In the years since the airing of the first episode of Star Trek in 1966, the show, and subsequent incarnations thereof, has gone on to be a global multi-media franchise. There have been several television series, a number of films, many toys, replicas, biographies and other ephemera. One aspect of the franchise1 that is usually ignored by all but the hardened fan is the numerous novels that have been written about characters from the show. While some of these books are merely novelisations of episodes from the various Trek TV series, many are original novels set within the confines of one of those series. There is one set of novels, however, that breaks away from that model. It is an entirely different Star Trek series that exists only in book form. And while books in the other series' are written by several authors, in this series the reins are tightly held by one author. This series is Star Trek: New Frontier, and it is written, almost exclusively, by Peter David.
Peter will happily admit that the original idea of the New Frontier was not his - it came from John J Ordover, who was the editor of the Star Trek book range at the time. The series starts just after the end of the eighth Star Trek film, First Contact. The USS Excalibur is dispatched to Sector 221-G, an area of space previously occupied by the Thallonian Empire, and therefore unexplored by any Federation Starship before. Since the collapse of the Thallonian regime, the sector has fallen into lawlessness and petty wars, and so the mission of the Excalibur is to restore order to this sector of space.
Another aspect of the series' concept was to make the whole thing fun, and recapture the joy of the original series. The recent television series - Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager - all tended towards being serious moralising stuff2 with the odd comic relief character. In New Frontier the captain of the ship, Mackenzie Calhoun, is more like Kirk than any other captain, he is more willing to ignore the rule book if he disagrees with it, more eager to shoot first and ask no questions later - generally speaking he is more fun than other recent captains. It's a tendency that infects the rest of the crew, they are all well-written interesting characters, and each has their own particular take on humour.
To the same extent that Peter admits that John had the starting concept, John is also willing to concede that Peter developed the characters that populate the stories. 'Developed' is the operative word here; though Peter created many characters for the series, he also borrowed quite a few minor characters from larger world of Trek, and has given them bigger parts than those they previously enjoyed.
The captain of the USS Excalibur, though humanoid, originates from the world of Xenex. He is born M'k'n'zy of Calhoun, and is arguably the best warrior that world ever produced. While he was still a teenager, he led his world to throw off the oppressive hand of invaders from the planet Danter. Once he had done this, Jean-Luc Picard3 visited the planet to broker the peace treaty, and suggested to M'k'n'zy to join Starfleet, now that his world had no need of a warlord. It was at Starfleet that he changed his name to Mackenzie (as nobody there ever seemed to pronounce it right) and adapted his town name into a surname.
Shelby is the most prominent character that Peter has taken from televisual Trek. The character was first seen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-part story Best of Both Worlds, where she was played by Elizabeth Dennehy. She came into the show with such a strong character that fans suspected that she would make regular appearances, but it was not to be. However, the character has found a new lease of life in the New Frontier series. She joined the series as Calhoun's second-in-command, though it is stated that they were engaged many years ago while they were both at the Starfleet Academy.
Soleta is the science officer on the Excalibur, and she is a Vulcan with a problem. The central point of the problem is that she isn't really a pure-bred Vulcan. Her mother was raped by a Romulan4, and she is the result of that rape. Since Vulcans and Romulans are essentially the same species, her mixed heritage is not immediately obvious, but it does present complications. If she revealed the nature of her parentage to Starfleet it could mean the end of her career, yet elements of illogical behaviour occasionally surface, to the confusion of the rest of the crew. The character was created by Peter David for his three Starfleet Academy books, but she only discovered her true nature after the end of that trilogy.
The Hermat Burgoyne 172 is the chief engineer of the Excalibur, and is one of the characters created expressly for New Frontier. The Hermats are, as you may be able to guess, hermaphrodites, and they also possess their own personal pronouns. As the series continues Burgoyne finds hirself increasing attracted to the Vulcan doctor Selar. Unfortunately the cover artists never quite seem to agree on what Burgy looks like; in one cover s/he looked like a Ziggy-Stardust-vintage David Bowie, but with sharper teeth.
