Still Waiting For My “Spock’s Brain” Follow-Up, People…

star-trek-month
12 Star Trek Comic Stories That Serve as Satisfying Sequels to Classic (and Not-So-Classic) Star Trek Episodes

1. Star Trek Year Four: The Enterprise Experiment (IDW Publishing, 04-08/2008)
Anyone who’s ever finished a story and asked what happens next knows the power of the sequel. “Happily ever after” might work in a pinch, but most stories don’t wrap up so neatly, and sometimes you can’t help but wonder what happens to the main characters after the end credits roll. Wrath of Khan was a great example of writers revisiting a story and writing the next chapter; this mini-series is another. Set during the fourth year of the Enterprise’s original five-year mission, Enterprise Experiment follows on the heels of events in “The Enterprise Incident” (original airdate 9/27/68) — you know, the one where Kirk wears a Romulan disguise and Spock gets jiggy (there’s a phrase Google doesn’t see often) with a fetching Romulan commander, all in the name of interstellar espionage. Now in possession of a Romulan cloaking device, the Enterprise is conducting top-secret field tests in an effort to adapt the alien technology to their systems. Without revealing too much, let’s just say this story adequately explains why cloaking devices aren’t standard issue on Federation starships. Shoulda stole the instruction manual, Jimmy! As if dealing with life-threatening technical difficulties weren’t bad enough, they also run across a few Romulans who aren’t too happy about Kirk stealing their cloaking technology. And really, who can blame them? I mean, did Kirk and Spock even consider the Romulans might have said yes if they had just asked nicely?

2-3. “Wolf on the Prowl,” Star Trek #21-22 (DC, 01-02/86); Star Trek: TNG – Embrace the Wolf (WildStorm, 06/2000)
Wrath of Khan was a beautifully executed example of bringing back a classic Trek antagonist with style; “Wolf on the Prowl”… wasn’t. Introduced in “A Wolf in the Fold” (original airdate 12/22/67), Redjac was one of those disembodied evil creatures that sci-fi producers on a budget love (“Okay, you’re possessed by an evil entity, so just start bulging your eyes and snarling a lot. And…action!”). While enjoying some much-needed shore leave with his crewmates on Argellius II, Scotty finds himself accused of murder after he’s found holding a bloody knife over a woman’s body. An open-and-shut case if there ever were one, except for the fact a native empath senses the presence of an evil entity called “Redjac” that harbors a deep hatred for all women. A bit of sleuthing reveals a string of unresolved murders on various planets stretching all the way back to 19th-century London (“Red Jack” being one of the nicknames for Jack the Ripper), and the real culprit is revealed. Though the entity was considered dealt with at the end of the episode, it would show up again in two separate comic-book sequels. In “Wolf on the Prowl,” Redjac returns to spread fear and get his revenge on Kirk, but it’s Scotty who figures out how to prevent Redjac from entering the ship and also finds a way to ensure this universe is no longer terrorized by the entity’s killing sprees. The later TNG story ignored that story’s resolution, finding Redjac alive and causing much mayhem on Enoch-7. When the Enterprise arrives to investigate an inexplicable outburst of violence, Redjac takes control of the Enterprise’s holodeck, assumes the form of Jack the Ripper and traps the crew in a deadly simulation of Victorian London. Naturally, the greatest murderer of the 19th century can only be caught by the greatest detective of that era, so it’s up to Data to don his Sherlock Holmes costume and stop Jack before the justifiably irritated Enochians decide to get rid of Redjac by destroying the Enterprise. Geez, guys, just give up on the bloody holodeck and get some Wii systems, already — unless someone in the 24th century has found a way to also turn those game systemsinto convenient excuses for homicidal hijinks.

