Liz Tells Frank What Happened In the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Novel “Imzadi”

Dear Frank,

There are no shortage of embarrassing books on my bookshelves (as well as the auxiliary book piles) — books I brought from home because they were important to me at some time or another. And while we could argue about how embarrassing some of these books might be, I think there’s no denying that Star Trek: The Next Generation tie-in novels belong near the top of the list. On a junior high school level, after all, a Star Trek tie-in novel combines both Star Trek and, god forbid, READING. There are probably even some Star Trek fans rolling their eyes at me right now.

Here’s the thing, though — when I sat down to reread Peter David’s Imzadi last night, the first words I read, in big bold-face type, were “THE END.” And I finally remembered why I’d gone to the trouble, all those years ago, to cart a Counselor Deanna Troi/Commander William Riker romance novel hundreds of miles to my current home. Short version: TIME TRAVEL. Which makes Imzadi, actually, kind of awesome.

Imzadi is pitched as the story of how Riker and Troi, established as old lovers in the pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation, first met and fell in love. But before we get anywhere near the sweaty jungles of Betazed (this book is pretty enjoyable, Frank, but there are certainly elements that will not escape mockery), we first go to see our old friend, The Guardian of Forever! Original series Star Trek fans don’t need me to explain what the Guardian of Forever is; for the people in the cheap seats, though, just know that it’s a big donut-shaped rock that shows all points in time, and if you jump through it at the right point, you can travel INTO THE PAST.

A Starfleet team, ever since Dr. McCoy went and screwed up history that one time, has been stationed on the Guardian’s planet to study it, and we quickly figure out that we are in the super-future (approximately forty years after the time period TNG occurs during), because our favorite android Lieutenant Data is there! Except now he is a commodore, and in charge of the NCC-1701-F. Neato.

And then we go visit our friend William Riker, who (forty years after serving as first officer of the 1701-D) is now in his 70s and a miserable bastard processing paperwork in an inconsequential space station. The only thing that could pull him out of his self-pity? Self-flagellation, at the hands of the mother of Deanna Troi, Lwaxana Troi — he receives a message that she’s dying and wants to see him before she does so.

On the show, Lwaxana Troi was played by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the husband of creator Gene Roddenberry. While Majel is honored by fans as sort of a First Lady of "Star Trek", Lwaxana was never a fan favorite character (except potentially for my mother). Why Gene would let his wife play one of the most annoying characters in "Star Trek" history is an issue I am not touching.

Old Man Riker hitches a ride with Captain Wesley Crusher (who is said to have a Vandyke beard — not too different from the current state of affairs) to Betazed, a beautiful planet of culture, steamy jungles and really hot telepaths. Except for the lady dying in bed, who uses her last breaths to scream at Riker about how he could have prevented Deanna’s death. We don’t yet know how Deanna died, but even at this stage of the book, you can’t help but feel that Lwaxana is being a little unfair.

Anyways, she dies, and after the funeral (in a section cleverly titled “The End of the Beginning”), Riker sits down and tells Wesley the whole tragic story of how Troi died, because Wesley was off at the Academy when shit went down. Short version: She was poisoned right before a peace conference and there was nothing anyone could do. The slightly longer version involves Riker catching Troi hooking up with another guy a night earlier and him contemplating whether they’d made a mistake in deciding to be friends instead of lovers on the Enterprise, making her sudden death all the more tragic, but it’s mopey and also we’ll be revisiting it shortly so look, all you need to know is DEAD.

After storytime, Riker, per Lwaxana Troi’s will, starts clearing out her house (this is how you know how much Lwaxana hated Riker). In Deanna’s childhood bedroom, he finds a box filled with mementos of “a younger simpler time” — flashing back to a younger simpler time entitled “The Beginning”…

Boom! Meet Young Riker, who’s just gotten reassigned to a fancy new post on a fancy new ship. Unfortunately, his fancy new ship is undergoing repair for a few months, so he’s being sent to Betazed as a Starfleet liason–

I’m realizing right now how much shit I’m not explaining right now — like, for example, what Starfleet is. Then again, Frank, it’s a little much to expect people who aren’t you and don’t know anything about Star Trek to have read this far.

Anyways, Riker’s first big exposure to Betazoid culture is a big wedding he attends — not knowing that everyone at a Betazed wedding is supposed to get nekkid. Riker’s at first uncomfortable, but gets into the spirit of things — though boy howdy, he sure wishes he was wearing pants the first time he sees the also naked maid of honor!

It’s Troi, if you couldn’t guess. It’s love– well, it’s certainly something at first sight for him, and she can sense his whatever-we’re-going-to-call-it-okay-it’s-pretty-much-just-horniness from across the room. However, Troi’s not exactly hot to trot, as she’s focused on her studies as well as her future place as a Betazed society gal — something she’s not super into, but what her mother expects of her.

So Troi tries blowing him off, but Riker talks her into hanging out with him and teaching him about Betazed philosophy, which is all about feelings instead of action and so Riker struggles with it, but in the process, Troi does find herself attracted to him. It helps/hurts that every time they hang out, he keeps grabbing her and kissing her — helps, because she is forced to realize that she’s attracted to him, and hurts, because it’s kind of a dick move. (A hot dick move, when executed correctly, but that’s a debate we’ll save for a later date.) Along the way, Riker learns about the power of deep breathing and is able to establish a very fledging telepathic connection with her. SEX-AY.

