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.
99: IDW Publishing, 2012
When IDW launched its ongoing Star Trek title in 2011, that wasn’t the first time a continuous Trek comic had been produced. The company was following in the footsteps of Gold Key, Marvel, DC, and Malibu in that regard, all of which had published ongoing series, and there were also the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and U.K. comic strips. However, the IDW line was the first long-running title explicitly set in another universe—namely, the Kelvin timeline created for director J.J. Abrams’ film trilogy.
Recently, this column examined the first six issues of the series, and this week we’ll move on to the next batch. Star Trek #7–13 not only provided tie-ins to The Original Series and the Abrams films, but also reimagined a few classic episodes along the way. All seven issues were scripted by Mike Johnson, with interior art by Joe Phillips (#7–8), Stephen Molnar (#9–10, #13), and Claudia Balboni (#11–12), and with covers contributed by Tim Bradstreet, Joe and Rob Sharp, and Grant Goleash.
In issues #7–8, Vulcan renegades tattooed like Nero’s crew obtain the Narada’s schematics and the last drops of red matter. In a surprise reveal, they are led by Spock’s father Sarek, who is so grief-stricken by his wife’s death that he has jettisoned logic and vowed to destroy Romulus. This may seem out of character, but keep in mind that Sarek’s emotions have never been far from the surface, as evidenced both in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, he can be a rather harsh man at times, according to Star Trek: Discovery, and let’s face it he’s a lousy father (see Sarek of Vulcan: Star Trek‘s Worst Father). Plus, Zachary Quinto’s Spock goes undercover as a bald, tattooed Romulan, which justifies the cover price alone.
Quocch, a smuggler featured in the movie’s deleted Rura Penthe subplot, shows up at a Delta Quadrant bar, bragging about his prison escape, depicted in IDW’s Nero miniseries. The Vulcans obtain the Narada plans from Quocch, then silence him to prevent their plot from being exposed. It’s unclear whether they actually murder the alien, which would be highly un-Vulcan-like, but it’s strongly implied. The Kelvin timeline is brutal, folks.
The Delta Quadrant setting has major ramifications not explored in the comic. The quadrant is easily accessible in the 23rd-century in this timeline, in contrast to on 24th-century Star Trek: Voyager. That makes sense, actually, considering this Starfleet has far more advanced technology, but it also rules out the events of Voyager from happening, because the ship would now have no problem returning home. That means Seven of Nine remains a drone in the Abramsverse (or never becomes Seven at all since her family could have an entirely different path), and it means the Borg could invade much sooner in this universe—which they will, in IDW’s Star Trek: Boldly Go.
The episode tie-ins relate to Kirk’s crew. The alternate version of Lieutenant Boma (“The Galileo Seven”) has a cameo battling the renegades, while Yeoman Zahra (“Operation—Annihilate!”) is shown to be an excellent pilot of both Starfleet and Romulan vessels, which is more characterization than her prime counterpart received onscreen. More significantly, this story establishes that the security officer nicknamed “Cupcake” in the 2009 film is Hendorff, featured in “The Apple.” The two actors look nothing alike, but then again, neither do Walter Koenig and Anton Yelchin, nor James Doohen and Simon Pegg. This is a different universe, and in this one Hendorff is a body builder.
Sarek’s co-conspirators are imprisoned by story’s end, but the ambassador faces no personal consequences for his actions, despite having masterminded an attempted genocide. Ah, but he’s a politician, and as has been made abundantly clear in recent years, they can commit any crimes they like, both in fiction and in the real world, and get away with it. Sarek might as well be drawn with orange hair, a red tie and hat, and diapers.
Issues #9–10 reimagine Boris Sobelman’s script for “The Return of the Archons,” but unlike the rebooted episodes in the first six issues, this one greatly alters the original premise. The village on Beta III is now medieval in design, the citizens all wear black robes, Kirk’s crew are immediately recognized as imposters instead of a day later, and Sulu is never absorbed into the Body. O’Neil is, but his surname is misspelled as O’Neill, the name of an ensign killed in “The Galileo Seven”—perhaps riffing on the Stargate franchise’s Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) and Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson).
In this telling, Landru is connected directly to the Archon’s saucer section, which powers the A.I. in a cavernous underground facility. The starship had been sent to Beta III a century prior to establish a deep-space colony, as part of population-control experiments conducted by Starfleet scientist Cornelius Landru. He’d reprogrammed the colonists to create a societal utopia, then had transferred his own mind into a computer to rule as their leader, with Section 31 monitoring the results. That’s a vastly different backstory from TV, as prime Landru was a benevolent philosopher who’d sought to end war and disease thousands of years ago by offering his people unending peace and tranquility!
