Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #93

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.

93: IDW Publishing, 2010

Christopher Pike, Jim Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Ben Sisko, Kathryn Janeway, Jonathan Archer, Michael Burnham, Cristóbal Rios, Carol Freeman, and Dal R’El. What do these individuals have in common? They’ve commanded Star Trek’s most famous spaceships. They’re the captains, and Star Trek is their story… well, except on Discovery, Lower Decks, and Prodigy, where junior officers tend to take center-stage. But you get my drift.

When it comes to Star Trek comics, the majority of stories have focused on Kirk or Picard, with a handful featuring Sisko or Janeway. But these aren’t the only notable starship commanders. With that in mind, IDW launched an anthology comic in 2010 built around exploring the franchise’s other captains. The idea was to spotlight a different commander, crew, and vessel in each issue, and to chronicle a new mission from that captain’s career. Though the series lasted only four installments before IDW pulled the plug, the results were impressive. Let’s examine how Star Trek: Captain’s Log offered prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen Star Trek.

Captain’s Log opened with an issue focused on Hikaru Sulu. From the moment Vonda N. McIntyre revealed, in her novelization of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, that Sulu had been promoted to captain—of the USS Excelsior, no less, as specified in her Star Trek III: The Search for Spock adaptation—viewers and George Takei have been intrigued by the idea of a Captain Sulu series. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country finally put Hikaru in the Excelsior’s center seat, and his crew have since appeared in multiple comics, novels, and audios, as well as in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Flashback.”

Scott and David Tipton penned Captain’s Log: Sulu, accompanied by artists Federica Manfredi, David Messina, and Giovanna Niro. In this tale, Sulu’s fencing time (a pastime established in “The Naked Time”) is halted when the Excelsior is ordered to placate the Tholians, who are protesting a Federation colony they consider too close to their space. A delayed arrival angers the punctual Tholians, but Sulu convinces them to show mercy and resume negotiations rather than butchering the colonists.

The comic brings back Janice Rand, who was featured among Sulu’s crew in Star Trek VI. The story is set shortly after Hikaru assumes command (presumably from Star Trek III’s Captain Styles), and his first officer is here named Cipriano. The story presents a sequel to “The Tholian Web,” with the Tholian Assembly’s xenophobia leading them to threaten the colony even though it lies within Federation territory.

A flashback sequence summarizes the episode’s events, including the Enterprise’s tense encounter with Tholian Commander Loskene. Several comics have provided sequels or prequels to “The Tholian Web” (notably DC’s Star Trek Special #2 and The Next Generation #71–75, as well as Marvel’s Early Voyages #10–11, not to mention IDW’s Year Five, to be discussed here soon), but this is the first comic to adapt part of the episode. Incidentally, the issue marks Loskene’s four-color debut.

The second installment, Captain’s Log: Harriman, follows up on Kirk’s death aboard the Enterprise-B in Star Trek: Generations. The one-shot, from writer Marc Guggenheim and illustrators Andrew Currie, David Messina, and Giovanna Niro, opens six months post-film with a flashback depicting that tragic event. The inexperienced Harriman is said to have spent those months feeling like a failure in the eyes of Starfleet and his entire crew, and so he’s decided to resign his commission.

When a Terrellian virus outbreak threatens the Antares System, Harriman ferries Leonard McCoy there in the hope that Bones might stem the plague’s progression. The system was first mentioned in “The Conscience of the King,” during Uhura’s rendition of the song “Beyond Antares,” while the disease was introduced in the future timeline of The Next Generation’s “All Good Things…”. Demora Sulu makes an appearance, as does Glenn Morshower’s navigator character (identified as Marruu in the comic but as Tommy Singer in the novel The Captain’s Daughter) and Thomas Kopache’s communications officer (whom the Star Trek Customizable Card Game dubbed Mark Tobiaston).

The storyline connects not only to Generations, but also to other films. To bolster Harriman’s spirit, for instance, McCoy recalls how defeated Kirk felt at the Genesis Planet in The Search for Spock, when he was forced to destroy his own starship in order to eliminate Kruge’s crew. Inspired by this account, Harriman uses a similar tactic against attacking Klingons, pretending to surrender the Enterprise-B but instead beaming torpedoes onto their vessel as they board his. Having thus restored his crew’s faith, he elects not to resign—which is good news, since his leaving Starfleet at this point would negate licensed adventures set later in his career.

A Klingon general muses that the Empire’s declaration “There shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives, (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) was proven true, since the Khitomer Accords led to a peace treaty that blossomed following Kirk’s demise. And while visiting a memorial to Kirk, Bones realizes his friend had been correct in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, in foreseeing he’d die alone, given the circumstances of his disappearance into the Nexus energy ribbon. Amusingly, the good doctor also predicts he’ll live to the ripe old age of 137—his very age during McCoy’s cameo in “Encounter at Farpoint.”

