Liveblog: Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Death in Winter” by Michael Jan Friedman

Not the usual sort of thing we blog about, not the usual sort of thing I read. But this is special. This, my friends, is the tie-in novel where Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher finally hook up.

And since one of my great regrets in life is that I didn’t liveblog the Voyager novel where Janeway is brought back to life (after being fridged in a TNG novel because Picard didn’t have enough Borg-related angst) and then makes out with Chakotay on the battle bridge, I persuaded Stephanie to let me liveblog it.

(It went like this:

Me: Hey, can I do this?

Her: Sure, why not?

Tricky negotiations required, Picard would be proud.)

[Steph really needs to know more about Janeway and Chakotay making out tbh]

Beyond the cut: a bullet point recounting of the plot, with stream of consciousness digressions and also some gifs.

Since this is a tie-in novel rather than fic, there’s going to be some plot to get through before the kissing happens. Let’s go.

  • We open at Beverly’s wedding to Jack Crusher, which is being observed by a ROMULAN SPY. He’s there to collect DNA from top Starfleet captains for the cloning program we’ll discover in Nemesis.
  • [Steph: Is this in the past? Did you trick me into giving my approval for TIME TRAVEL?!]
  • Along the way, he observes that Picard is miserably in love with Beverly (and is frankly not handling it with the aplomb one would expect, but hey, it’s a flashback, he’s younger and has hair, these things happen).
  • When he finally gets Picard’s DNA, it’s through shenanigans involving Beverly’s champagne glass. “Better not get the two human’s DNA mixed,” he thinks.
  • [Steph:…]
  • So if this book doesn’t give me a fully-grown, Romulan-raised Picard-Crusher combo clone, I’m going to ASK FOR MY MONEY BACK.
  • (I borrowed this book from the library, but I shall be QUITE CROSS REGARDLESS.)
  • Then we flash further back, to Beverly’s adolescence on a remote colony where she lived with her grandmother.
  • You remember her grandmother, who in her final years had a steamy affair with an alien posing as a cheesy Scottish ghost? There’s a whole thing (“Sub Rosa”, an episode that was actually written and filmed and aired, and even included in streaming and Blu-Ray releases) where Beverly attends her funeral and inherits her cheesy bad romance novel boyfriend, and the only good thing you can say about that episode is that it’s really impressive how no one looks into the camera like they’re on The Office. Let’s never speak of it again.
  • Instead, Beverly’s first kiss is interrupted by an alien vessel crash landing nearby. AWKS. Within are a bunch of refugees from a Romulan-controlled planet, nice, furry aliens who are dying of a virus that Romulus could cure, but they can’t be arsed allocating the resources. Beverly’s passion for medicine is born.
  • Finally, we hit the present day: a time shortly after Nemesis, which I saw at the cinema but literally only remember the scene with Admiral Janeway. But it had a very young Tom Hardy playing a Romulan clone of Picard, and I think Data died? And did not back himself up properly, which really should be an essential part of a AI’s daily routine, so he probably deserved it.
  • (That’s how I justified choosing Destroy in my first Mass Effect playthrough, too.)
  • Anyway, the Enterprise-E is at Earth for repairs and an extensive refit — guys, that ship is just about brand new, you need to look after your toys better — and Picard’s moping around because all of his crew are leaving him. Especially Beverly, who has gone back to heading up Starfleet Medical. We get some rather tedious exposition about the tortured history of their relationship — but then! She calls and invites him out to dinner! With dancing!
  • …and Picard says no, because he needs to let go, argh, this is already terrible I JUST WANT THEM TO GO DANCING AND THEN KISS.
  • Image - animated gif: Beverly leans down to kiss Picard on the lips; the camera pulls back to realise they're holding hands.
    Sorry, I had to stop and find kissing gifs, because it was all too much and I needed comfort.
  • NEXT: …Beverly is on the home world of the nice, furry aliens she met years ago, on a SECRET MISSION to cure their disease, which will nicely destabilise this region of the Romulan Empire and generally work in the Federation’s favour.
