First officer’s blog, Stardate 69885.3. Greetings, Inkfleet cadets – Juliet once again reporting for blogging duty. Today we’re heading to the final frontier to talk about a show (and the comics based on it) that is and was incredibly important to me, Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I’ll henceforth be abbreviating as ST:TNG. So why The Next Generation and not the original series? As I’ll get into further along in this update, I adore the original series, but ST:TNG was such an important part of my childhood, for better or worse. Matt, on the other hand, is a HUGE original series fan so it’s only appropriate that I handle this one while he takes on the original series at a later date. So settle in with some tea – earl grey – hot and prepare to bolding go where no one has gone before.
In 1986, 20 years after Star Trek’s debut and as Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner were demanding larger salaries during the production of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Paramount began to consider a new Star Trek television series. This actually wasn’t the first first time they had toyed with the idea. In 1977, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had announced that Star Trek Phase II would be coming to the small screen as part of the newly created Paramount Television Service. The series was to feature a second five year mission for the original series crew, but when Paramount Television Services failed to launch, the plot for the pilot episode was rewritten and became Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Star Trek: The Next Generation was announced in October of 1986, the cast in the spring of 1987. Originally Gene Roddenberry hadn’t planned on being involved in the production but came on as creator, working with Paramount exec Rick Berman, after he was unhappy with some of the original concept designs. The show premiered in October, 1987 in what’s called first-run syndication, meaning that any TV station, regardless of network affiliation, could carry the show in the timeslot of its choosing – a fact that I actually just learned while researching this blog that clears up a lot of my own confusion as to whether I was viewing the episodes first-run or in syndicated re-runs (both, kind of).
The first episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” introduces us to the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D (Kirk’s Enterprise was the NCC-1701 in the show and then the NCC-1701-A beginning in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) roughly 70 years after Kirk and co’s original five year mission. Captained by Jean-Luc Picard, the Enterprise’s ongoing mission is, like in the original series, to seek out new life and new civilizations. This Enterprise, however, is home to more than officiers, and the presence of children and families on the ship becomes a subtle but important theme throughout the show’s run. The Federation and the Klingons enjoy a relative peace, making it possible for a Klingon officer, Lt. Worf, to be head of security. New threats, however, have emerged most notably with the Borg Collective joining other villainous races like the Romulans. The Borg are a cybernetic race assimilated from other conquered species. Their origins are a bit vague as they hail from the faraway Delta Quadrant (where Star Trek: Voyager takes place), but their story and the threat they pose is explored throughout ST:TNG and the subsequent movies and shows. I’m actually really curious to see if they’ll be a part of either the forthcoming CBS Star Trek series slated for 2017 of which very few details have been revealed, or, if perhaps they’ll make an appearance in the Abrams-verse Star Trek films, which are simply an alternate timeline/universe split off from the original series – more on that in a moment.
I would be remiss to mention the Borg without mentioning Q, as he both begins ST:TNG and introduces the Borg to the Enterprise crew and the viewers. Q is an omnipotent being, one of many like him who form the Q Continuum. Masterfully played by John de Lancie, Q serves as a both a framing device for the entire ST:TNG series and a recurring meddlesome presence who, although typically arriving humorously, often raises huge philosophical and ethical questions about the Enterprise’s mission to “seek out new life and new civilizations.” So although he was a bit over the top, Q really helped add a whole new dimension to the stories of his episodes. Speaking of dimensions (see what I did there?), Q was often (especially in the novels – again, stay tuned, we’re getting there) involved in stories that explored the concept of multiple dimensions and the space-time continuum. Although The Original Series dealt with these concepts quite a bit, I feel like they really shone in ST:TNG, and the novels that centered around time were particularly interesting and well crafted. We’ll talk about those in a moment, but first a bit about my history with the show itself.
