DC Comics Star Trek #7 (Saavik’s Story Chapter One: Pon Far!) gives readers their first taste of in-series character building with a deep dive into Lt. Commander Saavik, the half-Romulan, half-Vulcan officer who was the protégé of Mr. Spock. For once, writer Mike W. Barr builds on, rather than borrows from, Star Trek’s past and mythology to push the narrative in a fresh and creative direction.
(I’m blogging each and every issue of the DC Comics Star Trek run that debuted in 1984. Why would anyone want to do that? I explain all here in an introduction to this project that includes very first post in this series.)
What is pon far? For the uninitiated, it’s the Vulcan mating drive, which causes intense pain and emotional disruption if ignored for too long. It was famously showcased during The Original Series episode ‘Amok Time,’ where Kirk and Spock almost killed each other in a highly stylized act of physical combat underscored by the famous Star Trek ‘fight’ music.
There are a couple of differences to note here between Barr’s pon far and that suffered by Spock so many years before hand. The first is the spelling – technically, the DC Comics version is missing an ‘r’ – but the other is that it’s something that only male Vulcans experience.
Unless, of course, you’re Saavik, who is tormented by pon far(r) right from the first of this issue. Primarily, she’s shown enduring extreme physical stress and also lashing out at those around her for the smallest of perceived sleights, including a bizarre toast from James T. Kirk wishing ‘confusion to our enemies, the Klingons and Romulans,’ which is clearly not the most tactful thing to do with a half-Romulan woman sitting two table-settings to your right.
Sensing something’s wrong after Saavik smashes not one, but two glass objects on a single page, Kirk and Dr. McCoy invade the privacy of her quarters where she brings the chastened due up to speed that lady Vulcans are just as vulnerable to the passions of pon far(r).
From here we get a good segue into the DC Comics version of Saavik’s origin story. It’s important to note that there’s no canonical version of where Saavik came from, or how she ended up in Star Fleet, although the often-excellent Star Trek Pocket Books from the 80s and 90s provided a number of intriguing storylines.
In particular, the novelization of ‘The Wrath of Khan,’ written by Vonda N. McIntyre, discussed her being orphaned on an abandoned Romulan colony called ‘Hellguard,’ where she was rescued by Spock and raised in part by his own parents prior to entering Starfleet Academy. ‘Hellguard’ was actually referenced in a single sentence in a scene that was cut from any and all releases of ‘The Wrath of Khan.’ Other materials published by Pocket Books (including the subsequent novelization of ‘The Search For Spock,’ also adapted by McIntyre) maintain that Spock had a role in looking out for her after her rescue, but that she grew up outside of Vulcan.
Issue #7 splits the difference, describing in a flashback Saavik’s rescue from an ‘abandoned Romulan base’ by Spock, who then hands her over to his folks (Sarek and Amanda) She is subsequently bonded to a Vulcan named Xon. Kirk and McCoy somehow have no idea about any of this, which seems a bit odd given their extremely close relationship to Spock, but the Admiral makes an executive decision to detour from their assigned mission so they can take Saavik to Vulcan to take care of her pon far(r) needs.
A side note here: the Enterprise was apparently on its way to rendezvous with the U.S.S. Grissom, the science vessel that Kirk’s son David (and of course Saavik) will eventually be serving on during the events depicted in ‘Star Trek III: The Search for Spock’. David is also onboard for this issue (and engages in some super-awkward rough-housing with his dad that feels extremely out of place given their more stoic film relationship), and on the same page as Kirk’s tasteless toast, McCoy makes a reference to the Genesis Planet in conversation with him. All of this indicates that Barr had finally been given a peek at the script for the upcoming movie sequel, and was trying to lay the groundwork for what is shaping up to be an incredibly difficult ret-con between the comic books and the silver screen.
Kirk’s new orders also give us a random, pad-out-the-pages scene of Scotty verbally boosting the confidence of his engines.
And another throw-away panel where Kirk and McCoy decide to have a drink together while they reminisce about Spock almost murdering his captain for sex reasons, so many years ago.
Upon arrival on Vulcan Sarek informs Kirk and company that Xon isn’t around, secret mission style, which causes Saavik to fly into one of her now-common horny rages. Sarek also reveals that since Saavik was Xon’s second bonding (after his original mate was killed), he’s less affected by the ‘plak tow’ blood fever, their link is ‘imperfect.’ It’s a major burn for Saavik, who gets to have her dirty Vulcan laundry aired in front of the entire room.
Perhaps to make up for his social faux pas, Sarek obliquely informs the crew that they could easily hack into the Vulcan computer terminal in his office to find out where Xon is, and then conveniently dips the scene. Saavik of course does so, and then steals a ship to so she can jump Xon’s bones somewhere in space. The Enterprise gets ready to pursue her, but not before Barr drops a pair of breadcrumbs to link the comics to the upcoming movie.
The issue ends with perhaps the most dramatic page in the series so far, where an ultra-thirsty Saavik blasts the Enterprise with phasers and then demands to know where they’ve been hiding her Vulcan FWB.
As a lead-in to the second chapter of this two-parter it’s certainly effective, and if I’m being honest this is the most original storyline we’ve seen so far from the DC Comics team. I’m eager to see where this momentum takes us in the next issue.
Best Retro Ad From This Issue
Definitely this Oreo ad that serves as not only a skill-testing puzzle game (how many Oreos are hidden? A whopping 62!) but also a coloring page. It’s most notable, however, for the brazen command to ‘Ask mom to buy Oreo cookies!’ which illustrates not only a slice of early-80s sexism, but also indicates that Nabisco had no clue as to the age demographic of the Star Trek comics series.