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.
89: IDW Publishing, 2009–2010
J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek film breathed new life into the franchise, and IDW was quick to build off its concepts and characters. This column has already examined how the publisher laid the groundwork for the movie with both Star Trek: Countdown and Star Trek: Spock—Reflections, and how Wired Magazine did the same with Star Trek: When Worlds Collide. This week, we’ll look back at another IDW film prequel, Star Trek: Nero, as well as IDW’s belated adaptation of the movie itself.
As with most comics set in the Kelvin timeline, Star Trek: Nero was written by Mike Johnson, this time with Tim Jones as co-writer, based on a story by screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. David Messina provided both interior art and covers for this four-part miniseries, which opens mere seconds after the USS Kelvin’s destruction, then fills in the quarter-century gap between Nero’s arrival in the alternate reality and his attack on Vulcan, during which he, his second-in-command Ayel, and the rest of his crew are incarcerated on a Klingon prison planet.
Star Trek: Nero reveals the gruesome fate of Captain Richard Robau’s corpse (for any macabre individuals who may have been pondering that question), which the Klingons retrieve for study and is then never seen again. The comic also explains why the Empire failed to reverse-engineer the Narada in all the years the mining vessel was in Imperial custody. Apparently, the ship’s Borg circuitry kept growing back any parts the Klingons removed, making it inaccessible to anyone but Nero—who remained selectively mute throughout his imprisonment.
Nero vows to find Spock and unleash red matter on the Federation. What he doesn’t know is that, due to the bizarre properties of the black hole that brought him to this reality, Spock and the Jellyfish have yet to arrive—and, in fact, they won’t do so for 25 more years. A Klingon armada, led by Captain Kor (“Errand of Mercy”) of the IKS Klothos (his ship from the animated “The Time Trap”), attacks the Narada and brings the Romulans to Rura Penthe (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), where the miners endure years of torture and hard labor before breaking free just in time for the movie.
It’s amusing to learn that Kor’s Kelvin counterpart led the armada which captured Nero’s crew, though it does represent a notable change from the prime timeline, as it means the alternate Kor was a captain 34 years before “Errand of Mercy,” and that doesn’t jibe well with actor John Colicos’ age. Granted, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine showed, through Alexander Rozhenko, that Klingon children develop much faster than human kids do. Still, it seems unlikely Kor was only 10 years old during The Original Series, so the comic would make him decades older than Kirk, despite appearances. He’s also depicted with cranial ridges like on Deep Space Nine, rather than as the smooth-domed scoundrel he was in the 23rd century.
As in The Undiscovered Country, Rura Penthe is here commanded by the Kelvin timeline analogue to the gulag commandant portrayed by W. Morgan Sheppard. The comic calls him Koth, the name established in Decipher’s Star Trek Customizable Card Game, and he commands the 47 ships destroyed by the Narada. Koth dies in that battle, 60 years before Star Trek VI’s setting, and as with Kor, this means Koth was much older than he seemed onscreen, since Sheppard was 68 when that movie was produced. If Kirk and Leonard McCoy still end up on Rura Penthe in this timeline, they’ll have to contend with a different jailer.
Fellow inmate Quocch supplies Nero with drugs to boost his telepathy (it’s not mentioned in the movie, but he has a telepathic bond with the Narada), while another, Clavell, calculates the black hole’s patterns. Quocch’s presence is noteworthy since the character had debuted in a scene filmed for but cut from the movie, in which the alien was nearly executed by guards for helping Nero hide Federation maps in his cell. According to Star Trek: Nero, it was Clavell who’d created those maps.
The Romulans break free and return to their ship, which brings them to the edge of the Delta Quadrant on a bizarre journey that dovetails with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The writers incorporate the popular theory that the machine planet V’Ger had encountered was the Borg homeworld. It seems V’Ger had sensed the Narada’s dimensional crossing, then had journeyed for a quarter-century to find the mining ship, which sensed its presence in turn and thus brought Nero’s crew there on instinct. V’Ger, the visual representation of which is beautifully rendered, recognizes the Romulan vessel as a kindred machine due to their both containing Borg tech.
