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Old November 5 2012, 04:56 PM   #1
Deranged Nasat
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Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Four: Thallonians!

It occurs to me that if I’m going to talk about the Trek novels' continuity and world-building, I should acknowledge Star Trek: New Frontier, the first book series to focus on original characters' ongoing adventures, and which essentially set the stage for the current novel ‘verse.

So this thread is for discussion of our most noble imperial masters, the Thallonians.

The Thallonians are integral to Star Trek: New Frontier – at least until the very latest books, which is something we’ll discuss in a moment. For those who haven’t read the series, the territory of the Thallonian Empire was an isolated but reasonably expansive region of space near Federation and Romulan territory, but distant from the core worlds. The empire collapsed in 2373, due in part to the gradual decline of the resources that gave the homeworld its power, which, when combined with the grievances held by much of the population against the royals (and very often each other), led to an uprising and then general anarchy. New Frontier’s hero ship, the Excalibur, is sent into Thallonian space to fly the Federation flag while on a general mission of fact-finding/stabilization/providing-aid-where-needed. It's a very broad and somewhat vague mission profile, but that's acknowledged and debated by the characters, so no foul.

Helping - or sometimes “helping” - the Excalibur crew is Lord Si Cwan, a survivor of the royal family and pretty much the only member of such to be genuinely well-liked by the common population. He’s hoping to reunite Thallonian space and bring order back to its worlds, and wrestles with the twin desires to have his great empire restored and to learn from the mistakes of the past and build something better, or at least something more stable in the long-term. He also has a sister, Kalinda, who is an important character in her own right. She sees dead people.

(Perhaps it's because Peter David also wrote the Legions of Fire novels for Babylon Five, as well as episodes of such, but I'm increasingly reminded of the Centauri from that universe - imperialist monarchists with male statesmen and female prophets.)

Anyway, in terms of physical appearance, there’s nothing fancy about Thallonians. They’re humanoids with red skin, a startling range of hair colours, and tattoos on their forehead. Then again, Thallonians aren’t intended to be interesting by virtue of being alien; they’re intended, one assumes, to be familiar. As said, they’re the imperialist, monarchist power who show up across fiction precisely because they show up across real world history (and associated mythology).

The Thallonians are martial but isolationist. They show an interesting dichotomy of careful restraint - their refusal to trade or import means waste is considered to be a great sin, and their policy towards other powers is one of static isolation rather than antagonism - and expansionist brutality (one of my favourite scenes in New Frontier is in book five, Martyr, in which Si Cwan explains how the Thallonians raised their flag over Zondar, bombarding one of the coastlines and killing millions to prove they meant business). In the earliest novels we’re told how the first Thallonians were exiles and criminals dumped on remote inhospitable worlds to - presumably - die off on their own timetable. However, due to unforeseen circumstances (namely, the Space Phoenix, or Great Bird of the Galaxy, nesting in the primary destination world), they actually delivered these criminals to a fertile planet with incredible energy reserves that allowed the Thallonians to become a power in the region. Later books explain how the dominant species in the area at the time, the Priatians, welcomed the Thallonians and were slowly but surely shoved aside and reduced in number while the Thallonians ascended. In other words, familiar colonial history to many earthlings. Eventually, the Thallonians were conquering other worlds as a matter of policy, but then they appear to have entered a stage of consolidation rather than expansion; we’re explicitly told they never antagonized neighbouring powers like the Federation. The whole story is an interesting one, and yet - presumably because Thallonian space is just the backdrop to New Frontier with the focus being on the characters and their idiosyncrasies - the full tale has never been explored.

One of the interesting things about New Frontier is the sense that the various races in Thallonian space have adopted the Thallonian culture, or at least its core values and attitudes, even as they resent the ruling family. As we see in the later New Frontier novels After the Fall and Missing in Action, a unified set of values that are clearly Thallonian in origin define the entire region.

In the very latest New Frontier books, though, the Thallonian situation appears to have become less important to the series. There's a habit of introducing new and threatening foes into New Frontier that perhaps overshadow the original mission. The first round of such, the Prometheans and the Redeemers, weren't too distracting for me because they worked as part of the context of Thallonian territory - as rival power structures in uneasy balance with the Thallonians and now taking advantage of their fall. Then there were the Beings, which had nothing to do with Thallonian space but were tied to a major character in the series, so, again, acceptable to me. Then we had the Teuthis and their rivals, who were tied to the pre-Thallonian history of the region and so were at least made relevant in a "retcon" sort of way. But now we've moved on to a foe with no apparent link to the Thallonians at all, and the story of Thallonian space seems to be over, or at least being brushed aside. That's just how I see it, though.

Outside of New Frontier, the final Double Helix book, The First Virtue, - which is also a Stargazer novel, featuring the characters introduced in Reunion - is one of the few non-Peter David stories to explore the Thallonians to any degree, while in the No Limits anthology we have a short Si Cwan story from Josepha Sherman. Other than that, we have references to New Frontier in many mainstream “novel ‘verse” books, but only a few of these actually reference the Thallonians directly. David Mack in particular seems to like acknowledging them as a part of the Trek lit universe, from confirming their position on the star charts in SCE: Small World to introducing a Thallonian Starfleet officer, Jang Si Naran, to fill a post in Ops on DS9.

I've written far too much again (so much for keeping my posts shorter in later "episodes" ), so I'll finish with one question I've been pondering:

Where are the original race, those who sent the first criminals who became Thallonians? Do they still exist, or (as the Priatian backstory could be read to indicate) did they slowly migrate over once Thallon started getting up and running, depleting the birth nation?
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; November 5 2012 at 05:07 PM.
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