Podcast Episode 109: Going Boldly–50 Years of Star Trek!

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2016 marked the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, so I celebrate that milestone by discussing my history with the franchise, thoughts about the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series, listing my favorite episodes (TOS only)/series/movies/ships, and talking about the Star Trek comic series I’ve read over the years. Here’s to the next 50 years of Star Trek!

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Thanks for listening!

Going Boldly: IDW’s Star Trek: Starfleet Academy

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy the trade collects issues #1-5, written by Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrot, art by Derek Charm, letters by Neil Uyetake and Andworld Design, and edited by Sarah Gaydos.

I have been in love with IDW’s Star Trek series pretty much from day 1. I was originally intrigued to read reinterpretations of the classic TOS episodes in the Kelvin (new movie) timeline. But then the series became much more than that simple premise. The stories expanded and were more original. And now, IDW has further expanded the Star Trek universe with this collection featuring two sets of Starfleet cadets.

The book opens with a flashback to when Kirk and company were still at the Academy, mostly focusing on Uhura’s fascination with a signal she discovered in the long range sensor lab. But the primary, and superior story (though a few scenes with Kirk and Uhura made me smile–Johnson and Parrott really have the characters’ voices down) involves the new characters: Vulcan T’Laan, Earthlings Lucia Gonzales and Grace Chen, Andorian Shev, and Monzchezkin Vel K’bentayr. T’Laan serves as a focal point throughout the story as the outsider who eventually realizes her place within Starfleet. While Shev is your typical grumpy Andorian, I still loved the inclusion of one of my favorite Star Trek aliens. Vel is an alien who says what he is thinking/feeling–think of a more articulate Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy–to great comedic affect. Chen is the loves-to-take-chances pilot, and Gonzales is the heart and mediator of the group. I really enjoyed these new characters, and I hope to see more about them in future publications.

Much of the story involves a competition between various groups, including the aforementioned cadets, that highlights each person’s abilities. The two stories (Kirk and company and the new cadets) intersect via the signal Uhura had been monitoring, which, it turns out, is from a lost starship from the Enterprise era (intentionally connecting to Star Trek Beyond?), the Slayton. Along the way, lessons are learned and friendships and forged.

The art, while skewing a bit to an animated style, was still well-done, especially the colors and likenesses of the film actors, and the collection reprints some of (all?) the variant covers, which were good (except for one). I especially enjoyed examining the backgrounds of the panels for the background characters, some of which were classic Trek aliens and others were that were new to me, but kept reappearing, just as you would expect at Star Fleet Academy.

If you enjoy the Trek universe and want more of the Kelvin timeline besides the movies and tie-in comic, check out this series/trade.

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk

I just finished a book that I was loath to put down every night for a week so that I could get some sleep: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, The Story of Starfleet’s Greatest Captain, “edited” by David A Goodman. Star Trek, as I believe I’ve indicated before, was my first fandom, years before comic books became my thing, so when I saw this book in Previews a few months back, I knew I would be getting it. But what was I getting? Some schlock that did not offer me anything new or at least that I couldn’t read at Memory Alpha? I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

The first thing I did was look at the color pictures of James Kirk, offering glimpses into a past that was largely undefined aside from the scattered bits in various episodes and the movies. The first picture following shows a young Kirk, age 12, as he was heading for Tarsus IV and his run-in with Kodos. Notice the detail about his allergy to Retinax V, which was revealed in Star Trek II?

The next photo shows Kirk’s Academy graduation photo, age 21. (Shatner was quite handsome in his youth.)

Then I read the Afterword, by Spock, and then started the book with the forward by McCoy. (Don’t ask my why I did that–it’s actually common for me whenever I read any book to start it out of order, especially when there is front and back matter to read.) These pieces were sentimental, being written about their friend after he, from their perspective, had died saving the Enterprise-B, as shown in Star Trek Generations. As it turns out, Kirk submitted this autobiography right before that fateful event.

The meat of book was very surprising to me. It filled in quite of bit of Kirk’s personal history that I, as a fan of Star Trek for the last 40 years (one of my earliest memories is waking up from a nap the summer before I started kindergarten and seeing these colorful costumes, and who was that guy with the pointed ears?), did not know. This is exactly what I wanted to read! From Kirk’s childhood, to his time at the academy, to his early postings before he became Captain of the Enterprise, the fleshing out of some of his five-year missions (though, when I got to the point of Kirk retelling certain of those adventures, I got a little bored), and what came after that and between the movies was all very entertaining and fulfilling to this fan. But all of that wasn’t the surprising part.

The book opens with a prologue about Kirk meeting Edith Keeler (from the fan favorite episode “City on the Edge of Forever”). This focus on his feelings for and about Keeler permeates the book with a melancholy that belies the somewhat jovial tone the series and movies oftentimes had. Even more, Kirk admits to his own selfishness, his ambition, his failings, which is something I did not expect. I was–pardon me–fascinated by this approach. The “editor” could have easily chosen to just romp through Kirk’s adventures, sprinkling in details to tantalize and educate us (and we do get plenty of that through the back half of the book), but there is a lot of second guessing and self-reflection that goes along with the adventures, and it is a stronger story for it.

Because of this book, I will never think of Captain Kirk the same way as I did. He became more of a three-dimensional character for me, someone more relatable than just the brave and daring Captain who saved Earth and the galaxy on multiple occasions. As Spock writes in the end of the book, Kirk is not dead, and he will return. I think these statements transcend the foreshadowing of the events of Generations, and the reimagining of the character in the JJ Abrams relaunch. Kirk has made such an indelible impression on our culture, on me, that he (and his crew) can never really “die”. I hope that, to paraphrase the tag line from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the adventure is just beginning.

New Comics Wednesday 8/27/14

Happy New Comics Wednesday! Here are the comics that I’ll be getting from this week, plus the best comic that I read recently!
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RandoMonday: Star Trek (1989) #25

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

 

Star Trek (1989) #25 by Howard Weinstein (writer), Gordon Purcell (penciller), Arne Starr (inker), Bob Pinaha (letterer), Tom McCraw (colorist), Robert Greenberger (editor), and Jerome K. Moore (cover)

This issue is 23 years old and I haven’t read it in that long, so when I saw the cover again, I thought the blonde woman whom Kirk is holding hands was Doctor Gillian Taylor from Star Trek IV as a sort of follow up to that story. But no. This issue centers around the crew of the Enterprise spending an inordinate amount of time wondering why Kirk wasn’t going to the Starfleet reunion or talking to him about why he wasn’t going. (Spoiler! He goes.) Before everyone heads to festivities, Checkov’s cousin shows up to do a medical internship, and apparently to start to fall for Sulu. At the reunion, Kirk runs into Captain Styles, who is still an ass (he snickers when someone refers to Kirk as Admiral), and while trying to get away from Styles, Kirk literally runs into Saavik, whom we discover is waiting for reassignment. Finally, Kirk is reintroduced to Victoria Leigh-Kegin, an old academy friend (yes, just a friend) who wants Kirk’s help in finding out who killed her husband, a nobleman from the planet Pilkor, who named Kirk as his sole heir, leaving Kirk all of his possessions, which also includes Victoria. Cue wide-eyed expression from Kirk.

Speaking of the art, I really liked Purcell’s and Starr’s work on this title. They make the characters look like the actors without resorting to some Photoshop trickery that seems to be so prominent in the IDW series. Overall, this was enjoyable to read again, and now I want to read the next issue to see what happens.