When Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry introduced the first pilot, "The Cage," to NBC executives in it's said that the network hated much of what they saw. The network made two demands of Roddenberry if they were going to allow the show to move forward. The first was that he "lose the guy with the ears." The second was that he replace the actor playing the second in command of the Enterprise, Majel Barrett, with a man.
This was 1964 and the idea of a woman in a position of leadership, even if it was an imaginary future, was absurd to the old men who ran NBC. Roddenberry was able to keep the character of Spock but had lose Barrett's "Number One." Because Gene Roddenberry married Majel Barrett shortly thereafter she is often said to have joked about Gene's choice "kept the Vulcan and married the woman, 'cause he didn't think Leonard would have it the other way around."
IDW and writer John Byrne in particular been on a roll with their Star Trek comics this past year. Byrne is one of the first Trek comic writers in a long time that actually "gets" the original series. He has an understanding of the universe but, most importantly, an ear for the characters which makes his dialog shine.
When I heard that IDW was going to do a mini series based on the nameless first officer Majel Barrett played in the "The Cage" I was in at the premise. This comic did not disappoint.
The story follows Number One as she joins a small crew of cadets for a shakedown cruise of a new constitution class cruiser.
Of course things quickly go wrong for the these cadets and they find themselves in a life and death struggle. There's a very high body count in this story, with few of the crew making it through.
Number One is an action hero here in the Trekian sense. She works outside of regulations, operating on hunches. She kicks ass in hand to hand combat. She saves the ship and honorably gives the credit to someone else.
There's an excellent little side mystery on earth that involves the bodies of one of the cadets who died in a creative and rather horrible manner. The investigators on earth figure out what's going on about the same time Number One does back on the ship.
The artwork hearkens back to the 70's with a neat retro feel. I love the little details such as the lamp dealies hanging off the helm (see photo below) that the artist includes.
There's very little I didn't like in this comic. There is a bit of the George Lucas shrinkage problem that's been showing up in Trek in that everything has to be tied to the Enterprise in some way. Stories about other ships would be okay once in a while.
But these are minor quibbles in what was really an excellent read. Still not convinced? You can read the first four pages of the comic here.
This is a scotch n'cigar comic.
- Dean Wormer