The Price of the Phoenix


The Price of the Phoenix

"The Price of the Phoenix" by Myrna Culbreath and Sondra Marshak is an original novel based upon the 1960s television series '. It was first published by Bantam Books in 1977. A sequel, "The Fate of the Phoenix""', followed in 1979.

Plot summary

A shocking death

Captain Kirk's dead body is beamed aboard the Enterprise after a house fire on an unnamed planet in which he has died trying to save a baby. Spock beams down to the planet in order to confront its ruler, Omne. Unexpectedly, Omne reveals that he has pioneered the “Phoenix process”, a modification of Transporter technology to create a duplicate of a living person – and he offers Spock a recent copy of Kirk, recorded shortly before his death. Spock has reservations as to the authenticity of this supposed Kirk and is given leave for a brief mind meld. Although Spock verifies that it is indeed Kirk’s mind he is melding with, he is still unable to dismiss his reservations and so calls this Kirk “James”, in contrast to the form of his captain’s forename that he usually uses. Even so, Spock accepts Omne’s offer of this resurrected Kirk, although Omne makes it plain that his price will be extremely high and in effect require Spock to betray the Federation.

The deception

It soon transpires that Spock was right to be suspicious regarding James’s identity, as the original Kirk is indeed alive and well, having sustained only minor though visible injuries in the house fire before being beamed to safety and replaced by an incomplete Phoenix-duplicate. He determines to rescue both Kirk and James, and in this he has the assistance of the female Romulan Commander whom Spock and Kirk bested in the TV episode “The Enterprise Incident”. Omne has been employing Romulan guards on his planet, but the Commander is sympathetic enough to Spock and Kirk to switch sides.

Omne defeated

Spock fights Omne bare-handed and defeats him after a brutal battle in which both parties are gravely injured. He forces a mind meld on Omne in order to purge him of all memory of his experiences with Kirk; but before this psychic surgery is complete, the crippled Omne succeeds in shooting himself in the head. (One of Omne’s affectations is that every visitor to the planet, barring a few privileged Romulans, may go armed only with locally-manufactured gunpowder weapons after the fashion of the Wild West.) Realizing that Omne would have done this only because he trusted the Phoenix device to resurrect him, Spock, Kirk, James and the Commander retreat to the Enterprise.

Too many Kirks spoil the broth

There they hastily draw up plans both to establish a new life for James and to deal with Omne’s inevitable reappearance. James is surgically altered to pass for Romulan and is to accompany the Commander back to the Empire. She explains that there are colony worlds where men are “very properly considered the weaker sex and not permitted to fight”, and he is to be represented as one of these. (This is not the authoresses’ only experimentation with non-traditional gender roles. In a short story “The Procrustean Petard”, Kirk temporarily changes sex.)

Resurrection

However, before James and the Commander depart, Omne transports himself aboard the Enterprise. The Phoenix device has indeed recreated him, and he is in perfect physical condition. A short fistfight follows in which Omne beats everyone present, Spock still being injured despite earlier recourse to the Vulcan healing trance (previously seen in “A Private Little War”), and captures James, holding him hostage with a gun at his head. He announces his intention to return to his planet with James, where it will be impossible to pursue him. Surprisingly, Kirk chooses this moment to warn Omne to mend his ways, which Omne dismisses with incredulity and scorn. Kirk then gives the signal for Mr. Scott, supposed by Omne to have been unaware of his presence, to transport the weapon out of Omne’s hand, and using this moment of surprise the Commander snatches James away and Kirk, equipped with one of Omne’s own guns, outdraws him.

Omne defeated?

Killed a second time aboard the Enterprise and supposedly out of range of his Phoenix device, Omne is supposed to be dead; but there is ample room for doubt in view of the technology Omne has already shown. There is, however, no more to be done for the present. Omne’s planet is for all present purposes impenetrable, and if he will come back from the dead yet again, that eventuality must be addressed when it arises.


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