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STAR TREK #1 (Advanced Comic Review)

IDW Publishing has released a new comic entitled, simply, Star Trek, based on the new continuity established by the latest Star Trek movie, the one that served to reboot the entire franchise, and has lain fallow for over two years.

The idea of the new comic is to revisit classic episodes of the original series and re-imagine them within the context of the changes wrought to the time stream in the movie.

If you remember the film, Spock and the Romulan villain Nero accidentally travel back in time, managing in the process to kill Kirk’s father and change the circumstances of his becoming the captain of the Enterprise.

In essence, a second time line timeline was established and everything old is new again. IDW explains it thus:

The adventures of the Starship Enterprise continue in this new ongoing series that picks up where the blockbuster 2009 film left off! Featuring the new cast of the film, these missions re-imagine the stories from the original series in the alternate timeline created by the film, along with new threats and characters never seen before! With creative collaboration from STAR TREK writer/producer Roberto Orci, this new series begins the countdown to the much-anticipated movie sequel premiering in 2012. Join Kirk, Spock and the crew as they boldly go into a new future! Up first, a drastic new envisioning of “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

It’s a fascinating idea, and one much discussed among fans of the series.

What exactly are the ramifications of the new timeline established in the movie?

My first thought was that virtually all the adventures we saw in the original series were impossible. Remember that the movie ends with two Spocks, the young Zachary Quinto Spock at the beginning of his career, and Leonard Nimoy as the 157 year old Spock nearing his end. The older Spock has a lot a future knowledge, and though he expresses the sentiment that he would not wish to rob his younger self of the pleasure of the friendship between himself and Kirk, it is hard to see him withholding information that might save billions of lives.

The new timeline is a precarious one for Vulcans.

Their planet has been destroyed, and there are only tens of thousands left alive. The older Spock convinces his younger self to stay in Star Fleet, despite the need of all Vulcans to work together to save their species. The older Spock has set off with some survivors to establish a Vulcan colony on a new world.

My thought is that the older Spock might also want to tip off the Federation to some key elements about the future.

For instance, he might want to point out the existence and location of the Doomsday Machine (from the second season episode of the same name) that even now is cutting up and killing inhabited planets. This knowledge might save billions of lives. The same goes for the giant space amoeba, and many other pan galactic threats. Heck, this Spock from the future even knows about the Borg, and the wormhole near Bajor. Forewarned, the Federation would be able to deal with these potential menaces in a way that would ensure its survival and the survival of the Vulcan race. It is important to keep in mind that though the effects of the time travel as seen in the most recent movie were damaging to the time streams of many individuals and planets, there would be no effect on distant races and events.

That being said, when the Enterprise is sent to the edge of the galaxy during the events of “Where No Man Has Gone Before” the older Spock would be criminally remiss not to mention that Kirk’s friend Gary Mitchell will become a genocidal god if brought into contact with the galactic barrier. It’s not enough for the elder Spock to simply wish his younger self the benefit of an important friendship if he can prevent the needless deaths of billions of people. Why Spock would not forewarn the Federation about such threats needs to be adequately explained before this series can begin to make sense.
The Galactic barrier
For whatever reason the older Spock has decided not to inform his younger self about the future and as the new comic series from IDW opens, the Enterprise is assigned the mission, as it was in the original timeline, to explore the outer edge of the galaxy and see what lies beyond it. We pick up the story with Scotty in engineering, pointing out that the Enterprise is not exactly up to snuff after escaping from the ravages of a black hole in the movie. He complains that the ship “is a mess of broken parts and fried circuits.” Like the idea of Spock not volunteering information that could save the lives of billions, I don’t really buy the idea that the Enterprise would be sent out into space in a condition that is unsafe, but I continue reading anyway.
3D Chess
“Where No Man Has Gone Before” famously opens with a 3D chess match between Kirk and Spock, in which Kirk makes a move that completely surprises his Vulcan friend.

In the new timeline we get a match between Kirk and Gary Mitchell. Fan speculation has it that in the original pilot, Gary Mitchell was Kirk’s first officer, and Spock was chief science officer. After Gary’s death, Spock took on both positions. In the new movie, it is established that Kirk is the Captain and Spock his first officer from the get go, so apparently Gary Mitchell is brought on board a merely a secondary helmsman. Another thing to note is that in the original pilot Sulu is identified as a mathematician, and only later takes the helm (to replace Gary?) whereas the events of the movie have placed Sulu at the helm much earlier.

