Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #120

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.

120: IDW Publishing, 2016

The year 2016 was bittersweet for fans of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek trilogy. Star Trek Beyond was released that year, marking the last time a new Trek film aired in theaters. Underwhelming box-office returns, compounded by behind-the-scenes changes at Paramount and CBS, curtailed the expected fourth outing, and Star Trek then returned to its television roots with Star Trek: Discovery.

For comics fans, 2016 meant the end of an ongoing monthly series set in Abrams’ Kelvin timeline, which had been going strong since 2011. The series resonated with readers, culminating in a five-year span of stories that reimagined TV episodes and charted brand-new adventures for the alternate Enterprise crew. The series ended after 60 mostly well-made issues, and this week we’ll consider how the final half-dozen chapters wrapped up plot threads stemming from Abrams’ opening film.

Issues #55–58 comprised a four-part story honoring Leonard Nimoy, who’d died in 2015 at age 83. Nimoy had been a vital part of Star Trek since “The Cage,” and he was, for many fans, the franchise’s soul. Writer Mike Johnson and artist Tony Shasteen, along with editor Sarah Gaydos—who’d begun overseeing the series with issue #25—thus crafted “Legacy of Spock” as a sendoff for the actor, as well as for his famous character, who was said in Beyond to have died offscreen. As a tribute to Spock, Nimoy, and Star Trek, it was a heartfelt success on each front.

Vulcan’s elders exile the time-traveling ambassador, blaming him for their homeworld’s destruction, while the Romulan Senate plots to eliminate all remaining Vulcans with the last drops of red matter, to prevent them from rebuilding their culture and seeking revenge for Nero’s attempted genocide. Meanwhile, a pair of survivors from the renegade’s crew escape from Rura Penthe, the Klingon gulag introduced in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and featured in scenes deleted from Abrams’ film.

The storyline is anchored to the 2009 movie, but it also incorporates elements of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is fitting given Spock’s demise, albeit temporary, in that movie. The Vulcan fleet assembles at Regula I—still located in the Mutara Sector, as in the prime timeline—so the elders can map out their people’s future. They consider terraforming a lifeless world like Regula I, a callback to Carol Marcus’s work in Star Trek II, but instead settle on making Ceti Alpha V their new home.

The prime Spock advises against this, knowing his people will become extinct if they do so. Into Darkness showed that neither Carol Marcus nor Khan Noonien Singh followed the same paths in that reality as their prime counterparts did, but it’s a good bet the planet will still face an explosive fate with or without their presence. Unfortunately, Carol doesn’t appear in the comic, despite having joined the lineup in the post-Into Darkness issues. Her absence from a story set on the two worlds connected to Project Genesis seems like a missed opportunity.

Spock visits the Kelvin timeline’s Deep Space Station K-7 to hire Cyrano Jones (“The Trouble with Tribbles” and “More Tribbles, More Troubles”), who sports a full beard in this reality, presumably to avoid likeness-right hassles regarding the late Stanley Adams. (He’s not evil, though, despite the beard.)

The base’s structure remains the same, though the décor has changed, and the same bartender serves drinks as on TV. Jones is a likable and endearing fellow as always, if not trustworthy, and he ferries Spock to Romulus. There, Spock seeks out the Abramsverse analogue to the father of Senator Pardek, his 24th-century ally in The Next Generation’s “Unification.”

Like his son in the prime timeline, the senior Pardek leads a resistance movement to bring about changes in the Empire, but the government arrests both men. Cyrano helps them escape execution and joins Pardek’s rebels—not for altruistic reasons, but to ensure a profitable regime. The comic radically alters Romulan history, for Pardek’s status as a traitor means his son will not become a senator and thus will not work with Quinto’s Spock to bring about unification. By the time the Kelvin timeline reaches the events of “Unification,” the 2009 movie, Star Trek: Picard, and Discovery’s current season, the Empire could be entirely unrecognizable, all due to Spock’s visit.

