The Boldly Reading Book Club #5 choice was Funngunner’s Their Finest Hour: Fire and Rain, Part One and Part Two. Here’s some of my response to Their Finest Hour: Fire and Rain prefaced firstly by an opinion on the ENT storyline and Xindi story arc.
ENTERPRISE and the Xindi War Arc
Given that Funn was writing in the ENT era it seems only fitting that he take on the challenge of writing in response to one of the most devastating moments within Trek lore. It was brave of Funn in my own opinion to attempt to do so given that ENT is largely dismissed by many fans of the Trek franchise. The series did have a lot of flaws and miscalculations in its execution of elements, concepts and characters. Nevertheless, the show did tackle some big issues and the Xindi attack on Earth which precipitated a year long story arc in ENT was one of the crowning moments of the short lived series.
The Xindi War is lamented in many corners and there’s a lot of hyperbole around it being some kind of reaction on a post 9/11 America. However, ignore the criticisms and any emotional wrangling about the whys of the story direction, the show and the producers attempted to do write a story with consequences and repercussions on the adventures of the ship and the personnel of the crew and the wider universe setting. It attempted to tackle continuity and do the kind of storytelling seen in DS9’s Dominion War arc, especially its series culmination stories. Where DS9 was applauded for the approach ENT seemed to get short shrift.
Unfairly so I think, because we characters week by week struggle with the impacts of the storyline, from the attack on Earth as portrayed by Funn in his stories, through to the investigation and hunting down of those who perpetrated the attack. There are some missteps along the way in the execution of the storyline but it really showed the strain on the characters, some characters grew and changed and not necessarily so for the better. The character of Archer demonstrably grows darker and more aggressive and militaristic during this season while Tucker and T’Pol grow closer together. We also see the crew face some tough challenges, death, shortages and after a devastating attack in Azati Prime the crew face some morally grey choices (Damage).
“You’re stranding us three years from home. Why are you doing this?!”
“Because I have no choice!“
- – Illyrian Captain and Archer
“You did the right thing.”
“It seems the longer we’re out here, the more I have to keep saying that to myself.“
- – Trip and Archer
The attack on the ship itself is something brutal and raw, rarely seen in Trek battles. Check it out for yourself if you haven’t seen it:
The damage here is lasting. There’s no quick fix because of the nature of the story line and the fact the crew are so far from home and without support. It leads to the captain taking the dubious action of piracy to steal the parts from a civilian craft in order to continue with their urgent mission. Here we see a character taking a clearly unethical choice and trying to justify it. We’ve seen this before in Trek but rarely portrayed in so harsh a light on the main characters. Only really in fanfiction have we seen such matters tackled and not so readily cleaned up and resolved by episode’s end.
FIRE and RAIN
“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.
I’ve seen sunny days that I’d thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I would see you one more time again…”
– James Taylor, “Fire and Rain”
Firstly, it was strange to time jump into the lives of the Finest Hour cadets. I was afraid of potential spoilers but the quality of the writing and my complete absorption in the tale immediately cast such concerns aside. Secondly, it was a little surprising to see Funn tackle this particular storyline given that I was not entirely sure if he was going to hold much or any of ENT as canon within his own story universe. This was a huge monumental and defining moment in ENT canon for the characters and Starfleet. By inclusion here, it is clearly a defining moment for the Finest Hour cadets involved.
It is also important given the era Funn writes in to tackle it. The ENT moved quickly onwards from Earth to chase after the culprits and by virtue saw little of the impact on the ground. Funngunner gives us that lens. And given the gritty, detailed nature of his stories and the extraordinary writing I was expecting big things of this piece.
Part One was … well … a disappointment. There. I said it. Yup, as harsh a comment as that. Not really though. I commented actually that the tale set up the mood terrifically and it gave an insight, a window into the unseen happenings on Earth, showing that they weren’t exactly caught with their pants down but were limited in how they could respond and stop the threat. We saw some interesting character work here, J.J. and Seth being always compelling territory.
It is in Part Two however that I get what I had expected. Here we get the hard hitting, gut punch writing so typical of Funngunner. You see here we get the gritty visceral detailed writing that is so definitive of The Finest Hour. This is the writer who gets me hunkered down, covering my head as grenade blasts rain dirt down on my head in a combat training scenario.
I highly recommend this piece. It is utterly compelling. It begins with the jockeying about of pilots and bravado before the reality of an emergency situation sets in. The address from the President is off-screen but suitable sombre in tone as we then meet the reactions and situations of different people in the scenario – from a young family, to the Xindi pilot, to an Admiral facing the greatest failure of protecting Earth and then back to our trio of cadets.
If you ever though Seth didn’t have the balls for something, read this piece. The guy bursts the seams of his pants by his choice. Likewise, the others show their skills and show that as cadets they have learned to be the best of the best. It is terrific, taunt feeling writing. The whipping fire winds and fire storm created by the weapon attack is a realistic response to what it would/could have created and yet so imaginative and so terrifying to then convey. Funngunner writes it brilliantly giving justice to the huge moment of the story.
It surely must end in being a huge moment for these characters. We are only at the start of their journey in Book One: A Sense of Honor but we can see here that the hope and the potential for these characters may end up paying dividends. That they will develop, even if they remain to have some of their faults and traits that make them and define them in Book One still.
I’ve high hopes for these characters. These pieces tend to lend to that very prospect.