Close to forty years past the premiere of The Next Generation, it’s hard to remember just a gamble The Next Generation was back in 1987. After years of struggling to get a weekly series back on our airwaves, Gene Roddenberry finally had his wish and was returning to television and the day-to-day running of a Trek series.
And while Paramount had little control over whether or not the quality of a new Star Trek would be up to snuff, they could certainly make sure the public was aware of the series. This brings us to this collection of the six-issue DC limited series comic books based on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Reading them thirty-plus years later, they stand out as a bit of anachronistic.
It feels like writer Mark Carlin was given an early writer’s bible to the show and based his stories and characterization on that. Data is a bit more emotional than we see in the series (at one point when Geordi is apparently killed, Data is ready to kill the person he considers responsible), Troi’s abilities seem to include predicting the future (to the point that Picard defers to her on the make-up of a landing party) and Picard seems a bit sterner. In many ways, the first couple of issues feel like they were inspired by the same writer’s guide that Diane Carey did for the first Pocket novel, “Ghost Ship.”
The characters feel almost like the ones we will come to know, but there’s something slightly off-kilter about them. Given that TNG is relatively new when the first issues were produced, having the characters stop to reflect on their backstory isn’t necessarily worth taking points off. It’s just one of those things that happen in comic books from time to time. (Well, at least comics of this era.)
The comics do provide an interesting “what if” glimpse into how Tasha Yar could have been developed. Denise Crosby left after the first season due to the feeling her character wasn’t getting any decent scripts or character development. These comics make me wonder if the writing team for the TV series had taken a page from what we see here if Crosby might have stayed around a bit.
There’s also an interest in bringing Q back and stripping him of his powers –something TNG would do in season three with great effect. It’s interesting to see another writer get to there first and what he makes of the situation and its impact on Q.
Alas, these nuggets are the only gems of this otherwise disappointing collection of six issues. Carlin doubles down on the families on the Enterprise aspect of the series by giving us a bickering couple who work together at the ops station when the regular crew is off having adventures. Think the Bickersons but piloting the flag ship of the fleet. Then there is the second issue in which the crew visits a planet just in time for Christmas and pursues the spirit of Christmas — who only Geordi can see with his visor and looks like just Santa Claus. Subtle, this ain’t.
Given how good the DC run of original series tie-in comics could be, it’s a shame that this limited series misses the mark so badly.
And yet, I read the entire collection through to the end. I’m not sure if this says something more about this collection or me. I leave that up to your discretion.