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Star Trek: Voyager – Flashback (Review)

This February and March (and a little bit of April), we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Flashback was largely advertised as Star Trek: Voyager‘s contribution to the thirtieth anniversary celebrations of the Star Trek franchise.

It featured guest appearances from three alumni of the original show. It was set during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It featured Tuvok and Janeway dressing up in movie-era uniforms. It was publicised as “a very special episode.” It aired only three days after the thirtieth anniversary, while Star Trek: Deep Space Nine waited nearly two months to broadcast Trials and Tribble-ations. Anybody would be forgiven for looking at Flashback as the obligatory nostalgic celebratory adventure to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Star Trek franchise.

Hero shot.

Hero shot.

Put simply, Flashback does not work in that context. Although it features Captain Hikaru Sulu, the episode doesn’t actually allow him to accomplish anything. As far as “secret histories” go, the episode turns out to be a bit of a cul de sac. More to the point, the continuity is a mess, both in broad franchise terms and specifically with regards to the feature film it heavily references. Although it is great to see Grace Lee Whitney and George Takei back, the script only allows them to interact with Tim Russ and (fleetingly) Kate Mulgrew.

In fact, it could convincingly be argued that Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II do a much better job of filling the “celebratory thirtieth anniversary story” slot than Flashback, despite the notable absence of any actual characters from the original show. Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II feel like a gigantic (and enjoyable) homage to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which is both hugely fun and also weirdly appropriate in a play-on-words sort of way. That is more in line with what fans were expecting for the anniversary: nostalgic fun.

Tim Russ was as excited as anyone to get a Tuvok episode.

Tim Russ was as excited as anyone to get a Tuvok episode.

In contrast, Flashback is something altogether stranger. Brannon Braga had been working on the story before it was suggested that Voyager should do a thirtieth anniversary episode, and Flashback plays more as a Brannon Braga script that ties into an anniversary more than an anniversary episode that happens to be written by Brannon Braga. Despite its high-profile guest cast, Flashback has more in common with Braga’s mind-bending scripts for Frame of Mind or Projections than with Trials and Tribble-ations.

Nevertheless, there is something fascinating about Flashback, because it allows Braga to use the springboard of the thirtieth anniversary to talk about memory.

The teacup that he shattered didn't come together...

The teacup that he shattered didn’t come together…

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) #35-40 – Tests of Courage/The Tabukan Syndrome (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

Captain Hikaru Sulu occupies a very special place in Star Trek lore. Given the amount of spin-off material that Sulu’s command of the Excelsior has generated, Sulu often seems like the Star Trek spin-off that never quite materialised. The idea of Sulu commanding the Excelsior has inspired novels and comics and audio books, and was even featured in Flashback, one of the episodes produced to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the franchise.

While Sulu’s command of the Excelsior is open-ended, it is interesting to consider the various origin stories that might apply. As with Khan Noonien Singh, there are multiple tie-in stories that cover the same ground. Published in late 2007, the novel Forged in Fire, for example, offers one account of Sulu taking command of the Excelsior – assuming command from Captain Styles during a high-pressure diplomatic crisis. However, this was not the first time that the story had been told.

Crossing swords...

Crossing swords…

A year following the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, author Howard Weinstein wrote Tests of Courage. A six-issue arc set during the earliest days of Sulu’s command, Weinstein had originally hoped to collaborate with George Takei on the comic. Unfortunately, the two could not work out their schedules, forcing Weinstein to write the comic without Takei’s input. However, Takei did provide a glowing and enthusiastic foreword for the collected edition of the comic published two years later.

Tests of Courage is a fantastic piece of work, a suitably epic Star Trek comic that tells a suitably epic story – one with breadth and scope and drama and conflict that demonstrates just what a wonderful storyteller Howard Weinstein is.

Ships of the line...

Ships of the line…

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