In the final chapter, Nero’s survivors attack Ceti Alpha V, but having grown wary of war, one self-detonates the red matter to prevent further genocide. This may sound convenient from a writing standpoint, but it jibes with the 2009 movie, in which Nero’s crew had been peaceful miners, not warmongering soldiers. The Vulcan elders mind-meld with Spock, realize the danger Ceti Alpha V represents, and lift his exile. Another world is chosen, and an epilogue shows the Vulcans revering him as their savior three millennia later, with a statue immortalizing his image. Spock’s path had seen him alternate between outcast and hero throughout his life, so what better tribute than to take him from exiled pariah to the next Surak?

The final two-parter, “Connection,” was also crafted by Johnson and Shasteen, and it sadly honored yet another fallen cast member. Anton Yelchin had tragically died earlier that year, and his loss was gut-wrenching, given the actor’s age (27), the promising career ahead of him, and the awful circumstances of his passing. Like Nimoy, he was beloved by fans and his coworkers, so perhaps it’s just as well that no movies were made after Beyond, for Pavel Chekov’s absence would have been a painful reminder.

The story offered few direct tie-ins to specific movies or episodes, instead connecting to the larger franchise by bringing together the 1960s cast with their Kelvin counterparts. Considering the original actors’ ages, and that several have passed away, this sort of team-up would be impossible in a live-action tale without CGI and voice impersonation. In comics, however, it’s an easy feat—in fact, DC Comics did something similar in the 1980s, when the original cast met their older movie-era selves.

The prime and Kelvin timelines’ Enterprises encounter a spatial anomaly, a frequent Trek trope for enabling dimensional crossing. This causes William Shatner’s and Chris Pine’s James T. Kirks to briefly change places via “psychic dislocation.” The same thing happens to others as well, leading to some amusing sequences—particularly between Spock and Nyota Uhura, who are lovers in one timeline but not in the other, when each Spock finds himself in bed with the wrong Uhura.

Unfortunately, the logistics of it all don’t quite line up. In the movie, Spock recognized Kirk, Scotty, Sarek, and his younger self, despite their being portrayed by Pine, Simon Pegg, Ben Cross, and Zachary Quinto. The implication was clear: the audience should assume they looked the same in both universes. Otherwise, there’s no way Spock would realize Pegg’s Scotty was the engineer portrayed by James Doohan, since the actors look nothing alike, nor that Cross’s Sarek was his father since that actor looked nothing like Mark Lenard.

Meanwhile, as shown on Strange New Worlds, Spock’s younger self had Ethan Peck’s face, not Quinto’s, so the fact that he recognized the latter as himself means viewers were meant to pretend their faces were the same in both realities. In “Connection,” on the other hand, the characters are confused by what they see—not just the different technologies, but also how unrecognizable their shipmates are: Shatner’s and Pine’s Kirks do, in fact, have different faces. In fact, prime Kirk hilariously comments on Abrams’ signature use of lens flares and Apple Store bridge aesthetics, as well as on the noticeable differences in physique between Leonard McCoy actors DeForest Kelley and Karl Urban.

An attempt is made to explain this, as the dimensionally displaced view those in the other reality as the actors corresponding to that universe, even though the others cannot detect the change, similar to Doctor Sam Beckett’s situation on Quantum Leap. However, this doesn’t synch with the movie. Nimoy’s Spock sees Pine’s character as his own Jim Kirk in the film, yet Shatner’s Kirk perceives the alternate Spock with Quinto’s face in the comic. Still, it’s a minor point, for the story is enjoyable even with this discrepancy, providing a satisfying and amusing capper to the comic.

This wraps up our coverage of IDW’s ongoing title, but the Abramsverse characters continued their story in Star Trek: Boldly Go, set after the events of Star Trek Beyond, and we’ll begin our exploration of that series next week. If you’re a fan of Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah (as well you should be), you won’t want to miss the discussion.

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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