Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Battle of Betazed

Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Battle of Betazed by Charlotte Douglas & Susan Kearney
Published April 2002
Read February 12th 2020

Previous book (The Next Generation): A Hard Rain
Next book (The Next Generation): Do Comets Dream?

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Spoilers ahead for The Battle of Betazed!

From the back cover:
In the darkest hours of the Dominion War, as the Federation's downfall seemed ever more certain, Jem'Hadar and Cardassian forces conquered Betazed, the homeworld of Deanna Troi. Their victory sent shock waves through the Alpha Quadrant, and put the Dominion within striking distance of Vulcan, Andor, Tellar -- and possibly Earth itself.

To secure their position in the very heart of the Federation, the Cardassians begin constructing the space station Sentok Nor in orbit of Betazed. The station is to serve as both the seat of the Dominion occupation and the site of horrific experiments by Cardassia's foremost exobiologist, the infamous Dr. Crell Moset.

With Starfleet's forces spread too thin in the ongoing struggle to retake Betazed outright, the U.S.S. Enterprise along with some old and new friends, is deployed to carry out a dangerous and desperate plan. But no matter what the outcome, the consequences could alter Betazed irrevocably, forcing Deanna Troi to choose between her world's survival and its very soul.

My thoughts:

In the 6th season episode of Deep Space Nine "In the Pale Moonlight," it was decided to have the Dominion attack and capture a planet that would have a great deal of meaning to Star Trek fans. According to the writers, they wanted a world that a Trek character hailed from. Going through a number of possibilities, they eventually landed on the homeworld of TNG's Counselor Deanna Troi: Betazed. Because this happened on Deep Space Nine, we as the audience weren't able to see the effect this had on Troi and her colleagues over on TNG, but at the time, I was very curious as to how Deanna reacted, how this affected her mother, Lwaxana Troi, and a host of other questions surrounding this event. Thankfully, these questions and more are addressed in The Battle of Betazed.

After capturing Betazed, the Cardassians construct a familiar-looking station in orbit: Sentok Nor, identical in design to Terok Nor, the station that became Deep Space Nine. Commanding the Cardassian occupation forces is a face we've seen before: Gul Lemec, the Cardassian who negotiated across from Captain Jellico in the TNG two-parter "Chain of Command."

Sentok Nor, a station similar in design to Terok Nor, Deep Space Nine's original designation, is constructed by the forces occupying Betazed.

This novel by writing partners Charlotte Douglas and Susan Kearney features the re-taking of Betazed from Dominion forces. However, rather than a huge fleet action featuring hundreds of ships facing off in orbit, the plan to take the planet is more subtle. A team consisting of Starfleet personnel (including crew from the Enterprise and Elias Vaughn from Starfleet Intelligence - a name familiar to fans of the Deep Space Nine relaunch novels) as well as Betazoid resistance fighters will drop behind enemy lines. Their mission: to use Hent Tevren, a Betazoid criminal, to train Betazoids to replicate his skill: killing with the mind. 

As you can imagine, this opens up a huge moral dilemma for the Betazoid people. Will they turn their backs on their values to use this horrific mental weapon, turning the minds of their people into killing machines? Or will they choose to reject the use of this technique, even if it means the destruction of their world? Moral quandaries such as these are at the heart of what I love about Star Trek, and The Battle of Betazed does a pretty good job of confronting this question.

Crell Moset, Cardassia's answer to Josef Mengele.

The novel also explores the character of Crell Moset, a Cardassian doctor roughly modeled on the infamous Josef Mengele. First introduced in the Voyager episode "Nothing Human," Moset is revealed to be conducting experiments on captured Betazoids, much as he did to Bajorans during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. This creates an interesting parallel between the actions of a deplorable man operating under a fascist regime, and the plans of the Betazoid resistance to use Tevren's skills. If one uses the tactics of the oppressor, does one become as morally corrupt as they are?

I also appreciated the novel's characterization of Lwaxana Troi. Often used for comic relief in TNG, Lwaxana shines when given more dramatic material to work with (see "Half a Life" and "Dark Page"). In The Battle of Betazed, we get to see her react to the Dominion occupation of her world, a situation that allows her character a bit more dramatic range than we typically see.

Final thoughts:

A satisfying read that does a good job of picking up a tantalizing thread from DS9. As soon as the capture of Betazed was mentioned on the show, and it became clear it wouldn't be addressed in the remainder of the series, I had hoped that some enterprising writers would let us know how it turned out. Thankfully, the writing team of Douglas and Kearney has done a stand up job of delivering that story. Some fascinating moral questions are raised, giving us a novel worthy of being Trek. 4/5 stars.

More about The Battle of Betazed:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

The next review is for the first Star Trek: Picard novel: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack!

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