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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Star Trek: More Beautiful Than Death Star Trek
More Beautiful Than Death

Written by David Mack

(The page numbers come from the 1st printing, paperback edition, August 2020)


When a non-Federation world sends a distress signal, the Enterprise and Ambassador Sarek are sent to the rescue.


Notes from the Star Trek chronology


This story is stated to begin shortly after the events of the 2009 Star Trek movie (see "The Vengeance of Nero") and after the damage to the Enterprise incurred there has been repaired. This would, though, have to be some time after the events of The Unsettling Stars (the shakedown mission after the ship is repaired) and after the Enterprise's first official mission with Kirk as captain in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" parts 1 and 2.


Characters appearing in this novel 



Ambassador Sarek

Lt. Uhura

L'Nel (later revealed as T'Pring)

Lt. Sulu

Captain Kirk


Dr. McCoy

Ensign Chekov

Tog chim Lesh

Ferron th'Noor

Amadou Sangare

Amanda Grayson (mentioned only, deceased)

Chief Minister Vellesh-ka

Lt. Jessica Sowards

Ensign Robert Upton

Lt. Beamon

Ensign Ewen

Ensign Willens

Petty Officer Kress



Ensign sh'Vetha

Ensign Katusha

Deirdre (mentioned only)

Scotty's grandfather (Clifford Scott, mentioned only)

Sveta (in Kirk's vision only)

Jilur (in Kirk's vision only)

Mika (in Kirk's vision only)

Yewon (mentioned in Kirk's vision only)

Admiral Deigaro


Syrran (mentioned only, deceased)

Surak (mentioned only, deceased)

General Adrig


Lt. Damrow


Tergan-besh (mentioned only)

Ensign Dehler







Christopher Pike (mentioned only)


Stonn (as katra and in T'Pring's memories only, now dissipated)

Sural (Vulcan priest, in T'Pring's memories only)

Ensign Megan Nesmith

Frank (Kirk's stepfather, mentioned only)

Patty (Scotty's aunt, mentioned only)

Admiral Perez (mentioned only) 


Didja Know?


The title of this book comes from a line in the 1860 Walt Whitman poem "Proto-Leaf".




Didja Notice?  


Awakening from unconsciousness, Spock sees a young Vulcan woman, L'Nel, on page 2, garbed in the ceremonial vestments of a Mount Seleya priestess. Mount Seleya was a sacred site on the planet Vulcan. In the original timeline, Spock was taken there after his resurrection on the Genesis Planet to have his katra (stored in Dr. McCoy's mind), the living essense of a Vulcan's identity, reunited with his body in the 1984 film Star Trek: The Search for Spock.


The character of L'Nel here is revealed in the closing chapters of the book to actually be Spock's betrothed, T'Pring, who took the name from a deceased woman (revealed on page 268). Possibly the original L'Nel appears in the Star Trek: Enterprise novel Kobayashi Maru.


On page 4, Spock sees that L'Nel is holding a katric ark, a product made by the Kolinahr masters to hold a Vulcan katra. Kolinahr is a Vulcan process of purging all emotion and embracing total logic. In the original timeline, Spock was seen to have failed to attain Kolinahr in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.


On page 10, Captain Kirk reminisces on driving his stepfather's vintage Corvette off a cliff when he was a boy. This incident occurred in "Parallels".


This novel introduces the non-Federation world Akiron and its dominant indigenous species, the Kathikar.


A mining consortium called the Lexam Group has mined dilithium on Akiron. This is the first appearance of this business partnership.


On page 18, Sarek notes that the Prime Directive applies only to Starfleet, not to civilian entities of the Federation.


On page 22, Sarek tells L'Nel that Spock's betrothed was lost in the destruction of Vulcan. The planet Vulcan was destroyed by Nero in "The Vengeance of Nero". Later in the novel, it is revealed that L'Nel actually is Spock's betrothed, T'Pring, who escaped the destruction of Vulcan.


On page 24, Sarek and L'Nel exchange the words, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." This is a callback to a discussion between Kirk and Spock in the original timeline, in the film Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Sarek thinks of the phrase as an old homily, so maybe it was actually a Vulcan aphorism all along?


Spock argues with his father that he is under no obligation to choose a Vulcan mate, even given the extremely low population count of living Vulcans after the destruction of their planet. But a few years later, in Star Trek Beyond, Spock begins to question himself on this point.


On page 35, Chief Minister Vellesh-ka acknowledges the presence of the Enterprise over his planet with the phrase "greetings and felicitations". This greeting was also famously used by the nearly god-like child Trelane in the original series episode "The Squire of Gothos".


On page 54, Kirk says to Sarek during a disagreement, "The word must is not used to princes or starship captains." It seems he is borrowing a quote from the 1998 film Elizabeth about the life of Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603), the actual quote in the film being simply, "The word must is not used to princes."


On page 62, Dr. McCoy says, "I'm a doctor, not a mountain climber!"


