The Buried Age
begins with the depiction of a much-discussed event: The battle betwen the U.S.S. Stargazer
and an unknown adversary, later learned to be a Ferengi vessel. Although Picard defeated the Ferengi using what later came to be known as the "Picard Maneuver," the Stargazer
was too badly damaged and had to be abandoned.
|The origin of the "Picard Maneuver" (no, not that one) is explored in The Buried Age.|
This leads into an event I was excited to read about: the trial of Jean-Luc Picard and his culpability in the loss of the Stargazer
. In the second season TNG
episode "The Measure of a Man," it is revealed that the case was prosecuted by Phillipa Louvois, who was an old flame of Jean-Luc's. I've long been interested in seeing this fascinating backstory play out, so I was happy to learn that it would be featured in this novel. However, during the trial, Louvois came across differently than what I was expecting. I found her character just a little bit too unlikeable, especially with how her actions were regarded by the other characters involved in the trial. In "The Measure of a Man," I had the image of someone who was a little overzealous and a stickler for the law, but in The Buried Age
she comes across as almost crazed in her attempt to prosecute the Stargazer
case. I suppose that this accounts for the reception Picard gives her in the TNG
episode, but I felt that it didn't cast her character in the best light here. Still, the outcome of the trial was a fascinating piece in the puzzle of the life of Jean-Luc Picard.
|Phillipa Louvois was one of my favorite guest characters in early TNG, and I was a little disappointed by her portrayal in The Buried Age. Still, it does make sense given the feelings of animosity that Captain Picard has towards her in "The Measure of a Man."|
After the fallout from the trial, Picard resigns from Starfleet to pursue academia and archaeology. This was an interesting period in Picard's life, and it was fun to see the former captain free from the world of Starfleet. I'm reminded of Professor Galen's admonition to Picard that he should not be in Starfleet, and should instead be traveling the galaxy with him on archaeological expeditions. The fact that Picard has pursued this for a period of time and come out the other side with the realization that Starfleet is the better choice was illuminating. Although, in this case, it may be that Picard was pressured back into the service, but it is a calling that has certainly dominated most of his adult life.
Much of The Buried Age
follows Picard as he attempts to unravel an ancient mystery left behind by beings that lived in our galaxy millions of years ago. One such being is revived from an eons-long sleep by a team led by Picard, investigating an ancient base of operations. Seemingly devoid of any memories, she is called Ariel by her rescuers. Picard feels an immediate attraction to her, and the two of them soon find themselves in a serious relationship. However, because Ariel is so ancient and so far beyond Picard, the end result is all but inevitable. I have recently begun watching Doctor Who
, and I feel like this vast power difference is how a relationship between The Doctor and any of his companions would actually play out. A being that is so ancient and evolved would see a human as little more than a pet, and in this way, Ariel is able to thoroughly manipulate Picard to her own ends. The betrayal is equal parts inevitable and shocking in that it happens so fast. Reading this part also reminded me of elements of the film Ex Machina
One really fun aspect of this novel which I was not expecting was the immediate lead-up to the start of Star Trek: The Next Generation
. We see the first meetings between Picard and a few of his senior staff. Of particular interest to me was Picard's recruitment of Data as his Operations Manager. Data's posting prior to meeting Picard was basically as a file clerk aboard a Starbase. Recognizing the great potential that Data possesses, Picard chose him to join a mission, and subsequently offered him a post on the Enterprise
. I have to admit, I never gave much thought to Data's career before TNG
, and it was interesting to see Bennett's take on his story.
|An interesting revelation in The Buried Age is that Picard rescued Data from a dead-end career when he recruited him for a position on his crew.|
Jean-Luc Picard in season one of TNG
is a hard man to get to know by all accounts, and in The Buried Age
, we learn a lot about why that might be. Picard is a man who is shaped by his experiences, and the huge betrayal by Ariel has led him to be a private man who holds himself at a distance from the people around him. Kudos to Christopher Bennett for crafting a fascinating story that explores the motivation behind this character. Picard has always been a favorite of mine, and this story chronicles a very important chapter in his life.
As someone who reads a ton of Star Trek
novels, a few author names always seem to float to the top of the pile. Christopher L. Bennett is one of them. His stories often have a huge scope and weight to them, and although this word is overused, his works can easily be described as "epic." The Buried Age
is quite possibly the quintessential expression of this. A huge story spanning millions of years is the backdrop for an astounding character piece that examines the life of Jean-Luc Picard and explains what made him the man we see when the TNG
series begins. At times feeling a bit like Stargate SG-1
, The Buried Age
is a fun story dealing with ancient races and hidden secrets, while at the same time being a great Star Trek
story, celebrating the thrill and excitement of exploration.
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