TOS: Motion Picture Era


Star Trek Ex MachinaStar Trek: Ex Machina


In the aftermath of the astonishing events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the captain and officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise remain haunted by their encounter with the vast artificial intelligence of V’ger . . . and by the sacrifice and ascension of their friend and shipmate, Willard Decker.

As James T. Kirk, Spock and Leonard McCoy attempt to cope with the personal fallout of that ordeal, a chapter from their mutual past is reopened, raising troubling new questions about the relationship among God, Man and AI.  On the recently settled world of Daran IV, the former refugees of the Fabrini worldship Yonada are being divided by conflicting ideologies, as those clinging to their theocratic past vie with visionaries of a future governed by reason alone.

Now, echoes of the V’ger encounter reverberate among the Enterprise officers who years ago overthrew the Oracle, the machine-god that controlled Yonada.  Confronting the consequences of those actions, Kirk, Spock and McCoy also face choices that will decide the fate of a civilization, and which may change them forever.

  • “…written with a deft hand and deep skill….  [The] very intricate story… combines history, religion, science, conflict, and terrorism and weaves it into a tight fabric that engenders thought and contemplation beyond the usual scope of a sci-fi media tie-in novel.” — Father Robert Lyons, SST,
  • Ex Machina is a good, long, solid read, well worth immersing yourself in for several hours. There’s a lot packed in here, from Trek trivia to philosophizing. It reads like the kind of book only a fan who takes Star Trek seriously could possibly have written.” — Steve Roby
  • ” Bennett has produced a glorious debut in full-length novel form…. This promising new author clearly has a lot of Trek knowledge, character- and world-building skill, and love of the franchise; so “Ex Machina” comes highly recommended.” — Daniel Berry, BookTrek
  • “Thought provoking stories are one of the hallmarks of Star Trek and stories rarely get more thought provoking than Ex Machina….  What Christopher L. Bennett has done with Ex Machina is to meld together… a story cannot help but resonate with anyone who has ever read a history book or a newspaper.” — Jackie Bundy, Trek Nation
  • “Attention to scientific detail is at the forefront of Bennett’s tome, as he carefully integrates scientific reality into the framework of the tale…. He’s got a solid grasp on characterization all the way throughout EX MACHINA, and no one escapes his watchful eye or is considered insignificant. That’s the mark of a great writer, one who makes you care about all of the people in a story, and this is one of Bennett’s many strengths.” — Bill Williams, TrekWeb
  • “Easily one of the best TOS novels in print, Ex Machina is the proverbial must-read…. Bennett has woven multiple and often conflicting continuity threads in a tour de force that tells a fascinating story with flair, imagination, and weight.” — Megan O’Neill, TV ZONE Magazine

Years ago, I dreamed of becoming a Trek novelist, but I wasn’t happy with the continuity restrictions of that time, which forbade Trek novels from making any real changes in the characters’ lives so as to avoid contradicting anything onscreen.  In looking for a way around those restrictions, I thought of exploring the period between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan.  This was a time of transition and growth for all the characters.  We knew where they started out and where they ended up, but the process in between was largely uncharted.  It would be an opportunity to tell stories with arc and character development while still staying within continuity.

I now realize that even allowing for that, I probably still couldn’t have sold this novel under that old regime.  Fortunately, the Trek novel line is now in a time of renaissance, freer than ever before to explore new story directions.  Given the various projects edited by Marco Palmieri, including the post-finale Deep Space Nine novels and the Lost Era miniseries, I had a feeling my idea might go over well with him — though I’m still thrilled to have been right.

There have been novels set in the post-TMP period before, but hardly any have been direct follow-ups to TMP, exploring its aftermath on the characters.  Most surprisingly to me, none ever really sought to elaborate on Spock’s life-changing epiphany about the value of emotion — something I’d always felt was rich with story possibilities.  But I’m glad to be the one who gets to tell those stories at long last.

So why did I make ExM a sequel to “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky and My Goodness, This is an Awfully Long Title, Isn’t it Though?”  Well, in the ST:TMP novelization, Gene Roddenberry said that “McCoy had become something of a recluse while he researched applications of Fabrini medicine among surface dwellers.”  So I’ve always wondered if he met up with Natira again, and what would’ve happened between them.  It just seemed natural that a novel exploring this period would address that issue.  Also, the presence of the Oracle computer-god provided resonances with the V’ger encounter in TMP.  And the story of a society struggling to rebuild and redefine itself, torn between the traditional and the modern, the secular and the spiritual, gave me a great opportunity to develop themes from my history studies in college, particularly with regard to the Middle East.

Spoiler discussion and notes Book Club chat transcript  from January 25, 2005 (on Internet Archive)

This little tribute was put together by TMP-alien buff Ian McLean, based on an old ST comic strip from the Los Angeles Times:


Star Trek Mere AnarchyStar Trek: Mere Anarchy Book 4: The Darkness Drops Again 

Mere Anarchy: A new six-part epic covering thirty years of Star Trek® history, continuing with an adventure that takes place between The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan!