On page 89, Sarek mentions the Council of Antiquities when he sees L'Nel's ancient katric ark for the first time. He is presumably referring to a Vulcan Council of Antiquities. This is the first mention of it.


On page 100, Gveter-ren sends a communication to the Enterprise from the planet's surface via UHF. UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency.


On page 102, Gveter-ren is described as having one clouded eye and one eye with a focus "as sharp as a serpent's tooth." The phrase "how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child" is from Shakespeare's King Lear. There was also an episode of the ST animated series titled "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth".


Gveter-ren is the Venerated Elder of the Mystic Order of Oernachta.


The Kathikar term for soul or katra is lihar.


On page 110, Spock remarks on experiments in regressive hypnosis on the planet Berengaria. The planet is also mentioned in the ST: DS9 episode "In the Cards".


Scotty has a great-aunt named Deirdre. He also mentions his grandfather telling him that Great-Aunt Deirdre was rumored to have had a secret fortune buried somewhere in the Highlands. In the novelization of the ST:TNG episode "Relics", Scotty's grandfather is said to be Clifford Scott. "The Highlands" refers to the Scottish Highlands of northern Scotland.


In Kirk's second vision, Jilur experiments to prove a dark energy theory. Dark energy is an energy postulated to exist by cosmological scientists; the prevalent theory surmises that about 68% of the energy in the universe is a dark energy that is spread uniformly throughout the universe and which is causing the accelerating expansion of the universe. After his vision, Kirk also relates dark energy to dark matter and zero-point energy. Dark matter is thought by astrophysicists to make up about 85% of the matter in the universe; it is not directly observable by current science, but its existence is implied by observations of its effects on the universe. Zero-point energy is the lowest amount of energy that can be had in a quantum mechanical system.


This story deals with the concept of quark changelets, subatomic particles that can penetrate into other dimensions, in this case from a form of dilithium called gray dilithium. Changelets appear to be fictitious. Dilithium is a fictitious element which, in its crystal form, is used to power many forms of warp drive in the Star Trek universe.


L'Nel's contact Tokor is on the planet Deneva. This world is seen in "Operation Annihilate" parts 1 and 2.


On pages 146-147, L'Nel and Tokor discuss the fal-tor-pan ritual, allegedly once used to bond the katra of Surak to that of Syrran. This is an ancient, rarely performed Vulcan ritual designed to transfer a katra from one living being to another. Spock and McCoy underwent this ritual in the original timeline when McCoy held Spock's katra in his mind (due Spock's impending death in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan) and it was transferred back into Spock's regenerated body in Star Trek: The Search for Spock. Surak was the founder of Vulcan's culture and society based on logic around 2000 years before the events of Star Trek. Syrran was a Vulcan of the 22nd Century who began a movement to re-enforce the ways of Surak in the modern Vulcan society that had begun to slip away from Surak's pacifist teachings, as told in several episodes of ST: Enterprise.


    When Spock and Scotty developed a plan to cross-circuit and destroy the Kathikar dark energy weapon, Kirk asks for an estimate on how long it will take and Scotty says four minutes, while Spock simultaneously says sixty seconds. This prompts Kirk to respond to Scotty that he'll pretend not to notice he's been inflating his repair estimates. This is a callback to the original timeline when, in Star Trek: The Search for Spock, Scotty tells Kirk it would take 8 weeks to have the damaged Enterprise refitted, "But ye don't have eight weeks, so I'll do it for ye in two," and Kirk asks, "Mr. Scott. Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?", prompting Scotty to respond, "Certainly, sir. How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?"

   At the beginning of Chapter 24, Scotty laments his task of trying to work out how to apply the subspace pulse that saved the Enterprise from the wights to the entire under-siege planet of Akiron, thinking, What does the captain think I am? A miracle worker?


In The Unsettling Stars, when Sulu takes command of the Enterprise for the first time, he instinctively felt that if given the chance, he could get used to the position. This was an obvious nod to Sulu's later command of Excelsior in the original timeline. Here in our current novel, Sulu reflects, I hate being in charge. I hope I never get promoted to command, obviously a play on what we know of him in the original timeline.


Page 187 states that Keenser's homeworld had numerous deadly land-based predators, which caused Keenser's people to develop an instinctual desire to seek out the highest possible vantage point in any environment. Keenser's homeworld is revealed to be Royla in "The Only Place I Fit".


On page 187, Scotty assists Dr. McCoy by yelling at Keenser to get down from his high perch in sickbay, saying, "He's got enough problems wi'out you nabbin' a hudgie on his gizmos like some bloody numptie!" "Nabbin' a hudgie" is Scottish slang for getting a ride in the back of a truck. "Numptie" is Scottish slang for a confused, stupid, or ineffectual person.


