Going back to the days of Gold Key/Western’s inaugural Star Trek comic series, the comics have brought back characters from the various Star Trek TV shows and films. From Kevin Riley to Selar to Naomi Wildman to Admiral Nogura to Cupcake, if a character has shown up on screen, there’s a good chance that at some point, that same character has returned in the pages of the comics—and in the novels.
Due to the constraints of licensing, however, the reverse is not true. The novels and comics have introduced an astounding range of fascinating new characters, enough to populate a galaxy and then some, but these characters have not been incorporated into the franchise’s televised and cinematic adventures. The Star Wars franchise has brought Grand Admiral Thrawn and other licensed characters to the large and small screens, but by and large, that just doesn’t happen with Star Trek… George and Winona Kirk notwithstanding. Here, then, are ten characters or groups of characters who would make fun additions to live-action Star Trek.
Palnak the Collector (TV21 #39-44, “The Ageless Ones,” 1970)
Palnak, a tentacled alien featured in the British Star Trek strips, collected specimens of various species for display in his vast museum, and he trapped Jim Kirk and Spock a thousand years in the future as part of that collection. The storyline was reminiscent of The Animated Series‘ “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth” (in which the Mayan god Kukulkan was an extraterrestrial who collected animals throughout his travels) and The Next Generation‘s “The Most Toys” (in which Data was captured by Kivas Fajo, a trader renowned for his massive collection of rare and unique items).
From a purely visual standpoint, bringing artist Mike Noble’s Palnak to the silver screen would be hilarious. “The Ageless Ones” may be a rather silly story, but imagine the blue-tinted Palnak zipping around on his disc, taunting a Starfleet crew from above, in a room full of animals abducted from around the cosmos. Palnak would give the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Collector a run for his money.
Morg and Chetar (L.A. Times Newspaper Strip #4, “Double Bluff,” 1980)
This pair of Klingon siblings sought asylum aboard the Enterprise while fleeing a warship ordered to execute them for their criticism of the Empire’s government. Initially belligerent and condescending, the renegades grew to respect Kirk’s crew, risking death to prevent the humans’ destruction when the warship arrived to retrieve them.
The two fugitives, created by writer-artist Thomas Warkentin, exhibited typical Klingon arrogance and hostility, yet tempered by non-Klingon-like progressive attitudes. Particularly entertaining were scenes in which Pavel Chekov bested Morg in hand-to-hand combat while exchanging witty bon mots, a heated debate between Kirk and Bones regarding whether he should hand the siblings over to the Empire, and Chetar kissing a surprised Kirk to thank him for not doing so. In fact, Morg and Chetar would have fit in well with Star Trek: Discovery‘s early seasons, with their heavy focus on Klingon culture.
Konom and Nancy Bryce (DC Comics, Star Trek Series 1 #1–56, 1984–1988)
No discussion of standout Star Trek comic characters, particularly Klingons, would be complete without mentioning Nancy Bryce and Konom. After debuting in Mike W. Barr’s first issue of DC’s acclaimed run, the two embarked on a years-long love affair that culminated in a grand wedding ceremony and honeymoon during Peter David’s tenure.
What made them so fascinating? Well, when we first met them, Nancy’s father had just been killed by a Klingon battleship commanded by Koloth (“The Trouble with Tribbles” and other episodes)—and Konom had been a member of Koloth’s crew at the time. He soon defected to the Federation, serving Kirk aboard the Enterprise, the Excelsior, and the Enterprise-A. And despite how they came together, Nancy and Konom somehow found a lasting love, which was incredibly charming.
Yes, three years before The Next Generation introduced Worf as the first Klingon in Starfleet, DC had already done that. Konom and Bryce became regular members of the cast, and readers responded quite favorably to the redemptive Klingon pacifist and his remarkably forgiving human lover—not to mention their adopted son, Moron/Bernie, who would later return in David’s novel Strike Zone as Kobry.
William Bearclaw (DC Comics, Star Trek Series 1 #1–56, 1984–1988)
Part of what made Konom so endearing was how others reacted to him. Kirk, Chekov, Spock, and others had great respect for Konom, and not even Jim’s grief over his son’s murder by Klingons was enough to make him blame his new officer. Not everyone in the Enterprise‘s crew was ready to embrace his presence, though. Some, like William Bearclaw—one of the few prominent Native American characters in early Star Trek, alongside The Animated Series‘ Dawson Walking Bear—had the opposite reaction.
Talented and driven, yet headstrong and hostile, Bearclaw had what it took to be a great officer, but he was held back from fulfilling his potential by a major hurdle: his fierce bigotry toward non-humans. Bearclaw’s father had died in the same Klingon attack that had killed Bryce’s father, and the brash, grieving ensign blamed Konom for his loss. Kirk, aware that Bearclaw had great potential, gave him several chances to redeem and improve himself, but eventually decided to transfer him off-ship. Kirk was then stabbed in the chest and nearly died, with Bearclaw the number-one suspect, during one of DC’s most compelling ongoing arcs.
