Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Missing
The entire sector is waiting to see what the newly reopened Bajoran wormhole will mean for the shifting political landscape in the Alpha Quadrant. On Deep Space 9, Captain Ro Laren is suddenly drawn into the affairs of the People of the Open Sky, who have come to the station in search of sanctuary. Despite the opposition of the station’s security officer, Jefferson Blackmer, Ro Laren and Deep Space 9’s new CMO, Doctor Beverly Crusher, offer the People aid. But when Dr. Crusher’s highly secure files are accessed without permission–the same files that hold the secrets of the Shedai, a race whose powerful but half-understood scientific secrets solved the Andorian catastrophe–the People seem the likeliest suspects.
As tensions rise on the station, the science vessel Athene Donaldarrives as part of its journey of exploration. The brainchild of Doctor Katherine Pulaski, this ship is crewed by different species from the Khitomer Accords and the Typhon Pact. Pulaski’s hope is that science will do what diplomacy has not: help the great powers put aside their hostilities and work together. But when the Athene Donald is summarily stopped in her voyage by the powerful vessel of a hitherto unknown species, Pulaski begins to wonder–will this first contact bring her crew together or tear them all apart?
Una McCormack brings something to the Star Trek universe that is sorely missing — strong female-led stories. For all of its talk of equality, the world of Star Trek is still a very male-led universe. (I have vague recollections of an interview with a Star Trek producer, commenting on the launch of Star Trek: Enterprise. He said something like, “Finally, we have a male back in the captain’s chair.” For some people, apparently, one female captain was one too many.) The Missing focussed on Ro, Crusher, Pulaski, and a small handful of strong female characters of McCormack’s creation.
The other thing that McCormack brings to the Star Trek universe that many other writers don’t is a strong capability for world building. McCormack has written previously (and extensively) of Cardassia and has really enriched my understanding and appreciation of that world. In her previous book, McCormack explored the Tzenkethi homeward, creating a richly detailed and quite unique alien world. McCormack has skills in world building that I don’t see elsewhere.
However, I find the writing itself to be just a touch weak and the characterizations to be just a touch off. McCormack’s tendency to use parentheses and dialogue heavy prose in The Missing were a little distracting. That being said, McCormack’s unique style and particular strengths, as noted above, easily more than make up for any weaknesses. The Missing is an enjoyable read and spends considerable time exploring the more “human” side of Star Trek. We’ve had a lot of darkness and action and war lately — and while McCormack has that too, she does it through relatable characters living lives we care about.