I was four years old when ST:TNG premiered so unlike The X-Files, I don’t have a distinct memory of the first time I saw the show. Rather, the show’s been ever-present in my life; much like public radio, ST:TNG was just always there. By 1991, our local station had also started re-running episodes daily as I do have very clear memories of watching ST:TNG every night at 7pm after Little House on the Prairie in our then-new house (which is my parents’ house to this day). Several year later, I think after the show had ended in 1994, they moved the reruns to 11pm, and I remember being completely upset because that was past my bedtime. Pretty quickly, however, my bedtime was changed to accommodate watching ST:TNG every night even though I had probably seen every episode five times over already – thanks, Mom and Dad! That should be some indication of how much the show meant to me. I’m going to get into that a bit further, but first let’s talk about some of the merchandise as this kind of all ties together.
There was SO.MUCH merchandise for ST:TNG. The variety of toys alone was rather staggering. I can remember going to the Bookie Parlor (yes, the same comic store Matt’s spoken of fondly many times here on the blog) as a child and being rather amazed at how many ships and playsets were available, not to mention the posters, books, comics, t-shirts, lunchboxes, pogs and more. In terms of action figures, the first set of ST:TNG action figures came out in 1988 from Galoob. This set of 10 3.5 inch figures came out as a limited release and are pretty rare to find today. The largest and popular assortment of ST:TNG figures were the 5” Playmates figures that were released in waves of 10-23 figures beginning in 1991. Funny enough, I never had any of these as a kid. I couldn’t even tell you why, but I only ever got a handful of the First Contact figures which were larger at 6 inches tall. However, thanks to the heroic efforts of Matt, in my 30s I’m now the proud owner of a nearly complete set of the 3.5” ST:TNG figures. Other notable merchandise that I actually owned includes a replica communicator that actually featured Patrick Stewart’s voice, a giant poster with bios of each crew member and a more recent acquisition: a complete of set of PEZ dispensers of the whole ST:TNG crew (check out the photos below). Though not exclusively ST:TNG, I also owned and proudly wore a Women of Star Trek t-shirt that featured the amazing ladies from the original series all the way through Deep Space 9 (my version of the shirt pre-dated Voyager’s premiere though I’ve seen later editions that included Captain Janeway).
There were also VHS tapes, and lots of them. Beginning in 1991, tapes of individual episodes were released and eventually every single episode made it onto VHS. They also made it onto LaserDisc, released with two episodes per disc. Again, a full run of the series was released in this format. The first season of ST:TNG came out on DVD in 2002. All seven seasons were eventually released, and in 2007, the full series was released in a 49 disc set. The series was also released on Blu-Ray, remastered from original 35mm footage using a special technique that allowed for maximum picture quality.
The the video game department, ST:TNG had lots of options for the PC gamer, from movie tie-ins for Generations and First Contact to highly specialized games such as Armada and Borg Assimilator. On the home console front, NES, Gameboy and Gear Gamer players got Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1993. Sega would follow in 1994 with Star Trek: The Next Generation – Echoes From the Past and Generations: Beyond the Nexus. ST:TNG made it to the Playstation 2 with Encounters and Conquest (which was also available for the Wii), and was represented in the Xbox 360 and PC game Star Trek: Legacy. Arcade fans got to experience the super cool Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball machine.