On page 198, the contraption that Spock, Scotty, and McCoy have cobbled together to analyze Gveter-ren's staff and crystal is referred to as a "Frankenstein's monster of a device." This refers, of course, to Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein, about a (possibly insane) scientist who brings to life an artificial man from the stitched-together body parts of human corpses.


On page 200, Spock names three other Federation species who have psionic talents on the same frequency lengths as Gveter-ren: the Dopterians, the M'Lik, and the Szenhai. A Dopterian appeared in the ST: DS9 episode "The Forsaken"; they look somewhat like Ferengi. This novel is the first mention of the M'Lik and Szenhai.


On page 215, Scotty reflects on the time he was attacked by a hengrauggi while repairing an outdoor communications antenna on Delta Vega. This must have been after the time a hengrauggi came after him and Keenser when they went for a walk shortly after Scotty arrived at Delta Vega in "The Only Place I Fit". A hengrauggi also chased Kirk into a cave on Delta Vega in "The Vengeance of Nero".


On page 227, McCoy uses an osteofuser to repair a bone in a woman's nearly-severed arm. Similar medical devices called osteo-regenerators, bone regenerators, and bone-knitting lasers have been used in stories set in the original timeline.


On page 229, Keenser speaks in clicks and gestures that Scotty learned to understand when they were stationed together on Delta Vega. In "The Only Place I Fit", Keenser seems able to speak in single English words (or Federation Standard) when he was still on Delta Vega. It could be argued that the English words used in the comic were translated for the reader and he was actually speaking in clicks and gestures as mentioned here.


On page 234, as he lies dying, Gveter-ren whispers to Kirk, "You were not live an ordinary life," and Kirk is reminded of similar words said to him by Christopher Pike that spurred him to enlist in Starfleet. Those words were, "You can settle for a less than ordinary life, or do you feel like you were meant for something better?", spoken in "Parallels".


On page 237, Scotty thinks of his task of trying to work out how to apply the subspace pulse that saved the Enterprise from the wights to the entire under-siege planet of Akiron as a Gordian knot. The Gordian knot is a legend associated with Alexander the Great of a knot on an ox cart made up of a tightly-wound bundle of other knots that was so complex it was impossible to tell where to start in order to untie it. Alexander's solution was simply to bypass the untying of the knot by either (depending on different versions of the legend) pulling the linchpin from the yoke, thus freeing the cart from the ox, or just cutting through the knot with his sword. The moral is that there are often ways to work around a problem that make the problem itself moot.


On page 263, L'Nel mentions Spock's refusal to attend the Vulcan Science Academy. This occurred in "Parallels".


On page 264, L'Nel, now revealed as T'Pring, tells Sarek of her desire to be with a man called Stonn instead of her betrothed, Spock. Stonn is dead now in the Kelvin timeline, his katra stored in the katric ark T'Pring has in her possession. She intends to use the fal-tor-pan ritual to remove Spock's katra from his body and replace it with Stonn's so they can be together. It's revealed here that Stonn was terminally injured as the planet Vulcan was crumbling, but T'Pring was able to fetch him a katric ark to hold his katra. In the original timeline, Stonn was still alive to challenge Spock for T'Pring's hand in the year 2267 in the original series episode "Amok Time".


Also on page 268, T'Pring uses incense of kisek, n'tai, j'pem, and yela as she prepares herself to instigate the fal-tor-pan ritual. This appears to be the first mention of these Vulcan fragrances.


In T'Pring's memory of Stonn's death, they were near the Halls of Ancient Thought at Mount Seleya when the planetary destruction occurred. The Halls of Ancient Thought are where Vulcan katras are stored. The temple housing the halls was glimpsed in Star Trek: The Search for Spock.


At the beginning of Chapter 31, Kirk reflects on a phrase that his stepfather had been prone to utter, "The last mile is always the longest." His stepfather was named Frank in the novelization of the 2009 Star Trek movie (see "Parallels"). However, "Operation Annihilate" Part 1 later refers to Frank as Winona Kirk's big brother, not second husband, making him James Kirk's uncle.


When the pulse bomb's display screen shows only gibberish as Kirk prepares to activate it, he asks Scotty if there's any way to fix it and the engineer suggests if he has a dynospanner handy...which Kirk does not. The dynospanner was previously mentioned in the Star Trek: Vanguard novel Harbinger by our current author, David Mack, and later in the ST: Enterprise novel The Good That Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin. On his website, David Mack has annotations for the Harbinger novel, one of which states, "The dynosPanner is me screwing up an attempt to reference the dynosCanner from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I probably got it mixed up with the hydrospanner from Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back." I guess he decided to go with it though when he used the term again here!


T'Pring is incarcerated on Calidan III for her actions and is provided with psionic therapy. In the earlier-written-but-later-in-continuity story "After Darkness" Part 1, T'Pring is revealed to be alive and well on New Vulcan (with no mention of the events of this novel, of course). It could be argued that her therapy was successful and she has fully recovered and become a functional, stable member of Vulcan society.


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