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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) #49-50 – The Peacekeepers (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.

There is something quite disconcerting about Gary Seven.

Abducted from Earth at a young age by a race of mysterious aliens, Gary Seven was then returned to Earth in order to ensure that human history unfolds as expected. The unstated assumption is that “as expected” is a euphemism for “according to the wishes of his mysterious employers.” Using his advanced technology, Gary Seven manipulates the world around him. His technology allows him to cloud the minds of his enemies, and to materialise wherever he might wish. He tinkers with nuclear weapons, keeping his existence – and his objectives – a secret from the local people.

Everything comes apart...

Everything comes apart…

It is interesting to wonder how Assignment: Earth might have developed had it successfully spun off from Star Trek. After all, a pilot does not exist to completely define a new television show; it exists to set up a framework through which interesting stories might be told. Would a weekly television show built around Gary Seven have explored these big questions? Or would it have been content to exist as an imitation of Mission: Impossible? As with ever road not taken, it is absolutely impossible to be sure where it might lead.

Still, Howard Weinstein’s The Peacekeepers teases out some of these interesting questions and queries. Even if it never really offers any answers, there is a lot to chew over.

A spectre...

A spectre…

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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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Star Trek – The Fearful Summons by Denny Martin Flinn (Review)

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

One of the great things about a franchise as expansive and as well-documented as Star Trek is that no idea is even completely lost to history. The franchise is sprawling enough that episodes and films inevitably end up lost to history. Scripts are written and re-written, with ideas changing dramatically from original conception through to the final released version. Even Star Trek: Phase II is well accounted for, affording fans a glimpse at how things might have gone for the franchise.

It’s interesting to imagine the possibilities that exist at given moment for the franchise – how radical things might be now had a particular event gone a different direction. Imagine Bryan Fuller and Bryan Singer bringing Star Trek back to television with Angela Bassett in the big chair. Or Spock on the grassy knoll. Or Oscar nominee Geneviève Bujold as Janeway. Or a first season of Star Trek: Enterprise set primarily on Earth during the development of the warp five drive.

So much of the franchise is discussed and analysed that ideas like this tend to bubble through. Occasionally, the franchise allows an echo of what might have been to break through. Star Trek: The Next Generation adapted two aborted scripts from Star Trek: Phase II into The Child and Devil’s Due. Harlan Ellison’s original script for The City on the Edge of Forever is being adapted into a comic book. That is to say nothing of writers like D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold working with fan productions.

However, Denny Martin Flinn’s novel, The Fearful Summons, is a particularly interesting glimpse at what might have been. It’s essentially a novel based around his original idea for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It’s a rather bizarre and occasionally awkward glimpse at what might have been for the franchise.

tos-thefearfulsummons

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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 VI: The Undiscovered Country by J.M. Dillard (Review)

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

Reading her novelisation of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, it’s hard to shake the feeling that author J.M. Dillard really does not like this film.

It’s a very peculiar sensation, to read an adaptation clearly written by somebody who could not care less for the source material. It is not unique, of course. Diane Carey’s adaptation of Broken Bow is downright scathing in its attitude towards Star Trek: Enterprise. It just seems rather strange that J.M. Dillard’s early adaptation of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier seems a lot fonder of its source material.

st-theundiscoveredcountry-dillard

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Star Trek: The Lost Era – Well of Souls by Ilsa J. Bick (Review)

This November and December, 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.

Well of Souls is a story of the Enterprise-C, the ship introduced in Yesterday’s Enterprise. One of the best-received episodes in the history of Star Trek: The Next GenerationYesterday’s Enterprise established Rachel Garrett’s ship as the troubled Enterprise, the tragic flagship, the doomed space craft. Ilsa J. Bick builds on that characterisation in Well of Souls, one small story from some point in Garrett’s command of the Federation flagship.

While Well of Souls feels like a rather unconventional Star Trek novel, it is charming in its own way. Bick connects her tale to the themes of Well of Souls, suggesting a troubled ship manned by a struggling crew. The novel returns time and again to the theme of unfortunate choices, the weight of making the best decision of the options open. Unlike Kirk or Picard, Bick seems to suggest, this version of the iconic starship doesn’t get that many lucky breaks, with her crew repeatedly forced to accept the least bad of a selection of unappetising choices.