The Kelvin version is an unethical megalomaniac from 22nd-century Earth. That’s especially odd, as the two timelines diverged on the day of Kirk’s birth, when Nero attacked Starfleet. So it’s difficult to reconcile how Beta III’s history could have been altered thousands of years ago retroactively, unless the Kelvin universe had been different long before Nero showed up. In any case, this is the second reimagining of “The Return of the Archons,” as the story had been reworked for an issue of Jornada Nas Estrelas, published by Brazil’s Editora Abril in the 1970s. This gives it the distinction of being the only episode to be reimagined by two separate comic publishers.
There’s a sly tie-in to Star Trek Into Darkness as well, for Christopher Pike reports to a militaristic admiral involved in clandestine plots, who is growing impatient with Kirk’s interference. He’s not named in the comic, but given the events of that film, which was in production when this two-parter hit stands, it’s almost certain the admiral is Alexander Marcus—oh, and Section 31 is recruiting Hikaru Sulu, foreshadowing an upcoming story arc. The film is further presaged in the next two chapters, titled “The Truth About Tribbles,” inspired by David Gerrold’s “The Trouble With Tribbles.”
Hoping to retrieve Admiral Archer’s prized beagle (the dog’s disappearance is why Montgomery Scott had been dead-ended on Delta Vega), Scotty sends a tribble to his nephew Chris at Starfleet Academy to test a transwarp beaming theory. A flashback to the film’s Delta Vega scene shows that same tribble caged on Scotty’s desk, which he’d purchased from shady trader Cyrano Jones (which is weird since the movie’s setting is nine years before that of the episode). McCoy keeps a tribble for further study, explaining the animal’s presence in Star Trek Into Darkness. But the engineer’s actions prove disastrous, for San Francisco quickly becomes infested with furballs.
Scotty’s nephew in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was Peter Preston, who might not even exist in the Kelvin timeline. Or perhaps Scotty has a second nephew—or even a third, since his nephew Brian is at the center of the newspaper strip story “Send in the Clones.” Presumably, Chris Scott is named after James Doohan’s son, Chris Doohan, who portrayed his famous father’s Scotty role in the fan film series Star Trek Continues and also had cameos in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the 2009 film, and Into Darkness.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew finds a Klingon-made bomb in a field of tribbles, as well as a herd of giant tribble predators that would dwarf glommers (“More Tribbles, More Troubles”) a thousandfold. Naturally, the tribbles infest the Enterprise, because tribbles do that to a starship in practically every story in which they appear. Other than eating and cooing, overflowing a starship’s hallways is kind of their thing.
The good news? Scotty’s experiment is not a total disaster, for Archer’s beagle suddenly materializes on a transporter pad when the engineer least expects it. It’s a cute moment, though a bit inexplicable since a decade has passed and the dog’s disappearance had not involved the Enterprise’s transporters.
Finally, Hendorff, that lovable cupcake of a security guard, takes center stage in the thirteenth issue. The officer records a letter to his parents describing life aboard the Enterprise, his pride at being a “redshirt” (an amusing in-universe use of the fan term describing disposable crewmembers on Star Trek), and the respect he has for his captain and colleagues. The issue serves as an under-the-radar reimagining of “The Apple.”
Hendorff recalls the episode’s events, which have recently transpired in the Kelvin timeline, mostly in the same way. Just as on TV, he is still hit with poisonous thorns on Gamma Trianguli VI, though this time he survives thanks to a transfusion of Spock’s blood. Lieutenant Mallory, who’d died in the episode while stepping on an exploding rock, also survives in this reality, thanks to a tricorder scan alerting him to the danger. And Vaal’s people speak another language in this retelling, which is odd.
Despite Hendorff’s annoyance at Kirk still calling him “Cupcake,” the officer holds his captain in high regard, and Johnson has Kirk clear the air between them, albeit four years after their bar brawl. Jim apologizes for his past actions, taking full responsibility for their fractious introduction, and Hendorff expresses deep respect for Kirk’s leadership and his having saved Earth from the Narada. Thus, the comic lends the two men’s former animosity a satisfying closure in a surprisingly endearing tale.
Next week, this column will examine Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who—Assimilation2, which teamed up the Borg with the Cybermen. We’ll also consider another David Gerrold comic that saw the original Star Trek cast meet BBC’s mysterious Time Lord. So grab some jelly babies and reverse the polarity of the neutron flow, because we’ll be traversing time and relative dimensions in space… the final frontier.
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.