4. “Fragile Glass,” Star Trek: Mirror, Mirror (Marvel, 02/97)
One of the challenges of writing a Trek comic is that Paramount, which owns the Star Trek franchise, tends to be particular about the kinds of stories that Trek writers can tell. That’s only to be expected; tales about Spock going on a pon farr-fueled killing spree or Kirk contracting an alien STD from an Orion slave girl might make for good reading, but they could also hurt the Trek brand. That’s why “evil twin” or “alternate universe” stories can be a lot of fun; while you can be reasonably sure the Capt. Kirk or Spock in the “official” Star Trek universe will live to fight another day, the same can’t be said for characters in an alternate universe where assassination is an acceptable form of career advancement. The original “Mirror, Mirror” episode (original airdate 10/06/67) used  a transporter mishap to send Kirk, Uhura, Scotty and McCoy into a parallel universe where the Enterprise serves a ruthless empire; our heroes survive by convincing mirror-Spock that sending them home is the only logical option. Thirty years later, Marvel published this story that looked at what happened on the mirror Enterprise immediately following events in that episode, with mirror-Kirk back on his own ship and plotting to regain control from a mutinous Spock. The Trek franchise (both in the comics and on TV) would revisit the mirror universe several times over the years, but this was the first time anyone told the tale of what happened on the other Enterprise immediately after mirror-Spock learned the deadly secret of mirror-Kirk’s success. No spoilers about how the story ends, but let’s just say the line “I have been and always shall be your friend” was never in the script.

5. “A Piece of Reaction,” Star Trek Unlimited #10 (Marvel, 07/98)
In “A Piece of the Action” (original airdate 01/12/68), Kirk and crew encounter residents of the planet Iotia, a highly imitative and inventive race. A century before, they were visited by another Federation starship that left behind a book detailing the history of Chicago’s gangster wars during the 1920s. Good thing it wasn’t a Stephen King novel — as Kirk and crew discover, the Iotians based their entire society around that book, right down to the Tommy guns and deadly turf wars. Kirk manages to get his people out safely, but McCoy later confesses he accidentally left his communicator behind. It was a throwaway line suggesting more drastic changes were in store for the planet; sure enough, readers of this issue learned what those changes were. In TNG’s time, Iotia is off-limits to prevent further damage to its culture, but the Enterprise has been dispatched to investigate subspace signals that should be beyond the Iotians’ ability to produce. It turns out their brief exposure to Kirk’s Enterprise and that lost communicator allowed the Iotians to make a huge jump in their technological progress, but with the “gold shirts” now fighting mob-style turf wars with the “blue shirts” and the “red shirts.” Meanwhile, an old man promised a piece of the action by Kirk all those years ago decides he now wants all of it, in the form of a nice and shiny new Enterprise

6. “The Unforgiven,” Star Trek Special #3 (DC, Winter 1995)
“Operation: Annihilate!” (original airdate 04/13/67) was the last episode of TOS’s first season, and it stands out by introducing viewers to members of Kirk’s extended family, who live in a Federation colony on the planet Denava. Not that we were given a lot of time to know them; invading neural parasites induced mass insanity among the colonists, and Kirk finds his brother, Sam, among the victims. His sister-in-law lives long enough to explain how the attack started, but she also dies from the pain. They leave behind a son, Peter, who is never again mentioned in the show… but he makes a return appearance in this story, along with never-before-seen siblings Adam and Jason. Set shortly after the events of “Operation: Annihilate!”, this story finds Kirk trying to help his nephews cope with the recent loss of their parents. Things aren’t going so well for our intrepid captain — it seems one of the boys is having trouble accepting his parents’ deaths — but then he and the boys are captured by Orion pirates about to attack a mining colony, and their camping trip turns into a rip-roaring adventure that brings the four of them closer together. Pirates are handy that way.

