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Literature / The Final Reflection

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The Final Reflection is a 1984 novel in the Star Trek Expanded Universe, written by John M. Ford.

In the prologue, Captain Kirk notices odd behaviour in his crew returning from shore leave. When he asks Dr McCoy for an explanation, McCoy hands him a book...

The Final Reflection is a historical novel, recounting events of forty years earlier, at a time of crisis for the Federation. Its hero is a bold and intelligent officer who rises from obscure origins to captain a starship, and finds himself the right man at the right time to save the Federation from destruction.

His name is Krenn, and he is a Klingon.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: The diplomat Emanuel Tagore. This causes some confusion when Klingon security attempts to search his luggage for hidden weapons, and takes their inability to find any as a sign that he's hidden them really well.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • After joining the navy, Gelly becomes Kelly. During a layover at a Federation starbase during the first peace mission, some Starfleet personnel joke that there's an Irishman on the Klingon crew.
    • While most English-readers won't spot it, "Akhil" is a real Indian name. Given the novel also features a prominent Indian character, this probably isn't coincidence.
  • Afterlife of Service: While discussing the afterlife, Vrenn asks Tirian, Admiral Kethas' transporteer, whether he'll also serve the admiral in the Black Fleet. Tirian reminds Vrenn that he serves Kethas willingly while he lives, apparently implying that he intends to defy the trope.
  • Alien Catnip: High-sugar foods (such as fruit juices) to Klingons, as their metabolism breaks it down quickly while giving them a mild rush.
  • All There in the Manual:
  • Attack Its Weak Point: After a bar fight, a Klingon medic complains about Humans liking to punch people in the jaw (and by extension, all the dislocated jaws he had to fix).
  • Based on a True Story: The novel-within-the-novel claims to be this, in-universe. How closely or accurately it's based on the truth is left unclear.
  • Berserk Button: Calling a Klingon tohke straav ("willing slave") is an invitation to get viciously murdered in a hurry if you don't manage to kill them first.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Imperial Intelligence is always watching (or, at least, might at any given moment be watching, which is practically the same thing).
  • Big Fancy House: Maxwell Grandisson III lives in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta...not as, say, a long-term guest in the penthouse suite, but as its owner and sole occupant (apart from his staff). Doubles as an Old, Dark House as over the centuries (it opened in 1967), the windows have gone opaque with age.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: A Rigellian delegate at a conference attempts to sway Krenn's delegation with an offer of substantial "administrative expenses", and protests when Krenn prefers to call it "bribery".
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Klingons' expansionist and conquest-driven culture is based on their belief that all life is divided into komerex (literally "the structure that grows") or khesterex ("the structure that declines"); any culture that doesn't continue to grow and develop is regarded as a failure and fit only to serve its betters. Underlining this, their own name for their society, though usually translated as "Klingon Empire", is Komerex Klingon. They have some difficulty figuring out which of these the Federation is — it grows, but in a way utterly foreign to the Klingon mindset.
  • Call-Back:
    • Philanthropist Carter Winston from the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Survivor" appears.
    • A subtle one — in the TOS episode "The Day of The Dove", Klingon transporters are seen operating with a different color pattern and without the characteristic screeching sound. Instead of waving it off as a mistake, Ford took this and ran with it, indicating that the sound from Federation transporters came from a secondary carrier wave added to provide a bit more safety; the ever-practical Klingons decided a silent transporter was more valuable than a one percent decrease in errors.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: According to one of the junior Klingon officers involved in the bar brawl, one of the Federation officers heard Kelly's name and supposed that "they have an Eirizhman (Klingon parsing of "Irishman") in the crew." The Klingon officer thought it was an insult, which Krenn concedes is "a reasonable assumption."
  • Cavalry Betrayal: Inverted at the end of the book, as Krenn swoops in with his Super Prototype dilithium-powered battlecruiser to intercept a Klingon bombardment fleet sent by a pro-war faction of the Imperial government to destroy a Federation colony.
    "Captain Krenn? I...was not told you were in this sector. Are you not commanding the...diplomatic mission?"
    "I was. But no longer."
    "Then you may join us," Kian said, excited. "There will be high glory—"
    "No," Krenn said, "you are mistaken." He turned to Mirror's Weapons officer, spoke a phrase of Battle Language.
  • Characterization Marches On: At the time this novel was written, almost no details had been revealed about Klingon history, language and culture in the screen canon, so Ford invented his own — which were largely ignored and frequently contradicted by subsequent movies and TV episodes, leaving the novel out of step. (Particularly noticeable in the case of the Klingon language; Ford's klingonaase bears little resemblance to the tlhIngan Hol later created by Marc Okrand for the movies.)