I couldn't find a good picture online of Troi and Riker kissing. So instead, here is a picture of them in a bathtub. (From "Star Trek: Insurrection")

A quick note here. To the best of my memory, Troi was never very popular as a character on TNG (her tight jumpsuits, yes, the character herself, no), but reading Imzadi makes it kinda clear that the character in concept wasn’t that terrible. In short, the fault lies not in the stars, but perhaps in Marina Sirtis’s acting abilities.

Things come to a head when a bunch of evil aliens called the Sindareen raid a Betazed museum and hold the people inside hostage, including Troi. Riker leads the Starfleet response, in which the Sindareen ship is shot down to crash in the jungle and the Betazed hostages are rescued — all save one, because Troi went and got herself taken along by the Sindareen. (Bitches, man.)

Riker goes storming off into the jungle to find her by himself (I’m pretty sure that’s not proper Starfleet procedure, but whatevs) and eventually confronts the lone surviving Sindareen, who dies after stumbling into some fancy Betazed super-quicksand.

Riker and a freshly rescued, trembling Troi are thus left alone in the lush, sweaty, steamy jungle, days away from civilization. YOU HAD BETTER BELIEVE THAT THEY FUCK. They bang HARDCORE. Okay, Peter David actually says it like this:

In that moment they knew all there was to know of each other… body and soul, flesh and spirit, all combined and permeating every inch of both of them. Instead of moving away from each other, instead of resisting the pull, they gave in to it completely. They complemented each other, became each other, filling out each other’s needs and rejoicing as pleasures built in them… The pressure built beyond their ability to contain and they released, clutching each other, as if hoping they could meld their bodies into one as seamlessly as they had with their souls.

But we know what he means.

Oh, in the afterglow, Riker feels like he hears the word “Imzadi,” which essentially is like an uber-soulmate in Betazed culture. Now you know what the title means, Frank!

After some more fucking (oh, and Riker writes some poetry, which is HILARIOUS), they make it back to civilization. But back under her mother’s influence, Troi is convinced that the jungle was rad, but she needs to remain on her fixed life path. So she dumps Riker pretty hard, which Riker reacts to by getting drunk and immediately sleeping with the slutty daughter of the Federation ambassador (who’s been into Riker all this time).

When Troi, realizing she’s made a mistake, goes to find him, she thus finds him in probably the most compromising position possible, and dumps him part two. When it’s time for Riker to leave, they sort of make up and resolve to remain friends, and through knowing him, Troi is inspired to join Starfleet and see the world, and now you know how Troi and Riker fell in love, Frank. Hooray!

Oh, but the story’s not over yet! In fact, according to the chapter heading, we’ve just arrived at “The Middle.” See, once Old Man Riker is done packing up Lwaxana’s house, he hitches a ride with Commodore Data’s Enterprise back to his starbase. On the Enterprise, though, Data tells him that while he was visiting the Guardian of Forever, he saw an alternate timeline where Deanna didn’t die. Riker FREAKS OUT and demands that they go back to Betazed to autopsy Deanna’s body — which reveals that Troi was murdered by a poison that was far too futuristic for that time period. TWIST!

Riker becomes convinced that his timeline is the wrong one, and wants to go back to the Guardian and fix things. Data refuses, but once Riker gets back to his starbase he grabs a ride from another ship and makes his way to the Guardian planet, successfully hopping back in time to the day that Deanna died — precisely 23 minutes beforehand. Fortunately, all he needs to do is convince Young Man Riker to give Troi the antidote, which he does just in the nick of time.

But uh oh! While Troi is safe for now, Commodore Data has hopped back in time as well, determined to keep the timeline intact — which means making sure Troi dies before the peace conference. So Commodore Data impersonates his past self and almost manages to get her alone… But Young Man Riker realizes that that Data was an impostor because he used contractions! For want of an apostrophe, a timeline was lost! Troi is rescued a second time.

Oh, and it’s revealed that the timeline Old Man Riker comes from was the wrong one, as at the peace conference, Troi reveals that one of the participants (for no real reason, also the Sindareen) was lying about their intentions — thus leading to the downfall of Sindareen civilization, something an overambitious future Sindareen was hoping to fix. Old Man Riker and Commodore Data thus return to their place in the timeline (“The Beginning of the End”) — but Riker, for the first time in decades, can hear Troi reach out to him through their Imzadi connection. And he cries. Again. The end.

Oh, and in the present Troi and Riker start hooking up again and eventually they get maaaaaaaaaarried! Isn't that nice? They look happy.

Admittedly, my soft spot for Imzadi is also probably largely connected to my pre-established soft spot for time travel. But the out-of-order storytelling and the emphasis on characters are also factors. Ultimately, no matter how embarrassing, it’ll probably stay on my bookshelves for at least a few more years. And not just for the sexy bits.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on September 6, 2011, in All the Spoilers, Books and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think I read this book. At one point in the wedding Troi is checking Riker out and asks him why Earth men have so much hair on their chests.

    He replies: “Traction.”

    Favorite line in the book.

  1. Pingback: Liz Tells Frank What Happened In the “Star Trek: TNG” Novel “Imzadi” | nerd puddle

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