Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #28

An ongoing discussion of how Star Trek comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the episodes and films…

28: DC Comics, 1992–1993

When writer Howard Weinstein succeeded Peter David on DC Comics’ Star Trek, it was obvious the series was still in good hands. Quick-witted and skilled at crafting dialogue, Weinstein was gifted with a great imagination and a strong understanding of Star Trek‘s core concepts and characters. Plus, he’d penned an episode of The Animated Series (“The Pirates of Orion”), as well as several acclaimed novels, particularly The Covenant of the Crown.

Weinstein’s tenure on the comics offered fewer prequels, sequels, and tie-ins with onscreen Trek than his predecessors’ runs had, focusing instead on exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new civilizations—which, after all, is what the franchise is about. This week’s batch of tales, while entertaining and thought-provoking, thus contain few direct connections to specific episodes or movies. Published in issues #35–48, these stories boast solid interior artwork from Trek veterans Arne Starr and Gordon Purcell, as well as newcomers Rod Whigham and Carlos Garzon, with gorgeous covers fans had come to expect from Jerome K. Moore and Jason Palmer.

The six-part “The Tabukan Syndrome,” presented in issues #35–40 and collected as Star Trek: Tests of Courage, was tied to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, released a year prior. The movie had promoted Hikaru Sulu to captain of the USS Excelsior, Captain Styles’ ship from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. This forced a decision regarding DC’s future direction, for though the comics were set prior to Star Trek VI, the film included a captain’s log from Sulu stating, “After three years, I have concluded my first assignment as master of this vessel, cataloging gaseous planetary anomalies in Beta Quadrant.”

In other words, Sulu would have to leave the comic at some point to embark on a three-year mission aboard the Excelsior, so DC would have to work around that—which they did, as of this arc. Before saying goodbye to Sulu as a main cast member (just as DC had done with Spock in the aftermath of Star Trek III), the team gave him a nice sendoff by having the Enterprise and Excelsior crews team up to solve a problem brewing in the Tabukan System. Their mission: to stop a Romulan plot to steal destructive weapons that the Tabukans planned to destroy in the name of peace—a fitting storyline, given the pro-peace themes explored in The Undiscovered Country.

Janice Rand returned to the fold in Star Trek VI as a senior officer among the Excelsior crew—and, a few years later, in Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Flashback”—and DC made her Sulu’s first officer, with Saavik taking his place at the Enterprise‘s helm. “The Tabukan Syndrome” also featured a crewman called Berger, who closely resembled Jeremy Roberts, the actor who’d played Dimitri Valtane in the movie and “Flashback.” Since Valtane is absent in this tale, it seems likely the writer-artist team had intended the two to be the same person.

The story contains an amusing nod to Star Trek III, for as Sulu bids farewell, Scotty gives him a parting gift: the now-obsolete transwarp computer components he’d removed while serving as that vessel’s chief engineer. Styles would no doubt be unamused. Weinstein’s issues following this six-parter would offer no sequels or prequels, with connections to the TV shows and movies few and far between.

In issue #41, an incorporeal life form possesses Scotty and other crewmembers, then harmlessly explores the starship, endowing its hosts with heightened inspiration. Pavel Chekov paints a still-life that includes vodka, fruits, and books, including the collected plays of Anton Chekhov, an amusing in-joke.

A two-parter in #42–43 shines a spotlight on McCoy and Scotty as the two seek adventure by offering aid to stranded pilgrims. Scotty helps their engineer, Kalli, fix damaged engines, while McCoy tends to a woman in labor who refuses to give birth until reaching their destination. It’s amusing to realize, given Kalli’s manner, mode of dress, and use of terminology such as “shiny,” that she’s very likely patterned after Kaylee Frye, the mechanic of the freighter Serenity on the cult-hit television series Firefly.

Issue #44 sees the Enterprise visiting a colony owned by Kirk’s childhood friend Mark Willis, and it offers a fun bit of backstory related to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Kirk recalls Willis often encouraging him to take risks and be less cautious, which included teaching him the sport of rock-climbing—which would nearly prove fatal in the movie when Jim slipped while scaling El Capitan, overlooking the gravity of his situation.

Another connection to Star Trek V can be found in issues #46–48. Spock and Saavik assist an ambassador in negotiating with a planet seeking Federation affiliation, but a Klingon-backed coup d’état leaves the officers injured after a shuttle crash. As the Enterprise comes to their aid, four Birds-of-Prey attack, led by Klaa and Vixis. Weinstein channels Peter David’s sense of humor as Klaa dreams of destroying the starship while Kirk surrenders like a terrified coward. Suddenly, Vixis interrupts his pleasurable dream by kicking Klaa out of bed, furious that he has woken her up by thrashing about. Such a scene could have come off as campy, but it fits the couple’s onscreen portrayals and Weinstein makes it work.