Book 4: The Darkness Drops Again
The rebuilding of Mestiko is starting to make progress: the atmosphere is partially restored and Federation scientists are introducing new methods of replenishing the planet’s biosphere. But their efforts are being stymied by the growing power of the mar-Atyya, who shun all offworlders.

The arrival of the Starship Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk proves less than fortuitous, as the ship becomes a flashpoint for all of Mestiko’s troubles. Now Raya elMora, the leader of the planetary council, finds herself facing exile — which could spell doom for Mestiko….

Trade paperback collection:

Original e-book:

My first opportunity to follow up on the characters and situations of Ex Machina came from an unexpected direction, as eBook editor Keith DeCandido invited me to participate in this 40th-anniversary project.  The plan was to tell six novella-length stories spanning the entire TOS era, and I was invited to contribute the post-TMP installment on the basis of ExM.  Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore came up with the overall outline and premise for the miniseries, but all the participating authors (Dayton & Kevin, Mike W. Barr, Dave Galanter, me, Howard Weinstein, and Margaret Wander Bonanno), along with Keith, participated in a lengthy and wacky e-mail correspondence wherein we all contributed to hashing out the premise and keeping everything consistent.

But this story isn’t as direct an ExM followup as it could be, since I wanted it to work primarily as a part of Mere Anarchy and be accessible to people unfamiliar with ExM.  So it’s in the same continuity and uses some of the same ideas (and includes some movie-era elements I didn’t get to work into ExM, such as Andrew Probert’s modular-shuttlecraft designs), but focuses mainly on the core TOS cast rather than the supporting characters I developed for the novel.  And although it takes the characters well beyond the ExM timeframe, it leaves plenty of room for further storytelling in the post-TMP era.

My story happened to fall into the largest gap in the series, between the first two movies — a timespan that, according to conventional Trek chronology, corresponds to roughly 12 years (2273 to 2285).  So rather than limiting myself to one point within this timeframe, I took on the task of telling a more sweeping tale that explored how the Enterprise crew evolved between the two movies, while also taking the planet Mestiko through years of political and social upheaval.  This makes mine a rather different story from the others, but then, each one is a distinct kind of tale.  Book 1 is a disaster movie, Book 2 a classic tale of Kirk taking on Klingon meddlers, Book 3 a buddy movie, Book 4 a sweeping historical epic, Book 5 an action-packed tale of interstellar brinksmanship, and Book 6 a more introspective piece bringing it all closure.  That’s part of what made this such a fascinating collaboration to be a part of.  The fun we had in our e-mail exchanges was also a major part of that.

Spoiler discussion and notes

DTI: Forgotten History coverStar Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History

The agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations are assigned to look into an anomaly that has appeared deep in Federation territory. It’s difficult to get clear readings, but a mysterious inactive vessel lies at the heart of the anomaly, one outfitted with some sort of temporal drive disrupting space-time and subspace. To the agents’ shock, the ship bears a striking resemblance to a Constitution-class starship, and its warp signature matches that of the original Federation starship Enterprise NCC-1701—the ship of James T. Kirk, that infamous bogeyman of temporal investigators, whose record of violations is held up by DTI agents as a cautionary tale for Starfleet recklessness toward history. But the vessel’s hull markings identify it as Timeship Two, belonging to none other than the DTI itself. At first, Agents Lucsly and Dulmur assume the ship is from some other timeline . . . but its quantum signature confirms that it came from their own past, despite the fact that the DTI never possessed such a timeship. While the anomaly is closely monitored, Lucsly and Dulmur must search for answers in the history of Kirk’s Enterprise and its many encounters with time travel—a series of events with direct ties to the origins of the DTI itself. . . .

See DTI/TOS Forgotten History page for discussion.

ST Higher Frontier coverStar Trek: The Original Series — The Higher Frontier

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure featuring James T. Kirk!

Investigating the massacre of a telepathic minority, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise confront a terrifying new threat: faceless, armored hunters whose extradimensional technology makes them seemingly unstoppable. Kirk must team with the powerful telepath Miranda Jones and the enigmatic Medusans to take on these merciless killers in an epic battle that will reveal the true faces of both enemy and ally!

Available at:

The Higher Frontier is the first time I’ve gotten to work in the post-TMP setting in nearly eight years since Forgotten History (above), and the first time I’ve been able to do an entire novel in that setting in fifteen years, rather than sneaking in continuations within other projects. This came as quite a surprise to me, since apparently ExM’s sales were modest enough that the publisher never agreed to a continuation back in the day.

Yet in recent years, I saw other novels being published in the movie era, generally closer to the time frame of The Wrath of Khan and later films. So I got to thinking that maybe I should pitch something in that time frame, perhaps in the period I established in The Darkness Drops Again, in which Admiral Kirk used the Enterprise under Captain Spock as his flagship for special missions. I began considering a story that would bookend the Enterprise’s post-TMP 5-year mission (as established in Peter David’s The Captain’s Daughter and my own previous books), showing how it came to an end much as Ex Machina showed its beginning, and add to what’s become an impromptu ongoing series of such bookend stories — since I previously showed the start of Kirk’s command of the Enterprise in The Captain’s Oath, the end of that 5-year mission in Forgotten History, and the start of the next in ExM (with The Face of the Unknown fitting in as a transitional piece between the original and animated series).

