Star Trek: Stardate Collection, vol. 2

Star Trek - Stardate Collection 2Summary: Star Trek: The Stardate Collection continues to collect the many comic-book iterations of Trek “as they happened”… by stardate! Helmed by Trek experts Scott and David Tipton, and featuring special commentary, creator interviews, and more, Volume 2 completes the early voyages of the Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, and wraps up with two lost adventures from Pike’s career.

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Star Trek: Stardate Collection, vol. 2, by various authors and artists 7.5

The ‘Star Trek: Stardate Collection, vol. 2’ continues where the previous volume left off, with Captain Pike and company. The books are collected from various sources, and are still reprinted by Stardate, not by publication date. These collections are the closest thing to getting a chronological perspective on the voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Early Voyages (Publication date: August 1997-June 1998)

‘Early Voyages’ was originally published by Marvel Comics, and these are issues 7-17 in that series – the first six having been collected in Volume 1. It finds Christopher Pike in the middle of his five-year mission, exploring strange new worlds and seeking new civilizations with Number One, Mr. Spock, Yeoman Colt, Doctor Boyce, Ensign Nano, …etc.

It begins with the return of the Klingons, in an issue that’s mostly action-oriented as Commander Kaaj tries to get revenge on Captain Pike for railroading his plans in a previous issue. Pike is stuck on an agrarian planet trying to save not only his skin but those of the farmers caught in the crossfire. Thanks to Number One, the Klingons retreat.

In the next issue, Dr. Boyce is arrested for murder on Neyoa Prime. He’d been exhibiting some strange behaviour in past issues, and it’s coming to fruition now. I like how they planted those seeds early but allowed us to sit with that notion for a while. Sadly, the script is a bit contrived in parts, wrapping itself up far too effortlessly.

Then there’s a naïve episode about Nano being forced to return to his home planet despite having been bred strictly for Starfleet service and having no place on Liria. It’s great that it expands on the character but the reasoning behind his recall is absurd when one considers that they could easily just breed another of their kind instead.

There’s also a well-meaning two-parter about Nurse Carlotti having to face her past demons when the Chakuun mount an attack on Federation colony Jubal. There’s a lot of character-developing shore leave, but it’s hampered by a triteness that rang false to me. And then, as though to make up for it, it devolves into a ceaseless action-fest.

As with Dr. Boyce’s earlier story, I liked that it had already been established in a previous issue that Carlotta had some issues with the Chakuun; it’s nice that these things aren’t isolated to one issue and are later developed. The problem is the ideas in that issue are channeled in a simplistic fashion, ruining the author’s intentions.

Then there’s the requisite time-travel episode, which finds Yeoman Colt transported into the future when she irresponsibly smuggles an artifact onto the Enterprise and tries to scan it. In this future, Christopher Pike is still Captain aboard the Enterprise, and James T. Kirk is relegated to being a merchant. Now Colt has to return to her timeline.

It’s an interesting idea, and I like seeing this alternate reality that puts Pike and Kirk in confrontation, but Colt seemed like a very responsible character in previous books, and on the show, so it seemed rather out of character for her to break Starfleet regulations like this. To me, it felt as though the writers contrived the situation.

Oh well.

The worst story of them all is called ‘Thanathos’. In it, Pike and company are mingling with the natives of Temazi in the hope of preventing the Klingons from stealing some weapons left there generations ago by another alien race. They’re disguised as natives, but so are the Klingons and, coincidentally enough, they cross paths.

Naturally, Kaaj is leading the Klingon complement. And naturally a fight ensues between Pike and Kaaj, blowing their cover – which is only made worse by Pike dumping his mask after it gets damaged. Seemed to me that, being a stickler for the rules, Pike wouldn’t just tear off his disguise – he’d try to repair it or get back on the ship.

Instead, he and everyone else tear their masks off, making themselves known to the Temazians.

Their whole plan was inconsistent in the first place, because Spock, while he was wearing the Temazian stumps on his forehead, his eyebrows remained the same – and he was only wearing a hat to cover his ears. You’d think that they’d have better disguises – I mean, if they’re going to be incognito to maintain Starfleet regulations.

Sigh…

And, to make matters worse, the two-issue set ends on a cliffhanger… and was never completed. You see, Marvel decided to cancel ‘Early Voyages’ in midstream, not even bothering to at least finish this particular storyline. There is no record of what was to take place, no script, no storyboards, nothing. It just ends abruptly and that’s all she wrote.

Aaargh!

Alien Spotlight: Orions (Publication date: December 2007)
As with the first volume of ‘Stardate Colelction’, which focused on Vulcans, this one offers an enjoyable issue that looks at Pike’s later years, now relegated to the position of Fleet Captain. A mostly-ceremonial position, it means that he goes to a lot of functions. On Babel, he gets caught in the crossfire between an Orion and a Tellarite.

Yes, despite its title, this one’s about Pike, not the sexy Orion female. She’s just there for eye-candy.

Captain’s Log: Pike (Publication date: 2010)
Finally, there’s a serviceable issue that tries to explain how Pike got trapped in the blinking chair we saw in ‘The Menagerie”. It ties in a romantic subplot with Yeoman Colt, taking us twelve years later now that she’s a Captain. It was merely okay, and while I liked seeing Pike struggling with the loss of life, he seemed far too haunted by it.

This one was part three of a four-part mini-series, each starring a different Captain. Sulu, Herriman and Jelico were the others.

Overall, the artwork is a bit crappier for some reason, even though the penciler and colourist on ‘Early Voyages’ are the same throughout. One gets the impression that they were more in a hurry as the series wore on – much to their work’s detriment. Interestingly, even though the series is dated from the late ’90s it looks like it was made in the ’80s.

But ultimately, good Star Trek is more about the stories than the visuals and many of the issues collected here provide us with the kind of fodder that would have been at home on the original TV show. Ironically, the quality is also similar, with some issues being conceptually far superior to others – and, when they’re good, they’re quite excellent.

Sadly, this is the last of the Stardate Collection – thus far. For whatever reason, IDW doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to continue publishing the series, even though they had initially planned something like 10-12 volumes. And if they can’t bother on the year of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, then it means the series is effectively dead in the water.

It’s a damned shame: I would certainly have loved to read more; this series had me engaged.

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