R.J. Blaise (DC Comics, Star Trek Series 2 #4–13, 1990)
Rarely has Jim Kirk met a woman he couldn’t charm, and who didn’t charm him. R.J. Blaise, introduced by Peter David during DC’s second iteration, was (almost) the exception to the rule. If her extraordinary beauty weren’t reason enough to have an actor portray her (Catherine Zeta-Jones would be perfectly cast), then her adversarial chemistry with Kirk makes it a no-brainer.
Assigned to the Enterprise to watchdog Kirk after his actions caused Starfleet multiple embarrassments, the protocol officer got off on the wrong foot with the captain, who resented her presence and did all he could to make life difficult for her. The two slowly warmed up to each other, but Paramount suddenly requested that DC focus solely on the main cast rather than on its original second-tier characters.
Thus, R.J. Blaise simply ceased to appear after issue #13, smack-dab in the middle of a storyline, much to the fans’ (and the creators’) confused annoyance. What’s more, no explanation was provided for her absence until four years later, when Star Trek Special #1 at last gave her character—and her relationship with Jim Kirk—some much-needed closure. The Special, in fact, finally revealed what her initials stood for: Raspberry Jam.
Horace T. Mudd (Malibu Comics, Deep Space Nine #26–27, “Mudd’s Pets,” 1995)
Whether you love or hate the character, there’s no denying that Roger C. Carmel’s Harcourt Fenton Mudd, featured in “Mudd’s Women,” “I, Mudd,” and “Mudd’s Passion,” made a lasting impression. That, no doubt, is why he was made a recurring character on Star Trek: Discovery and Short Treks, portrayed by Rainn Wilson (er… I mean… Rainnfall Heat Wave Rising Sea Levels Wilson).
Mudd’s grandson Horace, created by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier for Malibu’s monthly Deep Space Nine title, was a chip off the old block. Rotund, bald, and sporting a similar mustache to his infamous granddad, Horace broke numerous laws and violated Starfleet quarantine rules during his single appearance, in which he smuggled dangerous animals from the Gamma Quadrant to the space station. In essence, he was part Harry Mudd, part Cyrano Jones—but in the right actor’s hands (Nick Frost’s, perhaps), he could provide a Trek comedy in the classic tradition, doing Carmel’s legacy proud.
The Abductors (Marvel Comics, Untold Voyages #5, “Odyssey’s End,” 1998)
They’ve shown up on The X-Files, Stargate: SG-1, and Babylon 5, and in other corners of popular culture, but did you know that the so-called Grey aliens of extraterrestrial abduction lore have appeared in Star Trek as well? After regaining the Trek license from DC, Marvel produced several ongoing monthlies, miniseries, and one-shots, one of which involved a close encounter for the Enterprise crew.
Glenn Greenberg’s Star Trek: Untold Voyages miniseries filled in the gap between The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. In the final issue, the crew encountered the mothership of the Greys (here called Abductors), who had long collected and studied specimens in order to un-do the species transplantations carried out by their long-time rivals, the Preservers. The Abductors provided a refreshing take on the old close-encounter trope, and they would make for an exciting film—directed by Steven Spielberg, perhaps.
Pike’s Crew (Marvel, Early Voyages #1–17, 1997–1998)
When the episode “The Menagerie” utilized footage from Star Trek‘s unaired pilot, “The Cage,” starring Jeffrey Hunter as Kirk’s predecessor Christopher Pike, viewers were afforded a tantalizing glimpse at what Trek might have been had it retained its original cast. Several comics and novels have offered new adventures for Pike’s crew, but Marvel was the first publisher to devote an entire comic series to them.
Written by Dan Abnett and Ian Edgington, Early Voyages fleshed out the pilot’s characters, while introducing several fascinating new crewmembers, such as chief engineer Moves-With-Burning-Grace, helm officer Sita Mohindas, nurse Gabrielle Carlotti, and communications officer Nano. The series was abruptly canceled before the writers could conclude their storyline, but while it lasted, Early Voyages was a bright spot of 1990s Star Trek.
Those original characters—particularly Moves-With-Burning-Grace, who has since appeared in the novel Burning Dreams and the e-book Where Time Stands Still—were a major reason why. How thrilling it would be to see Grace or any of the other characters from Early Voyages show up on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. It’s extremely unlikely, of course… in fact, it’s damn near impossible. But one can dream.
Omega Squadron (Marvel, Starfleet Academy #1–19, 1996–1998)
Deep Space Nine fans were treated to not just one comic book under Marvel’s reign, but two: an ongoing DS9 monthly, as well as a second series focused on Cadet Nog’s adventures at the Academy. The latter title, Starfleet Academy, showcased the Ferengi’s time assigned to Omega Squadron, alongside fellow cadets Matt Decker—a descendant of Matthew Decker (“The Doomsday Machine”) and Willard Decker (The Motion Picture)—Pava Ek’Noor sh’Aqabaa (an Andorian), T’Priell (a Romulan posing as a Vulcan), Edam Astrun (a Betazoid), and Kamilah Goldstein (a human of Jewish and Muslim ancestry).
Each character’s backstory was thoroughly engaging, and it was heartbreaking when one of them was killed off. You’ll have to read the series to find out who. In the course of 19 issues, the squad helped Starfleet defeat the traitorous Admiral Leyton (yet another in a long string of “badmirals”), thwarted a Dominion plot against the Federation’s telepathic species, and encountered a Klingon cadet squadron called First Cadre, as well as the telekinetic Charles Evans (from “Charlie X”).
They often argued and they didn’t always show Nog enough respect, but the cadets always worked hard and got the job done, which made them compelling to read about. Nog’s teammates proved far more interesting than one might expect a series about a Ferengi teen at the Academy to be, and several of the characters have since returned in the books. Bringing the squadron to television screens, in fact, would be a great way to honor the late Aron Eisenberg.
Kelvin Timeline Cadets (IDW, Starfleet Academy #1–5, 2015–2016)
Almost 20 years after Marvel’s Academy-based comic ended, IDW launched a second series, this time written by Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrott. IDW’s Starfleet Academy was set in the so-called Kelvin timeline, established by J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek film. Set prior to that movie’s events, the series showcased what Kirk and his fellow cadets endured at the Academy, but also focused on their classmates: T’Laan (a Vulcan), Vel K’Bentayr (a Monchezkin), Shev Akria (an Andorian), and humans Grace Chen and Lucia Gonzales, as well as Gaila, Kirk’s Orion sexual partner from the movie.
The lineup proved popular with readers, especially K’Bentayr, who stated the obvious at all times, providing the series’ comedy. Johnson later brought these characters back in a follow-up monthly series, Star Trek: Boldly Go, which took place after the events of Star Trek Beyond. Both Starfleet Academy and Boldly Go are wonderful reads and highly recommended, and the cadets would make a great addition to the TV franchise, as adults in the 25th-century world of Star Trek: Picard.
The Bickleys (DC Comics, Star Trek: The Next Generation #1–6, 1988)
After DC acquired the publishing rights to Star Trek: The Next Generation, Michael Carlin penned a six-issue miniseries that had to be produced before a single episode of the series even aired. The result was stories that, while entertaining, didn’t quite jibe with televised TNG, through no fault of either Carlin or editor Robert Greenberger.
One notable aspect of the miniseries was a married couple in Jean-Luc Picard’s crew, Michael J. and Patricia Bickley, who (as their surname suggests) spent most of their time bickering—in their quarters, on the bridge, at celebrations, you name it. It just didn’t stop. Fiery-haired, with superhero-like musculature, the Bickleys got on both Picard’s and readers’ nerves due to their incessant squabbling while on duty… not to mention their odd tendency to wear pants-less Spandex and green capes.
Based on The Bickersons, a series of radio and TV sketches starring Don Ameche, Frances Langford, and others, the Bickleys were nowhere to be seen when Michael Jan Friedman brought TNG back as an ongoing title. That was arguably a good decision, as they were an ill fit with Star Trek. But in this golden age of superheroes, with multiple top-grossing comic-based movies hitting theaters every year, and with huge muscles and flowing capes all the rage on both the large and small screens, perhaps the Bickleys might actually work now.
No, they wouldn’t. Yes, they would. (See? I’m bickering.) No… they wouldn’t.
Realistically, it’s a good bet none of the characters discussed in this article will ever appear onscreen, either in a film or on television. It’s just not in Star Trek‘s nature. But it would be glorious if they did. Paramount and CBS, I hope you’re listening.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, 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
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter
Rich Handley has written books about Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, and Watchmen, as well as licensed Star Wars and Planet of the Apes fiction, and he edited 70 volumes of Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection. Rich co-edited Titan’s Scribe Award-nominated Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone; nine Sequart anthologies discussing Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Stargate, and classic monsters; and four Crazy 8 Press anthologies about Batman and (now) the Joker. He has contributed essays to DC’s Hellblazer: 30th Anniversary Celebration; IDW’s Star Trek and Star Wars comic-strip reprint books; BOOM! Studios’ Planet of the Apes Archive hardcovers; Sequart anthologies about Star Trek and Blade Runner; ATB Publishing’s Outside In line exploring Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Babylon 5; and a Becky Books anthology covering Dark Shadows.