  • This scene takes place in a tavern on a snowy night, AND YET the novel persists in being science fiction, weird.
  • Then Sela turns up. Remember Sela? She was the secret daughter of time-travelling Tasha Yar from “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and a Romulan who captured her. I thought this storyline was AMAZINGLY CLEVER when I was a kid, but now it seems rather awful that Tasha, who came from a failed colony with rape gangs, ends up this way. Anyway, Sela is conveniently identical to Tasha except for her pointy ears and terrible haircut, and she has a particular dislike for the crew of the Enterprise.
  • [Steph: I have so many questions, and also time travel.]
  • [Liz: I’m sorry, the greatest episode of any Star Trek ever is “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, and it is all time travel and alternate universes.]
  • Beverly has never actually seen Sela in the flesh before, but she recognises her right away and we get some exposition. Then there’s a chase sequence and Beverly ends up taking a disruptor bolt to the chest. And her last thought is regret that Jean-Luc and Wesley are going to hear of her faraway death the way she learned of her husband’s.
  • BACK TO THE ENTERPRISE, where an admiral breaks the news of Beverly’s death to Picard. Probable death, Picard points out, because he hasn’t seen a body and he knows the rules. But there’s still a mission to complete, and One Other Doctor in the Federation Who Can Complete It, so Picard has to take over. And if he happens to rescue Beverly along the way, well, that’s just lucky.
  • “A doctor as clever as Beverly Crusher if not more so?” I thought, my hopes rising. “Julian Bashir? Voyager’s EMH? THERE ARE SO MANY POSSIBILITIES FOR BUDDY MOVIE ODD COUPLE BROMANCE HERE!”
  • Oh. The mission is being taken over by … Carter Greyhorse.
  • OKAY, so back in the early ’90s (when I was a regular reader of TNG tie-in novels, because that’s just the kind of cool adolescence I had), Michael Jan Friedman wrote one called Reunion, in which the crew of the Stargazer, Picard’s first command, gets together … BUT ONE OF THEM IS A MURDERER.
  • (Spoilers, the murderer was Carter Greyhorse.)
  • So this book had a whole lot of OCs, most of whom were pretty great — my favourites were the twin sisters, human, who were raised by Klingons just as Worf was raised by humans — but this was a long time ago and I’ve forgotten all about them.
  • BUT MICHAEL JAN FRIEDMAN WILL NOT ALLOW ME TO FORGET. Picard and Greyhorse are joined by “Pug” Williams, former security chief, now running his own private freighter. Naturally he’ll take his old crewmates into Romulan space, because he’s a stand-up guy BUT he’s also responsible for Jack Crusher’s death, and managed to become an actual alcoholic in a universe that pretended alcohol didn’t exist until DS9 came along.
  • [Steph: wait, what? That sounds fake, but okay]
  • [“That Sounds Fake But Okay” is up there with “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” for Star Trek mottos.]
  • Picard is in fact rather disquieted to learn that Beverly has a whole separate friendship with Pug, where she got him into rehab and generally hung out with him, and he’s like, I THOUGHT I KNEW EVERYTHING ABOUT HER. Dude, it’s okay, life’s a journey.
  • Oh yeah, there’s also a lot of ROMULAN SPACE POLITICS, which is usually 100% my thing, but right now, it’s just filling in time until we get to the kissing.
  • Then we have an AMAZING AND UNPREDICTABLE TWIST ie Beverly is NOT DEAD try to look surprised, everyone.
  • But she is Sela’s prisoner, and that’s probably bad.
  • While all the important stuff is happening in the Romulan Empire, Worf and Geordi decide to follow Picard to help rescue Beverly. This is some Troy and Abed nonsense right here — I guess, since Data is gone, Geordi needs a new best friend. But it’s weird, because we never really got the impression either of them were that close to Beverly, and these are super senior officers by this point, why are they doing this?
  • [Steph interjection: I literally have no idea what’s happening right now, but I usually feel that way about TNG. Also how dare you use the phrase ‘Troy and Abed nonsense’ as if Troy and Abed in a TNG tie-in novel wouldn’t make everything more amazing]