Of all the really cool pieces of Star Trek: The Next Generation merchandise that I either owned or coveted, by far the most important items to me were the paperback novels. They began in 1988 with Ghost Ship, the first of the numbered series, which went all the way to 63. I was the proud owner of all of the ST:TNG numbered paperbacks through #45 (at the time, that was the most recent release). I got the majority of the early run at a library sale, and began seeking out others at the library and then buying them from Books & Co as I found them. There were also one-shot novels outside of the numbered series including titles like Q-Squared, Vendetta, Imzadi and Kahless. These books were hugely, hugely important to me as a young reader. I had always been an advanced reader for my grade level, but because I was so excited about having more ST:TNG stories to consume beyond the seven seasons of the show, I devoured these books, sometimes reading one in a single evening. From the age of 11 to 13, you typically didn’t see me without one or several ST:TNG paperbacks in my possession at all times. My quest to find new ones to read meant I spent a lot of time looking through the sci-fantasy paperbacks at my local library and eventually I began picking up other titles, both by genre mainstays like Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffery and other random one-offs, some very good and other delightfully cheesy. But it wasn’t all warm fuzzy scifi nerd joy for a young Juliet. As I’m sure you can imagine, the other 11-13 year olds I went to school with didn’t quite think the ST:TNG novels were as cool as I did. Pair that a teacher who required you to track the pages you’d read, out loud, in front of class each day (remember that sometimes I’d read a whole novel on a usual day), and you’ve got a lot of pre-teen mocking and accusations from classmates and a teacher that I was lying about the reading. Sigh. Pre-teen angst aside, I learned a lot from these books as I came to understand which of the regular authors tended toward which type of stories and who was stronger with certain characters. It’s helped me as a writer think about my own strengths and the type of stories I both like to tell and am good at writing. By far, my favorite ST:TNG novel writer was Peter David. I absolutely loved his use of multiple timelines that could both stand on their own as interesting stories and intersected in interesting ways. David’s Q-Squared more than likely laid the groundwork for me to fall in love with even more complex timelines in novels like The Man in the Empty Suit and even experimental work like House of Leaves.
The novels weren’t the only books released around the ST:TNG franchise. There was an episode guide called The Complete Guide to Star Trek: The Next Generation that was re-released several times as the show was renewed for additional seasons (and that at one point in my life, I had memorized – no joke). There were also several technical manuals, books about the science of Star Trek, and a host of other random series tie-ins like Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
This of course brings us to the comics. There were several series of ST:TNG comics released by DC and later their Wildstorm imprint. For our purposes, I’ll be covering the first ST:TNG six-issue miniseries, now called Volume 1, released in early 1988. They were written by Mike Carlin, who was also group editor for Superman at the time and later served as DC’s executive editor from 1996 until 2002. The artwork was by Pablo Marcos, who had previously made a name for himself doing horror comics for Marvel. Marcos would stay on for a good portion of the second ST:TNG DC run (Volume 2), the bulk of which was written by Michael Jan Friedman. Big thanks to Matt for tracking down the Volume 1 series for me via Lone Star Comics, and before we engage, remember that here on Rotten Ink, we grade comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and look for how close the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s set a course for the DC six-issue mini-series of Star Trek: The Next Generation….Engage!
Star Trek: The Next Generation #1 *
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.50 DC 1 of 6
We begin with Captain Picard’s opening narration (the same one that opens the show), which leads into a monologue of his reflections on the Enterprise, its mission and the fact that unlike his prior command posts, this ship is carrying not just his crew, but their families including many children. On the bridge, Picard’s crew, including Commander Riker, Lt. Worf, Lt. Yar, Counselor Troi, Lt. Commander Data and Lt. LaForge, are ready to proceed with their first mission as they conduct scans of a nearby planet and adjust to working together. An alien race makes contact and expresses and interest in meeting the Enterprise crew. As Picard begins to make plans for an away team, Dr Crusher and Wesley visit the bridge to ask for more medical supplies, but everything is interrupted when the supposedly peaceful aliens fire on the ship. After consulting with Riker and Troi, Picard decides that the away team will go ahead as planned with Riker, Troi, Yar, LaForge and Data visiting the alien planet. As soon as they arrive, they’re fired on again again and pursued by warriors in a large armored vehicle. Meanwhile, back on the ship, Picard has to deal with young Wesley asking him about his plans for dealing with the potentially hostile aliens and a husband and wife bridge team who are bickering nonstop. Back on the planet, Yar gets the hostile aliens under control for the moment, and Troi probes their minds to discover that their actions aren’t necessarily purely hostile but that they’re involved in some kind of war games. The team is then transported elsewhere, by another set of aliens who apologize for the welcome the Enterprise crew has received to their planet thus far. Out of concern for his crew, Picard has jumped into a transporter and ends up on the same ship as his away team to be greeted by the aliens, who appear to be children.
