This is the first installment of my Star Trek Novel Project, where I seek out random Star Trek books and review them. It’s going to be a bit rough at first but I know I’ll improve.
Author: Peter David
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Found: Salvation Army for $0.45
Have you ever wondered what might happen if Lwaxana Troi (ship counsellor Deanna Troi’s mother) butted heads with the smarmy, all-powerful Q? If you’re anything like me, you probably hadn’t considered it. But to hear writer Peter David discuss it, it was a common request from Trek fans in the early ’90s.
Lwaxana and Q are very formidable conflict points within the Next Generation. Picard is actively unnerved by Lwaxana’s pursuit of him while she’s in “phase,” and Q single-handedly put humans on the Borg’s radar. They’re dangerous characters on their own, so a story throwing them together would be undoubtedly eventful.
Q-In-Law is noted Stark Trek and comic book writer Peter David’s take on what might happen if Q and Lwaxana not only met, but were at all romantically involved. Set between the TNG eps Menage a Troi and Qpid, Q-In-Law explores the depths of love, Q’s inability to get along with anyone, and what Romeo and Juliet would have been like in space.
What’s the deal?
Two rival houses of the Tizarin (space gypsies a bit like the Quarians in Mass Effect) are about to merge as the children of their respective leaders marry. The Enterprise is chosen as the site of the wedding, meaning representatives from Federation planets that have trade dealings with the Tizarin are gathering on the ship for the celebration.
The ceremony is actually a week-long party, something that Picard and crew come to regret as that means the overbearing Lwaxana Troi will be onboard that entire time. A week made longer thanks to her latest Betazoid custom of grieving for her daughter’s inability to marry.
Just as an uneasy peace settles over the Enterprise, Q shows up and starts delighting the Tizarin with stories and parlor tricks. When Picard attempts to kick Q off the ship, the Tizarin insist he stay as their guest.
Having been snubbed by Picard, Lwaxana takes an interest in Q, especially after damn near everyone on the ship warns her that he’s dangerous. Q, eager to cause mischief, starts up a strange friendship/relationship with Lwaxana and ultimately gives her the power of the Q.
As you read Q-In-Law, you can distinctly hear the voices of the TNG cast coming to life. Peter David has an excellent grasp of fitting dialog to characters, a skill that certainly comes in handy when you’re working in comics and not just words.
Capturing John de Lancie’s sardonic cadence is no easy feat, but you can hear every self-congratulatory and sarcastic syllable in David’s dialog.
The entire Enterprise crew behaves in believable, show-accurate ways that almost make you wish this story had been filmed. David gives real depth to sometimes throwaway encounters, and actually makes Lwaxana Troi a less infuriating character. In fact, you’ll likely find yourself cheering her on as she teaches Q a lesson he won’t soon forget.
This might be my years of high school theater talking, but the moment someone tells me a story is based off a Shakespeare play, I actively avoid it. Predictably, Q-In-Law’s “star-crossed lovers” and their rival families eventually fall into all-out war, mimicking Romeo and Juliet in several ways. This wouldn’t have been too bad if the Enterprise crew didn’t spend the pre-wedding conversation talking about how glad they were that the Tizarin wedding wasn’t going to be anything like Romeo and Juliet.
David exacerbates this problem by having Picard quote the play in a stirring speech toward the end of the book. I prefer a bit more subtly to my Shakespeare references. Like, did you know 10 Things I Hate About You is based off the Taming of the Shrew? You probably did, but the references to the source material are present but subtle throughout the entire movie. If Q-In-Law had simply nodded toward the Bard rather than outright incorporating lines from Romeo and Juliet, it would be much more believable.
Of course, Q’s obvious interference in this conflict can explain the heavy-handed way the story shifts toward Romeo and Juliet. In his effort to test the boundaries of humanoid love, he falls into a predictable pattern he’s familiar with. Q is fairly competent when it comes to Shakespeare as well, a fact he tries unsuccessfully to wield over Picard in TNG episodes.
But, the most frustrating part of Q-In-Law isn’t its source material but the Deus Ex Machina finale. When you’re dealing with the Q, it is so easy to use that god-like power to solve your problems, and it is unfortunate that there was not a more reasonable solution to the blood-feud consuming the Tizarin.
Should you read it?
If you’re interested in a Q/Lwaxana story not written and published on the Internet, definitely. Peter David’s grasp of characterization and deep love of Star Trek makes Q-In-Law a quick read. If you don’t mind relying on overused writing tropes and subtle conflicts with Star Trek’s main canon, you’ll probably enjoy seeing Q’s best laid plans backfire spectacularly.
Plus, Lwaxana becomes a sympathetic character.
Score: 3 Jefferies Tube references out of 5.