Now is a great time to be a “Star Trek” fan. The franchise’s first kids’ oriented series “Star Trek Prodigy” is currently airing, “Discovery” is about to premiere its fourth season, “Picard” is about to reintroduce a fan favorite antagonist in Season 2, “Lower Decks” just finished an incredible season, and new shows such as “Strange New Worlds” are on the horizon. But despite this new golden age of Star Trek in television, there is an unfortunate casualty for Star Trek fans: the Star Trek Literature canon that has existed for around 20 years.
This should be a familiar song to science fiction fans, as it has happened before. A popular sci-fi franchise is off the air for an extended amount of time, theoretically forever. In the absence of any new official stories, various authors came in and began writing books. An entire continuity that extended past the source material, full of original and fan favorite characters, was developed, only for the plug to be pulled once production on a new project begins. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and put “The Force Awakens” into production, one of the first things they did was declare all the “Star Wars” novels as part of a “Legends” continuity. In short, they no longer counted. The fan reaction to this change was largely detrimental and is something that the Star Wars fandom still has yet to fully recover from. Once “Star Trek: Picard” was announced in 2018, Dayton Ward, author of various “Star Trek” novels saw the writing on the wall. The “Star Trek” book universe, colloquially known as the “Litverse” or “Beta Canon,” was heading towards a similar fate as “Star Wars Legends.” So rather than just get shunted off to the side, he, along with other “Star Trek” novelists James Swallow and David Mack, decided to send the Litverse off with a bang in the new trilogy, “Star Trek Coda.”
The first two books of “Coda,” “Moments Asunder” and “Ashes of Tomorrow,” are something unique for “Star Trek.” Typically, “Star Trek” is one of the more grounded of popular sci-fi series. There’s no metaphysical “Force” or overriding destiny that the characters face. Sure, there’s the occasional temporal anomaly, and alien gods, but “Star Trek” generally at least pretends to be hard sci-fi when compared to some of the competition. “Coda” changes all of that.
Ward describes the birth and growth of the Litverse in the afterword of “Moments Asunder,” his contribution to the trilogy. The books originally grew out of the series that aired in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager.” But within the books, characters were able to do something they never could have in 1990s era television. They were able to grow. Will Riker and Deanna Troi from TNG were given their own series, detailing their adventures on Riker’s new command, the USS Titan. Ezri Dax from DS9 was also given her own ship, the Aventine, and main characters from DS9 had their entire command structure upended. Captain Janeway from “Voyager” was killed off, and the ship and crew were sent back to the Delta Quadrant on a mission of exploration. Characters grew and suffered in ways that would have been impossible for their parent TV shows to incorporate. Several important events took place, such as a massive Borg invasion in the “Star Trek Destiny” trilogy, written by Mack, which resulted in countless losses for the Federation and the dissolution of the entire Borg Collective. Of course, this would have been too big an event to simply mention as something that took place off screen in “Picard,” which takes place after the invasion would have happened, so the show’s writers had to split the timeline.
“Moments Asunder” takes place in 2387 of the Litverse timeline. The Enterprise-E, still under command of Jean-Luc Picard finds itself drawn into a conflict across millenia when an old friend mysteriously reappears. The crew realizes that the new threat is being caused by an old enemy, and when they, with an assist from the Aventine venture four thousand years into the future to find the truth, they discover a threat that is nearly impossible to comprehend, let alone face. Every possible timeline is at stake.
“Ashes of Tomorrow,” written by Swallow, picks up where “Moments Asunder” left off. Picard now knows what the threat to all of reality is, and tries to force the leaders of the Federation to help him fight it. Unfortunately, the bureaucrats, who now include Riker, who is unknowingly being affected by the collapsing timelines, feel other matters are more pressing. Picard and crew members of both the Enterprise and the Aventine go rogue, and wind up connecting with characters from DS9 in a truly surprising way. The ending of this novel is shocking, and leaves enough room for the upcoming third book, “Oblivion’s Gate,” written by Mack, to conclude the series in a phenomenal fashion.
I’ve been intentionally vague about plot points from “Coda” up to this point, because these are books that honestly just need to be experienced. That changes now. “Ashes of Tomorrow” ends in a dark place. The Enterprise has been impounded, Aventine arrested, Deep Space Nine destroyed, and Voyager is currently exploring the intergalactic void, hopefully being saved for an eleventh hour appearance. All of the active characters are left on the Defiant, trying to face down the end of time while being hunted by Riker on the Titan. Timelines are crashing together; it’s been heavily implied that the Litverse will not survive the end of this trilogy, or will be supplanted by the timeline seen in “Picard.” “Star Trek Coda” is shaping up to be a truly legendary finale that acts as a love letter to Trek both new and old, especially since “Ashes of Tomorrow” final sentence should send a shiver down any “Star Trek” fans’ neck. “There is somewhere we can go… into the mirror.”