In my life, there are two Star Treks.
The Star Trek I grew up with was mostly novels, mostly written by women. I think of these as “Girl Trek.” Girl Trek has a long, proud history. Girl Trek invented genre media fandom. It produced the first fanzines, which were lovingly mimeographed by hand and shared for the price of postage. It gave the world Sulu’s first name, an explanation for Janice Rand’s hair, and two novels with Uhura as the protagonist. Just for starters.
And there’s the Star Trek I have discovered since encountering television on a more continuous basis (feel free to assume I was raised by wolves)—mostly the movies and the television serials, mostly written by men. I think of these as “Boy Trek.” Objectively speaking, Boy Trek and Girl Trek are equal. Boy Trek created Corbomite, Fizzbin, and Harry Mudd. It offers an infallible method for outwitting computers, and valuable advice about how to behave when super-powered aliens force you to fight other people so they can judge humanity.
I’m not trying to create a hard and fast dichotomy. We live in a universe of infinite possibility. Stories don’t always fit into these categories. Both Treks (and a number of other Treks not described here) are fun and interesting, they just do different things. Generally, I see stories that reveal a lot of the characters’ inner lives as Girl Trek. If characters act like they swore on oath on Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” that’s Boy Trek.
Peter David’s Imzadi series is an uncomfortable marriage of the two. Imzadi, describing Troi and Riker’s deathless love, was published in 1993. It’s a romance and a time-travel mystery. The 1998 sequel, Triangle: Imzadi II, deals with Troi’s relationship with Worf. Neither of these really works.
Imzadi focuses on Troi and Riker’s early days on Betazed. It features a lot of romance novel conventions—characters have complex relationships, there’s a major misunderstanding that keeps the characters apart, and there’s a Happily Ever After ending. Riker is a decisive man of action. Troi is attracted to him, but trapped by her own responsibilities. She tries to soften his rough edges. He rescues her from intergalactic art thieves. Troi and Riker finally give in to their mutual attraction in a jungle that is equipped with art-thief-swallowing mud pits and romantic flora, but miraculously free of parasitic insects. They touch each others’ souls. And then Troi’s mother intervenes, and in a series of unfortunate incidents, their relationship disintegrates until Riker saves her life again. It’s a very romantic story. Too bad Troi is dead for most of it.
Usually, romance novels have a female protagonist. David offers a few snippets of Troi’s perspective, but it’s not her story. Riker is the protagonist. He trusts himself when all men doubt him. Kipling’s “unforgiving minute” takes on a lot of significance when you’re dealing with time travel. There’s some hunting and tracking. The characterizations are classic Boy Trek struggling to escape a Girl Trek plot.
Triangle: Imzadi II faces greater difficulty.
Three heads and a starship is a standard cover treatment for Star Trek novels. It has no significance.
Three heads is not a standard cover treatment for romance novels. It is very significant. I’m Team Werewolf. But this is not the kind of story where Katniss chooses between Gale and Peeta. This story is all about Worf and Riker making choices for Troi. Riker has failed to follow through on the lessons he was supposed to learn in the first book. Worf asks Troi to marry him. Riker decides to tell Troi how he really feels. Rather than telling the story of how Troi feels and how her feelings change, David focuses on the story of how Worf and Riker work out their feelings. In one scene, Troi and Alexander are kidnapped and injected with poison to force Worf and Riker to carry out an assassination. Worf refuses. Riker caves. Alexander is so angry he leaves his father to live with his grandparents. Troi just wants Worf to do what’s right for him. Ultimately, what’s right for him is to dump Troi, who dutifully reports to Riker to announce she’s free to be his girlfriend now. In a brief afterword, Worf discovers that his true Imzadi is Jadzia Dax. She is also dead.
It’s the privilege of the writer to decide what ideas to use and what story to write. Peter David has taken a collection of love story ideas and written two adventure stories. There are successful marriages of Boy Trek and Girl Trek. Imzadi is like taking a puzzle of the Eiffel Tower and gluing the pieces into a collage shaped like an elephant.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.