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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (DC Comics, 1992) (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.

In many respects, adapting a Star Trek feature film into comic book form is very much an editorial function. With so little space available, particularly as compared to a feature film or novel, the assignment is more about whittling the script down to something that can be covered in fifty-five pages of a comic book. While those adapting the features films into novels frequently have to expand and flesh out the material to make it fit within the allocated page count and account for plot hole and logic error, the comic book adaptations just have to keep everything ticking over.

So Peter David and Gorden Purcell’s adaptation of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country plays quite well as a condensed version of the narrative, covering the requisite story beats in the available space.

In space, everybody can hear you scream...

In space, everybody can hear you scream…

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) #1-12 – The Trial of James T. Kirk! (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.

The late eighties and early nineties saw a change in the world of Star Trek tie-ins. During the eighties, tie-in writers had typically been afforded a great deal of freedom in telling their stories – allowed to explore the fringes of the Star Trek universe with little regard to how things matched up. The period saw a number of truly spectacular Star Trek tie-ins that count among the best work ever released with the Star Trek brand on it – John Ford’s The Final Reflection or Diane Duane’s My Enemy, My Ally.

However, with the release of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and the broadcast of the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there was a shift in how the franchise approached tie-in novels and comic books. Gene Roddenberry had arguably lost control of his creation, with the Harve Bennett and Nicholas Meyer taking control of the feature films while Rick Berman and Michael Piller were the driving creative forces on the television show.

Crossing swords...

Crossing swords…

As such, the tie-ins became a place where Roddenberry and his “people” – including Richard Arnold and Susan Sackett – could make their influence most heavily felt. So, in the late eighties and early nineties, a conscious effort was made to re-tool the novels and the comic book tie-ins, with Richard Arnold maintaining a much tighter grip on the reigns. DC’s first volume of Star Trek comics was cancelled after fifty-six issues, and another volume was launched to coincide with the launch of the Next Generation comic.

Writer Peter David had closed out the first volume of the Star Trek comic, and was drafted in as the writer of the new on-going series. However, he almost immediately came into conflict with Richard Arnold. Pages of the first issue had to be hastily re-drawn when Richard Arnold vetoed the use of a supporting character from Star Trek: The Animated Seriesafter the comic had been drawn. In many respects, this set the tone for the comic, which was victim to all sorts of weird editorial mandates.

The Andorian Incident...

The Andorian Incident…

While writer Michael Jan Friedman remained the writer on the on-going Next Generation comic for most of its run – only occasionally getting another writer to fill in – Peter David departed the Star Trek comic before the end of the book’s second year on the stand. This is especially frustrating when one considers the pedigree of Peter David. An accomplished novelist and comic book writer, David had a wealth of experience in the medium that was being maliciously squandered by Arnold.

It’s a shame, because the opening twelve issues of DC’s second volume of Star Trek make for a delightful read and a fitting substitute for a live-action Star Trek television show unfolding between the movies.

Warp speed ahead...

Warp speed ahead…

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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (DC Comics, 1989) (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.

In many respects, the late eighties represented a changing of the guard when it came to Star Trek. The feature films had been relatively serialised. The events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan led into the events of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which itself led directly into the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. At the same time, the expanded universe was generally left free to its own devices. Novelists and writers were given the freedom to do whatever they wanted.

In the late eighties, things changed. Directed by William Shatner, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier stood quite clearly apart from the events of the last three Star Trek films. At the same time, the franchise had found its way back to weekly television in the form of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Whereas comic books and novels had served to fill a gap when there was a scarcity of “official” Star Trek material, they were now very clearly of secondary importance to the “real” (or simply “live action”) versions of Star Trek.

Oh your God...

Oh your God…

There was a rather seismic shift in the nature and tone of tie-ins and adaptations. Rather notably, the creators who had adapted the last couple of films into prose and comic book form did not return to translate The Final Frontier across different media. Vonda McIntyre had written the novelisations of the last three Star Trek films, but was replaced by J.M. Dillard. Mike W. Barr and Tom Sutton had produced the comic book adaptations of the last two Star Trek films, but were replaced by Peter David and James W. Fry. Both Dillard and David would find themselves tasked with adaptation of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Peter David and James W. Fry’s adaptation of The Final Frontier is clearly intended as a launchpad for their new on-going Star Trek series that would debut only a few months later. Indeed, the final page of The Final Frontier includes an advertisement for that new series. In many respects, this adaptation of The Final Frontier seems to serve as a pilot for a new comic book series, a starting point for a bold new beginning to DC’s Star Trek line. Opening with the The Final Frontier, you might be forgiven for assuming it was doomed from the outset.

Here there be rock monsters...

Here there be rock monsters…

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Avengers: Season One by Peter David et al (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

What exactly is the point of Marvel’s Season One initiative? Is it to update the origins of classic superheroes to make them accessible to modern and casual audiences? Is it to re-tell familiar stories just with modern touches like Facebook and iPhone references? Is it to dance between the rain drops and package an adventure from the early days of our heroes’ careers without disrupting established continuity? Is it an attempt to reach beyond the core comic book audience? Is it an attempt to package some material for feature film adaptation?

It’ hard to know. Marvel has made some nods towards accessibility in recent years, but all too often these feel more like sales gimmicks than genuine attempts to court new readers. Written by comic book superstar (and successful novelist in his own right) Peter David, Avengers: Season One should be something of a slam dunk. It’s a book featuring characters from a multi-billion dollar movie franchise, in a stand-alone graphic novel, with a slew of great writers and untethered to serialised long-form storytelling.

Unfortunately, Avengers: Season One winds up feeling like a mess.

Here come the heroes...

Here come the heroes…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Vendetta by Peter David (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.

Vendetta was published in May 1991, which is an astonishingly quick turnaround for a novel building on the events of The Best of Both Worlds, which was broadcast in 1990. Vendetta is billed as “the giant novel”, in the spirit of Jean Lorrah’s Metamorphosis – the March 1990 novel building off The Measure of a Man and advertised as “the first giant novel.”

It’s offers a suitably epic premise – the Enterprise caught between the Borg and the Doomsday Machine with the fate of the universe at stake.

tng-vendetta

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Imzadi by Peter David (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.

As far as tie-in novels for Star Trek: The Next Generation go, Imzadi is the big one. It’s Peter David’s magnum opus for The Next Generation – a wonderfully clever character study that allows David to bask in the character dynamics of the show, while playing with big ideas and grand themes. It’s very easily the strongest Next Generation novel published while the show was on television, and remains a strong contender for the best Next Generation novel ever published.

tng-imzadi

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Q-Squared by Peter David (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.

Q-Squared is probably Peter David’s most ambitious Star Trek: The Next Generation novel. “Q-Squared is almost my challenge to the reader to keep up with me,” he boasted in Voyages of the Imagination. Essentially a meditation on reality and free will within that construct, Q-Squared is a breathtakingly confident endeavour. It’s an interesting reflection on the potentiality embraced by The Next Generation, the broadening of the franchise’s perspective to embrace the best of all possible worlds.

Q-Squared hit stands in early July 1994, just over a month after All Good Things… brought the curtain down on The Next Generation for one last time. It’s tempting to look at the two stories as companion pieces. All Good Things… is an exploration of the time that the crew spent together – jumping backwards and forwards to trace our heroes over the course of their lives. In contrast, Q-Squared jumps sideways – looking at what might have been, or what could have been.

tng-q-squared

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