An ongoing discussion of how Star Trek comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the episodes and films…
30: DC Comics, 1993–1994
DC’s second Star Trek series varied in tone from the company’s inaugural Trek line. It featured different writers (other than Peter David) and artists, each of whom brought new storytelling styles and visual aesthetics. It was influenced by Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which meant the return of over-the-top characters like Klaa and Vixis. And it was published during a contentious period in which a regrettable Paramount edict from Richard Arnold halted writers’ and editors’ efforts to make the shows, films, cartoons, comics, and novels a cohesive, interconnected body of work.
Despite said edict, though, a lot of great stories were produced, thanks to the talented individuals who worked on them. Among them was writer Howard Weinstein, who went to great lengths to make sure his tenure was firmly grounded in TV and film lore. This week, we’ll examine issues #49–60 (illustrated by Rod Whigham, Arne Starr, Carlos Garzon, Rob Davis, and others), as well as DC’s first Star Trek Special, from the standpoint of how they offered prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen Trek.
Weinstein’s two-parter in #49–50 revisited “Assignment: Earth,” an episode intended to launch a spinoff show about mysterious agents Gary Seven and Isis, as well as their assistant Roberta Lincoln. That spinoff never materialized, but thanks to licensing, fans have had multiple glimpses at what such a series might have been like—and Weinstein was the first comics scribe to explore the possibilities. The planet Thevos creates a peacekeeper weapon to serve as a deterrent to war, and Starfleet uses an old starship, the USS Pacific, to test it. After secret operatives steal the Pacific, Seven reveals that rebels among his people plan to use the protomatter-based weapon to murder their employers, the Aegis, and undo their historical meddling.
This story reveals a good deal about Seven’s background. Despite his being from the 20th century, he has not aged in the interim and expects to live for a thousand years, due to the immortal Aegis having slowed his biological decay. Unbound by time’s limits, the Aegis did away with weapons of mass destruction millennia ago and now operate by stealth. Not all of their plans have been successful, though; costly mistakes have been made, and so the rebels plan to undo all they’ve done, including Seven’s actions in “Assignment: Earth”—which would wipe out mankind in 1968. John Byrne’s Assignment: Earth miniseries from IDW would contradict none of this, though the more recent Year Five has rendered much of it apocryphal.
The use of protomatter ties this tale to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, since David Marcus had used the substance in the Genesis matrix. Jim Kirk opposes the weapon on that ground, but the testing is backed by Admiral Cartwright (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), who fears the increasing threat posed by the Klingon Empire. This presages Cartwright’s involvement in the Khitomer conspiracy; in fact, when Cartwright resists shutting down the project despite the weapon’s flaws, Kirk suspects the admiral may have a hidden agenda.
In issue #51, from guest writer Dan Mishkin, Saavik goes undercover to apprehend a man looking to give the Romulans Starfleet weapons and ensure peace via balanced power. Saavik bonds with her prisoner, whom she views as noble though misguided, but the Romulans activate an implant, causing him to die in her arms. This well-told tale has no direct connections to specific episodes. Diane Duane’s first-contact story in issue #52 does, however, as an Enterprise landing party encounters simulacra of a Gorn (“Arena”), a Mugato (“A Private Little War”), a Talosian (“The Cage” and “The Menagerie”), a salt vampire (“The Man Trap”), and more.
One of Weinstein’s most ambitious storylines, “Time Crime,” appeared in issues #53–57. A temporal vortex eliminates the Romulans from history and leaves the Klingons peaceful and cultured. A Klingon, in fact—Worf, the colonel and lawyer from Star Trek VI—is now Kirk’s science officer. When a Romulan ship emerges from the vortex, Spock suggests using the Guardian of Forever (“The City on the Edge of Forever” and “Yesteryear”) to ascertain how time has been altered, and Kirk contacts his son David, who is studying the time portal. Kirk and David have enjoyed a loving relationship in this reality, which makes the storyline tragic since David, like Edith Keeler, will need to die to repair the temporal damage.
