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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1984) #43-45 – The Return of the Serpent! (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

One of the benefits of a franchise as old and as diverse as Star Trek is the opportunity it provides for introspection and reflection. Star Trek has existed for almost fifty years. In those fifty years, the franchise has been written by a lot of different people at a lot of different points in time. As such, it makes sense that viewpoints shift and core principles are questioned. One of the more intriguing aspects of watching Star Trek grow older is watching the franchise question some of its earlier decisions and opinions.

The Return of the Serpent plays very much as a criticism of The Apple, a three-issue storyline dedicated to exploring just how wrong Kirk was to impose his own attitudes and beliefs upon the people of Gamma Trianguli VI. In some ways it can be see as both a spiritual successor to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and a precursor to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Crossover, in that it is a story based significantly around critiquing a moral judgement made by James Tiberius Kirk and endorsed by the show.

Shocking twists!

Shocking twists!

The Return of the Serpent is an interesting story, because it consciously problematicises a story from the original Star Trek television show. It is essentially a story about how Kirk made a terrible decision that cost countless lives. This criticism is voiced more explicitly that the criticism of Kirk in The Wrath of Khan and half-a-decade before Crossover would make it to air. This is a very bold and brave tie-in from DC comics. It is hard to imagine a story like The Return of the Serpent being published during Richard Arnold’s tenure overseeing Star Trek tie-ins.

That said, Mike Carlin’s script is not without its own problems. For all that it challenges a decision that Kirk made during the original run of the series, the ending rather consciously avoids the implications of that decision. The Return of the Serpent seems to assume that Kirk can just reverse the damage he has caused by flicking a switch – by going back and repairing the original mistake. For all that The Return of the Serpent cleverly interrogates Kirk’s decisions and motivations, it is undermined by a rather clean and convenient resolution.

Into the belly of the beast...

Into the belly of the beast…

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