DC Comics Star Trek #3 (Errand Of War!) picks up immediately on the bridge of the Enterprise, where readers had just witnessed Klingon Emperor Kahless IV declaring war on the Federation at the end of Star Trek #2. Naturally, it’s all been blamed on Captain Kirk, who had the misfortune of being self-destruct adjacent to a massive Klingon battlestation hidden behind an invisible wormhole.
(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.)
We Get Letters, We Get Letters
I wish I could tell you that this is the issue where things start to pick up in terms of characterization and narrative, but alas we’re not there yet. Writer Mike Barr continues to coast on a mix of references to The Original Series and TWOK dialogue snippets (the Chambers Coil takes another unlikely turn at center stage, and Kirk gets to say ‘britches again). This is something he actually gets taken to task for on the letters page from readers who’ve finally had a chance to read the first installment in the series.
Another reader complaint that at first seems pedantic has to do with the character of Saavik. There’s a lot of confusion over whether she’s just the Science Officer on the Enterprise, or the Science Office plus First Officer, as Spock was before her (despite her lowly rank of Lieutenant). Barr’s answer insinuates the Sulu is now the first officer, but in the book he’s still at the helm, and certainly isn’t referenced as First Officer at any point in the story. If you didn’t read the letter’s page, you’d have no way of knowing the Enterprise’s current command structure.
Starfleet’s Anger Management Issues
Other weird aspects of issue #3 include an antagonistic relationship between Kirk and Starfleet Command, which is revealed to be the result of a strange rock-like creature (picture Marvel’s The Thing) that seems to be in control of the Admiralty.
This same being also appears to be running the show for the Klingons, as well as causing the Federation to produce hardcore propaganda videos decrying massacres by their Klingon foe while celebrating their own genocidal planet attacks.
Kirk questions the veracity of Starfleet’s sudden hawk-like attitude, but Saavik validates that the transmissions they’re seeing truly do originate from Earth. This leads the Enterprise to eventually violate its orders to stay away from Organia, showing up at the planet of the omnipotent beings that had imposed the peace treaty between the two galactic superpowers only to discover that it has completely disappeared.
A brief skirmish with a pair of Klingon battlecruisers ends with one of them dashed into whatever planetary shield is hiding Organia, and the other disabled and its crew beamed aboard as prisoners.
Surprise! It’s commanded by Kor, the Klingon who, alongside Kirk, instigated the Organian treaty so many years before hand. Just as the two start to puzzle out why their respective camps are at each other’s throats, that giant stone thing appears again to threaten the two of them with doom.
Does Anyone Remember These Aliens?
It’s here that I realized I’d see this craggy creature before. At first, I thought it was a callback to The Animated Series, but it’s actually a mega-powerful reality-controlling race lifted from an Original Series episode called The Savage Curtain. You know, the one where Abraham Lincoln and Surak fight the O.G. Kahless and the menacing Colonel Green alongside Kirk and Spock while the Excalbians try to decide whether ‘good’ was more powerful than ‘evil.’ You remember that, right?
Suffice it to say that the late 60s were a lot closer to this book’s 1984 publishing date than they are to the present day, so it’s very possible that readers would have been quicker to pick up on Rocky’s identity than I was. Still, it’s disappointing to me that instead of progressing into a series of new and exciting adventures, the series has in fact doubled down on reintroducing alien antagonists from the past – the Organians and now the Excalbians – and seemingly rehashing the ‘testing one species against another’ trope. I won’t know for sure how far Barr was planning to retread that road until I read issue #4, but I can’t say that I’m optimistic.
Beat ‘Em Up!
There wasn’t much of a B-story to #3, aside from Ensign Bryce working alongside Klingon defector Konom to teach him about, um, beauty I guess?
For her efforts she gets into a brawl with a group of xenophobic crewmembers led by (who else?) Ensign Bearclaw. Eventually security shows up to teach everyone a lesson about plastic body armor.
Again, I don’t remember Starfleet having this much turmoil on the lower decks in any iteration of the franchise, but I guess the DC honchos were more interested in fisticuff action than any in-depth exploration of character among non-primary personas.
Best Retro Ad From This Issue
Things were a little light this month in terms of advertising, but I did want to talk about this half-page for something called GRIT, which promises ‘money, prizes and the opportunity to start a business of your very own’ to children.
I remember seeing ads like this, not just in comic books but other youth-oriented publications and being confused about how any of it worked. There’s really no explanation as to what you’re getting involved in by mailing in the GRIT PUBLISHING CO. form, other than that you’ll get a chance to ‘sell GRIT.’
Thanks to the modern miracle of the Internet, I was able to look up GRIT and discovered that it was a weekly newspaper aimed at rural Americans. Sorry, did I say ‘was?’ I mean ‘is,’ as it’s been in continuous publication since 1882. For close to 75 years GRIT was sold almost exclusively by kids door to door. It’s still around today, but it no longer bills itself as ‘America’s Greatest Family Newspaper.’ Instead, it’s managed by Ogden Publications and targets country living readers at newsstands and agricultural stores across the country.
GRIT’s ad is a lot less enticing than the full-pager targeting adolescents at the back of the book from Olympic Sales Club, Inc, which splashes a full catalog of cool kid stuff – walkie-talkies, ‘pocket’ Lamborghinis, ‘BMX-style’ bicycles, and even a Commodore computer if you sell ‘All Occasion cards, Personalized Stationary, and Gifts.’ The idea is you sell X number of items to trade in for your real Kopy Kat Game Chrono-Alarm wrist watch.
These ads used to have me fantasizing about ‘prizes,’ but I was never brave enough to mail away for an explanation / indoctrination into the Olympic sales cult. Did anyone actually take them up on it?