An ongoing discussion of how the comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the Star Trek episodes and films, soon to be a book from BearManor Media. Click here to view an archive of this article series.
77: IDW Publishing, 2008
With Klingons: Blood Will Tell and Alien Spotlight under their belts, the writing duo of Scott and David Tipton established themselves as two of IDW’s most valuable players when it came to the Star Trek license, so it’s no surprise editor Andrew Steven Harris brought them back for the company’s second Star Trek: The Next Generation miniseries, Intelligence Gathering. Denton J. Tipton assumed editing chores as of chapter four, resulting in the final two issues being credited to a trio of Tiptons—only two of them (brothers David and Scott) related.
This week, we’ll consider how Intelligence Gathering offered sequels and tie-ins to televised Star Trek. Illustrated by David Messina and Gianluigi Gregorini, with covers by Messina and Joe Corroney, the five-issue tale involves a devious and convoluted plot by Romulan Commander Tomalak (“The Enemy” and other episodes) to abduct Data. The miniseries, set during the television show’s fifth season, was announced in the Focus On Star Trek one-shot as a six-parter titled House Call, while in Germany, the series was collected under the title Tor Zur Apokalypse (“Gateway to the Apocalypse”).
At the core of Intelligence Gathering is a mystery: why do the Romulans wish to abduct Data, and to what end have they hatched seemingly unrelated schemes? With each chapter, a new puzzle emerges for Jean-Luc Picard and company to decipher. Issue #1 opens at information archive Daystrom One, named for mad genius Richard Daystrom (“The Ultimate Computer”), which stores the accumulated knowledge of every Federation and affiliated world inside a holographic chamber comprising an extradimensional tesseract. Just like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, it’s much bigger on the inside.
The base is similar in function to Memory Alpha (the facility in “The Lights of Zetar,” not the website), though far more advanced, as it utilizes a positronic artificial intelligence like Noonian Soong’s design for Data’s brain. Will Riker and Data assist the base’s A.I. team, which includes a pair of Bynar scientists (“11001001”) and a Benzite named Mendock—who, given his similar name, might be of the same geostructure as Mordock (“Coming of Age”) and Mendon (“A Matter of Honor”). The officers must ascertain whether the A.I. has gained sentience, as it has ceased cooperating with its creators, but that turns out to be a red herring, for hiding inside the tesseract is something wholly unexpected: a trio of Romulan spies who try to kidnap Data.
In issue #2, Worf and Ro Laren resolve a factional dispute between Kalar and Rigelian colonists on Votar VII. The story calls back to The Original Series’ “The Cage,” which introduced the Kalars (misspelled “Kaylars”) and Enterprise’s “Affliction,” in which the Rigelians (single-L) debuted. The Kalars fought Christopher Pike’s crew at Rigel VII, while “Journey to Babel” mentioned Rigelians as hailing from Rigel V, and the two species’ rivalry in this story logically blends established continuity. More recently, a Rigelian Starfleet officer was introduced in Lower Decks’ “Much Ado About Boimler,” while the Kalars took center-stage in Strange New Worlds’ “Among the Lotus Eaters.”
The Rigel System is quite heavily populated, as it is also home to the turtle-like Rigellians (double-L) from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well as the populations of Rigel II (“Shore Leave”), Rigel III (“All Good Things…”), Rigel IV (“Wolf in the Fold”), Rigel VI (“The Chase”), Rigel X (“The Doomsday Machine” and “Broken Bow”), and Rigel XII (“Mudd’s Women”). Christopher L. Bennett’s 2014 novel Tower of Babel examined the natures and relationships of the various Rigel societies, admirably making sense of this complex star system.
Only the Kalars and Rigelians appear in Intelligence Gathering. In a cooperative venture, the two have been helping the Federation construct the colony. Kalars are said to be skilled construction workers, which retroactively jibes with their depiction as laborers in “Among the Lotus Eaters,” whereas Rigelians make for impressive administrators, but when the latter refuse to renew their contract at the same compensation, the laborers commandeer the base. The Enterprise is called in to mediate, and Worf brings about a peaceful resolution after realizing there’s no danger here—it’s just negotiation tactics.
Intelligence Gathering was the second comic to focus on Kalar society, following Marvel’s Star Trek: Early Voyages. The Tiptons offer a refreshingly new perspective on the hulking, brutish warriors depicted in “The Cage,” as the construction workers, though formidable adversaries, display level-headedness and a non-bloodthirsty outlook as they use cunning rather than killing to force their Rigelian neighbors to be better business partners. In a neat diversion of expectations, the Kalars turn out to be the more reasonable party (consistent with “Among the Lotus Eaters”), proving once more—as Star Trek often does—the value of not underestimating a species based on appearance.
