Monday, October 19, 2009

Comic Review: Star Trek Crew TPB

As so dramatically demonstrated by this summer's box office blockbuster Star Trek, there are several different continuities in the Star Trek franchise. What many people don't realize is that the "canon" continuity, you know, the one from The Original Series, The Next Generation and the subsequent shows and movies, is not the original continuity. The very first pilot episode of Star Trek back in the 1960's did not feature Captain Kirk and was a de facto alternate universe Enterprise and crew. The show was rebooted and a new pilot episode was filmed with many new characters but that episode, "The Cage," represents Gene Roddenberry's original vision for Star Trek.

The IDW comic series Star Trek: Crew is set in that alternate timeline. the individual stories have now been collected in a new trade paperback of the same name. The stories in follow the exploits of the nameless crew member who we first saw as "Number 1," the first officer to Captain Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode. We follow her here from her days as an ensign on the very first journey of the Enterprise, to her distinguished career and to the eve of her return to the Enterprise and where we found her in "The Cage." She's a really terrific character and almost supernaturally capable and prepared. As a nod to the running joke in Star Trek lore, she is never named during the whole course of the series. In her sole appearance, this character was played by the late Majel Barrett, the widow of Gene Roddenberry, so Star Trek: Crew is also a tribute to her, the grand dame of Star Trek. It is nice to be able to follow this character on the adventures she was never able to have on the show, some say due to the fact that audiences were uncomfortable with such a strong and competent female character.

If you are a fan of Star Trek (especially The Original Series,) you will really love Star Trek: Crew. In short, it is very good Trek and captures the feel of the original series perfectly both in the very retro art style and in the way that the stories are paced. One almost expects to hear the classic end-of-credits music in the final panels of each entry. While I think that the art style is appropriate for the overall feel of the book, it is not exactly pretty to look at. It looks somewhat primitive, as though you had picked up a comic that had been printed in the 1960's or 1970's. Again, I am sure this is a choice and I get it but I'm not crazy about it.

The classic feel goes beyond the stylistic choices and carries over to the actual stories themselves which feel like wonderful heady 1960's sci-fi plots that could have very easily have been dreamed up for The Original Series. Whether it's a race of aliens trying to avoid the end of the universe in the distant future or cloned Vietnam warriors that had been mysteriously teleported to an alien planet in the 1960's, the stories have the prerequisite social commentary that made Star Trek more than just kiddie space opera.

I have never been a huge fan of The Original Series but I really enjoyed Star Trek: Crew both as an homage to an under explored corner of the Star Trek universe and as a well-written and well-produced science fiction. I also found it an interesting counterpart to the new Star Trek continuity that was launched with the most recent movie as it is set in a similar, yet alternate, time period. It seems the opportunities for storytelling in Trek are unlimited.

Patrick Garone
Staff Reviewer

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