Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Ten: Andorians!

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Deranged Nasat, May 25, 2014.

  1. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    I'm trying to become a little more regular with these.

    As ever, previous entries:










    Plus, the rambling Cardassian Chronicles:

    And, Tellarite, Andorian, Vulcan families:


    That last one is relevant, because I think it's time we had another discussion on one of the most important and divisive alien cultures in Trek lit, the Andorians. The Andorian arc in the modern novels has only recently concluded, having stretched across more than a decade real-time, a very impressive span by any count. In that time, it's grown from an examination of a single character to a sweeping examination of an entire society, and has relatively comfortably adapted itself to incorporate new canonical information that initially was seen to clash with the overall portrayal.

    The Andorians were always popular among certain fans (no names will be mentioned here :shifty:), probably because they were pleasingly exotic. Among a stream of human-looking Original Series aliens, we had a blue-skinned, antenna-sporting race about which we knew little, but who were apparently allies of Humans while being known nonetheless for their violent ways. The Deep Space Nine Relaunch decided to explore them, and introduced what became one of their defining traits (even Star Trek Online picked it up): the interpretation of their four-way marriage as a four-sex biology and a four-gender culture. It also established the Andorians as a slowly declining race, who faced gradual (and, many books later, imminent) extinction.

    The 'race on a slow but sure route to extinction' story has of course cropped up elsewhere, both before and after the Trek Lit Andorians (See: Hyach, krogan), but rarely in such depth and detail.

    In one of those early DS9 relaunch books, This Gray Spirit if I remember rightly, Ro Laren notes that the Andorian tendency to rage and violence is rooted not in malice or in nature, but in pain - and thus was something she sympathized with. The Andorians have been defined in the novels by quiet desperation and a growing, underlying frustration. In fact, and very interestingly, Enterprise coincidentally chose to play them in a similar way, if for different reasons, which just contributes further to the idea that this is a culture often being pushed to boiling point by sheer frustrated anger. In Enterprise it was centuries of paternalistic suspicion and bullying from the Vulcans, the attempt to hold their passionate race in check in a manner similar to Coridan and Earth, both of which also chafed somewhat under Vulcan quasi-rule but never lashed out so aggressively. In the novels, their gradual population decline and the threat of extinction - to say nothing of the increasingly selfless attitude they're expected to exhibit - led to a similar undercurrent. Eventually, the apparent betrayal or neglect of their allies pushed them over the edge.

    One thing I enjoyed about the Andorian arc was how it grew in scope. It began as an exploration of one character, Thirishar ch'Thane, and his dilemma in balancing individual desire with socially constructed duty, and the complexities of the personal situation he found himself in. From there, the scope widened to include his entire culture, and the ideological, philosophical and political divisions the crisis was generating or exacerbating. Eventually, with a little help from the Borg and the Tholians, the situation of Shar's willing exile from Andor was mirrored in Andor's willing exile from the Federation.

    With The Fall, the story arc finally came to its (happy) end, with the genetic crisis cured, the Andorian species saved, Andor rejoining the Federation (in high profile, at that, given the Andorian-led administration elected in 2385), and Shar - who lost his zhavey, his four mates (including both zhen-partners), and his child - helping save his people by relying on his friends from Deep Space Nine - Bashir, Dax and (not publicly known) Prynn Tenmei.

    The Andorians in Trek became a tragic culture, crippled by factors beyond their control, and defined by their slow-burning pain and frustration. They also represent one of (if not the most) extensive and successful arcs in the modern continuity, elevating Andorians to "tier one race" status before Enterprise did the same.

    Personally, I think there has rarely been such an emotionally gripping examination of a Trek culture's trials and journey, unless it's the Cardassians, who began theirs on TV. Personally, I'm a big fan of Trek Lit Andorians.

    And that's why they call it the blues.
  2. DS9Continuing

    DS9Continuing Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 29, 2001
    Interesting - I never actually spotted that until you said it, but of course in retrospect you're right. I wonder if that was deliberate or just synchronicity.

    It's a shame that Ro couldn't have been involved in helping him, considering that, as you note, there was a friendship and mutual understanding between them that was introduced as far back as Avatar itself. I'm sure that if Shar or Bashir had felt able to ask, she would have been happy to help however she could. But I guess that now she's a captain, she might not have been able to buck authority in the way she used to and might have felt the need to follow the rules a bit more.

