Star Trek: The Rings of Time
The Original Series
By Greg Cox
Paperback | Kindle
Simon and Schuster | Pocket Books
Release date: January 31, 2012
Star Trek: The Rings of Time brings together several things that I love: the original Star Trek series, the Space Program, and the planet Saturn. The book begins in the year 2020 with the crew of the U.S.S Lewis & Clark preparing to make the first manned mission to the planet Saturn.
Heading up the 21st century mission to Saturn is NASA astronaut Colonel Shaun Christopher aboard the U.S.S. Lewis & Clark. If you’re a fan of the original Trek series, then you might recall that surname as one of importance. Captain John Christopher, Shaun’s father, was a U.S. Air Force pilot who had a brush with the U.S.S. Enterprise after the starship went through a time warp that brought them to the late 1960s in the episode Tomorrow Is Yesterday. In the episode, we learn that John Christopher will father a son who will be part of a future mission to Saturn. The Rings of Time is the story of that famed mission, but we find out there was more to it than what made it into the history books and into Starfleet’s database.
As if the story of the first manned mission to Saturn wasn’t enticing enough (and it was for me), here comes Captain Kirk and the starship U.S.S Enterprise. In Stardate 7103.4 (nearly three centuries into the future), Starfleet Command sends Kirk and crew on an emergency mission to Skagway, a mining colony orbiting Klondike VI, a ringed gas giant similar to Saturn. The planet’s rings, which contain dilithium crystals, are destabilizing, which is threatening the safety of the people in the mining colony. Although 19 days away at warp five from the Klondike system, the Enterprise is, of course, the only ship in the quadrant, so it’s up to them to evacuate the colony.
Anyone want to guess what’s happening over on Saturn in the 21st century? You got it, the rings are starting to destabilize!
It takes a little over 100 pages of going back and forth between the 21st and 23rd centuries to get to how these two stories will fit together into an expanded universe Star Trek novel. This time around, they’re not doing the time warp. Instead, we get a good old fashioned body switch which lands Kirk in Christopher’s body on the Saturn mission, and Christopher aboard the Enterprise just as the situation on Skagway takes a turn for the worse.
Because The Rings of Time has all-new characters from the 21st century who are unaware of Starfleet and all that is to come in space exploration, you don’t even have to be familiar with Star Trek to enjoy this book. Cox makes sure to explain anything Trek-specific, like dilithium crystals and its importance, so the reader won’t be lost. That said, if you’re already a Trek fan, you’ll love the callbacks to classic Trek like the Horta, as well as the infamous tragedy on Tarsus IV.
At first I was disappointed that The Rings of Time kicks off in the year 2020 and that I had to read through a chapter of all new characters to get to Kirk and company, but I realized later that it was well worth it. Author Greg Cox, who penned the popular The Eugenics Wars novels about the life of Trek villain Khan Noonien Singh, is a wonderful storyteller who made me really enjoy getting to know Shaun Christopher and the U.S.S. Lewis & Clark. Cox also knows the classic Trek characters really well, so the book reads just like an original series episode would, except with more detail, and that, I feel, is a great achievement.