Sunday, January 21, 2007

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Space Between #1

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Space Between #1, January 2007, IDW Publishing
writer: David Tischman
artist: Casey Maloney
colorist: Leonard O’Grady
letterer: Robbie Robbins
editor: Dan Taylor

A Comic A Day has boldly gone into the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise before, but IDW’s new TNG miniseries The Space Between warrants a second look at Star Trek’s sophomore enterprise. The series published by DC Comics was released concurrent to the television show’s original run and could only provide supplemental stories to enhance the growing TNG legend, undoubtedly with restrictions aplenty regarding any dynamic character development. Now, IDW can retrospectively contribute to the legend without peripheral consequences. For all intents and purposes, The Space Between is Star Trek: The Next Generation, maybe even for a next generation for Next Generation fans.

Still, with this first issue, writer David Tischman treads lightly, telling a simple single-issue story that embellishes the characters as we knew them and pits the Enterprise crew in an exciting but ultimately consequence-free adventure. At the beginning of this story, Captain Picard establishes contact with the chancellor of the “technologically advanced but traditionally isolationist world” Tigan, and Commander Riker, Lt. Commander Data, and Lt. Tasha Yar transport to the planet to secure the planet’s Federation membership. When they arrive, they discover that the world’s leadership has inexplicably changed. The new chancellor attacks the away team and repels the Enterprise from orbit with a gravimetric pulse. Spoiler alert: In the end, Riker and company learn that the Tigan people are subject to the cybernetic interfaces implanted in each of their citizens, and that if the government were to rewrite history, the culture would adapt accordingly. The Enterprise snaps out of their lightspeed interstellar impulsion and returns to find the new chancellor overthrown by her number one, the keeper of the information network. Presumably, the fact that he hadn’t tried to seize power before assures the Federation that Tigan is now in safe hands.

Despite Stat Trek’s bold perspective of the future, each of its incarnations has been privy to the pop culture that spawned it, and The Space Between is no exception. (Interlude: To prove my point, consider that, despite all of Captain Kirk’s romances with females from varied alien species, it was his kiss with Uhura, television’s first interracial smooch, that warrants the most reflection. From the 23rd century, the Enterprise journeyed into new territory in the 1960s’ Civil Rights Movement!) The concept of legacy pervades the corrupt chancellor’s need to rewrite history, and I wonder if Tischman sought to tell a parable about today’s American political landscape. We may not have cybernetic implants, but our reliance on the Internet, and the many outlets for up-to-the-minute news and reviews, is the contemporary equivalent, and if any politician sought to change recent history with a well-crafted revision, he need only flood the airwaves with his assertions before we consider the new tale to be true. Even if Tischman didn’t intend this analogy, the magic of Star Trek is this inevitable relevance, the effortless connection between humanity despite the century. We can rest assured that the franchise is in the right hands.

Visually, Maloney seals the deal. To establish this issue as season one fare, we have a beardless Riker, collarless Starfleet uniforms, and a very much alive Tasha Yar. With its concurrency to the TV series, the DC TNG title maintained near perfect caricatures of its characters, but so far removed from those bounds, IDW and Maloney can give Picard and his crew a little more expression and animation. I doubt anyone will review their season one DVDs to compare the part in young Riker’s hair, or to calculate the thread count of Worf’s ceremonial sash. The iconic imprints of each character are all we need, now; Maloney isn’t drawing Gates McFadden anymore – he’s drawing Dr. Crusher. He can really go where no illustrator has gone before.

Yes, if you can’t tell, this fan is excited that The Next Generation crew is back. With rumors slowly confirming that the next Star Trek film will follow the prequel trend, telling Starfleet Academy stories of Kirk and Spock, I wonder if The Space Between is our last look at the NCC-1701-D crew in awhile. If that’s the case, The Space Between is an appropriate title in more ways than one – not only by bridging the gap between those old television episodes, but by building a bridge from fans to these characters, as well. Believe me, when it comes to the Enterprise, that’s one bridge upon which I enjoy dwelling.

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