Trek: The Eugenics Wars by Greg Cox
Hardcover - 384 pages Vol 1 (July 2001)
Pocket Books; ISBN: 0671021273
Review by Ernest Lilley
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK
Of all the unfinished business left over from the original Star Trek series with which one could base a novel, or even series, my clear favorite was left dangling in an episode intentionally designed for just that.
“Assignment Earth”, staring Robert Lancing and
Terry Garr, was meant to be the pilot for a spin-off series of its own,
but one that failed to materialize. Odds are you’ve seen the original
show, in which Kirk’s Enterprise travels back in time to do a little
reconnaissance on 1960s Earth and to test out the technology of time
travel…which they stumbled upon in an earlier episode. While in orbit,
they intercept a transporter beam where there shouldn’t be any, and
out pops an Earth human known as Gary Seven, agent of a secret alien
agency known as Aegis, that has been keeping an eye out for Earth via
carefully bred operatives for centuries.
“Assignment Earth”, staring Robert Lancing and Terry Garr, was meant to be the pilot for a spin-off series of its own, but one that failed to materialize. Odds are you’ve seen the original show, in which Kirk’s Enterprise travels back in time to do a little reconnaissance on 1960s Earth and to test out the technology of time travel…which they stumbled upon in an earlier episode. While in orbit, they intercept a transporter beam where there shouldn’t be any, and out pops an Earth human known as Gary Seven, agent of a secret alien agency known as Aegis, that has been keeping an eye out for Earth via carefully bred operatives for centuries.
The further adventures of Supervisor 174, better known as “Gary Seven” and his scatterbrained sidekick, Roberta Lincoln, had to wait for a novelized venue, despite a deep affection for the concept on Roddenberry’s part. In fact, he tried again on the same premise with “The Questor Tapes”, a clear derivation of the same story, about an alien robot paired with a human carrying on the same mission as Seven, to help mankind through the troubled years towards the end of the twentieth century.
So far, there have been two books starring Gary Seven, Roberta Lincoln and her nemesis, Isis the cat/woman. The first, Assignment Eternity sends our intrepid alien agents into the original series future, to stop the Romulan takeover of Gary Seven’s future Romulan counterpart’s base.
Aside from a bit more of Roberta Lincoln than I care to deal with, it’s a decent romp through TOS. Gary uncovers a plot to sabotage the future, infiltrates a secret base, gets tortured for his trouble, and ultimately thwarts the evildoers.
Previous series characters and references abound.
Now a second Gary Seven novel, and a much more comprehensive one has been spun by Greg Cox, taking off from the teaser at the end of Assignment Eternity in which Spock looks backwards into his crystal ball and determines that Seven and Lincoln will be instrumental in stopping a little footnote of future history known as “The Eugenics Wars,” and thwarting none other than our old friend, Khan Noonian Singh.
You should know up front that it’s at least a two-parter, starting with the discovery of a secret genetics lab in a remote part of India, the infiltration of same, Seven’s inevitable torture and escape, and considerably more of Ms. Lincoln than I really needed.
Previous series characters and references abound.
By the way, once upon a time, I thought Terry Garr was hot, though now why is one of life’s little mysteries. Yes, I know she’s not really the character in “Assignment Earth,” but she put her personal stamp so firmly on it that I can’t tell where one starts and the other ends. Garr was a bit over the top in her original role as Roberta Lincoln, the hip chick secretary that stumbled into the middle of a Star Trek episode in 1960s New York while responding to an ad for an encyclopedia company. I can still see what I liked about her in Young Frankenstein as she soothed the tormented Gene Wilder’s character, and though less charmingly, I begrudge her a good bit of acting in Close Encounters of the Third Kind as the frantic wife of Richard Dreyfuss, who’s decision to rebuild Devil’s Mountain in the living room out of the shrubbery would be enough to drive a wife to distraction.
But Terry Garr seems to have no affection for her characters, or all of SF. I understand that she huffs and puffs at interviewers who bring those roles up. I suppose she doesn’t want the slavish adoration of members of fandom, and I suppose I can see her point…but over the years, she doesn’t seem to have changed, and ditzy blondes just aren’t that cute anymore.
Today we want busty brain surgeons with attitude.
Not that I’m actually sure that’s progress.
But back to the book.
Against the backdrop of every Star Trek character and episode that could possibly have impacted on the time period from the mid 60s to the end of the century, and most of the bigger disasters that actually occurred during that time, author Greg Cox has Seven and Lincoln running around watching Kahn grow up. Early on they rescue him from the lab he’s born in, later they keep him out of trouble as a teen, and later yet, they consider taking him onto the team.
As Julian Bashir will later show, a little bit of genetic modification can go a long way, and Kahn has more than a little. The megalomania and ruthlessness he’s destined to show after being sprung from the “Botany Bay” keeps him from fitting in with Seven, and ultimately bringing the two of them into a head-butting match.
The Eugenics Wars more or less pretends that behind the scenes there have been intrigues going on that we, the public, have missed, and that we’ll look back at them someday and label them the Eugenics Wars.
To be fair, dealing with the remorseless passage of time is a constant thorn in the side of Science Fiction. Many of us can actually remember when 1984 was a far off date and George Orwell’s prognostication comfortably in the future. Even now, I’m sitting in the very un-Clarkelike year of 2001 and there’s nary a monolith in site.
Rather than choose to combine Kahn and Gary Seven, I wish they’d just used the covert nature of Seven’s operation to explore our recent history. Though not a bad read, the whole thing comes off as too contrived, Seven too lame, and Lincoln too clever to seem reasonable.
Kahn, for his part, seems reasonably well done, and I suspect that’s because we’ve seen such an excellent portrayal of him by Ricardo Montalban over the years.
So there you have it. The Eugenics Wars is part one of a series about a character I love, not as well realized as I’d like, and only the first part of the story.
I’d wait until it came out in paperback if I were you. I’ll admit though, that I’m looking forward to the second part to see what becomes of everyone. On the other hand, if you haven’t read Assignment Eternity, it is out in paperback, and for my money, an enjoyable if less ambitious romp.