With help from Kor (“Errand of Mercy”), now an ambassador, a historian, and Spock’s close friend, the crew determines that the assassination of Klingon peacemaker Khartan had been averted, enabling him to lead the Empire on a prosperous path. (It’s worth noting that there was no Klingon word for “peacemaker” before Riva, according to The Next Generation‘s “Loud as a Whisper.”) The Klingons and Federation agree to sacrifice their valued alliance to restore history, and the surgically altered crew travels to Qo’noS’s past to regretfully ensure Khartan’s death. Things don’t quite go as planned, requiring additional temporal tampering, but the Klingons, Romulans, and Federation ultimately end up how they originally were (well, mostly).
Connections to TV episodes abound. A Romulan admiral (Jaricus, from issues #35–40) accuses Kirk of feigning insanity to cover up espionage, citing his actions in “The Enterprise Incident.” This event has not happened in the Romulan-free timeline, but Jaricus remembers it from his reality. The admiral also recalls “Balance of Terror,” as well as Kirk’s hostile encounters with Klingons at Organia (“Errand of Mercy”), Capella IV (“Friday’s Child”), and Beta XII-A (“Day of the Dove”). All of this convinces Kor and Kirk to sacrifice their existence and repair the timeline.
Oddly, Jaricus cites the signing of the Treaty of Algeron as occurring a century before “Balance of Terror.” This contradicts The Next Generation‘s “The Defector,” which had dated the signing at fifty years after that episode. In addition, “Time Crime” depicts smooth- and ridge-headed Klingons as co-existing during Earth’s 16th century. This poses a continuity hiccup with Star Trek: Enterprise, but that’s clearly not Weinstein’s fault since the TV series had yet to air and the writer had no way of knowing the show would establish human-looking Klingons as debuting in the 22nd century. (DC’s Debt of Honor faced a similar retroactive discounting.)
Kor remains on the Guardian Planet to study Klingon history when the others travel to the past. Since those on the planet retain knowledge of altered timelines, according to “The City on the Edge of Forever,” this means Kor would know about the portal once history was restored. (The potential for a follow-up is intriguing, no?) He recalls both timelines by story’s end, with Kirk as a friend in one reality and an adversary in another. He is thus changed by the experience, which may account for the kinder, sadder Klingon he’d become on Deep Space Nine. Something similar occurs with Colonel Worf, who retains memories of both realities when he assumes his lawyer role from The Undiscovered Country—which means he already knew Kirk and Leonard McCoy before defending them in court, even though they didn’t know him!
Sulu and the Excelsior crew return for issues #58–60. Old friends reunite, while fans are treated to poignant flashbacks to previously untold events from The Original Series, as Chekov learns that his ex-fiancée, Julia Crandall, has died. Connections to onscreen Trek are few, other than joking references to Sulu’s d’Artagnan routine in “The Naked Time” and dialogue about Scotty’s pay in “The Doomsday Machine.” The gorgeous connected covers by Jerome K. Moore are worth the price alone.
Alongside the monthly title, DC published several Star Trek Specials, each containing a pair of tales penned by different writers. The first special offered an unexpected epilogue to Peter David’s aborted run on the monthly comic, with David returning to provide closure to his fan-favorite creation, R.J. Blaise. Assigned to negotiate a peace treaty between Ramaz III and Landor, Blaise has taken a reckless page from Kirk’s book and forced Landor’s leader, Darrich, to make peace at gunpoint, for which she is now hunted. Kirk and Blaise set aside past angers and enjoy a night of long-pent-up passion. The story addresses R.J.’s unexplained disappearance during the “Return of the Worthy” arc and reveals that her initials stand for “Raspberry Jam,” which is hilarious.
Eagle-eyed fans may notice that the villain’s name and planet, Darrich and Landor, form an anagram of Richard Arnold, who’d ordered Blaise’s removal from the comic. Darrich is described as “pig-headed,” “trying to renege on promises already made,” and “refusing to sign the agreement,” alluding to the feuding between David and Arnold. Moreover, Blaise acknowledges hard feelings between her and Darrich that caused her to “depart the area quickly,” just as David had abruptly quit the comic. Landor’s enemy, Ramaz, likely represents David himself, as the author is Jewish and “Ramaz” has connotations in Judaism.
