In 2007, as part of a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a short story collection called The Sky’s the Limit was published. Edited by Marco Palmieri, the book includes stories spanning the entire TNG continuity as it existed at that time, from shortly before “Encounter at Farpoint” all the way up through the aftermath of Nemesis.
My two favorite stories were Susan Shwartz’s “Turncoats” and David A. McIntee’s “On the Spot.” In “Turncoats,” an ensign who had previously defected to the Romulan Empire and then re-defected to the Federation (as seen in “Face of the Enemy”) finds himself in a position to reclaim his twice-lost honor. This story felt especially true to the spirit of Star Trek, since while there is a classic “technobabble” problem threatening the ship, that’s not what the story is really about. It’s about trust, betrayal, and redemption. In “On the Spot,” Worf finds himself taking care of Spot after Data’s death in Nemesis. There are some humorous moments in this entry, as when Worf solemnly proclaims “You are a good cat” after Spot demonstrates her hunting skills. But there are some touching moments too, like Worf pointing out that for all his desire to be human, Data met his death like a Klingon.
Of course, several of the stories feature Captain Jean-Luc Picard. In Keith R.A. DeCandido’s “Four Lights,” the Dominion War brings Picard into a new conflict with his former torturer, Gul Madred. “Chain of Command” was one of TNG’s most powerful episodes, and seeing Picard grapple with the aftereffects of it is powerful as well. In Geoff Trowbridge’s “Suicide Note,” Picard finally gets to deliver the letter Romulan admiral Jarok left for his family at the end of “The Defector.” There was a small moment in this story I really appreciated. Picard feels awkward visiting Jarok’s widow and daughter, not only because he’s bringing them what was essentially Jarok’s suicide note, but also because of the difference between Romulan and Federation cultures. The tension is broken when Jarok’s widow offers Picard a beverage made by filtering hot water through a type of leaf—essentially, Romulan tea. Again, this is a very “Star Trek” message: similarities between seemingly disparate cultures that can help them to understand each other.
I read this for the “comfort read” square on a Book Bingo challenge, and it really fit the bill. I loved TNG as a kid (and still do), and it was so nice to return to that universe. I think Trek fans will get a lot out of this book.