To Boldly Write What No One Has Written Before

star-trek-monthStar Trek Alumni Who Lent Their Literary Talents to Various Star Trek Comics

1. Walter Koenig (Chekov)
Story: “Chekov’s Choice,” Star Trek #19 (DC, 10/85)
Fun fact: 45 years ago this month, the first-ever Star Trek episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” debuted on NBC. The show premiered on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 1966, at 8:30 p.m. EST as part of the network’s “sneak peek” block, and it survived three fitful seasons before NBC pulled the plug. Those original 79 episodes lived on in syndication, spawning a media empire that, as of this date, has generated five television series, 11 films, hundreds of novels and reference guides, mountains of merchandise… and, of course, many, many comics. Obviously, the main audience for the comics were fans of the show, and the comic publishers occasionally threw them a little extra in the form of a special “written by an actual Star Trek cast member!” issue. As far as I can tell, the first-ever issue of that type is this one, published during DC’s first crack at the Trek franchise (Dan Spiegle is a longtime comic artist best known for his many comic adaptations of film and TV properties). Koenig, who played Ensign Pavel Chekov during the original series, penned this tale of Chekov inciting the crew of the Enterprise to mutiny while the out-of-control ship is on a collision course with an asteroid. Seems like an awkward time to discuss a transition in workplace personnel, but it’s probably not much of a spoiler to say everything worked out in the end. Fans of this issue might also enjoy Koenig’s other works — he’s written science fiction, books based on his Trek career, and Raver, a short-lived non-Trek comic series published by Malibu in the 1990s.

2-3. George Takei (Sulu); John de Lancie (Q)
Story: “So Near the Touch,” Star Trek Annual #1 (DC, 1990)
Story: “The Gift,” Star Trek: The Next Generation Annual #1 (DC, 1990)
It’s fair to say the late ’80s and early ’90s were the heyday of the Trek franchise: the original series was celebrating 25 years, Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI both did boffo box office, Next Generation was hitting its stride and Deep Space Nine was just revving up. Given all that, it’s not surprising to see DC enlist a pair of Trek alumni in 1990 to co-write the two Trek annuals for that year. And equally not surprising is that both actors plotted stories in which the Trek characters they played took centre stage. In “So Near the Touch” (co-written by Peter David), the Enterprise is assigned to assist a Federation medical team on an ecologically devastated planet where the people are in danger of dying out. It seems the planet’s unique properties have affected the people in a way that makes it impossible for them to touch each other; a mere embrace can trigger spontaneous combustion. The medical team just happens to be led by Corazon Kohwangko, Sulu’s former love, and she ends up getting taken hostage with the rest of the team when religious fundamentalists object to the Federation’s presence. Sulu and Chekov defy Starfleet orders and lead a rescue mission, but it’s too late; contaminated by the planet’s poisons, Kohwangko can never leave or feel another person’s touch again. Heavy. On a less depressing note, “The Gift” finds Q, that irrepressible and omnipotent being from the Q Dimension, returning to bedevil Capt. Picard. While the rest of the crew is left to deal with a shipwide outbreak of forgetfulness, Q sucks Picard back into his own past, where he has to convince his parents he is their rightful son. When Picard wins the contest, Q offers him the gift of living in a world where his brother, who died as a young boy, is still alive… but it’s a very different world than before, and Picard is forced to make a difficult choice. De Lancie and David went on to co-author I, Q and Q-Squared, which paired up Q and TOS’s Trelane (“The Squire of Gothos”) for the kind of wacky hijinks you’d expect from two omnipotent beings.

4-5. Mark Lenard (Sarek), Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Story: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Celebrity Series: Blood and Honor #1 (Malibu, 05/95)
Story: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Celebrity Series: The Rules of Diplomacy #1 (08/95)
Ah, Deep Space Nine. During that brief period of time between TNG’s exit and Voyager’s premiere, you were the only Trek to be had, and we loved you for being there (and loved you all the more when it became clear Voyager wasn’t going to fill the void left by TNG’s exit). Some will tell you DS9 was the best of the bunch, thanks to strong characterization (as in, not everyone on the space station was a goody-goody member of Starfleet, including the Starfleet officers stationed there) and storylines that seemed a little more action-oriented and/or sci-fi than either TNG or Voyager. To each their own, but one thing we can all agree on is that Mark Lenard, who died in 1996, was one of the good ones. Though he had a long career in movies and television, he’s best known for playing Spock’s father, Sarek, in the original series and the Trek movies (not to mention one finely acted TNG episode). In addition, he played the first-ever Romulan seen in the franchise (TOS’s “Balance of Terror”) and also the first-ever ridged-forehead Klingon (at the start of the first Trek movie). This book, with pencils by Ken Penders and Leonard Kirk (who probably got some good-natured ribbing from friends for working on a Trek project), tells the story of the son of Lenard’s Romulan commander from “Balance of Terror” and how he comes to the aid of a descendent of Capt. Kirk. Lenard and Penders had also pitched the idea of a Sarek story to DC, which owned the licensing rights to TOS and TNG comics at the time, but personnel changes at DC’s head office kiboshed that project. It happens. There were no such behind-the-scenes intrigue for Aron Eisenberg’s The Rules of Diplomacy, a straightforward tale starring Nog, the young Ferengi who wanted more out of life than his race’s preoccupation with profits. (The title is a play on The Rules of Acquisition, the most influential set of guidelines in Ferengi culture. First rule: “Once you have their money, you never give it back.”) Given the opportunity to escort a young Klingon on a diplomatic tour of the Ferengi homeworld, Nog discovers he’s not the only one who finds it difficult to break away from his culture’s cherished values. It’s not essential reading, but it’s a fine piece of entertainment, and the photos of Eisenberg without his costume and makeup is enough to make anyone admire the talent it must take to help a not-unattractive fellow get into character.