Huh. So…that was….an issue that I read. The beginning of this issue read almost like it was going to be a comic version of the first episode of ST:TNG, Encounter at Farpoint but ended up veering off to its own story. According to the editor’s notes in the back of the comic, DC began work on this ST:TNG mini-series in early 1987, right around the time the show began shooting its first season, which I think, explains a lot about why some of the characterizations feel just a bit off. For example: in the show, Data rarely speaks with contractions, save for some very deliberate scripting choices and the occasion flub, but in this comic, he uses them nonstop. It’s entirely possible that decision wasn’t made until Brent Spiner began shooting as the character so the DC folks had already started working on the comic and this wasn’t communicated to them. The way the characters interact with one another, even the way they address each other (commonly by first names instead of by last name or title) also feels just a bit off from the show. Speaking of out of place, the biggest problem I had with this issue were the things that felt like DC trying to “comicfy” ST:TNG – as if the show itself didn’t have the right elements for a comic in the 1980s (come on guys, it’s in space!) so they added giant Mad-Max-esque armored vehicles, warriors who looked like your usual Conan-Krull-HeMan clones and gave the bickering bridge couple capes…just so you were sure you were reading a comic book The art itself is okay – very much of its time and nothing to write home about. The cover is pretty cool with a painted looking Enterprise in warp flight over the LCARS display. Let’s see if they can iron out some of my complaints in the next issue, though it’s got Picard fighting aliens in front of a Christmas tree on the cover so I’m not exactly optimistic.
Star Trek: The Next Generation #2 *1/2
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.00 DC 2 of 6
The Enterprise is en route to a Federation Starbase for standard maintenance, and the crew is preparing to celebrate Christmas on the holodeck. The sensors pick up an alien vessel traveling at warp speed nearby so Riker proceeds with the usual diplomatic greetings, but when the communications channels are opened, the Enterprise’s instruments go berserk. They recover quickly and finally reach the strange mummy-like aliens who are happy to accept the crew’s invitation to join them in their holiday celebrations. The rest of the crew make merry on the holodeck, which is made up to look like ski slopes, but Picard and Yar excuse themselves to greet their alien visitors. As they proceed to the holodeck, one of the aliens wanders off and catches Wesley, who’s also wandered away from the party, but says that he’s “not the one I’m looking for.” Wesley tries to warn Picard and the rest of the crew, but when confronted, the aliens just say that there was an odd presence that they were chasing, which could also explain the earlier malfunctions on the Enterprise. Picard doesn’t seem terribly concerned, so Wesley throws a tantrum and leaves the party. Troi chases after him saying she believes him because she’s sensed something strange as well. The aliens and the Enterprise crew clash as the presence once again wrecks havoc, materializing to look like Santa Claus (seriously). When this happens, the aliens are unmasked and revealed to look suspiciously like a race of Grinches (again, seriously). Finally the presence is freed out in space and the aliens agree to stay and celebrate Christmas with the Enterprise crew.
I spent the first few minutes of this comic extremely confused because I thought that this was going to be a continuation of the story from issue 1, but nope. Instead we forge ahead into a rather ridiculous holiday story that ultimately results in the Enterprise crew and some aliens bonding over the spirit of Christmas. It’s exactly as cheesy as it sounds, and I groaned loudly when the mysterious presence began to manifest itself in the shape of Santa Claus. I won’t tell you what I said, when, upon flipping back through the pages to write this review, I realized that the aliens looked like the Grinch. Sigh. I suppose I should mentioned that I’m not a fan of holiday specials in general so the concept was already rather painful. But even putting that aside, this just felt way too wacky to be ST:TNG – like bad fanfiction. The art in this issue was slightly improved from the last – the characters are starting to look a bit more like themselves. Let’s see if we can take a few more baby steps towards a good read in issue 3.
