The Final Reckoning Trilogy:

Farewell to Arms

I address this little essay to anyone who has read my three-part Star Trek: The Next Generation trilogy The Final Reckoning and enjoyed it (or otherwise). I felt it was time to put a full stop onto this story, despite my awareness of its flaws, particularly in terms of its construction and language.

It is a little frightening to think that I have worked on and off on the three novels since I was 16 years old, nearly twenty years ago, in the immediate aftermath of having seen Star Trek: First Contact. Back then, I had a simple idea about a war between the Next Generation cast (which eventually expanded to include DS9 and Voyager) and the aliens from Independence Day (although their identity was never overtly revealed).

In this very first draft, written on an IBM PC running WordStar something-or-other and using 5 ΒΌ inch floppy disks to save, my aliens were called (embarrassingly) the Monopolisers. I think I had some weird idea that they monopolised everything or some-such, but when a relative pointed out that I could have called them the Conglomeroids, which, to be fair, is a much better name, I decided quickly to change the name and managed to come up with the Aralla, a word that would come to overshadow the entire story.

My first draft, then titled The Final Reckoning, ran to perhaps 100 pages long (and has long since vanished), which was quite swiftly completed. I then decided that it needed a little bit more work... By the time I'd finished this rewrite, five years later, it had swollen to nearly four times its length and become something of a leviathan. Nonetheless, in its completion, I created virtually all of the pieces that would later appear in the second and third parts of the trilogy.

In particular, it was my introduction of the somewhat cursory love sequence between Captain Picard and Lieutenant Rosanna Thames that would come to dominate the entire trilogy of books, a trilogy I didn't even realise was possible at that stage. All I did know was that the ending of what was now Ultimate Vision demanded a second part, but not a sequel; this was, instead, the continuation of an entirely new story.

Thus, somewhere during the rewrite of Ultimate Vision, I began working on a second part, then called Love's Storm Rages. This, plus periods of writer's block that I had no way of working through, was mostly what lay behind the five year rewrite of the first part. It is interesting to note that I posted Parts I & II on relatively close together and their final updates were also within six months of each other, which shows how closely these two stories were interlinked and, of course, share many of the same strengths and weaknesses.

Part II, by now named The Woman Unknown (my titles were getting worse - I've been trying to think of a new one for this for nearly a decade and I'm still undecided), was completed in relatively short order, with only one major break in the middle. This was probably helped by the fact that I had already decided on the ending very early on - Rosanna Thames must die!

While still finishing up Ultimate Vision and The Woman Unknown, I made a curtailed start on Part III, Focal Point, without having the first idea about where the story was going. I wrote a brief introduction, the destruction of the Talkaris, before shelving it for about eighteen months, during which time I posted Parts I & II on and began to find that there was an audience out there for what I was writing. I also knocked off a couple of short stories, The Man With The Power of God In His Hands, which begins well and then falls to pieces in the middle before stumbling over the finish line with at least some of its integrity still intact, and the dreadful Could It Be?, which should have made me realise that I have no talent for drabble or very short-length works.

Between writing the 'prologue' of Focal Point and taking the story back up again, the movie Star Trek: Insurrection had been aired, throwing a series of annoying spanners into the works, particularly as I had to find some way around Picard's relationship with Anij (who makes a cameo at the end of Focal Point) and the events of DS9's last season.

It is well worth remembering that, in the UK at this time, we were some years behind the US air dates for series like Babylon 5, Star Trek, Space: Above & Beyond, Stargate SG-1 et al. Fortunately I was the proud owner of each edition of the Star Trek Encyclopaedia, which, quite apart from lending me a freakishly detailed knowledge of much of the fictional Star Trek universe at the time, meant I at least had a clue as to what was coming up in the future and could plan accordingly.

Finally, I returned to Focal Point and, slowly but surely, managed to piece together its narrative. I think that the relative merits of this story, especially compared to Part II, come chiefly from the difficulties I had in structuring it and piecing together why and what was actually happening. According to , I first posted it in September 2002 and finally completed it in February 2007, more than four years later. I certainly remember taking almost a year to complete the penultimate chapter and there was at least one other major break in there somewhere.

