50th Trek: Star Trek: Boldly Go #1 & Star Trek: Waypoint #1

In honour of Star Trek's 50th anniversary, I'm writing a series of posts discussing a favorite example of Star Trek related media.

Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry.

It occurred to me that I haven’t discussed any of the comic books being published to honor the occasion of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. So here are two titles from IDW. I’ve found the marketing surrounding this milestone to be strangely anemic, and I wasn’t aware of these comics until the last few days. How pitiful is that?

Star Trek: Boldly Go #1  Story: Mike Johnson  Art: Tony Shasteen  Colors: Davide Mastrolonardo Letters: AndWorld Designs. Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry.
Star Trek: Boldly Go #1

Story: Mike Johnson
Art: Tony Shasteen
Colors: Davide Mastrolonardo
Letters: AndWorld Designs

[Spoiler Alert for Star Trek Beyond]

An oft-repeated truism among fans is that Star Trek is better suited for television than cinema. The reason usually given by them is that Trek’s brand of introspective storytelling isn’t perfectly compatible with the spectacle often associated with the silver screen. But a simpler reason is that Trek was originally designed to be an episodic TV show. Over the course of its initial run, the show acquired a rather complicated history. This history would become a rich backstory referenced by future films, for all intents turning them into longer, more expensive television episodes possessing much better production values.

This close connection between the two parts of the franchise was somewhat ruptured with the Kelvin timeline. The venerable Leonard Nimoy was on hand for the 2009 cinematic reboot to inform the new cast (and remind the audience) about a continuity that had now become a sign for what could have been. Now unable to directly use the original timeline, the two sequels would sometimes refer to new, never before filmed events. In lieu of a TV show, IDW would launch a new comic book series to helpfully fill-in the events that took place between the films. Unfortunately, this is the best that fans can expect of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew of the Kelvin timeline. It’s highly unlikely that this particular cast would agree to meet the additional demands of shooting a television series. And even the film sequels still leaned heavily on Nimoy and nostalgia for the original timeline to lend emotional heft to their proceedings. The comic books still felt relatively incidental to the films.

But while the relationship between print and screen may be one-sided, IDW is committed for now to keeping the Kelvin timeline alive between film launches. Star Trek: Boldly Go is a continuation of the comic book series, only now under a new title. The comic picks up where Star Trek Beyond left off. The film notoriously destroyed the Enterprise yet again, only to promise that everyone would soon reunite with a brand new starship. This series gets to tell what happened to them in the meantime.

All in all, this is an entertaining, if conventional, reintroduction to the main characters. Just like the cast of the Original Series from the early films, James Kirk and company have been scattered to different Starfleet commissions throughout Federation space. Unlike TOS Kirk, the new Kirk has decided not to pursue the promotion to the post of admiral. That’s a shame, since I found that one of the more visually cooler settings of STB was the space station Yorktown. Kirk has decided instead to accept the assignment of “interim captain” of another starship, and he’s accompanied by the good doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy and the always eager ensign Pavel Chekov. I'll admit, his presence on the ship is particularly bittersweet for reasons that have nothing to do with the comic.

Mike Johnson and Tony Shasteen capture the tone and look of the films’ cast while integrating a few elements from the original timeline. The infamous Delta Quadrant plays an important role. The ill-fated captain Clark Terrell from The Wrath of Khan makes his first appearance. But the most fascinating thing about Kirk being assigned to a new ship are the new crewmembers, particularly a Romulan first mate and a Tellarite doctor. This keeps the story from being another familiar retread.

By the end of this issue, all the members of the band, minus a Montgomery Scott still schooling wet-nosed cadets at Starfleet Academy, have been more or less reunited by an obligatory new threat to the Federation. “New” here being a relative term, because it’s actually an all-too familiar enemy in the original timeline. In fact, I’m surprised that such a significant adversary was introduced so early in the series and in a comic book instead of being reserved for a future film.

Star Trek: Waypoint #1  Story: Donny Cates, Sandra Lanz Art: Mack Chater, Sandra Lanz Colors: Jason Lewis, Dee Cunniffe Letters: AndWorld Designs. Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry.
Star Trek: Waypoint #1

Story: Donny Cates, Sandra Lanz
Art: Mack Chater, Sandra Lanz
Colors: Jason Lewis, Dee Cunniffe
Letters: AndWorld Designs

If the Kelvin timeline isn’t making the jump to the small screen anytime soon, the original timeline is still being treated as fertile ground for now. A new television series is currently in the late stages of development and will be released next year. In the meantime, IDW’s new anthology series Star Trek: Waypoint is the venue for creators to tell stories in the vein of classic Star Trek. Using well-trod characters who already embody the humanitarian spirit approved by the late Gene Roddenberry. These are stories that would fit into the episodic structure of a typical Trek series. They’re light on extravagant action set-pieces, but composed largely of intimate conversations characteristic of the franchise. Waypoint offers a taste for what Trek was to many fans.

Occupying the bulk of the issue, “Puzzles” features an out of continuity tale about an Enterprise run by two people: Geordi La Forge and Data. Geordi has been promoted to ship’s captain while Data’s mind has been uploaded into the Enterprise mainframe. Data now projects holograms of himself while working on every task on the bridge, and even in other parts of the ship. Needless to say, it’s an eerie sight to see Geordi surrounded by only one other ghostlike presence.

When the Enterprise encounters an immense glowing cube floating in deep space, their attempts to make contact are rebuffed. But they soon figure out that the cube is a time-displaced vessel that is critically damaged, putting its own crew in mortal danger. However, Geordi and Data soon discover that rescuing the crew might possibly be breaking the Prime Directive.

This type of moral quandary is par for the course for The Next Generation, and so is the eventual solution which favors compassion over a strictly legalistic interpretation of the law. Geordi and Data, who usually operate as the braintrust for captain Jean-Luc Picard, now behave more like a Kirk and Spock when pondering their actions. Data even paraphrases Spock’s famous dictum “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Artist Mack Chater isn’t the most evocative when trying to portray Trek’s futuristic setting, but he gets to draw these two as older, more world-weary individuals making difficult choices.

The second and much shorter “Daylily” tells the story of lieutenant Nyota Uhura stranded on an alien planet when a transporter mishap separates her from the rest of the away team. She encounters and befriends one of the native life-forms, who makes a point of keeping her company until the Enterprise can resolve the problem.

It’s an uncomplicated anecdote that nonetheless underscores the open-minded attitude towards discovering new life that every Starfleet officer is supposed to exhibit when on a mission. But Sandra Lanz is the comic’s most expressive artist, and she uses her talents to draw attention to a character who never really had the spotlight shine on her during the TOS era. Her Uhura is remarkable in its likeness to actress Nichelle Nichols, and the warm palette she employs reinforces the story’s optimistic message.