Star Trek
Tales from the Captain's Table

Editor: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Pocket Books
RRP 8.99, US $14.00, Cdn $19.00
ISBN 0 4165 0520 2
Available 04 July 2005

Somewhere outside normal space and time, a tavern called 'The Captains Table' exists; your only entry requirement is that you hold the rank of captain, the only fee for the drinks is a story...

Gathered together here are nine more stories from 'The Captains Table', a collection of short stories told, in the first person, by the captains themselves and provided by a different author for each. In this anthology the captains which get to tell their personal tales are Riker, Picard, Shelby, Klag, Kira, Archer, Sulu, Chakotay and Gold.

Given that the format is pretty much open ended, Cap, who runs the bar just asks for a story, without the restriction that it be a true story. This, then, should have given the authors unlimited scope to flex their imaginations, unfortunately only two of the authors felt comfortable enough to take this licence and run with it.

Micheal Friedman's Picard story Darkness and Peter David's Shelby story Pain Management are fairly straight forward tales of daring do, involving personal development. Indeed they are so similar that they both start with the respective captains crashing their shuttles. Klags, Kira's, Sulu and Chakotay's stories are of a more personal family nature.

The first story that impressed me, and started to use the possibilities of the format, was Riker's Improvisation on an Opel Sea by Michael Martin and Andy Mangels, which takes what could have been a boring honeymoon for Riker and Deanna and turns it into a tale of eighteenth century pirate daring do set on another planet. It's all flashing blades with the possibility of a bit of bodice ripping.

John Ordover's Captain Gold's story An Easy Fast is not really about Gold at all, but then the bar tab is paid with a story, not necessarily a true or personal one. Whilst the story was interesting and engaging it did seem to have stolen its narrative structure from The Four Feathers though this might have been the author's intention and should possibly be seen as a reinterpretation.

For me the tale which did the format the most justice was Louisa M. Swann's Archer story; Have Beagle, Will Travel: The Legend of Porthos. In which you not only discover that Porthos is a clone, but that the original was non other than the great Porthos, spy extraordinaire and one of the most proficient operative to come out of the BIA - Beagle Intelligence Agency. The poor canine is saddled with Captain Archer on a mission to rescue the renowned scientist Doctor Findalot.

Given that over half the captains have appeared in the television series, it's fairly brave of any of the authors to try and give voice to the captains. The intonations and speech pattern are, in some cases, just too well known. For the most part they succeed very well and in the few cases when you'd question whether a particular captain would speak in a particular manner, it did not distract from the high level of story telling involved.

The writing cannot be faulted, the majority of authors have long professional CV's of this kind of thing, but it's just a shame that more of them didn't take the opportunity to push the boundaries of their characters.

Charles Packer

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