Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #83

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.

83: IDW Publishing, 2008–2009

Parallel universes and altered timelines go hand in hand with Star Trek, not only on TV but in licensed literature as well. Recently, this column discussed how IDW’s Star Trek: Mirror Images provided a sequel to one of the franchise’s best parallel-reality episodes. Now let’s take another trip through the dimensional barrier to explore the publisher’s Star Trek: The Next Generation miniseries The Last Generation. This five-parter, paired with Pocket’s Myriad Universes prose anthologies, provides tie-ins aplenty to the episodes and films, but in another reality.

Written by Andrew Steven Harris, The Last Generation was illustrated by Gordon Purcell, Bob Almond, and Terry Pallot, with covers by Purcell, Pablo Raimondi, Brian Reber, J.K. Woodward, Robert Atkins, Joe Corroney, and Nick Runge. The intriguing premise: what if James T. Kirk had failed to prevent Colonel West from assassinating the Federation President at Khitomer in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country? What effect might this have had on history, and how different might things be for those residing in the 24th century?

What makes The Last Generation fascinating is the cause of the temporal alteration, and especially the outcome of the players’ attempts to fix it. The entire scenario has been orchestrated by the Bruce McGill version of time agent Captain Braxton (Voyager’s “Relativity”). Now commanding the timeship Event Horizon, Braxton discovers that an “abyss of darkness” will cause the galaxy to become “unmade” in the future, possibly due to a doomsday weapon or a massive war, and the only realities without that fate are those in which the Federation no longer exists. Like Doctor Strange outsmarting Thanos, Braxton explores the multiverse and determines the only way to defeat the danger is to let it win.

Braxton, of course, is from the Federation. He’s a 29th-century Starfleet operative tasked with ensuring history isn’t messed with. Now he’s faced with the knowledge that unless the Federation and Starfleet go away, the entire galaxy will. So his only recourse is to tamper with history and eliminate the Federation—not for his own gain (this new timeline will negate his career, his accomplishments, and quite possibly his life), but to preserve existence itself. Viewed in that light, Braxton is arguably the hero here, even though his plan involves traveling back in time to prevent Kirk from saving the day in 2293, thereby spawning a reality in which the Klingons conquer Earth.

Jean-Luc Picard leads a resistance cell, alongside his brother Robert and sister-in-law Marie (“Family”), both of whom perish in Klingon attacks, leaving Jean-Luc to care for his nephew René, who is missing a hand. Others in the cell include Guinan, Beverly and Wesley Crusher, Will Riker, Geordi La Forge, Annika Hansen (minus Borg “Seven of Nine” implants), Miles and Keiko O’Brien, Reginald Barclay, Ro Laren, Tasha Yar, Robin Lefler (“Darmok”), Elizabeth Shelby (“The Best of Both Worlds”), Sean Hawk (Star Trek: First Contact), Elias Vaughn (Pocket’s novels and WildStorm’s Divided We Fall), and Red Squad (“Homefront” and “Paradise Lost”). What a lineup!

With Braxton acting toward the greater good, a strong argument can be made that the villain is Picard, even if that wasn’t Harris’s intention. Upon discovering the time agent’s plan, Picard travels back to 2293 and saves the President himself, knowing full well he’s putting the galaxy’s existence at risk. Though warned of dire consequences, Jean-Luc carries out his mission anyway, a questionable tactic since he knows it will allow a future menace to create a galactic abyss of darkness, something he neither cares about nor averts. His faction may view themselves as righteous, but they’ve doomed reality to a cataclysmic end. They’re no longer the titular “last generation,” but thanks to their selfishness, everyone else will be at some point down the line.

In this other reality, Edward Jellico (“Chain of Command”) is a terrorist so dangerous, the resistance won’t work with him. Ben Sisko and Kathryn Janeway lead separate cells, though Sisko’s team has died and Janeway’s is missing (a sly wink at her crew’s status in Voyager). Tom Paris is dead, as are William Ross (“Sons and Daughters”), Alynna Nechayev (“Chain of Command”), and more. It’s a massive cast, with familiar faces popping in and dying out at dizzying speed, so it’s no wonder Harris removed the Deep Space Nine and Voyager casts from the playing field, as there were simply too many characters to do them all justice.

The faces may be recognizable, but it’s a vastly different universe from the one we know. Ro and Yar are close friends—and likely more, considering their body language. Guinan, meanwhile, is romantically involved with Picard, and she’s blind. Worf rules the Empire as a cruel warlord, his son Alexander commands a ship until his crew ritually executes him for incompetence, and Deanna Troi is Worf’s concubine but is actually spying for the resistance… for which she, too, is slain. Worf sports a bolted-on eye patch like that of Star Trek VI’s General Chang, thanks to a past encounter with a certain Starfleet hero’s fencing foil.

