While it remains to be seen just how much of this continuity will carry over into the next Star Trek film, the ongoing IDW series continues to add strange, new ideas to the lives of the rebooted Enterprise crew. In part 2 of the reimagined version of “Operation: Annihilate!" the deadly parasites of Devena are driving a bunch of colonists insane and Kirk is faced with some tough choices, as well as some family drama from the past. Did everything shake out the same way it did in the original version? Yes and no. Spoilers ahead!
The last issue left off with the landing party on Devena discovering Jim Kirk’s long lost brother Sam, hiding out in secret passageways underneath the planet. In an immediate change from the original series episode, Sam Kirk is alive, and has yet to be killed by the parasites. In this continuity, we’ve also learned Sam and Jim are somewhat estranged, owing to the fact Sam left home when Jim was fairly young. Because they’ve been out of touch, Jim is totally unaware Sam has a family and the plot primarily focuses on Sam’s efforts to rescue his wife and son, while Jim struggles with getting over their past issues.
Interestingly, the plot involving Spock being infected by one of the parasites and the ensuing conundrum of how to eliminate the creatures, doesn’t take center stage as it did in the original episode. There, the entire drama of the story hinged on solving the mystery of how to kill the creatures, and the ultimate deduction by Kirk that it was the light from the sun, not the radiation or heat which caused their death. Here, all of that is still true, but it mostly happens “off screen.” We’re told Scotty, Spock, Bones, and the little green alien guy rig up the satellites to kill the aliens, and that Spock tested the theory on himself, nearly resulting in his blindness. Again, in the original episode this created some crazy tension when Bones felt responsible for nearly blinding Spock. Then of course, there was the admission from Bones that Spock was “the best first officer in Starfleet” which strengthens their relationship in a solid and touching way.
So, because this re-telling of the story dropped all that, what did it focus on? Well, instead of this being a Spock/Bones/Kirk story, this version of “Operation Annihilate!” was a Kirk and his family story, with a Spock side plot. As opposed to the original version of the story, this one gives us a happier “everyone lives!” feeling at the end as Kirk gets to meet his nephew Peter from the first time, and reconciles with his brother about the death of (both!) of their parents. Meanwhile, the small Spock subplot seems to continue from the rebooted “Galileo Seven” storyline in which Uhura worries that Spock has been acting a little irrationally since the destruction of Vulcan. The cool thing about this notion is that all of Spock’s actions in these episodes are essentially the same as in the prime universe. But now, there’s new context, and the ability for Spock to be seen as a slightly more complex and realistic character.
Also, this issue makes it totally clear that Spock and Uhura frequently lie around naked in bed together. The question is-are they at Spock’s place or Uhura’s? Or, do they now live together aboard the Enterprise? Either way, it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in future issues, as the series is set to present it’s first wholly original story in the next issue.
This series has grown on me quite a bit, and in the early issues I may have been harsher, because I wasn’t quite sure what the creators were going for. It seems clear to me now that their approach is this: use a plotline of an original series episode as background information to develop the traits of the new versions of the characters.
The conceit of doing same stories in an alternate universe initially seems like an opportunity for the writers to do zany bizzaro universe Star Trek stuff, but instead, they’ve taken a smarter, more subtle approach: remind the fans that these are new, slightly different versions of the characters. This makes sense when you think about the aesthetic the new film formed for Star Trek—heavy on character, light on plot/science fiction. Because the comic series is (so far) borrowing old plots, they decide not to worry too much about that drama, and attempt to create new drama. With this one, I guess I missed some of the Spock/Bones stuff from the original story, but really enjoyed everything else. I like the idea of this Jim Kirk having a few family skeletons in his closet. I like the idea of Uhura telling Spock he’s not acting like the cold, unfeeling alien she fell in love with. Come on Spock! Remember when you used to ignore Uhura and treat her terribly? She misses that! But seriously, this little chat between the two of them was worth the whole issue.
Now that the series is set to launch on original story involving the post-Vulcan disaster, I’d say, for a true Star Trek fan, this ongoing series is necessary reading.
I’ve said it before — “Operation: Annihilate!” has always been one of my favorite original Trek episodes. And it is because we all know that Kirk and Spock are the best of friends who rely on each other at every turn, but McCoy is often overlooked in his importance. Not for Kirk; everyone knows that McCoy is essential in Kirk’s decision making process, but for Spock. They were a complete unit as a trinity, not just two people who had Jim’s back. In that respect, the elimination of the original plotline and McCoy’s guilt was an upset that concerns me when thinking of the canon these comics and the new film will build.
On the bright side, the added plotline of Kirk patching up his relationship with Sam was beautifully handled. It was always downright depressing to know that Kirk lost his brother so early in life, and the thought that both of his parents are gone here makes even more sense of how brash and difficult new Kirk was in the film. The stability that Original Series Kirk was afforded due to his upbringing has been shattered in more ways that one this time around, and allowing him to patch it up with his one surviving family member can only make him stronger as a captain.
It’s still enjoyable to see Spock develop in a unique way while he deals with the trauma of losing his mother and his planet. His relationship with Uhura is a fascinating (see what I did there?) aspect to it, but I hope that her influence in Spock’s life doesn’t completely negate his need to form a bond with the ship’s surgeon. I really don’t want McCoy relegated to barking about hyposprays every five minutes.
Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com.
Emily Asher-Perrin is the Editorial Assistant for Tor.com.