7. “Paradise Lost,” Star Trek #43-45 (DC, 10-12/87)
One of the recurring themes in Star Trek is the right to self-determination; if the crew beams down to a planet and find people who exist only to serve a self-proclaimed god/advanced being/supercomputer, you can be damn sure someone in the crew (usually Kirk) is going to give a grand speech about how humans are meant to chart their own destinies, paradise without choice is no paradise, etc. This “freedom to be you and me” theme is particularly evident in “The Apple” (original airdate 10/13/67), an episode that finds Kirk and crew on a planet where the primitive folks worship a god named Vaal. Of course, the crew learns Vaal is actually an ancient artificial intelligence, which makes it totally okay for Kirk and crew to blast it to pieces when it starts “feeding” on the Enterprise’s energy reserves. Sure, the people now have to grow their own food and learn fun new things like “growing old,” but it’s okay — because now they’re free! Twenty years later, Kirk and crew return to the planet, now in the throes of a civil war between traditionalists who want a return to paradise and those who want to keep giving this “making your way in the world today” thing a try. What’s interesting about this follow-up is that Spock contends Kirk had no right to interfere in their society the first time they visited; even if the people there had no free will as us humans define it, the Prime Directive (Starfleet’s big rule about not interfering in primitive cultures) still applied. Yeah, well, hindsight is always 20/20 — or is that, like “marsh melons,” one of those Earth things that Vulcans conveniently forget about?

8. “Nobody Knows the Tribbles I’ve Seen,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #14 (Marvel, 02/98)
Enough with the classic Trek episodes, you say? Fair enough. Let’s look at “Trials and Tribble-ations” (original airdate 11/04/96), a Deep Space Nine episode that was itself a sequel to a classic TOS episode. In “The Trouble with Tribbles” (original airdate 12/29/67), an outbreak of lovable but highly prolific Tribbles on a remote space station helps expose a Klingon saboteur. Many years later, that disgraced saboteur uses time travel to escape into the past to kill Kirk and regain his honor, and so Captain Sisko and the DS9 crew must follow him back in time to foil his eeee-vil plans. The DS9 episode is remembered for the way in which it used special effects to insert the DS9 cast, Forrest Gump-like, into actual scenes from the original TOS scenes, but it also shared the earlier episode’s sense of humor (“They really packed them in on these old ships,” Dax says during their time-travel jaunt — an obvious in-joke referring to the scant number of background extras used in the original series). In this story, which follows immediately after the events in the DS9 episode, Dax, Bashir, O’Brien, and Odo share a few drinks in Quark’s bar and share various stories explaining why Klingons hate Tribbles so much. Anyone expecting definitive answers is going to be disappointed, but it’s still a fun read.

9. “Vicious Circle,” Star Trek #33 (DC, 12/86)
It just isn’t a sci-fi series without a little time travel thrown into the mix, and TOS didn’t disappoint on that front. In “Tomorrow is Yesterday” (original airdate 01/26/67), the Enterprise is accidentally sent back to 1969 by the effects of a high-gravity “black star” (just go with it). Before they can raise shields, they’re picked up by Earth’s military radar as a possible UFO; after a bit of got-to-repair-the-timeline drama involving an accidentally captured USAF pilot, the Enterprise heads back to the 23rd century. Viewers were told the ship could only do that by “slingshotting” around the sun, a move that was described as extremely complicated and perilous presumably to answer the question of why 23rd-century starships didn’t do it more often. Naturally, Mr. Spock calculated everything correctly and the episode’s ending finds the crew back in their proper time period… but things happened differently in “Vicious Circle,” a comic story that saw the Enterprise overshooting the mark by about 20 years. Of course, they meet their older counterparts, and both sides are confused by the paradox of the situation (i.e., if both crews are the same group of people, then how is it the older crew has no knowledge of meeting their future selves 20 years ago?). No time for catching up, though, because bigger things are brewing than awkward conversations about hairlines and career choices. It seems, in Spock’s words, their time-travelling actions have the universe “attempting to set itself right,” and the younger crew has to get back to its starting point before the timeline is irreparably destroyed. Granted, it’s a story heavy on the time-travel technobabble, but it’s a fine enough tribute to the Trek franchise, and the smaller moments, like when Uhura asks her older self if she regrets the choices she’s made in life, are what give the story its heart.

