was just you represented on a map). Most of the time there was nothing interesting around, but there were things hidden in places that you could find and some quests required you to go to specific places.

The Voyage Home and BOff Story Arcs in STO

Oliver Brown

Another pair of interesting ideas for STO I found on the forums. The first is “The Voyage Home”, a framework around exploration type missions based on the story of Voyager. The second is Bridge Officer Story Arcs, missions based around your bridge officers, after you set up some personality options (most importantly, sympathies to certain factions and vendettas against certain factions).

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Some cool ideas for Star Trek Online

Oliver Brown

I’ve been playing Star Trek Online since the open beta at the end of January and my opinion of it is generally positive. That isn’t to say there aren’t problems, in fact I agree with most of the complaints about it (and the forums have a lot). The difference with me is I still think it’s fun to play in the mean time (I still think the space combat is the best any Star Trek game has ever had). I recently came across a series of ideas to improve the game posted on the forums by the player Daren Kitlor (although many others were involved in developing the ideas). This is my attempt to make a few more people read them and hopefully support them (since they are all really good). Here they are, in my order of liking:

  1. Iconic Worlds Proposal : “Create large, exterior world maps for various factions. These maps would be populated with many short missions”
  2. Explore the System Proposal : “Creating new challeges to add variety to existing exploration missions.”
  3. Intel Missions and Urban Settings : “Urban Environments, Espionage Mission Archetypes (to include Co-Op and Solo)”
  4. Memory Alpha Tweaks : “Most items have an attribute in [blocks] for each level of rarity it gains. Why not let us select what attributes we’re looking for, based on the tier we have unlocked?”
  5. Territory Control Proposal : “Help create persistent, PvP territory control without drastically changing the PvP Queues themselves”
  6. Fleet Starbases and Fleet PVP : “The construction of Fleet-constructed starbases or space stations. Sieges of Fleet-constructed starbases.”
  7. Ground Combat Proposal : “Star Trek Online has some great space combat. However, the ground combat is often criticized as being lackluster.”
  8. Socialization Content Proposal : “Enhance the game experience through role-playing or to enhance the role-playing through a game experience.”

And remember, if you’re not yet a player you can play a limited demo for free (sadly without the cool ideas above yet).

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Play Star Trek Online for free (for a bit)

Oliver Brown

Cryptic Studios have just launched the Star Trek Online referral program. They encourage old players to bring in new players by giving them free in game stuff (specifically the future Enterprise from All Good Things with three warp nacelles as a ship option). To make it easier to persuade people, referred players get to try a demo of the game for free. It does seem the demo will be made freely available in the near future anyway though. The demo has the following restrictions:

  • Cannot trade player-to-player, send items via mail or use the Exchange.
  • Cannot send in-game tells except those on the friends list (but can receive all tells)
  • Cannot participate in zone chat
  • Cannot send a friend request, or team/fleet invites (but can receive and accept them)
  • Cannot play beyond level 3, or access missions other than “Stranded in Space,” once outside of the tutorial Episode

The last is the important one really. Anyway, if anyone wants an invite, send me an email (each player can only have five pending invites).