The Fifth Question

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Title: The Fifth Question
Publisher: Bristol Star Fleet Registry
Author(s): Jacqueline Comben
Cover Artist(s): Rod Summers
Date(s): March 1987
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
External Links: online version
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cover by Rod Summers

The Fifth Question is a gen Star Trek: TOS 71-page novel written by Jacqueline Comben.

It has seven full-page illustrations by Rod Summers.


This is Jacqueline's 5th publication for BSFR... The novel has a very Vulcan theme and addresses itself to the complexities of logic as a way of life and even to the value of IDIC itself. Amongst its central characters are Stonn and T'Pring. [1]
The Enterprise rescues first a crashed shuttle full of Vulcans including Stonn and T'Pring, and then the survivors of a fire on an Almelan oil tanker. One somewhat trite plotline traces the fundamentalist and racist Almelans' growing appreciation of outworlders. The other, which the author does quite well, presents an interesting interpretation of "Amok Time" events, told from several viewpoints - and introduces a charming young Vulcan couple still getting a grip on their emotions, to contrast with Spock's experience with normal Vulcan maturation. In Spock's kahs-wan, Spock broke the rules to come to the aid of another initate, while Stonn passed by. The kahs-wan was therefore judged according to "the fifth question" of Surak, a teaching which states that in such a situation the one who stops is the most mature -- Spock passes, and all those who failed to stop fail. Stonn has now failed twice, is disowned by his father, and is condemned to eternal childhood, which means he is given no further training in The Way. It also means a death sentence since a child cannot be bonded. Back in the present, Stonn's emotional reaction to a taunt ("a child could land it") causes the crash; Kirk forces Stonn to confront his own insecurity about his status, but Stonn only finally feels adult when Spock points out to him that since she allowed Stonn's bonding to T'Pring, T'Pau must have considered the kahs-wan judgment illogical - judgment on the fifth question is only logical if the test can be retaken, or it would at best mean trading one life for another. An engaging little novella with good characterization and a plausible explanation of a puzzling aspect of Vulcan life. [2]

Interior Sample

Reactions and Reviews

The Enterprise rescues a party of 8 Vulcans from a threatened planet. Among the scientists are Stonn and T'Pring, Stonn being the pilot who crashed their shuttlecraft and made their rescue necessary. The story examines Vulcan traditions and attitudes with stress on the Kahs-wan test, and shows an original perspective on Vulcan psychology. The emphasis is very much on Stonn, and why his behaviour is, by Vulcan standards, irrational. A nice touch is a story within the story, a separate incident dealing with racial prejudice. I enjoyed this zine very much, there is so much thinking behind it. It is a story with great depth and it ranks among my favourite few. [3]


  1. ^ from a 1987 flyer
  2. ^ Zinedex, accessed 3.20.2011
  3. ^ from Enterprise Originals #7