10. “Door in the Cage,” Star Trek #61 (DC, 07/94)
True Trek fans know the series’ first pilot episode, “The Cage,” was deemed too cerebral by studio types, resulting in a second pilot that chucked out pretty much everything except the ship and the Mr. Spock character. Trek creator Gene Roddenberry figured out a way to recoup the costs of the original pilot, though, by splicing it into flashbacks seen during “The Menagerie” (original airdates 11/15/66 and 11/24/66), a two-part episode in which Spock is on trial for hijacking the Enterprise to take his former captain — left a paralyzed and mute shell of a man after an accident — back to Talos IV, a planet strictly off-limits to Federation citizens. The reason Spock did so is because the native Talosians are expert illusion-casters, and they are able to give Christopher Pike the ability to enjoy a normal (if illusory) existence for the rest of his days. In this story, Spock returns to Talos IV many years later to bring news to Pike, now in his 70s, of a medical procedure that would give his ravaged body the chance to actually walk again, rather than only via the virtual reality constructed by his Talosian hosts. Their reunion is complicated by the introduction of Philip, Pike’s son, whom Spock suspects is just an illusion given Pike’s medical condition. Frankly, there isn’t a lot of suspense in the story, especially when Spock is attacked by beings that are obviously illusions created to dissuade him from taking Pike away. But the story serves as a workable postscript to Pike’s story arc, and it shows how much respect Spock has for his former commander.

11.  Star Trek: Voyager – Planet Killer #1-3 (WildStorm, 03-05/2001)
The plot for “The Doomsday Machine” (original airdate 10/20/67) is as simple as it gets: Enterprise finds big, scary weapon in space; big, scary weapon gets blowed up good. Oh, there are a few extra tidbits thrown in –– a little transporter malfunction suspense, a deranged superior officer not fully in control of his actions and endangering the whole crew with his Ahab complex — but that’s pretty much the whole plot. Where the machine came from or why it was constructed wasn’t revealed during the episode, though one of the later Trek novels offered a few answers for those who cared. Also offering answers: Star Trek: Voyager – Planet Killer, a mini-series that finds Janeway and crew following a trail of destruction through two star systems. After Voyager finds another doomsday machine tearing apart inhabited planets, Seven identifies the weapon as the handiwork of Species 4672, which no longer exists (she also notes the Borg tried several times to assimilate the machine but failed, so you know it’s built tough). After a repeat of Kirk’s plan fails to stop the thing, Voyager attempts to destroy it with nanoprobes, essentially “killing” the planet-killer with a massive infection. Oh, nanoprobes — is there anything you can’t do?

12. “Rivals,” Star Trek #66-68 (DC, 12/94-02/95)
Hey, remember that episode where we saw Vulcan for the first time, and we learned that Vulcans needed to get jiggy once every seven years or risk going crazynuttycuckoo? Good times. In “Amok Time” (original airdate 09/15/67), a seriously wigged-out Spock ends up battling Kirk in a savage mating ritual that Vulcans are (for good reason) reluctant to allow outsiders to observe. It seems Spock and T’Pring were betrothed to each other during their childhoods, but T’Pring — who wants out of the arrangement to marry Stonn, another Vulcan — chooses Kirk as her dueling champion, figuring that either Spock’s or Kirk’s death would release her to marry whom she pleased. The episode is often cited as one of the best TOS episodes and with good reason: fans got their first real glimpse into Vulcan culture, and its surprise ending helped cement the strong bond that existed between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The episode also ended with Spock, in his logical way, dissing T’Pring by reminding Stonn that “you may find that having is not so nearly pleasing a thing as wanting.” No kidding — in “Rivals,” Stonn makes a reappearance in the Trek universe as an ailing ambassador with a fractured family. It seems T’Pring’s and Stonn’s marriage last only six years before she entered a religious order; their daughter, born shortly before their divorce, was raised by Stonn’s second wife as he threw himself into his work. When Spock and Stonn cross paths again, the latter is negotiating an important peace treaty with an alien race while exhibiting symptoms of a slow-acting poison… and both daughter and stepmother suspect the other of poisoning Stonn. Roh-oh! Bottom line: even Spock would agree it’s only logical to express gratitude for dodging that bullet.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s