I have a vague memory of a Star Trek TOS book I read when I was a child. This was around 1995.

The Enterprise visits a planet. They're unable to beam down, so a landing party goes down in a shuttlecraft. I believe the initial landing party was Kirk / Spock / McCoy, and possibly some redshirts.

The moment that their shuttle touches down, it loses all power. Communicators, phasers, and tricorders also fail to power on.

Eventually a rescue party (possibly more than one shuttle) comes. It too loses power immediately upon touching down. The rescue crew has come prepared and has some relative low-tech equipment to help them survive.

My fuzzy recollection of the ending is that it ends up being a prison planet, and Kirk has to use a hot air balloon to get enough altitude that his communicator starts to work again.

Does that ring any bells for anyone?

  • If anyone is reading this looking for the same book, I recently found "Planet of Judgement" by Joe Haldeman which is the book I was looking for originally. In it, five shuttles are stranded on a planet where technology selectively works. Phasers can stun, but can't kill. Tricorders, communicators, and shuttle engines won't power on. The rescue crews carry low-tech pioneering gear. They do not escape via hot air balloon. It looks like I confused the start of Planet of Judgement and the end of Sanctuary into one story. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


This is Star Trek: Sanctuary (1992) by John Vornholt.

The planet Sanctuary – A fabled world in unexplored space which is thought to be the last refuge of the persecuted, home to both the justly and unjustly accused. Though its name has been translated into every language in the galaxy, Starfleet has never known its exact location.

When the crew of the USS Enterprise is assigned to capture a dangerous criminal named Auk Rex, their pursuit takes them to an unexplored sector of space. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy continue the pursuit in a shuttlecraft, following Auk Rex to the surface of the planet, Sanctuary. Soon, Kirk and his crew are locked in a life and death struggle on the mysterious planet, which harbors deadly secrets and never releases its visitors.

Having crash-landed, eventually they use a crude hydrogen balloon (to get above a Senite dampening field that is rendering their equipment useless) having rejected the idea of using a hot-air balloon.

"By my calculations, yes," Spock replied. "At about 238 fifty kilometers, it will probably start to lose altitude, but it is past the Senite shield." "Wait a minute," said Kirk, reaching into his back pocket and pulling out his beat-up communicator. "If we ride a balloon thirty-five kilometers into the stratosphere, will we be able to contact the Enterprise? Will they be able to beam us off?"

  • Hm, the balloon part sounds familiar, but I don't see the tech that won't power on. Maybe I'm mixing two plots - I've read too many Trek novels. I'll leave it open for a while and see if anyone can match the 'other half' of what I remember. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:38
  • 1
    Nothing would work. They had to use the balloon to get above the "dampening field" or some such. It did work as an allegory to the difficulties of initial spaceflight. There were creepy enforcers who were sexless as I recall. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:41
  • 2
    @BobWarwick - The fact that certain tech wasn't working (instruments, phasers, communicators) was a key reason that the planet was a successful prison and/or bolt-hole for fugitives.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:48
  • Just downloaded the ebook, giving the first couple chapters a read to confirm. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 23:00
  • This is reading as very familiar, so I think we've got a winner. Thanks! Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 23:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.