Star Trek: Doctor’s Orders (1990) – Diane Duane

Doctor McCoy has to take over the center seat in the next Pocket Books Star Trek novel I dug into, Doctor’s Orders.

Set during the original five year mission, the Enterprise has come to a remote planet known by the nickname, Flyspeck. There the crew learn of three different sentient species sharing the beautiful and verdant world. Captain James T. Kirk sends down linguistic and science teams, and a wondrous world is discovered.

Aboard ship, there is the usual banter between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, but the captain sensing a fairly relaxing mission, and wanting to needle the doctor just a little for all the remarks about how easy captaincy is, assigns McCoy the conn.

This allows Kirk to go down to the surface and meet with one of the aliens, in overtures to diplomacy and treaties, and he promptly goes missing. Leaving McCoy in command.

Things get complicated when a Klingon ship arrives, and the Doctor may have his hands full as he puts his meagre command training to work.


By this point, book fifty in the numbered series of Trek books, Duane had written a number of Trek tales, and she knows how to tell them, and knows how they need to be told, and how they need to feel to the reader. This, honestly, felt like a really good episode, balancing action beats, humour, exploration and discovery, all tempered with Trek’s humanity and longing to learn.

I like a good McCoy story, and this is definitely one. The tale could have gone the fish-out-of-water route, but instead embraced the fact that McCoy would have had some training, and also has the support system of one of the best crews in the fleet, all of whom are focused on the ship, and the acting captain’s success in facing off the Klingons, and recovering the captain.

Because I know these characters so well, and the environs in which they operate it was easy to see all of this novel take place in the mind’s eye. There was only a moment or two which seemed jarring, and they were all part of McCoy’s inner monologue referring to the captain as Kirk, when honestly, it felt like in that context he would have called him Jim.

A minor nitpick to be sure, and not one to make me disappointed with the tale in any manner. This was a very enjoyable voyage with the crew of the starship Enterprise and I loved the fact that McCoy got a chance to shine on the bridge and even in the tension of the situation, he and Spock’s level of banter and hidden professional respect were still at work, believably – and that speaks to a very good storyteller.

Boldly go…


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