Star Trek: The Next Generation #3 **1/2
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.35 DC 3 of 6
The Enterprise is beginning another mission when Picard catches Yar and Wesley running through the corridors playing a game. He chastises them, and Yar tells Wesley a bit about her childhood on a rough colony planet before she’s summoned to the bridge. The Enterprise has encountered a strange ship of unknown origin with no apparent lifeforms on board. Yar volunteers to lead an away mission, saying that it’s best to investigate now that get caught in a trap later. The mission, however, quickly goes awry as the team is attacked by invisible assailants, who seem to somehow know Tasha Yar. Back on the Enterprise, Picard has to figure out whether or not to destroy this mysterious ship, and as he grapples with the ethics, Q appears on the bridge to throw his two cents in. The alien ship begins firing on the Enterprise, and Picard makes the decision to protect the civilians onboard by separating the saucer section and commanding from the battle bridge. Meanwhile, Wesley observes the transporters being used without anyone seemingly being beamed aboard the saucer section, while Deanna senses a psychic attack on Tasha Yar. Q tries to bait Picard into destroying the alien ship, but then the Enterprise receives a hail of distress from the human-like creatures aboard who claim to have been abandoned by their leader. While Q continues to argue with Picard, the aliens board the battle bridge and accuse Q of breaking his part of their deal. While Picard tries to make sense of the arrangement that Q has made, Gordi informs him that the saucer section has vanished in space as our story is to be continued.
FINALLY, a comic that feels like ST: TNG and not some silly kids book (no offense if that’s what you’re into, it’s just not what I’m after in a Star Trek comic). The story for this issue very much had the feel of a regular episode with moments of comedy, adventure and drama as well as Q meddling about as Picard tries to navigate the Prime Directive and captaining a ship with both commissioned crew and civilians onboard. If that wasn’t enough, we got the ship separating, which always felt like a treat in the show (by treat, I mean thing that would cause a young Juliet to demand the attention of everyone around me: “Look! Look! They’re going to the battle bridge which means THEY’RE GOING TO SEPARATE THE SHIP!!”). The art’s still not fabulous, but for the most part, everyone looked remotely like themselves. I’m actually a bit excited to see how this one wraps up so let’s move on to the next issue.
Star Trek: The Next Generation #4 **1/2
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.35 DC 4 of 6
The saucer section is lost in space as Q argues with Picard’s crew on the battle bridge about his role in this situation claiming that there’s someone else controlling the situation that even he does not have influence over. Meanwhile, the saucer section under Riker’s command is experiencing strange turbulence as it hurls through space. In sick bay, Tasha Yar awakens to see a mysterious cloaked figure named Reglech, who she recognizes from her childhood on the colony planet. While Picard discovers that Q has mysteriously lost his omnipotent power (and manages to get a good punch in), Wesley sneaks onto Riker’s bridge and manages to be in the right place at the right time when Riker relieves his helmsman of duty. Tasha, meanwhile, has wandered away from sick bay with Reglech who taunts her about her childhood. As a Q appears on Riker’s bridge, other Q’s watch as Tasha overpowers Reglech and observe that she shows promise. Tasha brings “Reglech” (who’s now revealed to be another Q) to the bridge and the Q’s leave the saucer section, which finally stops shaking. Meanwhile back on the battle bridge, Q finds himself abandoned on the Enterprise, powerless, and lashes out. As the saucer section comes back into range, Q’s tantrum causes Gordi to be shot by a phaser, seemingly killing him….to be continued.