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Ensign Kian, who appears in Krenn's crew in the middle of the novel, shows up again near the very end as a captain in charge of a squadron of ships that Krenn has to fight.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Krenn and Kelly.
  • Conlang: "Klingonaase", the Klingon language featured in The Final Reflection and the FASA role-playing game.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • In the course of the book, Spock as a child plays chess against Krenn; the cover shows an adult (or at least adolescent) Spock doing so.
    • Also, Krenn is shown with a smooth forehead — in other words, as a TOS Klingon. The text doesn't specifically state that Krenn has forehead ridges, but Gelly suffers a lot of teasing in the orphanage because she doesn't, so the implication is there that Krenn is of the "imperial race" (see Half-Human Hybrid below) and so would have them.
  • Cuckoo Finger Twirl: A Marine general does the Klingon equivalent when discussing Admiral Kethas; "a gesture with fingertips to forehead" is stated to indicate mild insanity.
  • Cunning People Play Poker: Ambassador Tagore teaches Captain Krenn to play poker as they discuss whether his wits will suffice to convince the Klingon Empire to negotiate with an Actual Pacifist. Later, Krenn borrows the phrase "You didn't pay to see those cards" while playing a potentially catastrophic diplomatic game with the Federation.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit:
    • The novel-within-the-novel opens with a competition between teams representing the Klingon Navy and Marines, with their Interservice Rivalry meaning a signficant amount of prestige rides on the outcome. When the team representing the Marines is found to be cheating, the Marine officer in charge of the team is blamed for the whole thing and executed on the spot by a superior officer who, it is implied, is at least a co-conspirator and probably the real mastermind.
    • An officer on Krenn's ship attempts a mutiny, during which another officer is seriously injured. The mutineer attempts to convince Krenn that he's too useful to do away with, and suggests that the injured officer could easily be converted into a deceased fall guy.
  • Dramatic Drop: A porter at a hotel on Earth drops the tray he's carrying when he sees a group of Klingons passing by.
  • Expospeak Gag: After a human diplomat makes a proposal that Krenn finds horribly insulting, he relieves his feelings by using an alien language the humans don't know "to curse the Humans and their riding animals".note 
  • Fake Static: An ensign under Krenn's command tries a version of this on Krenn, who is amused by it but isn't fooled for a moment.
  • Fiction 500: Maxwell Grandisson III, a man rich enough to make his home in a high-class hotel — as the sole occupant — and powerful enough to ask for and get a personal meeting with Krenn and his subordinates. Although interested in making peace with the Klingons, he gives the impression of someone who is used to getting his way in all things; according to Colonel Rabinovich, he's an anti-Semite as well.
  • Framing Device: The bulk of The Final Reflection, the real-life tie-in novel, is the text of The Final Reflection, the 23rd-century historical novel, framed by a prologue and epilogue in which the regular Trek characters read and react to it.
  • Genetic Memory: Mention is made of learning languages by "RNA transfer"; it's hinted that the RNA in question comes from captured Federation citizens.
  • Genghis Gambit: The novel-within-the-novel includes a claim that, at a time when the member states of the Federation were considering going their separate ways, the Chief of Staff of Starfleet authorized secret attacks on his own fleet's ships that could be blamed on the Klingons and used to give everyone a common enemy to focus on.
  • Going Down with the Ship: The captain of a Klingon warship is free to send his crew to safety before the ship goes kablooey, but is expected to remain behind himself. (The saying "Kahless's Hand" refers to the first Klingon emperor, who tied his hand to his command chair so no one could say he'd ducked out.)
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • Ford's answer to the notorious Klingon Forehead Mystery is that the Klingons created half-human hybrids the better to understand (and therefore to fight) humans, and likewise half-Romulans, etc. Krenn's love interest Kelly is such a hybrid, but doesn't know what her non-Klingon half is, which complicates medical treatment and rules out having viable offspring.
    • There is also, of course, Spock, the original Star Trek half-human hybrid. The novel-within-the-novel hints in passing that the Vulcan medical science that made his conception and birth possible may have been stolen from the Klingons.
  • Historical Domain Character: The novel-within-the-novel has several historical figures in it, including a cameo appearance by a young Spock and his parents. (In the frame story, the real Spock is visibly unhappy about the novel, and refuses to talk about whether the scene has any basis in truth.) McCoy's grandfather has a small but significant role, and at one point compares one of the novel's antagonists to the contents of "my grandson Leonard's diapers".
  • Historical Fiction: The novel-within-the-novel.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: At several points, the narration describes Krenn's liver reflecting his emotional state, in the same way that a human's heart might be said to rise or fall.
  • Human Chess: Although technically the participants are all Klingons and the game is klin zha, specifically klin zha kinta, "the game with live pieces".