Well of Souls is  a thoughtful, introspective piece. It doesn’t flow or pace itself as well as it might, but Bick crafts a compelling picture the never-the-less. While not quite the best of the Lost Era tie-in novels, it’s ambitious and insightful. It lacks the energy of Serpents Among the Ruins or The Art of the Impossible, but it’s still a very worthy read for anybody looking to sketch out a gap in the Star Trek mythos.

tng-wellofsouls

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Star Trek: The Lost Era – Serpents Among the Ruins by David R. George III (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 The Neutral Zone.

The first year of Star Trek: The Next Generation was a little rocky when it came to continuity. Skipping roughly a century on from the adventures of James T. Kirk, there were times when it seemed like the writers weren’t entirely sure what had happened during that gap. Early on, for example, it was suggested that the Klingons had joined the Federation, a decision reversed by the show’s third season. Even within the first year of the show, it seemed like the writers hadn’t quite cemented the wider Star Trek universe. In Angel One, we discover that the Romulans are threatening war, only to hear in The Neutral Zone that they’ve actually been absent from galactic affairs for quite some time.

Serpents Among the Ruins is an attempt to explain that absence established in 1988, and contextualise it against the eighteen years of Romulan stories that would follow from the early appearances in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country through to the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and beyond.

st-serpentsamongtheruins

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Tribunal (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

Tribunal is probably the weakest episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in quite some time, hampered by the fact that it never seems too ambitious and the fact that the episode ends because we’re three minutes away from the closing credits rather than because it feels like the story has been told. Tribunal is hardly the deepest or most sophisticated episode of the show’s second season, spending most of its time riffing on Kafka and Orwell, but it’s still solidly entertaining – a rare example of black comedy on Star Trek that works surprisingly well.

I suspect the biggest problem with Tribunal is where it’s placed. The second season of Deep Space Nine has been hitting it out of the park since around Blood Oath, giving us the strongest run of episodes we’d see until the start of the fourth season. Indeed, had the show found its groove a little bit earlier, the second season of Deep Space Nine could have been on par with the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation as “that season the show found its groove.”

However, it remains an impressive run of episodes, a rallying of the show in the last third of the season, showing just what Deep Space Nine was capable of. Most of the episodes in that run felt very different from anything done on The Next Generation and most offered some major insight into how the world of Deep Space Nine works as distinct from the rest of the franchise.

A broad cast of characters...

A broad cast of characters…

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) Annual #2 – Starfleet Academy!

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

Multimedia franchises tend to have very strange lives. These iconic pop culture characters rarely seem to ride off into the sunset in any real way. Their story might end, but there’s always a new beginning just waiting for them. When veteran Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore took charge of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, he even wove the idea into the fabric of the show. “All of this has happened before and will happen again,” the characters repeated.

It’s been a Hollywood fad for the last decade, with high-budget reboots like Batman Begins and The Amazing Spider-Man suggesting that icons never die, they just get reinvented. However, it has always been a feature of the pop culture landscape. Think of how many adaptations of Batman have run their course, or how many times in how many different media Sherlock Holmes has played out his game of wits. Life for these iconic properties is something of a spinning wheel. It seems that no sooner are you off one side than you are back on the other.

So, with the release of Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country in 1991, it seemed the ideal time for Star Trek author Peter David to venture back to the very beginning, and to explore Kirk’s time at Starfleet Academy!

"By the way, I like David as a name..."

“By the way, I like David as a name…”

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Star Trek – Cast No Shadow by James Swallow (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

Valeris is a fascinating character who gets a bit lost in the scope of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Given the film’s focus on bidding a fond farewell to the iconic crew of the Enterprise, it’s understandable that the newest addition to the crew should get pushed aside. It’s even more notable because Valeris is clearly a stand-in for the character of Saavik, another of Spock’s young female Vulcan protegés, making her not only a newer character, but a substitute for a newer character.

One of the most interesting things about Star Trek tie-in fiction is the scope afforded by the gigantic shared universe. Across the dozen movies and the seven-hundred episodes of television, there are countless supporting characters and concepts thrown out. Due to plotting necessities and the demands of particular stories, some of these ideas are never truly fleshed out. The sheer volume of tie-in material means that writers do get a chance to develop and expand upon these character which might otherwise be forgotten.

Writing a novel centred on Valeris is a very bold idea, but one which acknowledges just how intriguing the concept of Kim Cattrall’s Vulcan traitor is, despite the fact the film treats her as a minor character at best.

castnoshadow

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