  • THEN ADMIRAL JANEWAY TURNS UP TO ASK THAT EXACT QUESTION but in a roundabout way that doesn’t openly accuse anyone of anything. She’s just popped by for a nice, casual bit of, “Hey, remember that time I totally commanded a crew that was literally full of terrorists-slash-freedom-fighters, who weren’t at all into following orders, not to mention Tuvok, don’t even get me started on Tuvok when he decided my orders were illogical, these days I can smell when officers are plotting something noble but stupid and I am here to tell you to stop that right now.”
  • Basically, this whole subplot is completely pointless, but it gave me a Janeway cameo, so I guess I don’t mind.
  • Being Sela’s prisoner is going okay for Beverly, because it turns out that one of the guards is actually the spy who attended her wedding all those years ago, and he’s now working for the praetor and is out to undermine Sela and get Beverly out himself.
  • Or he’s just going to help her escape, then kill her. I’m confused. But Beverly saves herself by recognising in the nick of time that the spy has contracted the disease, too, and so he needs him to save her.
  • Oh yeah, now we find out that the disease is transmittable to other aliens, and that that boy Beverly was kissing in the second flashback died of it RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER. Yeah, that’d send me to medical school, too. Thanks to Beverly, the Federation has a vaccine — now the Romulans want her to make one for them.
  • I dunno, Romulus, maybe if you diverted some funding from assassins academies to medical schools, you wouldn’t have this problem?
  • …but seriously, I guess I have some Feelings about how the Romulans are always portrayed as being dependent on other species for success — they need Vulcan logic (sorry, Spock, but Sela’s right when she calls you out for arrogance in “Unification”), they need Sela and her human heritage, they need Shinzon and his magic Picard genes. Let the Romulans stand on their own, dammit!
  • At least when the entire Klingon Empire was dependent on Picard, it was because he was an impartial outsider (who happened to be the Klingon equivalent of a weeaboo).
  • Picard’s team (1 x Starfleet captain; 1 x freighter captain; 1 x Federation convict; 1 x Romulan defector) has reached the planet of the dying furry people, narrowly escaped a trap laid by Sela, and taken refuge with the dying furry people’s underground. They’re literally underground, by the way.
  • Greyhorse settles down to make a vaccine, while trying not to have another psychotic break, because it turns out Federation facilities for people with mental illnesses are really terrible? (He’s been in solitary all these years? Guys. GUYS.)
  • Picard spends some time moping in caverns, and literally everyone on the entire planet is like, “Oh yeah, he had feelings for the late Doctor Crusher, but don’t let on that you know, he thinks it’s a secret.”
  • E V E R Y O N E
  • Left alone while her wedding-crasher-turned-guard-turned-rescuer-turned-murder-turned-patient seeks supplies, Beverly remembers all the good times she had with Picard, ie, every single scene of TNG that involved the words “Jean-Luc, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.” She also flashes back to that time they tried a durian (a scene guaranteed to make Stephanie cross with its rejection of SE Asian fruit).
  • [Steph: That reminds me, I have rambutans in my fridge that I gotta eat]
  • [Liz: I am always here for you.]
  • Oh yeah, then we have to sit through an entire recreation of a scene from “Sub Rosa”. I THOUGHT WE AGREED NEVER TO SPEAK OF THAT EPISODE AGAIN.
  • Speaking of bargains that probably only existed in my head, where’s my Picard-Crusher clone, dammit?
  • BUT THEN SHE ESCAPES and flees into the soft, cuddly arms of the local underground. BUT ALAS, not to reunite with Picard (just yet).
  • Stupid plot, keeping people apart.
  • And then the aliens are all, “Oh hey, Picard, that doctor you’re definitely not in love with is totally alive.”
  • And he’s like, “I am definitely only having a normal professional reaction to this news.”
  • Image - animated gif: Picard and Beverly throw their arms around each other and hug tightly.
    Meanwhile, this gif is presumably running on repeat in his mind.