When the time came to pitch the idea, though, I found it far easier than I expected. When editor Margaret Clark solicited a TOS pitch and I asked whether I should pitch TV or movie era, the answer was a succinct “Either.” Just like that, with a single word, more than a decade of resistance evaporated. I don’t know what changed, but change it did. I suddenly had carte blanche to pitch any movie-era tale I wanted. I could pick up where I left off after DTI: Forgotten History, as I’d always hoped to do.

Nonetheless, I still found myself gravitating toward my plan of skipping forward to the end of the 5-year tour. So much time has passed in real life that it would have felt disingenuous to try to pick up where I’d left off. And I realized that just doing more routine “5-year mission” stories wouldn’t have felt distinct enough from the TV era. I found it more interesting to jump ahead and set up the “special missions” era that followed, which could afford more flexibility in the nature of the ship’s adventures and the crew composition, and even let me explore Chekov’s early days on the Reliant, a ship whose crew has never really been given a highlight in the tie-ins.

But perhaps the main reason I chose to jump ahead was that, with new Star Trek shows establishing new canonical continuity, I wasn’t sure how much longer we novelists would be able to work in the existing book continuity. Thus, I wanted to tell a story that provided closure to the post-TMP narrative I started in Ex Machina, just in case this was my last chance to revisit it — while also, of course, leaving room for more “special missions” novels if it turned out not to be.

And it’s still possible I could continue it. While Star Trek: Picard has presented a new canonical continuity incompatible with the Pocket post-Nemesis novels, it so far does not appear to conflict with anything pre-Nemesis. Hopefully The Higher Frontier will end up being more of a “season premiere” than a series finale.

I conceived and wrote this novel during a time when I was working my way through the modern incarnation of the Japanese Kamen Rider TV franchise. Kamen Rider (meaning “Masked Rider”) was created in 1971 by Shotaro Ishinomori, who would later create Super Sentai, the basis for Power Rangers. Both franchises involve transforming armored superheroes battling monsters, but Kamen Rider tends to be more serious and a bit more mature, especially in the modern revival ongoing since 2000. Despite being a children’s franchise built around selling toys, the modern Kamen Rider is often surprisingly smart, sophisticated, and dark, with some of its seasons exploring intriguing philosophical ideas and ethical dilemmas, and with many rich and well-drawn characters, impressive acting, and excellent production values. Since I was on a tight deadline for my outline, and since just generally tend to get caught up in my obsessions of the moment, I drew a fair amount of inspiration from that franchise in crafting this novel, making it something of an homage. Two of the best seasons, Kamen Rider Agito and Kamen Rider Den-O, were the most significant influences on the story concepts, with Kamen Rider Wizard providing some ideas as well.

Annotations page

Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory

TOS_Living_Memory_coverAn all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure!

While attempting to settle in as commandant of Starfleet Academy, Admiral James T. Kirk must suddenly contend with the controversial, turbulent integration of an alien warrior caste into the student body—and quickly becomes embroiled in conflict when the Academy controversy escalates to murder. Meanwhile, Captain Spock of the USS Enterprise and Commander Pavel Chekov of the USS Reliant are investigating a series of powerful cosmic storms seemingly targeting Federation worlds—unstoppable outbursts emitting from the very fabric of space. Endeavoring to predict where the lethal storms will strike next, Spock and Chekov make the shocking discovery that the answer lies in Commander Nyota Uhura’s past—one that she no longer remembers….

™, ®, & © 2021 CBS Studios, Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Available from:


It’s an ironic feeling — after many years of being unable to continue my post-TMP novel continuity, I now get two in a row. Although it didn’t feel so easy to start with. For unknown reasons, there was a serious delay in getting the nod for another book, and a further delay in getting the contract paperwork done and getting my advance. It worsened the financial crisis I had been in since 2017, and between that and the COVID-19 lockdown, I was pretty depressed during the time I was writing Living Memory, fighting a severe case of writer’s block. As a result, I’m kind of ambivalent about this novel. I’m proud of what I got to do in it, but it reminds me of a rough time in my life. (Luckily, things have improved since then, thanks to a major new non-Trek project yet to be announced as of this writing.)

I realized later that part of the reason Living Memory was such a struggle was because it had so many parallel subplots, as the main characters were divided between Starfleet Academy and various starships. Thus, I kept having to start over and figure out new elements, costing me momentum. I wrote most of the book out of order, first the plot centering on Uhura and Spock and then the plot involving Kirk and McCoy at Starfleet Academy, but that didn’t help much. Perhaps in the future I should try to come up with more unified plotlines to avoid this problem.

As mentioned in the Acknowledgments, I got through my rough patch with help from reader donations, in exchange for which I solicited requests for names to be used for characters, ships, worlds, and institutions (to vary things up from the straight Tuckerizations of donor names that I used in The Higher Frontier). Most of the suggested names are used in the early chapters of the novel.

Annotations page


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