Recreating the magic of Star Trek: The Original Series while continuing to engaging old and new fans alike is no mean feat but IDW Publishing have found a team to do just that in Star Trek Year Five issue 4, which is out this week.
Completing the second story of the series, Brandon Easton reflects on the consequences of the Enterprise crews’ earlier visit to Sigma Iotia II. Captain Kirk and his crew are famous for bending the rules to suit their current needs but where does that leave the planets and aliens that they interact with? When the Enterprise warps away, what happens to those left behind?
In the second part of Easton’s story, the full extent of the damage done to Sigma Iotia II is realised and Kirk is forced to intervene further in the planets politics.
The issue opens with Spock running for President against the rich elite, backed by the Southern Continent who have been forsaken by the ruling classes. Meanwhile a space station orbiting the planet is falling apart due to lack of funding and will crash through the atmosphere at any moment. Bureaucracy has tied the hands of the planets officials and even Kirk is bound by Federation Law. But with a mutiny brewing on the Enterprise and Spock involving himself in current affairs, Captain Kirk is running out of options and running out of time.
This is without a shadow of doubt Star Trek: TOS. Easton has captured the tone of Gene Roddenberry’s original concept beautifully. The pacing of the story and the building of drama from the opening scene to the inevitable solution plays out exactly like one of the 1960’s episodes. The duel dilemma facing the crew allows Easton to keep all of the main cast in the story: an approach often used in the series.
The characters and their reactions to the situations they face are exactly as a fan of the show would expect. Easton understands the ins and outs of the Enterprise crew and what each is capable of: Spock’s unfaltering logic, Kirk’s reluctant rule breaking, and Scotty’s deductive reasoning. Each of the cast excel in their roles and every scene serves a purpose in the overriding plot.
Social commentary and moral questioning is evident throughout. The problems on the planet and the pent up rage felt by one of the crew members on the Enterprise are all relevant to a modern day audience. Some of the speeches given by the cast may come over as a little preachy, especially if you do not have the same politics as the creators, but for the most part the opinions fit with the characters and the world of Star Trek.
There is only one moment where Captain Kirk reflects verbally on the situation that breaks the reading experience. For a brief moment the writer’s voice takes over the character’s voice and the speech breaks the flow of the narrative. This is quickly recovered but, unfortunately, the moment is still there.
Rendering Year Five
The artwork for Year Five is outstanding. Martin Coccolo captures not only the physical appearances of the cast but also the emotional reactions of the characters. His facial work is excellent, giving the narrative it’s emotional weight. The layouts and constant shift from long shots to close ups capture the Original Series atmosphere.
There is a sense of the grandiose but done on a budget. Coccolo focuses on characters over scenery allowing an occasional long shot to establish the scene. There is a large cast, with extras on the planet as well as the Enterprise, and Coccolo gives each character their individuality; they stand differently, move differently, and all round act differently.
Star Trek Year Five is also surprisingly colourful, both in the script and in the visuals. Colorist Fran Gamboa is not afraid to splash the color around filling each page with a full world of visual delights. But he also affects the mood of a scene very effectively by draining some color out and focusing on another. Most notably is the scene in the engine room of the Enterprise where the dangerously high tensions are illustrated via the wave of red covering everything.
In such a conversation heavy script it is important to get the lettering right and Neil Uyetake has done an excellent job. With the speech balloons there is nothing outrageous or challenging but the text inside reflects the nuances of the character’s speech. There is a distinctive speech pattern for the central cast so that their personalities clash creating the dynamic relationships between the crew.
The sound effects also have an air of ‘made on a budget’ about them which adds to the overall charm on the comic. Each creator appears to go out of their way to make the reader think this is an episode from the 1960s.
Fans can be difficult to please. What works in a franchise for one person may be the fly in the ointment for someone else. However, the creative team behind Star Trek Year Five has produced something that is as close to Original Series as anyone is likely to get and you can’t ask for more than that.
The characters, the plot, and everything about the design has that 1960’s feel about it in all the best possible ways. This is a joy to read, especially if you are a fan but the real beauty is that it stands alone in its own right. Fan or not, Star Trek Year Five looks good and reads better.