Then there’s the USS Excelsior crew, commanded by said hero, Hikaru Sulu, as depicted in The Undiscovered Country and Voyager’s “Flashback,” though a good deal older now. As the sole remaining starship following the destruction of all others, the Excelsior has spent seven decades battling Imperial forces to protect Federation worlds from Klingon atrocities. Now a generational ship, it has attained mythic status. That’s a far cry from the vessel’s humiliating debut in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, when it was utterly crippled by the simple removal of a few spark plugs.

Tuvok once again travels aboard the Excelsior (“Flashback”) but this time as Vulcan’s ambassador, and the ship’s first officer is now Rachel Garrett (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”) rather than Janice Rand. Sulu’s grandson Hiromi is also in the crew; the son of Hikaru’s daughter Demora (Star Trek: Generations), he was introduced in Jeri Taylor’s Voyager novel Pathways. No mention is made here of Demora, or even that he’s Sulu’s kin—rather, it’s more of an Easter egg for those familiar with the character.

This being another reality, Harris could kill or significantly alter any characters he so chose. Indeed, many cast members die horribly, while Wesley betrays Picard by creating a splinter group to oppose his efforts after a Klingon strafing attack leaves Lefler dead. Radicalized in his grief, Wes shaves his hair into a Mohawk style reminiscent of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. He then convinces Hansen, O’Brien, and Hawk to break rank and help him blow up the stolen Bird-of-Prey with which Picard, riffing on The Voyage Home, intends to alter history. But in so doing, he gets them all killed.

It’s atypically brutal for Wesley, yet it’s among the character’s most compelling stories. Wes’s reasoning is a bit wonky, though, as he’s so outraged by the idea of making peace with the enemy that he goes to terroristic lengths to stop Picard from restoring history, accusing his mentor of not caring about saving Robin. Yet if Jean-Luc’s plan were successful, she would still live, as would everyone else he’d lost, so you’d think he’d be in favor of it instead of taking actions to prevent her resurrection. Then again, if WandaVision has taught viewers anything, it’s that grief can lead even good people to make irrational decisions.

General Martok’s son Drex (Deep Space Nine’s “The Way of the Warrior”) captures and nearly kills Yar and Wesley at one point. Drex is gunned down before he can execute them, but that doesn’t stop the Shakespearean-level death count from rising further. Wes’s failed coup leaves not only his fellow conspirators dead, but half of Picard’s resistance cell as well, and Ro dies in bloody agony, badly burnt in a grenade explosion. It’s no wonder Shakespeare is best read in the original Klingon.

That doesn’t mean The Last Generation is humorless. Far from it, in fact. Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram has a great exchange with Data, in which the android states the nature of his emergency is that he isn’t human, to which the AI remarks “I’m sorry, but there’s no cure for that.” It’s unclear when EMH technology would have been invented, what with the mass devastation and humans being genocidally hunted and the lack of a starship fleet on which to utilize EMHs, but it’s never a bad thing to bring Robert Picardo’s holo-doctor into a story, so we can easily overlook that seeming inconsistency.

One funny moment calls back to an episode few would expect to see revisited: The Next Generation’s “The Last Outpost,” notorious for introducing the Ferengi as high-strung, monkey-like lunatics seemingly strung out on a cocktail of cocaine and more cocaine. In this other reality, a Ferengi from that episode, Letek, owns a bar and deals in illegal weapons, an in-joke referencing Armin Shimerman having portrayed Letek before starring as Deep Space Nine’s Quark. Eagle-eyed fans will notice, if they can read in reverse, that the bar is cleverly called The Last Outpost.

The best gag, though, is a tie-in to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, in which Jim Kirk’s crew traveled back in time to retrieve a pair of humpback whales—a species extinct by the 23rd century—so he could bring them back to his own era, get them to tell a space probe what to do to itself, and repopulate the species. It’s a wonderful movie despite the silly science, and The Last Generation offers a humorous new perspective on Kirk’s actions, for according to Braxton, it was Jim’s act of removing George and Gracie from the past that caused humpbacks to go extinct in the first place!

Oh, the fun writers and audiences can have with parallel universes, thanks to the infinite diversity and combinations they introduce. Next week, we’ll journey to yet another one as we take our first comic book steps into the Kelvin timeline of J.J. Abrams’ theatrical trilogy, with IDW’s Star Trek: Countdown. Be careful where you step, though. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.

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

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.

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