Sunday, 28 September 2014

Star Trek: The Space Between (#1-6)

"Lets get to work" - Riker

Hmmm, I've been enjoying my comics far too much recently.  Time to engage in some painful self-flagellation.  Don't worry, I won't get naked if you don't, but I am going to put myself through another Star Trek: The Next Generation comicbook review.  Why do this when I know only a couple of people will read this?  So the good stuff looks better by comparison I guess. The last one I reviewed, Hive was diabolically awful.  This is better, it is merely completely dreadful.  I don't understand why Star Trek: The Next Generation seems so difficult for writers to "get".  It's a vibrant and detailed universe with well defined and interesting characters and yet the comics based on it seem to be written and drawn at gunpoint.  There's a real feeling of "oh that'll do, the fans will eat this shit up whatever we make" about them and this one is no exception, being as sloppily drawn as it is lazily scripted.  It is NOT GOOD.  I am resisting the temptation to crack a lame joke about the only "space between" being the one between my ears for buying this crap when I have been burned several times before. Oh I just did anyway? Whoops, now I hate myself more. Moving swiftly on, this is basically five stand alone stories from various points in the Next Generation's seven Tv seasons that turn out to be connected in a very vague way by revelations in the final issue.  It was released in 2007 by IDW ,written by David Tischman and art by Casey Maloney and Leonard O'Grady.

The first chapter is set during The Next Generation's first season, because we have Tasha Yar still alive and Riker without a beard.  The Enterprise has arrived at a planet called Tigon which has recently opened communicatiosn with the Federation.  Riker, Tasha and Data beam down to meet with Chanceller Lomac to discuss possible Federation membership.  As they beam down there is an energy pulse on the planet. They are met by Edic who tells them they are all plugged into a planetwide internet type thing via implanted bluetooth like devices.  When they meet the chancellor it turns out to be a woman called Kadec.  No trace of Lomac appears to be stored in either the planets supercomputer or peoples memories.
To be fair the TV shows fights were lame as well
Data investigates and finds that as they arrived a large portion of data was wiped from the computer.  Then Riker and Tasha are stunned and imprisoned, while Data is incapacitated and the followers of Kadec start messing with his brain.   At the same time a huge pulse sends the Enterprise flying away from the planet and we get this odd exchange, Geordi says even at full warp they can't resist the pulse. 

Worf: "If we do not act soon we will end up in the Gamma Quadrant and I for one do not wish to go there"

Well, uh, Worf... when Voyager ended up in the Gamma Quadrant it initially was given that it would take seventy-five years to get back.  So yeah, you might end up in the Gamma Quadrant in many years from now, but I think it's unlikely.  Anyway Picard decides they can use the power of the pulse and full warp to slingshot round and arrive back in time to just before the pulse was fired.  Now I know Kirk and Co. pulled this kind of stuff before but Next Generation usually had a more "realistic" portrayal of time travel.  But whatever.

Back on Tigon, Data is having his memories modified so he'll report back that he has a spiffy time on the planet.  This doesn't explain how this is supposed to jibe with the Enterprise being attacked and Tasha and Riker being imprisoned but there we go. Meanwhile Tasha and Riker escape captivity by using a communicator to overload the Tigon guards bluetooth, then engaging in the lamest fight seen ever.
Recovering from a brain fiddle
The reason all this is happening is that th government uses it control of the main computer and peoples brains to retcon history, which is what happened to Lomac as the away team arrived on the planet. The Enterprise arrives back in time and takes out the pulse cannon. Tasha and Riker get to Data then Edic arrives with guards and arrests Kadec.  He arrests her on charges of crimes against the state and apologises to Riker and Co.  The issue ends with Data moping in Ten Forward and Tasha staying with him as he ponders his quest for humanity.

The next chapter is set during season 5 as Picard makes mention of Spock staying on Romulus.  He is taking time off to go on a Federation sponsored archeological dig.  The team uncover a two hundred year out shuttle pod and a bag of harmonic diamonds.  Immediately a fight breaks out over who can have them as they are insanely valuable.  Which I find amazing for two reasons, first of all its a Federation Dig, so they should be on it's way to a museum, though writers seem to equate Picards archeological adventures as looting expeditions.  Secondly well, whatever do they need the money for?  Picard in the film First Contact says it better than I:

PICARD: The economics of the future are somewhat different. ...You see, money doesn't exist in the twenty-fourth century.

LILY: No money! That means you don't get paid.

PICARD: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. ...We work to better ourselves ...and the rest of humanity.
The crashed shuttlepod
So, anyway with that said they each take a diamond apart from Picard who says the assisstant with them can have his.  Then the next day they find the comm's unit smashed and the phasers missing.  Soon everyone is dead, except for Picard and one of the archeologists.  He and Picard manage to find a way into the ruins in the hope they can find some way of contacting the Enterprise.