Kebron is the security chief on the ship, and is superbly suited to the job. He comes from the Brikar race, and is described in the book as 'a walking mountain'. His molecular density is so high, and his mass so large, that he needs to wear his own personal anti-gravity generator just to make sure he doesn't fall through the floor. He is another character that Peter created for the Starfleet Academy books, and crossed over into this series.
The helmsman of the ship, McHenry possesses some rather unusual abilities. He often appears to be asleep at his post, but if the course of the ship deviates even a millimetre from where he expects it to be, he will instantly spring into action. As the series continues, more strange powers become apparent, and eventually the reason for these things is revealed5. He is the last of the three characters that Peter moved over from the Starfleet Academy books.
The Vulcan doctor Selar is the Chief Medical Officer aboard Excalibur. She originally appeared in an episode of The Next Generation played by Suzie Plakson, and though she was never seen again6, the script writers kept referring to her throughout the series. When she first appears in New Frontier she is in the throes of Pon Farr7, but unfortunately her partner died before the urge could be fulfilled, leaving her with an overwhelming desire to mate flapping around seeking a person to latch on to.
Robin, the Ops officer of the Excalibur, had previously been seen in two episodes of The Next Generation, being played by Ashley Judd. In addition to her standard duties, she agreed to act as aide to Si Cwan, and ended up falling in love with him, though he doesn't seem to notice. Over the years she has created a list of 'Lefler's Laws' that cover any situation that she comes up against. Though all that is thrown into confusion when she finds out that her mother, who she previously believed to be dead, turns up alive and well.
Though not technically part of the command staff, Si Cwan has made himself useful on the ship. He is a noble of the former Thallonian Empire, and though he would like to re-create it, that doesn't appear to be immediately possible. He does, however, know a lot about the different worlds in that sector of space, and so can provide invaluable information to Captain Calhoun. He is also searching for his sister Kalinda, as she went missing around the time of the collapse of the empire. He is physically very strong (he's the only person capable of knocking Kebron down) and his skin is bright red. Like Burgoyne, he was created specifically for the New Frontier.
Besides the main characters, there are other minor parts that Peter has introduced throughout the series. Like the bubbly Ensign Beth in Engineering, or Ensign Janos the Mugato security officer. There's also Si Cwan's sister Kalinda, Calhoun's son Xyon, and Robin's mother Morgan Primus. Interestingly, hints are given that Morgan looks like Lwaxana Troi (from The Next Generation) and Christine Chapel (the nurse from the original Star Trek series). Both of those characters were played by Majel Barrett Roddenberry (the widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry), and so Peter has subtly managed to pull Majel into the series without actually using any character she has played. After the Excalibur trilogy, Peter introduced some more characters to the story, including M'Ress and Arex who had previously only been seen in the short-lived Star Trek animated series.
The series began in 1997, and numbers 18 books at the time of writing. The initial idea was that each book would be comparable in length to an episode of televisual Trek, but as the series progressed, Peter ended up writing some longer books as well. In contravention of standard Trek, however, most of the books end on cliffhangers, which gives a sense of continuity across the series.
Some of the following books are not numbered, in the cases of 'Captain's Table', 'Double Helix' and 'Gateways', this is because they were series that crossed all over the Star Trek book ranges. 'No Limits', on the other hand, is an anthology of short stories about the various characters in the New Frontier series: it is therefore the only New Frontier book not solely written by Peter David, though he did do editing duties on the collection.
1. House of Cards (1997)
2. Into the Void (1997)
3. The Two-Front War (1997)
4. End Game (1997)
5. Martyr (1998)
6. Fire On High (1998)
- Captain's Table 5: Once Burned (1998)
- Double Helix 5: Double or Nothing (1999)
7. Dark Allies (1999)
8. The Quiet Place (1999)
9. Excalibur: Requiem (2000)
10.Excalibur: Renaissance (2000)
11.Excalibur: Restoration (2001)
- Gateways 6: Cold Wars (2001)
- Being Human (2001)
12.Gods Above (2003)
13.Stone and Anvil (2003)
- No Limits (2003)
Check out Peter David's Website to find out what else he is up to.