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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC) Annual #3 – The Broken Moon (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode Conspiracy.

If you were to construct a list of the most niggling unresolved plot threads in the history of the Star Trek franchise, “what was up with those things from Conspiracy?” would likely rank up there alongside “so, did Bajor ever join the Federation?” Funnily enough, author S.D. Perry would tie those two dangling plot points up in her Deep Space Nine relaunch book, Unity.

However, several other writers have tried to figure out what exactly was going on with those mind-controlling parasites who appeared at the end of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and were never heard from again. According to Ronald D. Moore on Inside the Writers’ Room on the third Next Generation blu ray box set, various writers for the show tried to revisit the idea, but Roddenberry hated that episode so much nothing was ever developed.

The Broken Moon, the third annual for DC’s Next Generation comic book series, offers its own take on the mind-controlling parasites. While writer Michael Jan Friedman wisely avoids revealing too much about these creatures, the story suffers because it never figures out anything interesting to do with them.

It always bugged me...

It always bugged me…

One of the more frustrating aspects of The Broken Moon is the way that it is so casual about the creatures. They seem like just another alien menace, which feels quite strange. To be fair, The Next Generation always seemed more comfortable with alien cultures and societies than its direct predecessor. Kirk was far more likely to confront a grotesque existential Lovecraftian space horror than Picard. Picard was more likely to encounter creatures he could reason with and negotiate with. Even the non-humanoid Sheliak can be reasoned with using strict application of treaty terms.

However, that doesn’t mean that Picard never confronted something truly alien and bizarre. Part of the reason the Borg worked so well in The Next Generation (and why their repeat appearances on Star Trek: Voyager diminished them) was because they were so decided alien. They couldn’t be bargained or bartered or reasoned with. Their world view was so divorced from humanity’s that they were truly horrifying in a manner only exaggerated by their disturbing appearance.

By Geordi, that's a powerful punch!

By Geordi, that’s a powerful punch!

The parasitic creatures were originally intended to tie into the arrival of the Borg, and they are just as alien and unknowable and disturbing as those cybernetic aliens. It feels like Michael Jan Friedman doesn’t really appreciate that. The Enterprise seems remarkably casual about stumbling across a nest of the things attempting to secure another political foothold. When Geordi beams back, Riker jokes, “Seems the parasites reared their ugly heads again — or is it tails?”

These are things that wormed their way into the heart of the Federation without setting off any alarms. They were last seen broadcasting a homing sequence to Earth. They are directly responsible for the destruction of at least one Federation ship. You would imagine that – even though they never turned up again – somebody somewhere would be keeping an eye on them. At the very least, you would expect their return to generate more than a cheesy wise-crack.

Are you sure we can't talk it over?

Are you sure we can’t talk it over?

That being said, Friedman doesn’t really do that much with them here, making their appearance feel more like an homage and a continuity reference than an actual plot point. There’s some strange stuff happening in some alien society we’ve never heard of, and it turns out that the parasites are behind it. We don’t discover what their end goal is or why they were creating a “corridor” through Federation space in Conspiracy.

They seem to be taking over this culture for the sake of it, rather than as the first part of a master plan. They don’t seem to be infiltrating in preparation for something. They seem to be infiltrating to take over as an end in and of itself. To be fair, it’s probably better than Friedman resolving the mystery of the creatures, or trying to offer us some lame back story or origin for a menace that is most unsettling as a monster hiding in the darkness of space beyond our comprehension. Still, it feels a little weird that they are happy just to take over some back-water world somewhere we’ve never heard of.

Geordi is a great ad-Visor...

Geordi is a great ad-Visor…

To be fair, The Broken Moon isn’t really about the parasites. They seem to exist as an excuse to tell a Geordi-heavy story. As a member of the show’s ensemble, Geordi always seemed a little difficult to write for. (To the point where the show’s first year didn’t have a Geordi-centri story.) He’s not as obviously frustrating as Troi, but his stories tended to be a bit less focused and logical than those concerning Data or Worf or even Riker. This wasn’t a bad thing. I actually like some of the show’s Geordi stories like Identity Crisis, but there’s no denying that they feel a little random.

The Broken Moon continues that sort of random feeling, and borrows a page or two from Identity Crisis. It reveals that something Geordi did in the past has drawn him into a mystery in the present, which is a convenient storytelling hook. (Although it does seem weird that Captain DeSoto looks nothing like he did in Tin Man.) Friedman does a decent enough job crafting a planetary adventure starring the ship’s engineer, but the whole thing feels a little weird.

LaForged in the fire!

LaForged in the fire!

In particular, there’s a very strange internal monologue where Friedman tries to tie the plot into the character’s romantic difficulties (arguably one of his defining character traits), by setting the adventure on a matriarchal society. “I still feel like an Ensign again, fresh out of the Academy and still shy as hell around women,” he muses. “What a lift it was for my ego back then — to be honoured by all those strong, good-looking women whose lives I saved on Kastren’s shuttle…” That thought bubble is a little creepy, but I appreciate what Friedman is trying to do  by tying the action into character development.

That said, the story does feel a little padded. Friedman repeatedly cuts from the action on the planet back to the Enterprise. This feels especially frustrating since all the characters are doing is worrying about Geordi. To be fair, this harks back to the show itself, which would often struggle to include the entire cast even in character-centred episodes. However, the scenes feel superfluous. Of all these sequences, only the interaction between Data and Guinan and Beverly feels worth the diversion, with Data acknowledging that he “misses” his best friend in the way that only an android can.

Dommu Onglaatu...

Dommu Onglaatu…

The Broken Moon is a decent enough story, but it’s hardly classic Star Trek. It’s far from essential reading, even for those curious about one of the franchise’s most fascinating dangling threads.

Read our reviews of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation:

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