Oh I forgot, on the Enteprise is  small sub-plot in which Beverly Crusher invites Deanna Troi to share a holodeck program based on Saturday Night Fever.  This is almost good until we get this remark from Bev:

Beverly: "Sometimes jazz and tap can feel - I've lost five pounds"


Anyway, back with the archeologists, Picard using a deduction worthy of Jessica Fletcher surmises that the archeologist with him killed the rest and has the diamonds. The archeologist pulls a weapon on Picard and makes to leave him locked in the ruins but is ambused by Riker and Co.  There is no explanation for how they knew Picard needed them.  At the end Picard ponders that the diamonds gave out harmonics that stimulated greed centres but didn't affect him because he's a badass Captain.  He also ends up with the diamonds which he at least uses to finance more digs rather than for his own enrichment.
Ahahahaha, that's one of the worst drawings I have ever seen in a comic.
Chapter three is harder to place in Trek chronology.  Worf and Troi are definitely intimate by this point, whereas the finale of Trek has them dating but it's heavily implied it was their first kiss Picard interupted.  So it must take place between the end of season seven and the film Generations.  Anyway, the ship is attacked and Troi is injured, Worf goes to help her before coming to the bridge as ordered.   The ship attacking them takes out their engines and communications, leaving them having to rely on the shields to keep them safe while they figure out what's going on.  After the conference Picard dresses down Worf:

Picard: "We all appreciate the help you gave Commander Troi.  Indeed, your actions may have saved her life.  But when my first officer gives you an order, you respond.  Immediately and without hesitation.  Regardless of personal relationships."

What. The. Fuck?  I know Picard is stickler for protocol but he would NEVER prioritise that over the life of a valued crew member.  This is insanely out of character for him.  Bad writer, BAD.  
Things that make you go boom.
Data, Worf and Riker investigate the attack and conclude it might have been deliberately targeted at Troi.  Who manages to stagger out of sickbay and tell them there is no one on the ship.  After some technobabble they figure out that if they get right up close to the enemy ship that is being piloted by remote control they can interrupt the transmissions it's receiving, which causes it to blow up.  Later Picard and Data discuss the events.

Picard: "That ship was designed to destroy the Enterprise... we got lucky Data. But we still don't know who our enemy is."

The next story is most likely set during season five as Ensign Ro Lauren is part of the crew.  She, Geordi and Worf are returning from some Starfleet briefings.  A massive solar flare from a nearby planet causes them to crash on an icey planet.  They manage to find shelter in a monastary, but Geordi gets seperated from them by falling into a hole so they Worf and Ro go to find him, but are attacked by the monks who seem to have a zombie like infection.

Meanwhile the Enterprise has registered the shuttle is missing but don't know where to look for them.  They are also transporting the ex-leader of the planet Wyath called Ghud, who is to stand trial for crimes against the people and he needs to be delivered on time or his trial could be nulified.  He has found religion while in exile and offers to help find the missing crew members.  Picard allows it with heavy supervision and Ghud alters the long range sensors to detect Geordi's visor and Ro and Worf's metal accoutrements.
Attack of the killer monks.
Geordi, Worf and Ro discover that the monks have been affected by contaminated water fueled by excess solar radiation.  They come under heavy attack but as all seems hopeless the Enterprise arrives and beams them up.  The monks are cured and Ghud is taken to his trial on time, with Picard wishing him luck as he goes.  This is probably the best story in the book, the fight scenes are cool and its refreshing not to have the helpful former bad guy betray a trust.  It's still not great, but it's passable as a Next Generation story.

The next story is set early in season two as the Evil One has replaced Beverly as Chief Medical Officer and Wesley is moping about his mum being away.  They are called to a farming colony called Armada where something has gone wrong with the crops.  Wesley hand out with three teenagers who are unhappy with their lot, one has been accepted to Starfleet Academy but has to stay and work the land.

Cumin:  "Me and Rori work the fields for ten hours a day, then school for another four. No times for friends or fun."

Really, people in the future are miserable unfulfilled? But what about First Contact!Picard's comment that "We work to better ourselves ...and the rest of humanity."  Why it's almost as if the neo-marxist utopia of a culture without money and supposed freedom to live how you wish is in fact completely unworkable in practice. 
Anyway, turns out the farmers were using chroniton particles from a crashed Romulun torpedo to speed the growth of the crops.  One of the teenagers finddled with this to turn the crops bad so his brother could leave for Starfleet. When Wesley confronts them and tells them to confess he gets into a fight with the eldest teen, Cumin.  And wins!  Now I can believe a lot of things.  I can believe a man can fly.  I can believe in a ship that  is bigger on the inside than the outside.  I can believe the default shape for aliens is four limbs and a head.  But I CANNOT believe acting pansy Wesley Crusher would win in a fight with a teenager older, taller and more muscled from working the land.  Well, after the beatdown, the teens 'fess up and that's that.

Then we return to the post-season seven present and Picard wakes with a sudden realisation.  The various incidents they have investigated over the years shown here have been duplicated on other planets, for example chroniton particles were used to ruin crops on a Cardassian colony and a Maquis ship self destructed after finding some harmonic diamonds.