Interesting that this comic came out in May 1988 because almost exactly a year later, season two episode “Q Who” would air, the main plot of which is that Q is kicked out of the continuum for his meddlesome behavior. That aspect of this issue is interesting, but feels kind of rushed in comparison to the way the story is told in the episode. The bits about Tasha’s childhood are also interesting but rushed. One thing that did annoy me was that the Bickley’s, the bickering husband and wife crew members from the first issue, are back and bickering in full force. Seriously, who are these people and why are they necessary? They aren’t even comic relief, they’re just annoying. Another thing that’s more bothersome than outright annoying is Data’s reaction to Gordi’s apparent death. I’m hoping they better explain his emotion-drive outburst in the next issue because this early in the show, it’s really not fitting for the character. So is Gordi really dead? Let’s find out!
Star Trek: The Next Generation #5 **1/2
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.00 DC 5 of 6
Gordi is seemingly dead, and Data is furious. The Android attacks Q as the saucer section is re-attached to the ship. Dr. Crusher arrives on the battle bridge and begins to tend to Gordi. She takes him and Q (who’s still powerless and was pummeled by Data) to sick bay. Worf and Picard discuss whether or not Q’s lack of power can result in him eventually changing and shedding his trickster nature, while Data worries over Gordi in sick bay. Reglech has been confined to the detention deck with the aliens from the ship back in issue 3 (hey, remember those guys?) and manipulates them into facilitating his escape. Tasha pursues the escaped Reglech, who goes to sick bay as Q is awakening. Reglech is to kill Gordi, but Data jumps in the way, seemingly unhurt by his phaser blasts. Then Q jumps in the way, sparing both Data and Gordi as he willingly sacrifices himself. This puts Q back in the good graces of the continuum and he leaves the Enterprise unharmed as Gordi finally awakens.
All told, this isn’t a terrible arc, though really, I think the story would have been better served over a few more issues. I seriously forgot about the aliens from the beginning of the story and was a bit shocked that for all of issue 4, they were apparently biding their time on the detention deck. The Enterprise crew is once again all over the place. It’s really interesting because for as well as they’ve got Picard down in this story arc, other characters just seem so off in terms of characterization. Data is by far the worst offender. Whereas others seem off, there are things about him in this story arc that are straight up canonically wrong. As I mentioned in the prior issue’s write-up, I was hoping that his emotional outburst over Gordi’s attack was some kind of product of Q’s meddling, but apparently, it was just the product of bad writing -or- of the comics being written/produced prior to or concurrently with the beginning of the first few episodes so the characters weren’t really properly fleshed out. And that’s the thing I have to remember, people reading these comics in 1988 only had a handful of ST:TNG episodes to compare the characterization to whereas I have multiple viewings of seven seasons under my belt, not to mention the novels. So with that in mind, I’ll move on to the final comic in this six-issue mini-series.
Star Trek: The Next Generation #6 ***
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.00 DC 6 of 6
The Enterprise is finally on its mission to the mystical planet Faltos (which is where they were headed before the great Q interruption that made for the last story arc). As Picard gives the orders to set course, Data begins to argue with him about the coordinates, saying that Picard is wrong. Just as Data is about to be relieved of duty, the crew figures out that he is telling the truth, Starfleet command has implanted secret information about Faltos into Data’s brain. The Enterprise finds the mysterious planet and send an away team to meet with the Faltos world tribunal, made up of many different races of aliens. Deanna has a bad feeling about the mission, but Riker doesn’t want to keep the tribunal waiting so they proceed. The tribunal treats them as welcome guests, so welcome, in fact, that they’re informed that the Enterprise’s crew will now be permanent residents of the planet as so many visitors have done before them. Naturally, the away team and Picard are outraged, and as they try to figure out what to do, Data realizes that perhaps there’s additional information hidden inside him. So Picard and Dr. Crusher beam down to the planet under the pretense of diplomacy and proceed to help Gordi tinker with Data. they learned that Data’s creator, Dr. Soong, studied crystalline energy while trapped on Faltos and used that knowledge, now implanted in Data, to escape. So Picard and his crew put their plan into action and escape in the Enterprise, but not before the leader of the world tribunal uses his powers to remove all knowledge of Faltos’ location from Data’s (and thus Star Fleet’s) memory.