    • In a variation, Krenn's foster father makes him play a game with the klin zha set he made himself out of cheap rubbish as a child, with the pieces he loses being burnt in the fire. Because the set has sentimental value to Krenn, he must fight all the harder to save as much as he can.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: A Klingon squadron is forced to do this when they're ambushed, one of their ships suffers catastrophic damage and the captain chooses to self-destruct and take some enemy ships with him. The other Klingons barely Outrun the Fireball.
  • Interservice Rivalry:
    • Strong between the Klingon Navy and Marines.
    • Starfleet and Federation Marines apparently also have this going on. A brawl starts when a Starfleet officer tells some Klingons his name is Marks, and a Klingon responds that he knows many Klingons named Marks, and they're all Marines.
  • I Was Never Here: At one point, Krenn is hauled off in the middle of the night by Imperial Intelligence (who were never there) to a meeting (which never took place).
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: Averted. Krenn's science officer is his first officer and he describes the Sciences as an honourable option to the young Spock.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Mak, in learning to play poker, has a lot of trouble reconciling his Klingon honor with the concept of folding. The others finally convince him that there's no honor in throwing chips in on a losing hand.
  • The Last Title: The Final Reflection.
  • Lightbulb Joke: "Rom Jokes", which Federation and Klingon crewmembers swap en route to a peace conference. The only one related to the reader is "How many Romulans does it take to change a transtator coil? Answer: 1 to change the coil, 150 to blow the ship up out of shame."
  • Locked in a Freezer: Krenn and two loyal subordinates are locked in his ship's walk-in freezer by a traitor. The situation is even more serious for the hero than usual because Klingon biology is keyed to very warm temperatures (he was more annoyed by the dryness at the White Sands spaceport than the heat), which makes them very susceptible to frostbite.
  • Meaningful Rename: The protagonist of the novel-within-the-novel goes through several. One is the Rite-of-Passage Name Change all Klingons do. He also gains a new surname when he is adopted out of the orphanage by a high-ranking admiral, and changes it for a new one after his father's disgrace.
  • Mercy Kill: The only kind Tagore has ever performed. On his wife.
  • Mile-High Club: When Vrenn is a cadet, a young female officer asks if he's heard of the Warp 4 Club. (Because they're busy, they wind up getting a hotel room instead at the next Klingon colony.)
  • Must Have Caffeine: In the novel-within-the-novel, a sympathetic Klingon character is depicted as a morning coffee drinker, praising its mind-clearing effect; it's explained that he picked up a taste for it during a space voyage where the supplies ran low and all they had to drink was a case of "kafei" they'd plundered along the way.
  • Opening the Flood Gates: When Tagore hears combat outside of his stateroom on the ship taking him to the Klingon homeworld, he opens the hot-water taps in his bathroom, closes the door, and hides under the bed. When his assailant barges into the bathroom he gets a face full of scalding water, distracting him long enough for Krenn and Kelly to take him out.
  • Pardon My Klingon: Done with actual Klingon swear-words.
  • Power Degeneration: A Klingon assassin was modified to be four times faster than normal. This causes him to age 64 times faster, so he has to be stored in cryo-suspension between missions. Making things worse, the excessive cryo tends to blank his memory, so he basically has no identity or past.
  • Retcon: The terse one-word Klingon "sentences" in Star Trek: The Motion Picture are portrayed as "Battle Language."
  • Rite-of-Passage Name Change: Every Klingon alters their name when they determine the career path they will pursue in their adult life. Klingons entering the Klingon Navy have a name beginning with K (thus Vrenn becomes Krenn, and Gelly becomes Kelly); Marines have names beginning with M; civilian scientists and technicians have names beginning with A; and so on.
  • Rule of Three: This number figures prominently throughout the novel, beginning with the triangular-gridded tactical displays first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and extending to the structure of the novel itself, which is divided into three books with three chapters in each.
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: Not deliberately, but Akhil mentions that the Federation considers "zentaars" an intelligent species, implying the Klingons don't, so they'd better make sure not to serve one to Tagore by mistake. Though it's not certain how true this statement is, because Akhil only brings it up to trick Krenn into taking a look inside the walk-in freezer.
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: The Klingons have a super-soldier with enhanced reflexes that makes him practically unbeatable, at the cost of a dramatically reduced lifespan. To get the most possible use out of him, his handlers keep him in cryogenic suspension between missions.