Issue #3 sees the Enterprise receiving a distress call from the USS Jackson, whose chief engineer claims a warp core breach is imminent, though no one believes him. It turns out he’s right, though there’s no actual emergency—it’s yet another Romulan ruse to get their green-blooded mitts on Soong’s masterpiece. Geordi La Forge and Miles O’Brien discover a device emitting false signals to make it seem like the engines are about to explode, and an identical unit is found aboard the Enterprise, all part of Tomalak’s intricate plan to lure in Data.
The issue features a rare appearance by an Edosian, first shown in The Animated Series’ “Beyond the Farthest Star,” marking one of the very few times a member of that species ever appeared (other than Lieutenant Arex) before Star Trek: Lower Decks introduced an Edosian medical specialist in “Much Ado About Boimler.” The fourth issue, meanwhile, ties in with “Samaritan Snare” by featuring the return of the Pakleds, before they became a main focus of Lower Decks’ second season.
The story calls back to “The Battle,” which introduced a Ferengi mind-control device called a thought maker. When Pakled vessels attack the Enterprise unprovoked, Deanna Troi detects an outside force manipulating their simple minds. Just as DaiMon Bok had made Picard use the USS Stargazer to attack the Enterprise, Tomalak has here used a thought maker to convince the Pakleds they operate a vast empire and are thus capable of defeating Starfleet vessels—which, of course, they do not and are not. It doesn’t end well for them.
Data tracks the Pakleds’ point of origin to the Barugon System. Kaiju fans will recognize the name from Daiei’s 1966 film Gamera vs. Barugon, and a monster strikingly similar, both in name and appearance, had debuted a year prior in Toho’s Frankenstein vs. Baragon. In terms of Star Trek tie-ins, the issue features an appearance by Doctor Selar from “The Schizoid Man,” a reference to Troi’s possession by an Ux-Mal prisoner in “Power Play,” and the Enterprise’s stellar cartography lab from Star Trek: Generations. The Tiptons know their Trek and they pepper their stories with tie-ins aplenty.
Wrapping up the miniseries, the fifth issue reveals the nature of Tomalak’s plan, though his scheme seems inordinately complex given the situation’s urgency. The Romulans have captured Data not to harm him or steal his technology, but merely to seek his assistance in fixing a scientific problem they’ve inadvertently unleashed. Star Trek: Picard’s “Maps and Legends” had not yet aired when the comic was published, so the Romulans’ distrust of all artificial life had yet to be established. Still, Tomalak’s interest in Data jibes with The Next Generation’s “The Defector,” in which Admiral Jarok commented that he knew “a host of Romulan cyberneticists” who’d have loved to get their hands on the android.
The nature of the Empire’s problem? An Iconian gateway gone awry. As Tomalak explains, the Romulans had scoured the galaxy following the episode “Contagion,” hoping to find another gateway like the one encountered by the Haakona’s crew. They eventually did, but upon activating it, they’d inadvertently opened a rift to a dimension inhabited by massive demonic entities straight out of H.P. Lovecraft’s worst nightmares. After the malevolent aliens had traversed the rift and tried to consume all life on this side of the opening, Tomalak had staged his plot in the hope that Data might be able to seal the rift and thereby save the galaxy.
With the crisis averted, Picard chides Tomalak for having gone to such absurd lengths to kidnap the android instead of simply requesting help. He’s got a point: even setting aside Romulan pride and xenophobia, Tomalak’s decision to make the Enterprise crew jump through hoops to find the gateway, rather than just asking for help, makes it more likely his plan will fail and the demons will consume the Empire. As mousetraps go, this one is a case of overkill—in a literal sense, for several individuals needlessly die.
The Tiptons have contributed many exciting tales to IDW’s Trek lineup since Intelligence Gathering’s release, and we’ll get to them all eventually. In the meantime, let’s meet back here next week, when Peter David returns to the Star Trek comics realm with another entry in his long-running New Frontier line. See you then.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- My ongoing column for Titan Books’ Star Trek Explorer magazine
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, curated 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 (Sequart, 2014)
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter (Hermes Press, 2009)
- The Star Trek Comics Weekly page on Facebook
Rich Handley has written, co-written, co-edited, or contributed to dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Planet of the Apes, Watchmen, Back to the Future, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Stargate, Dark Shadows, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Red Dwarf, Blade Runner, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, the Joker, classic monsters, and more. He has also been a magazine writer and editor for nearly three decades. Rich edited Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, and he currently writes articles for Titan’s Star Trek Explorer magazine, as well as books for an as-yet-unannounced role-playing game. Learn more about Rich and his work at richhandley.com.