Gary Lockwood as Gary Mitchell
It’s interesting to note that the art by Steve Molnar depicts the likenesses of the new movie actors inhabiting the roles of the crew, but in the case of Gary Mitchell he has used the actor Gary Lockwood as he appeared forty-five years ago. It might have been interesting to recast that part in the art as well, with a younger contemporary actor, but I could see the issues of rights being very difficult in that case.
SS Valiant Log Buoy
We learn that Gary Mitchell and another friend of Kirk’s from the Academy, Lee Kelso, have been brought on board by Kirk’s request.

Because the events of the movie have introduced Sulu and Chekov into the positions of helm and navigation earlier in their careers that originally, Mitchell and Kelso are now back-ups in those positions, not primary. Once on the bridge the plot proceeds with only minor variations on the original. The Enterprise has found the log buoy of the SS Valiant, and learn that the Captain of the  ship was forced to destroy his ship after searching his database for any information they could find on ESP. Despite this dire warning, Kirk orders the ship to exit the galaxy.

A quick not here on the sets. They are depicted as they were in the film, not the series, with some nice touches from the original series, such as the 3D chess game from page two.

It’s a nice idea, though the two styles don’t match up seamlessly.

Gary Mitchell zapped
Upon exiting the galaxy, like in the original episode, the crew is hit with energy, circuits are blown and the ship is crippled. In one nice scene Uhura’s control board explodes, and Spock rushes to her aid, to remind us that in this continuity they are in a relationship. Of course, Gary Mitchell is hit the worst, and he’s transformed, though the only immediate effect are the silver eyes.
Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner
At this point I started to wonder where Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (played in the original by Sally Kellerman) was.

Originally she was also on the bridge of the Enterprise, and she was also affected by the energies of the barrier. The answer comes in a conversation with Dr. McCoy. Apparently McCoy and Dehner have some romantic history, and she still hasn’t forgiven him. Since McCoy wasn’t on the Enterprise at this point in the original series, Dehner could be. Those who know this episode well will realize that this doesn’t bode well for Kirk’s chances of defeating Gary Mitchell at the end of this adventure, as it was only with Dehner’s help that Kirk prevailed.

Like in the original episode, nine crewman died. I have to reiterate my objection to the idea that Spock-Prime didn’t warn his younger self or the Federation about this. He could have prevented nine deaths, not counting Gary Mitchell’s future victims, and he could have prevented Gary Mitchell from becoming so powerful and so evil that he might threaten the lives of everyone in the galaxy.
But, moving on, we get to see Gary Mitchell’s powers revealed in a way that is much less subtle than in television episode.

This can be chalked up to the difference between comics and television as mediums. The adaptation/re-imagining of this episode is only two issues, so compromises needed to be made. Subtlety is replaced by showy displays of telekinetic power on Gary Mitchell’s part. Like in the original episode the Enterprise in the comic must limp to the Lithium Cracking Station on the planet Delta Vega to effect warp drive repairs. Like in the original, Kirk hears from Spock that Gary Mitchell is becoming too powerful, and that he must be either abandoned on Delta Vega, or killed.

The difference in the comic is that Spock tells Kirk that he attempted a mind meld with Gary Mitchell while he was sedated. Spock reports his findings, “Captain, there’s no one there. No consciousness. No sentience of any kind. Whatever now inhabits the body of Gary Mitchell poses an imminent threat to this ship and its crew.” The use of the mind meld at this point by Spock is new. Originally the mind meld was introduced in the original series episode “Dagger of the Mind” but in this new reality Kirk has melded with the older Spock, so perhaps the younger version feels emboldened by this.
I don’t know if this tidbit of info will payoff in the second issue or not, but in the Peter David Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Q-Strike, we learn that the galactic barrier was erected by the Q “as a means of containing [a powerful energy creature named] 0 in the void between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.” Gary Mitchell’s powers were explained as coming from contact with this creature. If this idea is being appropriated by writer Mike Johnson for this comic, then perhaps what Spock sensed was 0. 0, being nothing, could certainly be described as “…no one there. No consciousness. No sentience of any kind.”
Overall, I enjoyed the book.

Given the limitations in the premise that I’ve already pointed out, the execution was quite good. The art, by Stephen Molnar certainly captures the actors, though he might rely too much on photo reference. The scripting was fine, and where the story felt rushed, it was simply due to the limitations of the form.  I look forward to seeing how the next issue wraps up the story, and I hear that issue three will revisit the episode “The Galileo Seven,” an episode I remember fondly because it terrified me when I was a kid.

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