The Captain’s Oath
By Christopher L. Bennett
(Part of Star Trek: The Original Series)
Read by Robert Petkoff
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
May 28, 2019
Length: 304 pages
Runtime: 11 hours and 57 minutes
I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
An all-new Star Trek adventure set during The Original Series era and featuring James T. Kirk!
The saga of James T. Kirk’s historic command of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known throughout the galaxy. But one part of the legend has barely been touched upon until now: the story of Kirk’s first starship command and the remarkable achievements by which Starfleet’s youngest captain earned the right to succeed Christopher Pike as the commander of the famous Enterprise. From his early battles with the Klingons to the rescue of endangered civilizations, Kirk grapples with difficult questions: Is he a warrior or a peacemaker? Should he obey regulations or trust his instincts? This thrilling novel illustrates the events and choices that would shape James T. Kirk into one of the most renowned captains in Starfleet history. https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Captains-Oath/Christopher-L-Bennett/Star-Trek-The-Original-Series/9781508283409
Considering the daunting task of giving voice to so many characters — more than two genders, countries, species, and planets — I admire the abilities of Robert Petkoff, the narrator of The Captain’s Oath. I especially like how he voices Rhen Sherev, an Andorian Archaeologist who served as his science officer on one command. He somehow makes her human and yet there is some quality that respects her other-worldliness.
To be fair, that isn’t just Petkoff — the character is well-written by Christopher L. Bennett. He sketches a passionate, delicate and strong character who is respected by the other officers. He also writes other characters including a Kirk very different from the posturing, macho character as portrayed by William Shatner. No doubt a product of the time, Mr. Shatner’s Kirk is brash, confident and not a one-woman man. Chris Pine’s Kirk is written as a bit of a brash and heedless officer and a womanizer. This Kirk is more serious, still rambunctious, but more introspective than the character we know. He is written as a man who doesn’t really go for one-night stands, as a man who falls for a woman and falls fast.
This character has a much more progressive and loose interpretation of the Prime Directive. His behaviors and the issues presented are very relevant to today’s politics: reminders that point at current immigration policies as divergent from America’s immigrant roots and our place as a beacon of freedom for the world.
That idea and others of acceptance, freedom, progressive policies, and tolerance are repeated throughout through the plot and subplots. One subplot points to the evil government of a 20th-century level humanoid planet. It reminded me of an episode from the first series. And the characters espousing the ideas are also portrayed as positive, strong, smart, resilient and noble. While the device is obvious, I think putting these ideas forward
When there are many, interestingly named characters common to speculative fiction, I can find it hard to keep track of who is who. At one point I had to return to the beginning of the book. This was exacerbated by the retrospective plotting which switches the story back and forth between Kirk’s first command, the Sacagawea and the book’s present, his current, new command of the Enterprise. But once I caught on and figured out the thread of the story being Kirk’s relationship with his officers and friends: Rhen Sherev, and Doctor McCoy, in particular, I really enjoyed it. The thread is a bird’s eye view into the development of Kirk’s career and leadership style.
If you are a fan, or like sci-fi, or if you just like Captain Kirk, you will probably like The Captain’s Oath. It’s a good reminder that the actor plays the character but is not the character.