If you were to detonate a little red matter, create a black hole, and then travel back in time to have lunch with yourself ten years in the past, the last thing you’d probably want to mention is the fact that someday the original Star Trek characters will all be recast in a movie made by some guy famous for Alias. Your past self might not understand why you weren’t outraged, and instead in support of this new Trek.
Now, the Star Trek powers-that-be are doing something even more controversial to a die-hard Trekkie of the past; a new comic series has launched featuring the new cast but re-telling original series episodes in this alternate universe continuity! Blasphemy, you say? From the look of IDW’s first sold-out issue, the series looks to be anything but.
The first original series episode that’s being translated into the new continuity is the classic second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” As in the original story, the Enterprise is en-route to the edge of the galaxy, so they can really start making good on this whole going-where-no-one has-gone-before business. Also in homage to the source material, Captain Kirk is prepping for this big mission by hanging out and playing chess in the mess hall. But instead of squaring off against Spock, Kirk is playing chess with Gary Mitchell! While the likeness of Kirk and the rest of the “big seven” crewmembers reflect the appearances of the current actors, Gary Mitchell still looks a bit like actor Gary Lockwood. Lt. Kelso from the classic episode is also present with Kirk and Gary in the turbolift, where the three talk about the fact that Kirk has populated a few positions on the Enterprise with old friends from the academy.
In the original episode, Gary Mitchell and Lt. Kelso were the main navigator and helmsmen, because Chekov didn’t exist then and Sulu was the ship’s physicist. In this new version, Mitchell and Kelso are the relief officers for Sulu and Chekhov; a fact that seems to make both guys a little bitter. Other character changes include the absence of Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, though this seems to be caused by the presence of Bones who alludes to the fact that he and Dehner had some kind of bad romance. The nice thing about this change is the original “Where No Man Has Gone Before” featured the faux-Bones in the form of Dr. Piper. So in essence we’ve swapped Bones out for Dehner. The only downside here seems to be one less female character, but considering where the original story went in terms of Dehner and Mitchell teaming up in a league of crazy, it will be interesting to see how the story unfolds with just Mitchell being “possessed.”
The comic ends on a cliffhanger with many of the same conflicts arising that the original story presented. The Enterprise is without warp power and is being forced to effect repairs on some crummy planet. Meanwhile Mitchell’s brand new ESP powers are freaking everyone out and causing Spock to recommend to Kirk that they just pop a phaser blast in Mitchell’s ass right now before he screws over everyone. Beyond all these changes, probably the most interesting old universe/new universe reconciliation is the color of Captain Kirk’s eyes. In the movie, Chris Pine clearly has super-bright blue eyes. Shatner’s Kirk, of course, had brown eyes, but now in this comic book version, the Chris Pine Captain Kirk has brown eyes! Does this mean it’s yet another alternate universe? At least Gary Mitchell’s glowing eyes are still creepy.
“Where No Man Has Gone Before” was definitely one of my favorite stories from the original Star Trek when I was a kid. I think I watched this one the most when I was home sick from school lying on the couch with a fever. Something about Mitchell being possessed and me being sick always made me want to get better. After all, I didn’t want Spock to shoot me like a rabid dog! The original episode was so deadly serious and didn’t contain near as much goofiness as the rest of the show would end up possessing. It felt like a heavy science fiction story that dealt with Kirk having to kill his best friend while exploring the scary notion of humanity beyond humanity. The IDW reimagining is super fun and the serious tone of this story really fits with the way we think about the new cast. My favorite change is the quick line in which Spock says he’s mind-melded with Gary and knows for a fact that inside of that brain is a big pile of nothing. In the original episode Spock’s advice to kill Gary seems a tad extreme, whereas here, it’s more nuanced. Can’t wait to see where the story goes.
I have to be perfectly honest the fact that this is the reboot crew might make the premise of this episode work better. And that is not original Trek’s fault; they clearly had not established the characters or dynamic that they were going for when “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was filmed. Like “The Cage,” it suffers from experimentation with the format. That never bothers me when I watch it because, as Ryan points out, it’s a great story, but seeing it anew with the kiddies really makes the whole thing come together. For one, Kirk’s anger at Spock for wanting to off his friend Gary plays so well when you remember that he still doesn’t know Spock that well. That ingrained deferral to his First Officer’s advice is not yet in place. In addition, having Gary be one of the first crewman Kirk loses in his command at such a young age is bound to have a rougher affect on him than it did as a seasoned Federation officer. The slip about McCoy’s botched romance with Dr. Dehner is hilarious and so very in keeping with what we love about Bones. All around, we’re getting a great sampling of how this group would react with less experience and untested relationships. I’d say they’ve got just enough wiggle room to play in these comics and they’re using it well.
Also, Pine-Kirk with Shatner’s baby browns. Damn, I think I might be a little in love.
Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com.
Emily Asher-Perrin is the editorial assistant for Tor.com.