  • I, meanwhile, am a bit put out, because, dammit, he’s supposed to give up all hope! And just when it seems like they will never be reunited, Beverly should appear, having saved herself, and then there’s surprise! And hugging! And also kissing!
  • Oh yeah, and Greyhorse found a cure for the disease. OR SO IT SEEMS, there’s still 60 pages to go, so I’m not getting my hopes up.
  • BUT WAIT, IT ALL WORKS! Except … Team Picard’s reunion with Beverly and cunning escape back to Federation space kind of falls apart when Sela and her centurions turn up.
  • The Picard/Crusher reunion’s pretty great, though: there he is, on the ground, about to be killed, when Beverly turns up and TAKES OUT HIS OPPONENT, flips her hair and says, “You should know I don’t need to be rescued, Jean-Luc.” SO GREAT.
  • …then she goes and beats Sela into unconsciousness, because that’s totally plausible, one human doctor whose martial arts training is mostly in Klingon tai chi versus a Romulan soldier.
  • Like, this is not how you make Beverly look like a Strong Female Character, you could have just let her finish work on the medical breakthrough she’s been working towards since adolescence instead of letting a dude take over.
  • Then there is hugging, and Picard declares his love with terribly awkward lines which I personally would die rather than putting in fic (but then, I have trouble with overt declarations of love, it’s a problem), and Beverly kind of … freaks out.
  • And they don’t speak at all on the journey back to Federation space.
  • And Picard spends the rest of the chapter moping around and being sad because he’s blown his friendship with Beverly.
  • UNTIL the Enterprise’s new chief medical officer turns up…
  • And she’s all, “I can’t believe I nearly lost a second chance to love you”, which AGAIN is a terrible line, I’m so embarrassed for these poor characters, and we’ve not had a glimpse of her POV for this whole time, so we have no idea why she initially recoiled from Picard or how she changed her mind, which is kind of an important thing we should have known
  • I just watched “Attached” last night, and, while railing about what a cop-out the ending was, also realised that Picard has been open to a relationship with Beverly since that point, and it’s always been her putting the breaks on, SO WE REALLY DO NEED TO KNOW WHY SHE HAS CHANGED HER MIND.
  • Alas.
  • But I’m really just here for the kissing, so how did that go?
  • “She kissed him, long and passionately.” Okay, but where’s the detail? Where are hands? WHERE ARE THE DUELLING TONGUES?
  • Oh yeah, this is why I stopped reading tie-in novels the day I discovered fic.
  • So disappointed that I went looking for the book that covers the Picard/Crusher wedding — but that turned out to be in the sequence where Janeway is killed off, so if I end up reading it, I’ll just be skimming through the important bits.
  • [ETA: I’ve since worked out that the actual wedding isn’t in that book, but in an e-novella titled Q are Cordially Uninvited. Spoilers, Q’s in it. I read it last night; it’s not bad, but no one writes Q as well as Peter David.]
  • On the other hand, at least Picard and Crusher get to have a relationship — over in the Voyager novels, after Janeway’s return from death and reinstatement as admiral of Starfleet’s little Delta Quadrant fleet, the Obligatory Arseholish Admiral forbids her to hook up with Chakotay.
  • She’s like, “…Because I’m a woman?” and he’s all, “Of course not, this is the twenty-fourth century! It’s because you’re not married, obviously.”
  • Like.
  • Imagine my face.
  • Image: Screencap from Legend of Korra - Lin Beifong throws her hand up in disbelief, a look of irritation and confusion on her face.
    (This was my face.)
  • (OTOH, I just learned that the next few books in that sequence feature the return of Kashyk, my other main Janeway het OTP, and that’s the kind of artificial barrier to a fictional relationship that I can get behind.)
  • But, back to TNG, I am now in a terrible state of shippus interruptus, and have resorted to AO3 for my fix. BAD NEWS, no one seems to have written an AU where they just get together at the end of “Attached” and everyone behaves like adults and the relationship progresses without melodrama.
  • Not saying I’m writing it myself.
  • But I’m definitely plotting it.
  • Meanwhile, for three very good fics, check out Yahtzee on AO3.