Spock Loves Kirk. Love, Della Van Hise: A Careful Consideration of Killing Time

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News Media Commentary
Title: Spock Loves Kirk. Love, Della Van Hise: A Careful Consideration of Killing Time
Commentator: Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer at Tor.com
Date(s): February 11, 2013
Venue: online
Fandom: Star Trek
External Links: Spock Loves Kirk. Love, Della Van Hise: A Careful Consideration of Killing Time, Archived version
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Spock Loves Kirk. Love, Della Van Hise: A Careful Consideration of Killing Time is a 2013 essay by Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer at Tor.com.

The topic was the controversial Killing Time.


It’s got a great cover, this book. There are Romulan women in gold lame togas, and a Bird of Prey descending over an exotic skyline, and Spock is wearing a red cape. He looks kind of stoically embarrassed about it. The tag line frantically insists that the galaxy has gone mad. It is a cover ripe with promise, for a book that over-delivers.

Spock’s efforts to help Ensign Kirk and deal with the imminent destruction of the universe are complicated by the certainty of his own destruction. Without a bonded life-mate, he will not survive his next pon farr. The novel is also closely connected to the events of “The Enterprise Incident.” The Romulan commander from that story turns out to be the Romulan Praetor. This offers an interesting opportunity to explore Romulan gender politics. The Praetor travels in disguise so that no one will know she is a woman, commiserates with the limited career options facing Romulan women, and hands out attractive male slaves to her allies. Her master plan is to kidnap and maroon Kirk in order to exploit the link between Kirk and Spock to manipulate Spock into pretending to be the Praetor so that she can put wheels in motion to reverse the previous Praetor’s failed plan to destroy the Federation in its infancy. Pretty much all she has to do is get herself captured by the ShiKahr, engineer an escape and an abduction, blackmail Spock, take him back to Romulus, have sex with him so he doesn’t die, reunite Kirk and Spock, and send them back in time to Earth to stop some Romulan android assassins.

Spock has to figure out why his fleet commander has lost touch with reality, cure Kirk’s drug addiction, control his pon farr, rescue Kirk, and stop an assassination. Kirk has to recover his self-esteem, struggle with his addiction, deal with the psychic echoes of Spock’s increasingly serious condition, and then try not to get shot.

At its heart, Killing Time is incredibly romantic. Van Hise’s storytelling places the Kirk/Spock relationship in the center of each man, and also in the center of the Enterprise, the Federation, and the Star Trek universe. This romanticism is not merely hearts-and-flowers sentimental stickiness (and also not merely other kinds of stickiness). Killing Time harkens back to the Romanticism of the 18th and 19th centuries, which suggested that morality lay in nature and civilization was a corrupting influence. To Van Hise, the natural order of the universe requires Kirk to command the Enterprise with Spock at his side, and any action that delays or denies this inevitable result of nature warps and sickens the very fabric of space and time. On one level, the story is a trivial piece of fluff tossed off by a fan writer and published when Pocket Books wasn’t paying much attention. On a much deeper level just a short distance of understanding away, it’s a call to action that requires readers to examine their relationships and their actions: What have you done to save the Federation today?

Fan Comments

[Earl Rogers]:

Hmmm. Reminds me a little of that Justice League novel written by Devin Grayson where a bunch of the male older Leaguers get together and suddenly all obsessively talk about how hot their former teen sidekicks grew up to be. And every scene with Batman and Nightwing grows increasingly uncomfortable, because the author keeps bringing up and emphasizing how Dick’s been submitting to Bruce since he was seven.

Fans turned pros: I don’t mind you incorporating your fan ideas into the ‘verse. Really! Just…realize that your personal fantasies will inevitably and invariably strike some as…well, difficult to read.

And I’m not saying it’s wrong to have fantasies! It’s just, if you don’t share them, yeah, it’s difficult to invest in reading them.
[Marjicou]: Man, Vallejo’s Trek covers… oy. Just… oy. Awful ’80s hair, insane over-craggification of male faces, insane under-coverification of female bodies… it’s all enough to make you wonder if you can permanently glue brown paper over your paperbacks. His cover for Dwellers in the Crucible is probably the worst. I don’t even know what the hell is going on there.

I was following this reminiscence pretty well until the very last sentence. I have no idea what you mean there.

Van Hise’s storytelling places the Kirk/Spock relationship in the center of each man, and also in the center of the Enterprise, the Federation, and the Star Trek universe.

To be fair, this is also the plot of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, except that Spock is involved with someone else, and the fact that she is a former pupil-turned subordinate is not at all a problem because she is female and gets lead billing.

Everybody talks about the slash subtext, but what’s always been bizarre to me about this book from a gender standpoint was its portrayal of Romulan gender roles. Its assertion that Romulan society was sexist and limited the opportunities for women was the exception to the rule; just about everywhere else, Romulans have always been portrayed as an egalitarian society. Heck, “The Enterprise Incident” itself portrayed a female Romulan commander, the only female command officer (fleet commander, in fact!) to appear in the entire original series. The Making of Star Trek, the classic behind-the-scenes book published in 1968 while the series was still in production, explicitly said of Romulan society, “There is complete equality between the sexes; women are as often found in command of a ship as are men” (p. 256). (This was explicitly contrasted by the description of Klingons; they were supposed to be the male chauvinists: “They have no patience with women, even their own, and treat them as sometime useful animals” (p. 257).) And most other Trek canon and tie-in fiction both before Killing Time and since has reflected that idea. I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s taking it for granted that Romulans were egalitarian, so when KT came out and claimed that they were so sexist that a female praetor had to pretend to be male, it was kind of a “What the hell?” moment.

And don’t get me started on the time-travel logic and physics…
[EllenMCM]: The Romulan gender politics here are really interesting. Clearly, Von Hise departed from the canon (whilst making use of a character from it and referring to it in several places), and I suspect she did not consult the behind-the-scenes guide. The emptiness of the relationships between the Romulan characters was an interesting counterpoint to the emotional depth and significance of the relationships between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.
[Michael E. Rubin]:

I remember really enjoying this novel when j first read it as a kid in the 80s. But that’s not surprising because I have always loved alternative universes and time travel stories.

The one part of this book I didn’t like was the new character: Jeremy Richardson. He just didn’t seem to fit, and came off as a bit of a Mary Sue. Besides, I wasn’t a huge fan of new characters taking center stage. While I enjoyed them if they were background characters and fleshed out the idea there were 430 people on board (Christopher L. Bennett’s and Diane Duane’s Trek novels do this really well), I had a harder time accepting them when they were integral to the plot.

Make sense?
[MrSPOCK]: I thought it had decent buildup, but it was too long and got bogged down in romance. The payoff after that long wait was only several pages long. Not to give anything away for those who have not read the book, but the way they successfully complete their mission is not at all believable and I expect more from Star Trek.
[Denise Dion]:

I bought this book when it first came out. I do have the first edition, and I really enjoyed it.The dialogue between Kirk and Spock felt like the original series to me.

Plus, it’s slashy as hell…
[Zeno]: The slashy intepretation of the Kirk/Spock relationnship from the original series comes alot from Amok Time. Two other episodes that come to mind are season 1’s Conscience of the King where Spock is distrubed by Kirk’s ongoing romantic relationshipand season 3’s Requieum for Melthasium. Despite being a good episode it’s somewhat creepy that Spock,without Kirk’s premission,mind melds and erases the memory of the girl Kirk feel in love with. It might be the most slashy scene in the original series.