Story-wise, this was actually a pretty good way to wrap up this six-issue run. Of all these comics, this one felt the closest to an actual episode of the show, just adapted to the pacing needs of a single issue comic, and there’s a part of me that actually wonders if this story wasn’t somehow recycled for an early episode of Voyager that’s very similar. I’d love to know a bit more about Faltos, and see more of the planet, but even that didn’t bother me as it was obviously the easiest thing to skip for page restraints without messing up the actual story. The art, on the other hand, still wasn’t great. There are panels where everyone looks good, like comic stylized version of their TV characters, but in others, the characters, Data in particular, just looked ridiculous. Earlier in the series, I was really unsure as to whether I’d be interested in reading the volume two comics, but I think with this ending, I may give them a shot at some point. Speaking of which, I have a few more comics to cover here on Rotten Ink, the two movie ST:TNG movie adaptation comics.
Of course, there were actually four ST:TNG movies, or three and a half depending on how you classify Generations since it is technically both an original series and Next Generation movie. Generations was released in 1994, and the tactic of having a film covering both shows was interesting. On one hand, I get it – all of the Trek movies up to that point were based on characters from the original series, and only three years prior, while ST:TNG was still on the air, Star Trek VI came out in theaters. The flipside of this is that ST:TNG ended a successful TV run only months before Generations was released in theaters so it kind of begs the question, what else did that property need to do to prove itself worthy of getting its own film. But ultimately Generations was a good passing of the torch and paved the way well for First Contact, which to me is the best ST:TNG film. I’ll leave the plots of both of these for a moment as we’ll get to them in the comic reviews below. After First Contact in 1996, Insurrection followed in 1998. I have mixed feeling about that one. I don’t think it was quite as bad as many people claim, but it reminds me a lot of X-Files: I Want To Believe in that it really wasn’t a film, just a two-part mid-season episode on the big screen. And then we have Star Trek: Nemesis. I’ll level with you, dear Rotten Ink readers, I’ve only seen once, in the theater, and even fourteen years later that still feels like enough. I ought to be able to have the same attitude about Nemsis that I do about Insurrection because I think the logical side of my brain knows that’s the case. However, because Nemsis was considered such a commercial flop and a mess of a movie, it ended up being the last Star Trek movie before the JJ Abrams films (which I actually don’t mind especially since they’re attempting to simply make them an alternate universe which keeps in the spirit of Star Trek), which just really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But we aren’t talking about Nemesis as there wasn’t a comic adaptation of it. So here with go with Star Trek Generations.
Star Trek Generations # 1 ***1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $3.95 DC 1 of 1
Captain Kirk, Scotty and Chekov are in attendance for the high profile launch of the Enterprise B. On the ship’s maiden voyage, it encounters a distress signal from the Laku, a transport ship of refugees. The rescue effort, however, goes completely awry resulting in Captain Kirk’s death. Years later, the crew of the Enterprise D is celebrating Worf’s promotion when news arrives both of a personal tragedy for Picard’s family and in the form a distress call from the Amagosa star observatory. The crew meet Dr. Soran, who was once a refugee on board the Laku. He’s in league with the Klingon Duras Sisters, stealing trilithium and kidnapping Gordi, all in an effort to return to something called the Nexus. Picard agrees to a prisoner exchange, but tricks the Klingons and goes after Soran, entering the Nexus himself. While the Enterprise battles the Duras Sisters, Picard meets up with Kirk, who’s been living inside in perfect fantasy in the Nexus since the launch of the Enterprise B all those years ago. Together, the captains defeat Soran, but not without a price as Kirk truly dies this time around. Picard returns to his own reality to find his crew safe, but the Enterprise D destroyed.