In the course of the story, Kirk looks up old friends’ computer records, including those of Janice Rand. This triggers a memory of Rand afflicted with plague (“Miri”) and urging Kirk to gaze at her lesion-layered lower limbs. Oddly, Kirk remembers Janice saying “You never looked at my legs,” whereas what she’d said onscreen was “Back on the ship, I used to try to get you to look at my legs. Captain, look at my legs.” Apparently, the aging captain’s memory isn’t what it once was (or he was simply more interested in recalling her legs than her words… which would not be out of character).
The special’s second tale, from Michael Collins and Terry Pallot, takes place following The Search for Spock, with Spock recovering from the fal-tor-pan ritual that reunited his body and katra. Maltz, the disgraced Klingon prisoner from Star Trek III, still resides in the Bird-of-Prey’s brig, awaiting transport to Earth during the crew’s Vulcan exile. Collins’s complex interweaving of onscreen elements provides an engaging story that, despite its brevity, offers great insight into Spock’s inner workings.
Delirious from fal-tor-pan, the Vulcan returns to the place of koon-ut-kal-if-fee, where he and Kirk had fought during Spock’s pon farr (“Amok Time”). He wanders into the L-langon Mountains and relives his childhood kahs-wan ritual (“Yesteryear”). Encountering a wild sehlat, he mistakes it for his pet I-Chaya, then fights alongside the creature when a pack of le-matyas attack. Eventually, Kirk brings his friend back to Gol, where the kolinahr temple (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) is now overseen by T’Pring, who’d pursued a life of religious study after divorcing Stonn (“Amok Time”).
Overseeing Spock’s reeducation, his mother Amanda recalls how Sarek’s disapproval (“Journey to Babel”) had stemmed from his frustration at a second son not following in his footsteps, making this one of the few stories to explore the ramifications of Sybok’s existence (Star Trek V). In an effort to reassure Amanda that Spock will turn out fine, McCoy recounts how her son had recovered when the Eymorgs had stolen his brain to control their planet—a wry reference to the inanity of “Spock’s Brain.” Not surprisingly, hearing that aliens once stole her son’s brain unnerves Amanda even more.
Spock’s reeducation in Star Trek IV, readers learn, was based on the computer programs Bones had developed to restore Nyota Uhura’s mind after the Nomad probe had wiped her memory in “The Changeling.” Those programs must have greatly improved, for Spock’s testing was decidedly more complex than learning how to read “The dog has a ball.” During testing, Spock is asked to identify the inventor of transparent aluminum. His response, Nicholas Brandon in 1996, contradicts Star Trek IV, in which Scotty gave a scientist named Nichols (different name) the compound’s formula in 1986 (different year). On the other hand, Nichols did say it would take years to work out the matrix, so maybe it somewhat jibes after all.
Next week, we’ll warp back to Michael Jan Friedman’s Star Trek: The Next Generation adventures. After that, we’ll take a leap through the wormhole and begin examining Malibu Comics’ Star Trek: Deep Space Nine efforts. See you on the frontier.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, by yours truly
- The Star Trek Comics Checklist, by Mark Martinez
- The Wixiban Star Trek Collectables Portal, by Colin Merry
- New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, by Joseph F. Berenato
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter
Rich Handley has written or contributed to dozens of books about pop culture. He edited 70 volumes of Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, contributed to IDW’s Star Trek 400th Issue, and currently writes for Titan’s Star Trek Explorer magazine. Rich helped to produce IDW’s five Star Trek comic strip reprint hardcovers, and he penned an essay about those strips for Sequart’s New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics. In addition, he was a columnist for Star Trek Communicator magazine and a consultant on GIT Corp.’s Star Trek: The Complete Comic Book Collection, and he contributed to Modiphius’s Star Trek Adventures: Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide.