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.
140: StarTrekAnimted.com, 2006–2016
In last week’s column, I explored how the first eight chapters of the unlicensed Star Trek: The Animated Series Comics, hosted at startrekanimated.com, featured prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the Star Trek television shows and films, particularly to the 1970s animated series. Let’s conclude that discussion with the remaining tales available at that website—four by site creator Kail Tescar, as well as four others by Jon Markiewitz. For Tescar’s stories, the writer-artist was assisted by Charles Kelso, Raul Quiles, Jr., Masao Okazaki, Geoffrey Edwards, and someone called “Mr. Charrio.”
First up: The Animated Series Comics issues #8–11. The eighth issue adapted “The Patient Parasites,” a script draft rejected as an episode of the cartoon for failing to utilize the large scope afforded by animation. Screenwriter Russell Bates, who scripted the episode “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth,” also allowed an edited version of his “Patient Parasites” script to be published in Bantam Books’ Star Trek: The New Voyages 2 (1978), by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. “Russell Bates himself asked me to adapt his story into a comic,” Tescar told me. “He personally oversaw and approved the pages. He contacted me through my website, [and] I did an interview and got friendly.”
The story is simple yet intriguing, and it would likely have made for a fascinating episode equal to the cartoons’ typical fare had D.C. Fontana not nixed its production. When the Enterprise investigates a coherent energy burst, an alien bubble ensnares the landing party. A device called Finder tries to steal the secret of warp drive from their minds for its parasitical Tullvan masters, but Jim Kirk outsmarts the computer (that’s his forte) by revealing the Tullvans are long extinct. With no further reason to exist, Finder self-destructs, because that’s what alien computers do when bested.
Tescar’s adaptation boasts impressive visuals in bringing Finder to life. The comic is notable for featuring Pavel Chekov in a red security uniform, as well as for bringing back Dawson Walking Bear, a Comanche Enterprise officer from Bates’ “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth.” In this outing, it’s Walking Bear’s insight that enables the Enterprise crew to outwit Finder, just as he’d provided the key to thwarting Kukulkan on TV.
Issue #9 was based on John Broughton’s Starship Farragut fan films. When the USS Farragut explores a nebula, an alien sphere pulls a shuttlecraft into a void. The crew encounters dead friends and family alive once more, a benevolent gift that the cynical officers mistake for deceit. The Farragut was integral to The Original Series’ “Obsession,” as Kirk once served aboard that vessel (currently chronicled on Strange New Worlds). The comic features Broughton’s likeness as Captain John T. Carter, along with fellow actors Holly Bednar as Michelle Smithfield, Michael Bednar as Robert Tacket, and Paul R. Sieber as Henry Prescott. It’s worth noting that full-length animated episodes of Starship Farragut were produced in The Animated Series’ style, and that Tescar worked on those cartoons as the lead artist and associate producer.
Tescar’s final issues form a connected narrative. Issue #10 provides a Sherlock Holmes pastiche in which Leonard McCoy and Spock attend a scientific expedition on the planet Toozduh-A (which, amusingly, Bones keeps calling “Tuesday,” much to his shipmate’s annoyance), and one nice touch is the use of a title card like those at the start of each episode. The officers investigate the murders of scientists working to create interstellar transporters. Such transporters, the scientists claim, would eliminate the need for starships by enabling people to “step” from one world to another.
The technology is thus similar to transwarp beaming, which Montgomery Scott invented in both the prime and Kelvin timelines, per the 2009 film. Interstellar transporters have frequently appeared on Star Trek, in such episodes as The Original Series’ “Arena,” “Assignment: Earth,” “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” and “That Which Survives”; The Next Generation’s “Allegiance” and “Bloodlines”; and Voyager’s “Displaced.” “Bloodlines” noted that the Federation had deemed the technology impractical due to power demands and safety issues—and apparently they were right, considering Scotty was beamed into a water conduit in the 2009 movie. (Thanks to novelist Christopher Bennett for correcting some inaccuracies in this paragraph.)
The Slavers, the long-dead titular empire from “The Slaver Weapon,” are name-checked in issue #10, when Spock and McCoy discover traces of a rare Slaver weapon’s use, which (in typical Holmesian fashion) turns out to be a red herring in their investigation. The Slavers have never been mentioned onscreen beyond that single episode, likely due to copyright issues stemming from Larry Niven’s script having utilized concepts from his Known Space and Man-Kzin Wars novels and short stories, so it’s fun to see a writer referencing the enigmatic Slavers.
The Animated Series Comics ended on a strong note with its 11th issue (or rather its 12th, including the “Special” discussed in last week’s column). In the cleverly titled “Better Safe Than Sauria,” the Enterprise pursues a Saurian criminal and her fugitive lawman lover. As Kirk searches for a missing Spock, the couple protects a Saurian prince from secessionists intent on inciting a planetary civil war. The prince grants his rescuers sanctuary, allowing them to begin a new life of respectability—an optimistic ending to an enjoyable adventure and an entertaining comic line.
Though mentioned several times on The Original Series as the producers of a brandy particularly popular among alcoholic Starfleet officers, Saurians did not debut onscreen until Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in which a member of that species was among the Enterprise’s personnel. In recent years, the Saurians have enjoyed a resurgence thanks to the introduction of Lieutenant Linus on Star Trek: Discovery, as well as other Saurians in Lower Decks’ “No Small Parts” and Discovery’s “All Is Possible.”
Oddly, the Saurian fugitive’s name changes from Jooont Vekman in issue #10 to Ilia Trados-Vekman in #11, even though they are clearly the same person. This need not constitute a continuity error, however, as it could be that Saurians simply have multiple names. Discovery’s Linus, for example, might be known to some as Linus Van Pelt, to others as Ben Linus, and to yet others as Linus Caldwell. (My sincere apologies to the creators of Peanuts, Lost, and Ocean’s Eleven. I couldn’t help myself.) In any case, the latter naming for the fugitive provides a cute homage to the film’s Lieutenant Ilia, considering both women are entirely bald.
What’s more significant is that, much like the Klingons, Andorians, and Tellarites (see “Klingon of a Thousand Faces“), the Saurians have been shown onscreen to display a degree of biodiversity, with each iteration differing makeup-wise from earlier depictions. Rather than leveraging The Motion Picture’s easily overlooked Saurian design, Tescar’s multi-skin-toned variants sport an aesthetic closely resembling the redesign introduced in the Star Trek Online game. Also, to some extent, they look like Alien Nation’s fugitive Tenctonese. Does that mean Linus can get drunk on sour milk?
A hilariously unexpected cameo occurs in the comic’s cliffhanger ending, with the giant Spock Two from “The Infinite Vulcan” suddenly showing up to request the assistance of Kirk and McCoy. Since the intended follow-up story was neither written nor published, however, the nature of that assistance remains unknown—and, sadly, since Spock Two’s tattered skeleton appeared in Lower Decks’ “Kayshon, His Eyes Open,” it could well be that they failed to help him. Tescar himself doesn’t know how the cliffhanger would have been resolved, though he did share some details of what was to come.
“Much like the writers of ST:TNG, I wrote the cliffhanger without ever giving a thought on how to follow it up,” Tescar told me with a laugh. “I had several story outlines prepared, but my team lost interest and things petered out. My favorite outline that never got completely fleshed out started out with the Enterprise being blown up by the doomsday machine because Kirk had no phasers on the Constellation. Cut to thirty years in the future, and future Scotty, wracked with guilt over Kirk’s death, time-travels back to the ‘Doomsday’ episode and works to repair things behind the scenes. He would have a helpmate/antagonist along with him, ultimately trying to stop him… Also, in the next issue, you’d have seen the Enterprises pool, because the bowling alley [featured in the fourth storyline] was such a hit. Everyone loved Bones in a bowling shirt!”
Along with Star Trek: The Animated Series Comics, startrekanimated.com hosts Star Trek: The Animated Voyages, an unlicensed digital graphic novel presented in four chapters, written by Jon Markiewitz and edited by his wife Leah Markiewitz, which is available as well at Markiewitz’s own website. The USS Starhaven, commanded by Svenquist O’Shea, investigates the loss of Starfleet vessels near Klingon territory, and the crew finds a Klingon planet, Nervam, has somehow been moved to Federation space. That seeming impossibility nearly sparks a galactic war.
If O’Shea’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he appeared in “The Pirates of Orion” as the commander of the USS Huron. His first name, Svenquist, was established in Alan Dean Foster’s novel Star Trek Log 5. A member of the Starhaven crew, Ensign Virginia Erickson, appeared in the episode as an unnamed Huron crewmember, with the comic establishing her name. In Foster’s novelization, Erickson was a male crewman called Fushi, while the episode’s third crewmember was christened John Elijah. And as this story reveals, Svenquist hails from the Federation colony New Harvest.
O’Shea earns the enmity of Commander Kor (“Errand of Mercy” and “The Time Trap”), who believes Starfleet is to blame for the Imperial world’s theft. Kor’s officers Kali and Kaz appear as well, consistent with their inclusion in Kor’s crew in “The Time Trap.” Along for the ride are Kor’s comrade Captain Koloth and the latter’s first officer, Korax, from “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “More Tribbles, More Troubles,” though Koloth’s crew are background players here—Kor is the prominent Klingon in this outing.
Lieutenant Gabler, an engineer featured in five episodes beginning with “One of Our Planets Is Missing,” now serves aboard the Starhaven. Gabler was named Frank in Foster’s Star Trek Log 3, and Markiewitz adheres to that nomenclature. Readers also meet an Edosian named Daedal, modeled after The Animated Series’ Arex. Edosian appearances tend to be fleeting, both onscreen and in licensed literature, so it’s always a hoot to meet a member of that tripodal species.
Another member of O’Shea’s crew is Lieutenant Scarlett Callaway, drawn identically to Anne Nored from “The Survivor.” As supplementary materials posted at Markiewitz’s website reveal, that’s by design, as the writer envisioned Callaway and Nored as twin sisters. What’s more, readers meet the prime timeline’s analogue to Commander Thelin, Kirk’s alternate-reality Andorian first officer from “Yesteryear,” who has never shown up on Strange New Worlds but absolutely should because that character is a highlight of the episode. In short, O’Shea’s crew is basically a greatest hits of cartoon callouts.
When New Harvest’s one million colonists vanish, the Starhaven is dispatched to find out why. Shadowy aliens called the Myriad warn O’Shea that the Romulans are using transport spheres to eliminate their enemies, with a full-scale invasion imminent. Kor’s ship attacks the Starhaven, but O’Shea gives him proof of the Romulan scheme, earning the Klingon’s reluctant cooperation and respect.
Meanwhile, the Romulans conspire with Admiral Maxwell, Starfleet’s latest “badmiral” (an ancestor, perhaps, of Benjamin Maxwell from The Next Generation’s “The Wounded”?) to conquer the Alpha Quadrant using a genetically bred moira (or moria—the spelling changes from one issue to the next). Kor kills O’Shea, but the moira/moria joins his mind and discovers he’s not the enemy, then restores the man’s life and sacrifices itself to prevent further bloodshed. It’s a powerful ending worthy of Trek’s ideals, so it’s a shame Markiewitz did not produce additional comics. Like Tescar’s team, he demonstrably understands what makes a good Star Trek story.
Markiewitz’s website contains an additional strip titled “The Redirection Factor,” created to reroute to that site any visitors who come across a now-defunct page that had once hosted The Animated Voyages. In this fourth-wall-dropping strip, the Starhaven crew discovers their voyages are available on a 20th-century invention called the Internet, in a medium known as comic books. Artist Dick Kulpa did something similar when he’d auditioned for the Star Trek newspaper strip, and Markiewitz’s strip is equally amusing.
Next week, we’ll return to our discussion of the IDW years, with a look at the ambitious Star Trek: Year Five. If more tie-ins to The Animated Series are what you crave, then you won’t be disappointed, because Year Five is set during that portion of Kirk’s historic five-year mission, with Arex a mainstay at navigation. See you then.
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.