  • Shock Stick: The "lance" in live-action klin zha releases a bolt of energy from its crystal tip when the lancer presses a button. The user can apparently manipulate how much charge to release; the amount of energy and whether it lands on armor determine whether the result is harmless or can blast off an opponent's limb.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show: Vrenn and his fellow orphans (and Dr. Tagore) are fans of a Klingon live-action series called Battlecruiser Vengeance, which appears to have a similar premise to Star Trek itself, adapted to Klingon values and tastes. This makes Krenn something of an Ascended Fanboy as an adult, when he becomes captain of a battlecruiser that prowls the galaxy capturing prize ships just like in the show.
  • Sleep Learning: Klingons have a version of this, "dream learning", which Krenn uses to learn to speak Federation Standard rather than rely on the proto-Universal Translator. It's effective but not pleasant, because it interferes with proper dream sleep and results in disturbed and unrestful sleep. It can also be used to "program" people, so you have to be careful who you get your tapes from — Krenn quietly discards the ones the Admiralty gives him and instead uses some supplied by a linguist Akhil knows.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Klingon military strategy is the province of military "Thought Admirals", who hone their skills in klin zha (Klingon chess). Krenn's Thought Admiral foster-father also studies other races' equivalents of klin zha, including the human game chess, to gain insight into the races that play them.
  • Space Travel Veto: Grandisson's Back-to-Earth Movement thinks that human expansion in space isn't worth the hardships they suffer or the risk of interplanetary conflict. Krenn regards them as self-destructive, but after getting a taste of Federation politics, concedes that Grandisson might not be entirely stupid.
  • The Spymaster: Operations Master Meth, the head of Imperial Intelligence.
  • Stealth Pun: One Klingon cruiser is named Two Fingers, not only a reference to a legendary Emperor but also the British equivalent of Flipping the Bird. Fittingly, the ship's captain, finding his ship cut off and surrounded by Romulan warbirds, self-destructs to allow the rest of his squadron to escape, insulting and figuratively flipping off the enemy as he does.
  • Teleporter Accident: "Scramble cases" are noted as having occurred when Klingon personnel are beamed off a heavily damaged ship during a raid on a Romulan colony.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: When they're trapped in a freezer, one of Krenn's officers adjusts their communicator's indicator to provide enough light to see their surroundings. It gives out just as they manage to break their way out.
  • Translation Convention: Noted at the beginning of the story that some common ranks are translated to be more familiar. Other terminology is rendered slightly "off" to emphasize the Klingons' alien culture. For example, rather than saying things like "Make it so"/"Aye, sir" when giving and receiving orders, the Klingons say "Action"/"Acting".
  • Trilogy: The story has three sections, each one covering a different period of Krenn's life. In addition, each section has three chapters.
  • Tuckerization:
    • The author's note at the beginning of the novel-within-the-novel includes a message of gratitude to "Mimi Panitch, my editor, who first decided the Federation was ready for this story"; in real life, Mimi Panitch was the editor at Pocket Books who brought The Final Reflection to print, along the way defending it from Paramount higher-ups who doubted its suitability.
    • It also includes cameos by Klingons based on the co-authors of the Klingons sourcebook for FASA's Star Trek: The Role-Playing Game; many of the details of Klingon history and culture that appear in the novel also appear in the sourcebook, which Ford helped develop.
  • 2-D Space: Krenn notices that a group of Romulan ships his ship is fighting move in a plane, then recognizes the patterns in their movements and infers that their commander is visualizing the battle as if it were a game of latrunculo, the Romulan equivalent of klin zha.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The novel-within-the-novel begins with an author's note admitting up-front that some of what follows is no more than informed speculation, and some of it just plain made up to paper over the gaps in what his research was able to uncover. He declines to say which bits are which.
  • The Unreveal: When the half-Klingon Kelly finally learns what the other half of her parentage was, the reader doesn't. (Dramatically speaking, the important thing is that she knows, not what she knows.)
  • Variant Chess: Krenn's father studies other races through their chess-equivalents. Of the several mentioned in the novel, klin zha, the Klingon game, is of particular and recurring significance, with several variants of klin zha described, each having its own significance to the book's themes.
  • Villain Episode: For the Klingons.
  • Warrior Heaven: The Klingons believe in an afterlife in which great warriors are awarded places in the Black Fleet, where they fight and die and are revived and fight again against the great warriors of other races (because what good is a warrior heaven with nobody to fight against?).
  • We Have Those, Too: During Krenn's first visit to Earth, the Federation holds a dramatic public unveiling of the transporter — "Thirty years in development, and now certified safe for intelligent life." In response, Akhil rises from his seat and has the Klingon ship beam him up, provoking shocked silence from most of the audience and uproarious applause and laughter from Dr. Tagore.
  • The Xenophile: Dr. Tagore displays a great deal of familiarity and fondness for Klingon culture, is fluent in klingonaase and enjoys Battlecruiser Vengeance.