Christopher Pike is the focus of the third issue, Captain’s Log: Pike, scripted by Stuart Moore and illustrated by J.K. Woodward, which opens not long after the disastrous Talos IV mission from “The Cage.” Disheartened by the massacre on Rigel VII (recently expounded on in Strange New Worlds’ “Among the Lotus Eaters”) and his harrowing experience with the Talosians, Pike wonders whether his Starfleet career has been worth the sacrifices, mirroring his onscreen admission that he has considered resignation.

Shortly before “The Menagerie,” Pike is a newly promoted fleet captain (seemingly contradicted by Strange New Worlds’ “Lost in Translation”), and he’s reunited with his former yeoman, J.M. Colt, now commanding a cadet training ship, the USS Exeter. In an Amusingly, Colt wonders the same thing fans have long asked: What exactly does the rank of “fleet captain” mean? Indeed, other than Pike (and almost Carol Freeman, who turned down such a promotion in Lower Decks’ “The Stars At Night”), only a single Star Trek character has ever held that title onscreen: Garth of Izar (“Whom Gods Destroy”).

The one-shot reveals the details of Pike’s disfigurement that would leave him confined to a life-support chair. When an alien vessel attempts to turn Jupiter into a star, a radiation wave strikes the starship. Pike rescues Colt’s cadets but is horrifically irradiated in the process when a baffle plate ruptures, aligning with the brief description of the accident afforded on television. A similar scene would play out in Discovery’s extraordinary “Through the Valley of Shadows.”

Colt’s Exeter appears not to be the Constitution-class starship from the episode “The Omega Glory,” as Pike refers to it as a “Class J,” and its registry number (NCC-1788) differs from that of Ronald Tracey’s Exeter (NCC-1672). It’s worth noting that despite its bulkier saucer, the ship resembles a Constitution-class vessel much more than it does the Class J cargo ship’s design from the remastered version of “Mudd’s Women”… or the separate Class J design created for Discovery’s “Through the Valley of Shadows”… or the similarly named J Class ship from Star Trek: Enterprise’s “Horizon” and “Twilight.” So I guess it’s a Class J in name only (CJINO™).

J.K. Woodward also illustrated Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Star Trek: Jellico, which stars Edward Jellico from The Next Generation’s “Chain of Command.” The by-the-book captain undertakes a mission to patrol Cardassian space aboard the USS Cairo after Starfleet learns that the Union might be developing metagenic weapons. Such biological warfare, according to that episode, has been outlawed by most major governments, and it’s Jellico’s job to determine whether the Cardassians are planning something terrible.

Jellico is hard on his new first officer, Leslie Wong, but they come to respect each other and together thwart an attack on a Federation science station. Wong had been mentioned as the Cairo’s captain in Deep Space Nine’s “In the Pale Moonlight,” as she’d been among those listed as casualties of the Dominion War. Although Leslie never appeared onscreen, she was said to have instructed Jadzia Dax at Starfleet Academy. In this prequel to that scene, Wong joins the Cairo’s crew as its first officer at a science outpost in the Solarion System—the same system where, in “Ensign Ro,” Cardassians tried to frame Bajor for a Federation colony’s destruction.

There’s a sly callback to Voyager’s “Caretaker,” in the form of the USS Voyager’s first chief engineer, who died without showing up in the episode. The unseen officer was christened Alexander Honigsberg in DeCandido’s novella The Brave and the Bold, Book Two, and Honigsberg here serves under Jellico, whose command style he openly disparages. This dynamic sets up the officer’s presumed transfer to Janeway’s crew—and, thus, his demise in Voyager’s pilot.

It’s interesting that all four issues of Captain’s Log center around a character’s career doubts. Sulu wonders if he has what it takes to command the Excelsior. Harriman concludes that he doesn’t and nearly resigns from the Enterprise. Pike, aboard the Exeter, questions whether his career has been worth the pain. And Wong comes close to leaving the Cairo, believing she’d be a poor fit as Jellico’s number one. In the end, all four decide they’re in the right place. Whether or not this was by design or was merely a coincidence, it lends a strong thematic connective tissue.

IDW editor Scott Dunbier had planned a fifth issue focused on Rachel Garrett (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”). Written by DC Trek editor Bob Greenberger, the story would have taken cues regarding the characterization of the Enterprise-C’s crew from Ilsa J. Bick’s Garrett-centric novel Well of Souls, part of Pocket’s Lost Years event. The artist, however, failed to turn in his artwork and so the one-shot was canceled. As Greenberger recalls, “George Freeman had the script for over six months and hadn’t started drawing it. The previous one-shots didn’t perform well, I gather, so it was easy to cancel what was never drawn.” In a 2009 blog post, IDW editor Andrew Steven Harris mentioned a sixth issue focused on Will Riker, but that tale was scrapped as well.

Next week, we’ll spotlight yet another captain, one whom readers likely never expected to see in that role. Be here as we explore John Byrne’s Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor, in which Bones embarks on adventures commanding the medical ship Joanna.

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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