My writing skills wax and wane in a very undisciplined fashion and there are times when I am full of ideas and able to construct huge swathes of story in very short order. At other times, I abandon works almost mid-sentence, for months and sometimes years, until the stars align and I pick up the thread once again. Looking back on some of the great stretches of time when I have simply not written at all, it almost makes the delays in A Song of Ice & Fire look brief by comparison: almost.

So, nearly two decades on from its beginning, why do I write about it in such elegiac terms?

Well, as I mentioned in my introduction, it is time to end my work on this. Even after the end of Focal Point, I have repeatedly gone back and tinkered with various bits of all three stories. Since 2011, I have set down nearly forty thousand words rewriting the beginnings of Parts I & II, which I post now on to give the most up to date version of this story. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that I don't have the time to set aside for the serious work of rewriting all three parts, which is what the trilogy needs. I'm in my mid-thirties now, a father, working full-time and with a very different perspective on life to the one I held when I was sixteen and just setting down the first words of this mammoth undertaking.

I have alluded to my knowledge of the flaws and failings in these novels; re-reading and reviewing them can be quite a painful experience sometimes. However, I can also point with a great deal of confidence to their individual and corporate strengths:

Ultimate Vision, for all its flaws in leaps of logic, weird characterisations and multiple endings that even Peter Jackson would have found excessive (oh, and the straight-up rip-off of Babylon 5 that the epilogue became), is still, at its heart, a pretty good action adventure story. My main hope was that it was exciting and unpredictable, while still retaining elements of Star Trek's essential optimism and hopefulness. For all that it is nearly two hundred thousand words long, it still needs expanding, particularly to give increased emphasis to the bitter defeats that drive the Alpha Quadrant powers to the brink of utter annihilation and to expand the love story between Captain Picard and Lieutenant Thames. Any redraft also needs to retrospectively incorporate some of the decisions and plot ideas that I developed in Focal Point in order to restructure the trilogy in exactly the final form I have now envisaged. In addition, much of the characterisation work for the secondary characters I introduce (Thames, Hedly, Truper et al.) has to take place in this novel.

The Woman Unknown, in the form in which it appears on , is no better than a first draft of a much more complete and devastating story. If there is one work that I would happily spend time rewriting, it is this. In my mind, it is a work of pure romantic melodrama, fused with elements of often quite brutal horror. The new beginning I have posted on will hopefully give a flavour of that deliberate contrast, as well as giving new depth to the characters of Gaia Hedly and, particularly, Rosanna Thames. Lieutenant Thames, who appeared quite by chance towards the end of Ultimate Vision and yet came to be the centrepiece of the entire drama, is not meant to be some Mary Sue character, despite the eventual ending of the trilogy, but a complex human woman who was meant to attract Picard through the strength of her personality. I don't feel I ever managed to draw this out and it is my biggest regret. Nevertheless, I do feel that the end of this story is very powerful, and it is perhaps a testament to that power that it can only be enhanced, not weakened, through drawing the characters more vividly, particularly in Ultimate Vision. Part II, much more than Part III, relies very heavily on work carried out in Part I.

Focal Point is probably the work I am most satisfied with. As I mentioned above, it benefited from a longer gestation time and more difficulty in its creation. I am pleased that I did not give it up as I occasionally considered during its development, and it contains some of my most mature writing, particularly in the final three chapters and most especially in the funeral section. At worst, it requires a substantial edit and redrafting, mostly in the parts concerning Section 31, as well as a bit more effort to draw the Aralla and Section 31 stories together. At the moment, it still retains the feeling of two stories co-existing awkwardly together, but I feel it is closest of the three in tone to my final imagined story.

So I set this work aside at last, hoping that it at least gave its readers an insight into something that began as a very simple knockabout romp and eventually transformed into something infinitely more complex and, I hope, satisfying.

I'd also like to thank anyone who wrote a review about this trilogy, which were almost all positive, even the critical notes and especially a particular lady who shall remain anonymous, but if she happens to read this, should know that I valued her input and our brief but impactful e-mail conversations. To A.G. - hope all is going well.

Ben Pieper

(February 2016)