I should have known that with Michael Jan Friedman credited for the story adaptation, this would be a great comic. As I mentioned above, Friedman wrote most of the ST:TNG Volume 2 comics as well as a good number of original Star Trek and ST:TNG novels. So not only is the characterization spot-on, the plot follows the movie extremely closely with good pacing for a comic adaptation (pacing is one of those things that seems really tricky to nail when adapting a film into a single comic). The only thing that didn’t quite work story-wise was the subplot of Data getting the emotion chip, and that’s really because so much of what makes that great in the movie is Brent Spiner’s acting, not the script itself. Plus, a tricorder singing about “lovely little lifeforms” just doesn’t read with the same charm it has onscreen. Gordon Purcell’s artwork is wonderful. Everyone looks, not just like the actor that portrays them, but there’s a lot care to capture their facial expressions and mannerisms. Also, (and I realize that this also has to do with age and changes in the way comics are printed) the colors are really rich. This comic both does the film justice and is an interesting read on its own.
Star Trek First Contact # 1 ***
Released in 1996 Cover Price $5.95 Marvel 1 of 1
Picard still has nightmares about his time with the Borg, and because of his when they attack Earth, Star Fleet sends the Enterprise E (yes, they got a new ship) to patrol the Neutral Zone instead of into the action. But when they learn that Star Fleet is losing, Picard disobeys orders takes the Enterprise into the thick of battle. They’re able to destroy a Borg cube, but not before it launches a smaller sphere ship that creates a temporal vortex that sucks the Enterprise in. Quickly the crew realize that they’ve been transported back in time, and that the Borg are trying to go back to assimilate Earth before First Contact (the first time humanity used warp engine technology triggers a visit from the Vulcans) and thus change the future. The Enterprise destroys the sphere, but not before some surviving Borg beam onto the ship and begin assimilating it, including the Borg Queen who takes a special interest in Data. Meanwhile on the ground, an away team attempt to aid Zefram Cochane and his assistant Lily in succeeding in their destiny of flying the first warp ship thus alerting the Vulcans to the fact that humanity has evolved in its intelligence.
Switching things up a bit, this adaptation was released by Marvel instead of DC. Luckily, in the same vein as DC’s Generations adaptation, this was written by John Vornholt, who’s written a ton of Star Trek novels so it’s safe to say that like Michael Jan Friendman, he’s well versed in the universe and the characters. The story fit the film nicely, but for me didn’t have the same impact as the movie. To be fair, First Contact is by far my favorite ST:TNG movie, and to again draw an X-Files comparison, like Fight the Future, it’s one I still get excited about watching no matter how many times I’ve seen it (and I still get a little teary-eyed when First Contact happens). So for most people, this comic will absolutely do the job and then some, but I still came away just a little underwhelmed. The artwork by Terry Pallot and Rod Whigham is good. Slightly more cartoony than the Generations artwork, but still great for the human characters. Actually my super minor artwork complaint is more about the space scenes. In panels where something is happening with the Enterprise, especially when it’s fighting the Borg cube, there are super cartoony sound effect words that for me ruined the mood of what otherwise would be a very dramatic moment. The overall presentation of the book is nice – it’s thick with a cardstock cover as part of the Star Trek 30th anniversary line of products. Again, this is certainly worth a read to get a taste of the film and for ST:TNG fans. Earlier in this update, I showed you the Enterprise D, so check out the Enterprise E below….
Alas, it’s time for me to set coordinates for another mission and return the helm to Matt for our next update. We’ll be staying in space (sort of) and in the 90s for his next update, which is also (sort of) holiday themed. While I was crying over Vulcans in First Contact in 1996, earlier that year another space movie was released that also pitted hostile aliens against humanity for the fate of the future. Since we’re two years too early for X-Files Fight the Fight, I’m obviously talk about Independence Day. So join us next time as Matt dives into this film, its comic tie-ins and it’s sequel…20 years later.