DC Comics Star Trek #8 (Saavik’s Story Chapter Two: Blood Fever) picks up immediately where the previous issue’s cliffhanger left off, which means Saavik is doing her best to destroy the Enterprise using a ship she stole from Vulcan that, surprisingly, seems to be more than a match for one of Starfleet’s finest. After a very promising first part to this story, ‘Blood Fever’ is for the most part a letdown that leans heavily on Romulan character tropes and yet another recycled Original Series storyline.
(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.)
A quick recap: Saavik is in the throes of the Vulcan mating cycle, pon far(r), which finally gains its second ‘r’ in this issue to match the correct Star Trek universe spelling. As a result her behavior has grown increasingly erratic, to the point where she set off at the end of Issue #7 to find her betrothed, Xon, who was on a secret mission for the Vulcan government.
After tracking her to the energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy, Kirk and his crew ‘play dead’ by cutting all power to the Enterprise, which causes Saavik to discount them as a threat and break off contact. As she continues her search for Xon, the Enterprise tracks her to a secret Romulan science station where we discover Xon wearing the most elaborate, and absurd, centurion armor seen to date.
Long story short: the Romulans are using some kind of apparatus to leech energy from the galactic barrier and infuse it into a series of genetically engineered test subjects, with the ultimate goal of giving them super powers. Wait a minute – isn’t that exactly what happened to Lt. Gary Mitchell in the third episode of the Original Series when the Enterprise encounters that same ribbon of energy?
Yes. Yes it is. And now we get to read about it again, only this time with Romulans, an ultra-horny Saavik, and the need to resolve everything in 22 pages or less.
There’s not a lot to grab onto here. Everyone knows that Super-Romulans aren’t a thing, so there’s no real tension in the story. It’s clear to the reader that the science station is doomed, and that this technology will never make it off the planet. Shoe-horning Xon and Saavik’s relationship into the middle of such a fantastical storyline instead of devoting the entire two-issue arc to a deep exploration of Vulcan culture and the difficulties of being perceived as an outsider due to her half-Romulan bloodline is the perfect encapsulation of the emphasis on mindless action over character development that has so far been a feature of DC’s take on Star Trek. It’s very much of its era, and it’s a strong reminder of why I was never able to really make a connection with these kinds of comic books as a child in the 80s.
Even when Saavik sneaks down to the planet and encounters Xon (who is sent out to intercept her ship), their encounter is both brisk and muddied. Instead of anything resembling the intimate, and nuanced finger-embrace between Saavik and a young pon farr-ridden Spock in Star Trek III, Saavik grabs Xon and kisses him hard, which is perhaps the least Vulcan-like thing I can imagine. It’s also never made clear how exactly Xon is able to ease Saavik’s ‘blood fever,’ as the few scenes of them together alone are largely spent apologizing to each other and reminding the reader that their ‘bonding was imperfect.’
Eventually, Xon and Saavik’s wide-open love nest is discovered, and Xon is captured and tortured by the Romulans who are keen on finding out why he was spying on them. They are portrayed largely as power-hungry automatons working outside the larger Romulan system, but we’re never told why. Xon is remarkably impervious to even the Super-Romulans and their Magenta Mind Energy, and eventually the Enterprise arrives, hooks up with Saavik, and destroys the antennae that the base was using to focus the galactic barrier’s energy. You know, just Star Trek things
The issue ends with an anti-climactic battle between a Romulan ship and a severely battered Enterprise, where the latter achieves victory by playing chicken with the energy barrier and then turning 90 degrees at the last second. This causes the chasing Romulan bird of prey to crash into the barrier and get stuck inside, because that’s how space works.
Altogether, I expected a lot more from this issue. It was a by-the-numbers space adventure that kept almost everything light, including Saavik’s pon farr, which was so integral to the story in part one.
A few last things to wrap up when discussing ‘Blood Fever:’
- The Enterprise is shown using a cloaking device, which was often alluded to in novels but never, ever shown during the TV show or movies, due to treaties with the Klingons and Romulans that forbid its use.
- Where’s Konom? The crew’s pet Klingon has been missing for several issues now. For that matter, where are Ensign Bearclaw and his foil, Ensign Bryce? It seems once Kirk’s son David appeared on the scene, write Mike W. Barr decided there was no more room for additional secondary characters.
- Finally, there’s an addendum at the bottom of the final page that mentions the comic adaptation of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock being available, and that the next issue will pick up at the end of that story. Given that The Wrath of Khan and The Search For Spock occurred back-to-back chronologically with only days separating their events, and that the entire DC Comics run so far has ostensibly presented an entirely different, and much-extended version of the same timeline, I really have no idea how the series is doing to deal with that jarring disconnect.
Thinking ahead to the events of Star Trek III, where the Enterprise is destroyed, Kirk and his crew find themselves in command of a stolen Klingon bird of prey with their careers in flames, and a time travel adventure about to take place, it almost feels like nothing short of a full reset would make sense. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long to find out.
Best Retro Ad From This Issue
Issue #8’s classifieds page features dueling martial arts dojos, each determined to teach you the RIGHT way to fight.
Near the top of the layout, right beside a crude drawing of what appears to be Chuck Norris kicking a prepubescent boy between the legs, is the headline SELF DEFENSE AMERICAN STYLE. The ad describes a martial arts system that is ‘FAST and EASY.’ ‘The AMERICAN WAY.’ In case you missed that part, there’s another reminder that this system is the ‘AMERICAN WAY not oriental.’
At the bottom right hand of the page, however, lies rebellion. The Karate Self Defense system implores you to ‘LEARN THE RIGHT WAY!!’ which in this case relies entirely on ‘oriental secrets.’