What really happened on Tarsus IV? A Comparison

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[Edit: Originally published September 9, 2016]

What really happened on Tarsus IV? Aside from, of course, a famine and the execution of 4,000 people. What canon gives us limited, but if you delve into the wonderful world of Star Trek books, you can find more detailed things about Tarsus. In William Shatner’s Avenger, for example, the famine was cause by an act of eco-terrorism. However, the books seem to fall into the territory of apocryphal canon, which in my opinion is just fantastic, because it leaves room for multiple interpretations and you can pick and chose what you want to go with. 

I want to focus this review specifically on two books. The Autobiography of James T. Kirk “edited” by David A. Goodman and Star Trek Academy: Collision Course by William Shatner with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. 

Collision Course was published in 2007 and has a take on Kirk’s experiences with the genocide that reminds me of a lot of the Tarsus IV fanfiction I’ve read. Which sees Kirk leading and trying to protect a group of children. He tends to be more successful in fanfiction than he does in Collision Course. In Collision Course, Kirk is offered the chance to help Kodos (round up and get rid of stragglers) in exchange for a place on the no kill list. Initially, he agrees as it’s not fully explained to him. When he fails to follow through, he (and the children he’s trying to save) end up hunted by someone who’d been a friend of his.

In The Autobiography, published in 2015, Kirk is safe from the outset and remains that way. Kirk only witnesses the execution because he’d snuck out of the house in the middle of the night with Tom Leighton, whose parents were on the kill list, and Tom had wanted to see where they went. That’s also how Tom gets the injury to his face when they’re spotted by a guard.

Tom Leighton is not mentioned by name in Collision Course, though there is mention of the Leighton Farm. 

Brace yourselves cause it’s about to get a little gross. How the colonists are killed is also different in both books. In The Autobiography they’re hit with what I assume are phasers and turn to dust which is then swept up and there’s nothing left. 

Collision Course is significantly more graphic about it. “Instead of life there was death: four thousand bodies crisped by laser fire. A week after the colony’s revolution, they lay blackened, bloated, unburied.” It seems like life on Tarsus in Collision Course has fallen into more of a disarray than it does in The Autobiography.

Perhaps the biggest difference in post-Tarsus Kirk between the books is his opinion of Starfleet. In The Autobiography, Jim’s reaction to Starfleet’s arrival with assistance is a happy one. That’s what he wants to do with his life. It’s that moment that he decides he wants to join Starfleet.

In Collision Course it’s the exact opposite. Kirk is very angry at Starfleet. They came too late. Kirk was nearly killed and he saw many of the children he was trying to protect killed. Collision Course Kirk is heavily traumatized by what happened on Tarsus IV. It’s not clear in The Autobiography just what level of trauma Kirk suffered, but it seemed generally less than what was in Collision Course. 

Do I have a preference? Yes I do. I have to say I favor Shatner’s interpretation. I think it also helped that I got to see Kirk struggling with life post-Tarsus through a whole book, instead of just a few pages out of The Autobiography.

Related reviews: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, Star Trek Academy: Collision Course

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