This arc revisits an aspect of The Search for Spock that the filmmakers later ignored: Spock having mated with his young protégé, Saavik, during pon farr on Genesis. Saavik asks Spock if he recalls her having helped him survive that ordeal, gingerly avoiding an overt mention of their sexual coupling. Spock denies memory of the event, noting that he was a primal, instinct-driven being at the time. Their night together, she admits, left her with unresolved emotions, and his reply—that time will determine the course of their relationship—would seem to indicate her feelings may be requited. Ultimately, nothing came of that implication, though Spock would also fall for his next protégé, Star Trek VI‘s Valeris, a character initially intended to be Saavik.

Throughout these tales, only a single episode sequel was published—in issue #45, from guest scribe Steven H. Wilson, illustrated by Starr and Rob Davis. The episode? “The Squire of Gothos.” Trelane, that lonely squire, retired, returns to the Enterprise and hilariously demands that Kirk demonstrate love-making for him. He then reunites Jim with both Teresa Ross (the pretty young yeoman from the episode) and Carol Marcus (Kirk’s baby-mama from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek Into Darkness) as coital partners.

Ross is now a Federation justice, having left Starfleet to pursue a career in law. She admits she would have slept with Kirk during their younger days, a missed opportunity he no doubt regrets. Carol, meanwhile, is furious at the intrusion, having gone out of her way to avoid Jim since the death of their son David in Star Trek III. She’s even changed careers to avoid working on projects of military value (ironic, given Star Trek Into Darkness‘s revelations about her father), and now serves as an archeologist.

Kirk understandably refuses to provide a live pornography show for Trelane, angrily decking his old adversary for good measure. A female of Trelane’s species, Valedsia, then arrives; the two beings are apparently in love, but Trelane’s adolescent fear and sexual inexperience have driven him to learn from Kirk’s legendary prowess with women. If this sounds familiar, that’s because Voyager would utilize similar story elements three years later, in the episode “The Q and the Grey.”

Supplementing the monthly title, DC also released its fourth annual, written by Michael Jan Friedman and illustrated by Gordon Purcell and Pablo Marcos. A prequel to “The Cage” and “The Menagerie” (and thus retroactively to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds), the annual takes place during Spock’s years of service under Christopher Pike, shortly before the crew’s mission to Rigel VII. An outsider among the starship crew, the Vulcan wonders whether he belongs in Starfleet, but in solving the mystery of a colony whose inhabitants seem violently possessed by alien ghosts, he realizes he might fit in after all.

Spock’s shipmates—Pike (sporting a nifty mustache), Number One (Una), Phillip Boyce, J.M. Colt, José Tyler, Garrison, and Pitcairn—are further fleshed out, extrapolating from their limited scenes in the pilot. Una’s frustration at Pike’s veiled sexism carries over from their interactions onscreen (thankfully, Pike seems to have evolved by the time of Star Trek: Discovery and Strange New Worlds), while Tyler is depicted as a womanizer (early production materials for the TV series had called him unlucky at love).

An alien mind causes Spock to violate Pike’s orders, and the captain jokes that Spock might one day try to commandeer the Enterprise. Spock naturally denies being capable of such an act, though he would do just that in “The Menagerie” while offering a paralyzed Pike a better life on Talos IV. Another exchange might raise some fan eyebrows. Boyce notices that Spock has been roaming the halls at night, which the good doctor suspects could be due to feelings of guilt. Specifically, the medical bartender wonders whether Spock is troubled by his strained relationship with his father, Sarek. This is surprising, considering how guarded Spock tends to be about his personal and family life.

In “Journey to Babel,” not only did Kirk and McCoy not realize Spock was estranged from his father, but they didn’t even know Sarek was his father. That Boyce would know enough of Spock’s history to come to this conclusion hints at an uncharacteristic level of sharing between the young Vulcan and the ship’s physician. Given his open caring for Pike in “The Menagerie” and his bond with Una in Short Trek‘s “Q&A,” as well as with Christine Chapel on Strange New Worlds, it would appear Spock feels more comfortable with Pike’s crew than he would with Kirk’s. Fascinating.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to explore DC’s Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation titles from the perspective of how each provided prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen Trek. Then, right around the corner, we’ll delve into Deep Space Nine as well, courtesy of Malibu Comics. See you then.

Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:

Rich Handley has written books about Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, and Watchmen, as well as licensed Star Wars and Planet of the Apes fiction, and he edited 70 volumes of Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection. Rich co-edited Titan’s Scribe Award-nominated Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone; nine Sequart anthologies discussing Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Stargate, and classic monsters; and four Crazy 8 Press anthologies about Batman and (now) the Joker. He has contributed essays to DC’s Hellblazer: 30th Anniversary Celebration; IDW’s Star Trek and Star Wars comic-strip reprint books; BOOM! Studios’ Planet of the Apes Archive hardcovers; Sequart anthologies about Star Trek and Blade Runner; ATB Publishing’s Outside In line exploring Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Babylon 5; and a Becky Books anthology covering Dark Shadows.

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