Data: "...Someone is using information from Starfleet logs to create offensive weapons".

Picard: " Our purpose is exploration.  That anyone would pervert that information for political or military purposes could destory everything the Federation built."

The final issue have Riker, Worf, Data, Geordi and Troi infiltrating a secret Federation base they have (somehow) concluded is organising these attacks. Meanwhile Picard is talking to Admiral Nechayev about it and she warns him off.  When they stop talking we see her talking to a shadowy figure saying "he knows".
A standoff
The away team search the computers on the base and find them empty, this is a trap. Picard is discussing Mechayev with the groundskeeper at the Starfleet Headquarters called Boothby.  He says he's heard whispers about this clandestine Federation activity, he leaves and when Picard is alone he is attacked, before he is killed someone who remains mysterious but who is probably Nechayev, beams him out.  He finds himself on the secret base and a man holds him at phaser point and tells him why they are doing what they do.

Man:  "You are allowed to explore because we keep the galaxy safe".

Then the away team arrive and point their phasers at him, but he has back up as well.  Stuck in a Mexican standoff, Geordi tries to detonate the bombs they set up to blow up the base, but they were neutralised.  So Picard and the rest beam away having accomplished precisely nothing.  They still decide to throw a party like they had acheived some kind of victory and the comic ends with Picard toasting the crew.  What?  Is that it?!  Picard and Co.  just give up and carry on their merry way.  Can I point to the terrible film Insurrection to show that the Enterprise will rebel against the Federation if the cause is just.  But the baddies are not defeated here and the comic just ends abruptly.
Why are you celebrating?!!!
I probably don't need to reiterate how bad this comic is.  The stories are poor, the art sloppy and everyone is terribly off-model.  The regular female cast is sidelined, and the ending defies belief.  The plot thread holding the stories together is incredibly contrived and the net result of the final issue is to make you feel like your time has been completely wasted.  At least no one was killed off in this comic, but otherwise this is worthless in all respects.  Bad times.


  1. Did this comic actually give you ’flu?

    Gordon Bennett, that is one baaaad panel. Why do we need to look up Data's nose?

    Yeah, Wesley Crusher couldn't win a fight with a tribble. A dead tribble. And why do the women on the Enterprise need to lose weight by, like, dancing and stuff? Is there not a gym on the ship? And aren't they all in peak physical condition anyway? They look so svelte that if they lose any more weight it's gonna be muscle mass and other important stuff like that. How peculiar.

    Human nature is such that most people aren't gonna get out of bed in the morning and work just for the betterment of the species. They're gonna want cold, hard cash. And if it's a post-scarcity society so cash won't get them anything extra, they won't work at all. The people of Starfleet must be a fraction of a fraction of one percent of the future population. Like, the kind of people who go out as aid workers to war zones where they might get beheaded today.

    An uncritical audience is a terrible thing. Reminds me of what Kingsley Amis said Roald Dahl told him about writing for kids: just write anything, because "the little bastards'd swallow it."

  2. You may be right about this comic making me ill!

    The whole losing weight thing is so ridiculous, especially Beverly a woman who has never been an ounce overweight let alone five pounds. But of course women in the future will still be concerned about their weight and blah blah blah, ugh.

    The economics of the future as laid out out on the show and film don't stand much scrutiny. I think that's why the Eu stuff keeps contradicting it, I like to trot out that quote of Picards though because it amuse me to point out those contradictions.

    The EU of Star Trek novels, those I have read in the past anyway are pretty great, it just seems to be the comics that are lazy and slapdash. This makes me sad etc.

  3. Sounds rotten. I think you summed it well in your opening paragraphs -- ST:TNG is such a rich universe, why can't they find people who are ... I dunno .. fans of the show and actually want to tell TNG stories. This seems to be an ongoing problem. I've been perusing TNG comics from both Marvel and DC throughout the 90s/early 2000s, and they are all mostly plagued with horrid art and poor storytelling. So far, the best one is the DC monthly series that started in '89. It's pretty simplistic, but it's got enthusiasm, old school charm, and since the show was still in its infancy, the comic kind of develops how it wants to. I'll keep you posted on that. Meanwhile, you should review some more Trek comics so I know which ones to stay away from :)

  4. Ah you wish to see me in agony some more eh? Well, I sold off my single issues of TNG and DS9 in the mid-90's so I am having to go by ones collected as trade paperbacks, which only seem to be the more recent IDW miniseries. Though I did spot a collected edition of TNG that was from an earlier period which I might pick up to compare old vs. new as it were. That might well be the DC one you are referring to and its nice and cheap so I'll pick it up sometime soon if you think it's worth getting.

    In the meantime I have more terrible ones to be going on with. *sob* I'd love it if say Peter David wrote for the comics, I mean he's an acclaimed Trek novelist and comicbook writer, I bet he could create something awesome. One can dream anyway...