Star Trek #1434: The Return of the Archons Part 1

1434. The Return of the Archons Part 1

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #9, IDW Comics, May 2012

CREATORS: Mike Johnson (writer), Stephen Molnar (artist)

STARDATE: 2258.241 (follows previous issue; includes a prologue taking place before the Star Trek movie).

PLOT: The comic follows the events of the TV episode "The Return of the Archons", with changes based on the new J.J. Abrams continuity. The Enterprise investigates a mysterious colony of humans living as if it were the Middle Ages, and find an early Starfleet ship, the Archon, plugged into its infrastructure as the computer "Landru".

CONTINUITY: People and elements that appear here and in the original story include Beta III, Landru, Lt. O'Neil, the Lawgivers, and the Archon (still NCC-189 as per the Star Trek Encyclopedia). The story attempts to explain why the colony is human, is modeled on a specific era in Earth history, and everyone speaks Federation standard (the original episode did not). The organization that tries to recruit Sulu in the prologue may or may not be Section 31.

DIVERGENCES: The Archon is now an urban legend of a ship and Beta III's colony is based on the Middle Ages, not the 19th century as in the episode (all costumes and buildings more in line with the Lawgivers' uniforms). Landru is now a spectacular-looking computer, and a piece of the Archon is part of the underground lair. It appears the colony and Landru may have been engineered by a secret group within the Federation. None of these changes to the timeline can be explained by the arrival of Nero 20-some years ago.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Spock's mood screen.
REVIEW: Now this is more like it! This book does two very important things right. First, it adapts a story I really don't like, and second, it makes a huge number of changes. The two decisions go hand in hand, probably, as bad stories can more easily be tinkered with. I think this is the book's sweet spot. Leave the classics alone and focus on the episodes that sucked. You can only improve on them. In this case, Johnson and Molnar do a LOT of tinkering. First, they explore Sulu's career before he joined the Enterprise, giving him ties to Section 31 (or something like it) though clearly, he chose not to join the black ops unit. They also take the mystery of the Archon and make a meal of it. In the original story, the Archon gets tractored in by Landru and its crew is absorbed into its strangely Earth-like society. This time around, Landru looks to be something the Archon carried there. Is this some kind of social experiment gone wrong? The visuals for it are epic, and I only chose not to show them because I consider them spoilers. The Sulu from the movies has some martial arts experience, so the fight scenes with the Lawgivers are consequently more interesting to look at, and the members of the Body are more devious and less spaced-out. And for once, the beats of the story don't follow those of the episode. We don't see the Red Hour, and Kirk's landing party aren't taken in by rebels. Instead, it's as quickly as possible to Landru's chamber because the real story is the Archon, the thing that may be in the title, but is pretty much forgotten in the original episode. And the comic's not all plot, there are character moments for the big three and Sulu as well. Congrats on a well executed re-imagining and here's hoping the trend continues.

4 comments:

snell said...

My biggest quibble is that the Enterprise crew have no real interaction with the inhabitants (or an "absorbed" Sulu), so there's no real sense of what the status quo is on this planet, or why it is so horrifying. Without the interaction, without seeing the people in thrall, we lose a needed sense of perspective. As portrayed, Beta III doesn't really seem more than a run-of-the-mill society dominated by asshole police/priests.

Plus, I've got a desperate fear that they're just going to rip off the plot of Serenity, which isn't a direction I care to see the Federation going in.

Siskoid said...

I don't have a problem with the change of focus - it just means they're not telling the same story. I have no affection for the Red Hour stuff or the people of Beta III, so I'm really not bothered that they chose to tell an entirely different tale.

I know that you'd rather read entirely original Trek stories, but if they're going to do re-imaginings, I'd rather they do it this way than the more slavish adaptations of the first 6 issues.

snell said...

I don't need a slavish adaptation, but I need something, even a sentence, to tell me why they're so concerned about what's going on here. Their interactions with the inhabitants consist of two sentences of what sounds like an innocuous greetings, and then lots (and lots) of fighting with Lawgivers.

It's part of the continuing de-Roddenberryization of Star Trek under the Abrams regime...take away any discussion of ideas, and just get to the fightin.'

Siskoid said...

That's a phenomenon we should definitely keep an eye on.

 

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