The fourth book in the A Time to… Star Trek: TNG series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 332 plus a short preview of the next book
Publisher: Pocket Books

In the previous book the Enterprise-E was sent to explore a region of space where the Admiralty though they would find only the ruins of a dead civilization. Instead the crew found the Dokaalans who had survived their homeworld’s destruction and are now living in a few mining colonies among the asteroids near their former planet. Because the asteroid field had has lots of radiation, Enterprise’s systems aren’t working properly. Still, when the crew noticed that one of the colonies was in danger, they sprang to action and tried to save as many as they could. The Dokaalans were grateful even if some of them were suspicious of the mighty starship which had technology the Dokaalan’s haven’t even dreamt about. Since then, Picard and his crew have tried to help any way they can. The Dokaalan’s have shared their most ambitious project: to terraform a nearby planet to suit their needs as a new homeworld.

However, an alien race has infiltrated the Dokaalans using holographic suits. The infiltrators have subtly sabotaged the Dokaalan’s colonies and even the terraforming effort. Now the aliens have even infiltrated the Enterprise and are reading to destroy it if needed.

This book continues the somber mood that the three previous books had. New characters are introduced only to be killed off, Picard is second guessing himself, and the already beleaguered Dokaalans face problems everywhere. The characters also angst a lot over previous decisions which I thought was unnecessary, especially for such experienced officers as Picard, Riker, and Crusher.

The Dokaalans seems to be very resilient species. Most of their race died when their homeworld was destroyed by a natural disaster but the survivors managed to build lives on the asteroid mining colonies which had been meant to be temporary. Their resources were limited and their space technology is rudimentary, and the Enterprise crew compares it to Earth’s early 21th century technology. Still, the Dokaalans have started the terraforming project which would take centuries to finish. They seem to accept the Enterprise crew pretty easily considering that until the Enterprise showed up, they had no idea other people than their own even existed. However, the Dokaalans have to be very practical. There’s some mention that the more religious thought that the Enterprise had been sent by their god but this wasn’t explored further.

Picard and his crew try to help the Dokaalans as best they can. However, because the radiation limits their technology’s usefulness, they are often frustrated with how little they can do. For example, the teleporters don’t operate and sensors have only limited range. The crew rescues large groups of wounded Dokaalans twice, so the medical staff is featured more than is usual.

We get short chapters from the POV of the infiltrators. The alien aboard the Enterprise is actually unusually moral for his profession; he doesn’t like killing and avoids it. On the other hand, he would destroy the Enterprise if ordered. He also doesn’t expect to be able to leave the ship before that. However, his primary mission is to destroy Data and he manages to shut down the android at the start of the book. These chapters are very effective at bringing the tension level up.

Unfortunately, there’s again a lot of repetition. Previous plot point are told again when the characters mull them over or talk about them, and a couple of times even a couple of previous paragraphs is summed up again which seemed a bit weird.

Like in the previous book, there are a lot of references to earlier TNG episodes and when the crew finds out that there’s an infiltrator in the ship, they muse about the Dominion war and the Founders. This is, of course, a treat to long time fans. Unfortunately, sometimes they slow the pace down and interfere with the story.

The ending wraps up the story nicely.