    Shame - it would have been nice to see the entire cast of DS9 almost literally moving heaven and earth to save Shar and Andor. Don't forget also that Quark had a hand in helping too - he used his diplomatic contacts to ferry the communications back and forth. A very selfless act, with no personal benefit for him. But I like to think he did it out of Nog's friendship with Shar, and just his own growing altruism. Again I'm sure Ro would have liked that about him if she knew.

    I know we got the scene with Charivretha in Destiny, and I know we got some of the events filled in after the fact, but given what we were told in Paths of Disharmony had happened to Shar and his bondmates, it would have been hugely powerful to "see" those events actually take place first-hand. Shar was a main-credits character in the early DS9-R so giving him a first-person perspective in events would have been a great way to bring the immediacy.

    That why in my head, I moved Sisko and Vaughn's role in defending the Alonis home world from the Borg, as seen in Rough Beasts of Empire, to defending Andor instead. Why not?
  3. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    I thought it was great how the scope kept getting wider while the themes remained consistent. It begins with a personal family drama, and from there it widens into an exploration of Andorian culture and its internal disagreements (including a wonderfully-written visit to Andor), and from there to Andor's relationship with its neighbours. The crisis deepens as it extends across series, but the same issues are at the heart of it. I just think it was overall very well-played by all involved.

    I loved too how the end of A Ceremony of Losses made reference to the "unfolding legend" of Andor (invoking Uzaveh the Infinite, etc.). In part, that's no doubt because the cure to the genetic crisis is a Big Thing and such a long-running story has earned a somewhat mythic ending, but I think it works on another level, too, as a true summary and conclusion to the arc. I kept thinking how the name Thirishar is taken from an old religious text about the sundering of the Andorian people (because Vretha liked the story), how our Thirishar lived up to/failed to live up to/actually did live up to after all, the myth, and how, at the conclusion to this book, the culture of old Andor has become integrated with that of other peoples, so that now the legend lives on, so to speak, in Ezrishar and her brother Bashir. To put it another way: in an Andor that has found a new Unity with its interstellar partners and, more importantly, friends.

    Thirishar the original was divided, split, because he lacked true self-knowledge - our Shar was divided between his social obligations and his sense of what was right for Andor, between individualism and conformity, and - when Andor seceded - between home and the Federation. In some sense he "lived down" to his name, but he dedicated himself to trying to "reassemble" his species, and quite appropriately he did it not as a singular hero striding forth (like Thirishar arrogant before Uzaveh), but by bringing together others - Humans, Trill (even, as you say, Ferengi); the Andorians' friends, even if there was estrangement between them at the time.

    And if the true conclusion of the Andorian arc was there, at the end of A Ceremony of Losses, then The Poisoned Chalice provided a nice epilogue, showing how things weren't 100% peachy, that there was still distrust and resentment and problems on all sides, and that even though Andor's readmission to the Federation was a certainty, it didn't automatically heal all wounds. I loved Troi's (?) thoughts as they approached Andor - noting how the Andorian craft all resemble blades or shields, and thinking how the Andorians still didn't fully trust their old friends - just as she'd previously seen that not all of the Federation trusted Andor.

    But that doesn't matter. After all, not particularly liking someone is no excuse for failing to be their friend. And things take time. Time that Andor now has.
    Last edited: May 26, 2014
  4. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Speaking of reproductive decline, frustration and cultural despair, how many people here have played through the Mass Effect series? If you did, did you cure the krogan of the Genophage? Like with Andor in The Fall, the medical issue there was buried within the political issues. There are many interesting comparisons that could be made...
  5. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

    Jun 30, 2004
    New Therin Park, Andor (via Australia)
    *blushes blue* :techman:
  6. Skywalker

    Skywalker Admiral Admiral

    Feb 24, 2005
    I did cure them, but the two situations aren't that similar. Those arguing against solving the Andorian reproductive crisis were doing so primarily to serve their own political self-interests. In Mass Effect, the krogan posed a legitimate threat to the safety and stability of the larger galaxy due to their incredible breeding capabilities, their aggressive and territorial behavior, and their utter lack of ethics or mercy in war. The Andorians aren't nearly as dangerous, so there's less of a legitimate argument against helping them.
  7. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oh, I agree that it would be a false equivalency to claim that refusing to aid the krogan is as petty or irrational as refusing to aid the Andorians, but I think the two situations are still intriguingly comparable - especially since Dalatrass Linron makes the matter an issue of galactic politics and not just a matter of honest decision.