“Operation: Annihilate!” was the 29th episode of the original run of Star Trek, and in 1967 it ended the first season with a dignified zap. The story involved a solid (though familiar) science fiction premise and everything was ramped-up with family drama and testing of the big friendships. At one point, Kirk even has to consider killing a million people to prevent the “infection” of the multi-celled alien intelligence from spreading across the galaxy. In short, “Operation: Annihilate!” would be a great episode to show someone who had never seen Star Trek, and also a perfect one to revisit if you’d forgotten why you the old show is so fun.
Now, IDW’s ambitious comic project to re-imagine classic Trek stories inside the new film continuity continues with their take on “Operation: Annihilate!” Will the flying parasites look like ridiculous mushy pancakes as before? Will Kirk’s brother essentially just be a version of Kirk with facial hair? Find out below!
Breaking with the previous adaptations of existing episodes, this story begins in a flashback to Kirk’s youth, specifically the direct aftermath of the “Sabotage!” scene from the 2009 film in which he runs a stolen vintage Corvette off of a cliff. His motivations are made clearer in this scene: Jim Kirk’s brother Sam has recently left home because of some kind altercation with their uncle, who is acting as one of the boy’s guardians. It’s also revealed that the vintage Corvette originally belonged to his late father, George, making Jim’s internal justification for stealing it more understandable. After a yelling match with his uncle, Jim is sent to his room. His mother attempts to comfort him about Sam’s departure and how it sucks to be an adolescent in general. In a nice touch, this young Kirk appears to have the 23rd century equivalent of model ships hanging from his ceiling in the form of holograms. Among the famous vessels is the Enterprise NX-01 of Scott Bakula/Captain Archer fame! Horary for new continuity!
Flash-forward to the future (future-present?) on Kirk’ Enterprise. An epidemic of planet-wide insanity has hit several planets with no discernable cause. The concern is the planet Deneva next, which is confirmed when Uhura picks up a distress signal from a ship headed straight for the central Deneva sun. As in the original episode, the pilot of the ship declares cryptically that he is “free” just before burning up in the sun. Why would he deliberately fly into it? Seems like the planet-wide insanity thing has hit this system too. Time to beam down to Deneva proper and figure it all out. Chekov wishes Kirk, Spock, Bones, and two security officers the Russian version of “Bon Voyage!” and they’re on their way.
Apparently, not only are these not the old-school parasites, but also not the old-school uniforms because Kirk taps his uniform Starfleet insignia as if it is a communicator from the TNG-era. Apparently it is, because it makes the little noise! What!? Will this be part of the new continuity in the next film? Really? This is nuts! Not unwelcome, but nuts! Anyway, the ship can’t hear them or something, and in fleeing from attacking crazy people and pink things, the landing party rounds the corner to discover a Mad-Max style grungy guy with bright blue eyes. It’s Sam Kirk, Jim’s brother. And he’s alive.
To be Continued!
Starting at the end, I have to say the idea of having Kirk’s brother being alive rather than dead in the first scene completely changes the dynamic of the whole story. Instead of a cheap Shatner-body double with a mustache, it looks like we might actually get an entire character! Of all the changes the IDW writers have made to these classic stories, this might be the biggest. I always felt like Kirk got over Sam’s death a little too quickly in the old show, and the notion his family was also being screwed with by these parasites, a bit underdeveloped. Ultimately, in the original story, the almost blinding of Spock overshadows almost everything about Kirk’s family dying and/or getting screwed with. This seems to be corrected by having Sam be alive, so that’s exciting.
Further, the source material on this one is really rich. The concept “Operation: Annihilate!” takes cues from both Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters and H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. In the former, people are controlled by alien parasites on their backs that make them do stuff against their will, just like this story. In the latter, aliens are beat by a basic element hiding in plains sight. In War of the Worlds it was water, in “Operation: Annihilate!” it’s a certain spectrum of light. While this might make the core concepts of the story seem a little hackneyed, neither the original episode, nor its new comic book incarnation come across that way. Sure, this is an old fashion zap-the-alien story, but it’s done Star Trek style, which usually has a little more class. With the updated version, it seems to be exploring the underdeveloped aspects of the old story and classing those up as well. Why is Zahra there in the old story? She’s the girl. Now, she’s a badass, and that’s fun. In fact, my favorite line from original episode is upon seeing one of the dead parasites she says, “Captain! It almost doesn’t look real.” How meta is this comment when talking about the aliens on the old Star Trek? Wonderful. So I’m happy to see these parasites are now even more ridiculous and very, very pink.
What’s the deal with Kirk’s new Picard-style combadge action? Well, I suppose this is more repercussions of this version of Starfleet having advanced technology because of the Nero-future invasion. Will this be official in the next movie? It’s possible, because Bob Orci is one of the consultants. If all of this ends up counting as canon, it will be one of the best intertwining of comics with on-screen stories since JMS linked the DC Babylon 5 comics to the TV show. Of the IDW issues, this has been my favorite so far.
Lots of interesting things going on here. First off, the scene where Kirk’s brother leaves home after a fight with their (clearly abusive) uncle was cut from the 2009 film. Pacing-wise it was a good choice, but it did remove a lot of explanation from that car scene and also the difference in Kirk’s upbringing in the alternate universe, so it’s always good to see that referenced and explanded on. It highlights a very important issue that is never really addressed: raising two children without a partner if you were a Starfleet officer was barely practical at that point in time. Winona Kirk is obviously not happy with the situation, but she doesn’t have anyone else to turn to. (I wonder which grandfather George Jr. ran away to live with dad’s dad or mom’s dad? I’m inclined to assume the former.)
It’s fun to see the alien threat seem a little more… threatening. Slapping a plastic smear on someone’s back can do the trick, but the idea of that thing enveloping Spock’s whole head makes for a much more nerve-wracking escape sequence.
Functional female security guards! I am for more of this! Preferably in the next film.
It’s a very cool move to see Kirk’s brother alive, as you always kind of wanted to know more about their relationship in the Original Series. I do miss the presence of his wife and kid; it looks like this George Kirk is currently solo, but of course, he is younger than he was when this event occured in the initial timeline. Getting some family bonding in is a great idea, but I am a little concerned about where the next issue will take us. Part one was basically all setup, leading us to Kirk’s alive brother. But that wasn’t what made “Operation: Annihilate!” one of my favorite Trek episodes. The suffering Spock endures, and the pain both Kirk and McCoy feel over it, was the key. In fact, it was one of the first and few times we got to see just how much Bones cared about the “green-blooded hobgoblin.” I really hope they don’t sacrifice that aspect of the story with the new angle.
Next issue will tell!
Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com.
Emily Asher-Perrin is the Editorial Assistant for Tor.com.