6. William Shatner (James T. Kirk)
Story: Star Trek: Ashes of Eden (DC, 05/95)
Technically, William Shatner didn’t write this story specifically for a comic book; Ashes of Eden, the novel he co-wrote with husband/wife team Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, was adapted into a graphic-novel format. Eh, close enough. Set shortly after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryAshes finds a restless Kirk not dealing well with his post-Starfleet life, and he accepts a last chance for adventure when a seductive young woman (of course) enlists him to protect her paradise planet from eeee-vil forces that want to exploit its fountain-of-youth properties. And of course those evil forces include a secret cabal within Starfleet, and of course Kirk gathers the rest of his crew to once again save the universe. Frankly, given the amount of time in the Trek movies spent on Kirk bemoaning his advancing age, I’m surprised he didn’t take over the damn planet himself, suck up whatever age-defying juice he could find and start working his way through the daughters of all the alien babes he tapped through the years. The comic is an abridged version of the novel (it doesn’t contain the novel’s framing scenes with Spock and Riker, for example), but it’s still a good read. And it preserves the novel’s claim to fame as the first-ever instance of Kirk using the exact phrase: “Beam me up, Scotty.”

7. Tim Russ (Tuvok)
Story:
“Enemies and Allies,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #29-30 (Malibu, 10/95)
Hold on, Tim Russ plays a school principal on iCarly? And he made an appearance on Hannah Montana? Huh. So this is what I miss by not watching tween sitcoms. Anyway, Russ was one of those actors that scored a few background roles in the Trek franchise before landing the role of Tuvok, the Vulcan security chief on the USS Voyager. If the show ever had an episode in which they explained how a Vulcan saw security as a logical career choice, then I don’t remember it… and trust me when I say I’m not about to do any research to find out. The sole comic series based on Star Trek: Voyager didn’t come out until the summer of 1996, a full year and a half after Voyager debuted, so Russ worked Tuvok into a DS9 story instead. In “Enemies and Allies,” Trek fans got another glimpse into the mirror-universe first introduced in TOS’s “Mirror, Mirror” and revisited in a few choice DS9 episodes. In this other universe, the evil version of the United Federation of Planets has fallen, and humans and Vulcans alike are running from an alliance of the Cardassian and Klingon empires — literally, in the case of Tuvok and DS9’s Bashir, who are captured and interrogated by Klingon and Bajoran forces.

8. Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher)
Story: “Te Cura Ipsum,” Kakan ni Shinkou (Tokyopop, 09/2007); “Art of War,” Uchu (Tokyopop, 07/2008)
How can anyone not love Wil Wheaton? Saddled with what was probably the most annoying character in Trek history (at least until Voyager’s crew came along), Wheaton survived to become a genuinely nice guy with a great sense of humor about his position in the geek pantheon. Since TNG went off the air, Wheaton has kept himself busy as an actor, author, columnist, blogger, and self-described “champion of geek culture.” Small wonder, then, that Tokyopop, a Japanese distributor of anime and manga, tapped him to contribute two short stories to Kakan ni Shinkou (To Boldly Go) and Uchu (Space), Volumes 2 and 3 in its line of licensed Trek comics. In “Te Cura Ipsum” (Latin for “heal thyself”), Wheaton writes a TOS tale about Kirk coming up against one of these pesky Prime Directive situations that places crew members in jeopardy, while “Art of War” traps Kirk and a Klingon commander in a collapsed mine and forced to cooperate in order to survive. The “mortal enemies forced to help each other” plot is a common one, but Wheaton and artist E.J. Su (who also did “Te Cura Ipsum”) shake things up by having opposing sides of the page tell the same story from the two commanders’ point of view, allowing for a little juxtaposition between Federation and Klingon cultures. Will Wheaton someday follow in the footsteps of the others on this list and write a story starring the character he played on TV? You’re better off directing that question to him — but if he ever did decide to do it, it might be Wesley Crusher’s best, last chance at getting a decent storyline. Jus’ sayin’.

 

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