Nero discovers that Spock had joined (or will join) minds with the entity in the other timeline, though how V’Ger could know this is unclear. He then communes with the Voyager 6 probe to pinpoint when and where the Vulcan will show up. Incidentally, this V’Ger has not yet met Will Decker, Ilia, or James T. Kirk, and it’s entirely possible it never will thanks to Nero’s temporal tampering. So when the events of The Motion Picture play out in this timeline (and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t), V’Ger might very well succeed in eradicating all life on Earth.
Finally, the Narada brings Nero to the Neutral Zone as the Jellyfish exits the singularity. Nero—the universe’s most patient and single-minded individual, considering how long he’d awaited this moment—forces the elderly ambassador to his knees. And when Koth arrives with his warships, Nero quickly makes rubble of them, then exiles Spock on Delta Vega so he and moviegoers can watch his homeworld die. This brings us to IDW’s film adaptation.
With previous movies, the comic versions from Marvel and DC Comics hit stores around the same time as the films on which they were based. IDW’s Star Trek: The Official Motion Picture Adaptation, however, was published in 2010, almost a year after the movie’s release. This decision may have been due to IDW having adapted Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (to be discussed in a few weeks) in mid-2009; the company may have preferred to space out the two adaptations for marketing purposes. If so, it’s surprising the miniseries’ release order wasn’t swapped to make the Abrams adaptation more timely.
As with Nero, the adaptation was crafted by Johnson and Jones, again based on a story by Orci and Kurtzman. Messina returned as well, accompanied by fellow artists Gaetano Carlucci, Claudia Balboni, and Giovanna Niro. Notably, the miniseries added deleted scenes back into the story, including Spock’s birth sequence, initially slated to open the film, in which a Vulcan attendant appeared confused by Amanda Grayson crying at the sight of her healthy baby. It’s a tender and amusing moment that should have been retained in the film, so it’s a great addition to the comic.
Absent are scenes in which Jim tricks Orion cadet Gaila into helping him cheat on the Kobayashi Maru test, then apologizes to the wrong Orion afterwards. Onscreen, Gaila admitted to being in love with him, to which he’d awkwardly replied “That is so weird.” According to the deleted scenes, he’d known she was stationed in the base’s computer lab and had thus seduced her so he could send her a virus-infected email that would upload his cheats to the simulation computer. With the scenes restored, Kirk’s reply would have had more meaning since he feels “weird” about having abused her trust, and the annoyed look on the other Orion’s face as he apologizes is priceless. Without them, Gaila’s reduced appearance amounts to little more than gratuitous titillation.
Young Kirk’s ride in the stolen Corvette, as well as his tense relationship with his abusive Uncle Frank, are expanded upon, and teen friend Johnny is here Kirk’s older brother George Samuel “Sam” Kirk (“Operation—Annihilate!” and Strange New Worlds), which had originally been the case before the character’s runaway subplot was excised from the movie entirely. Actor Spencer Daniels had been cast as 14-year-old Sam, but after his other scenes were removed from the final cut, young Jim (actor Jimmy Bennett) was overdubbed to yell “Johnny” instead of “George” while passing the teen on the road. Thanks to the comic, fans can see how this subplot was supposed to happen.
In addition, Spock’s onscreen mind-meld with Kirk now incorporates elements of Star Trek: Countdown, including images of Data and Jean-Luc Picard that cement the link between the two titles (and, regrettably, renders the Nero miniseries apocryphal in light of Star Trek: Picard’s revelations about Data and B-4). What’s more, young Spock’s Vulcan training includes a question about quantum cosmology, cleverly foreshadowing the film’s premise for anyone paying attention to the little details—which, of course, Star Trek fans do. Otherwise, the miniseries adapts the movie pretty faithfully.
Up to this point, IDW had utilized a stable of rotating writers and artists. Next week, this column will welcome a creative team new to the franchise as we revisit Ghosts, a Star Trek: The Next Generation tale featuring a rescue mission gone awry.
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.