Tag Archives: Star Trek

10 Forward: DS9 – The Fallen (Video Game)

As a life-long Star Trek fan, there’s a lot to celebrate this year: a new movie, a new TV series, and the franchise’s 50th anniversary. For my own small contribution to the festivities I’ve decided to do a series of posts (one every week or two), detailing little-known corners of the franchise’s licensed (and fan-made) works. This week I’ll be covering the Deep Space Nine PC video game – The Fallen:

FallenTitle

Plot: In the last days of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, a scientist named Terrel attempted to unlock the secrets of an orb of the Pah-wraiths, only to be forced to abandon the project when the orb became unstable. Six years later her secret lab is discovered aboard DS9 and forces within the Dominion, Cardassia, and the Cult of the Pah-Wraiths all seek to gather the three orbs of the Pah-Wraiths for use as a weapon, or to create a new wormhole. Playing as Sisko, Worf, and Kira, the player must find the missing orbs, and stop the forces trying to control the Pah-Wraiths before it’s too late.

Pros:

  • Well-versed in DS9 lore. The game itself takes place toward the end of the 6th season, but contains many references to episodes throughout the series including the mining operation on Jerrado (“Progress”), Kira assuming a Cardassian appearance (“Second Skin”), secret areas and defenses from the Cardassian control of the station (“Civil Defense”), the telekenetic abilities of the Vorta (“The Jem’Hadar”), and Dominion prison camps (“By Inferno’s Light”). The game also foreshadows the later events of the series including the final confrontation with the Pah-Wraiths, Dukat being possessed, and the Pah-Wraith cult.
  • The game is re-playable through each of the three main characters: Sisko, Worf and Kira. The storylines run in parallel but feature different levels and gameplay for each.
  • One mission involves exploring a crashed Miranda class starship. The level design for this sequence is excellent, climbing through a hostile jungle to see your first glimpse of the ship, fighting Jem’Hadar on the outer hull, then diving inside and having to work your way through submerged sections to a hidden lab.

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  • Your default weapon is useful throughout the game and is good for almost all light combat encounters. This is good since the heavier weapons may not always have plentiful ammo.
  • Terry Farrell reprises her role as Jadzia Dax for the only time after her character’s death at the end of the 6th season.
  • The game uses a beta build of the Unreal Tournament engine, one of the first game engines to feature truly expansive environments. Both the Ulysses mission and the reveal of a buried Pah-Wraith temple move from tight confined spaces to expansive open levels. This engine was in a sweet spot for games of the era. Next generation engines would feature better graphics, but the level design was much smaller and featured more loading (see Deus Ex vs. Deus Ex: Invisible War). Even with its old and outdated graphics, the level design is on par with the best games of today. You can look out the window of Sisko’s office or the Promenade and see the rest of the station.
  • A mod for the game (titled Convergence) was created by one of the level designers for the original game, and includes another twenty or so levels of gameplay (on top of the 24 base levels). A lot of enjoyment for a shooter.
  • The music is atmospheric and chilling, and in MP3 format easily accessible in the game’s install directory. More than 90 minutes of DS9 game music.

Cons:

  • Avery Brooks and Colm Meaney were unavailable to provide the voices of Sisko and O’Brien. The Sisko performance is okay, but O’Brien is pretty terrible.
  • An early mission features an enemy that you need to scan with your tricorder before being able to shoot them. This can be a bit of a barrier to entry for someone just getting used to the game’s controls.

FallenCombat

  • The default auto-targeting doesn’t always work well. It removes options for destroying explosive containers to kill enemies by always targeting the combatants.
  • The story can feel disjointed and incomplete until you play through all three characters. Some missions, like the Ulysses aren’t explained well initially until you read through tactical briefings, and watch later cut-scenes.
  • Some people criticized the lack of multi-player, which would have been cool in a few places. For me the game doesn’t suffer without it.
  • The game isn’t easy to run on a modern system, though I was able to get it running pretty quickly by installing a program called nGlide. I’m re-playing on my ASUS Windows 8.1 machine with no problems so far.

Bottom-line: The game would be a reasonably good third-person shooter without the Star Trek trappings. Weapon balancing is pretty good, and requires a more considered and tactical approach. The level design is epic in feel, and there are lots of things for the DS9 fan to enjoy, including walking into Quark’s bar, talking conspiracy with Garak, and walking on the hull of a crashed ship (seriously, that is still cool 15 years after the first time I played it). The plot would have fit well as two-part episode of the show (and is partially based on the Millennium series of DS9 novels). Definitely the best DS9 game made for the PC and still fun today.

FallenOps

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Being Happy Something Exists (Even If You Don’t Like It)

This probably started as a rant about the new Star Trek trailer, which I believe many of us are a little dubious about. But it has been pointed out to me by unnamed sources (i.e. a certain Little Red Haired Girl) that the trailer is 90 seconds, I’m reading a lot into it, and either way we’re going to see it and enjoy the movie on some level.

I feel the same way about the new Peanuts movie, which I have not seen, but the trailer really worried me. I’ve heard it’s good, and I’ve heard it’s not, and if/when it comes to the dollar theater or Netflix I will watch it.

Here’s what I am happy about.

The fact that these movies exist means merchandising (where the real money from the movie is made) and licensed projects.

IDW picked up the license for Star Trek comics a few years before the new movie series and has been going strong for nearly 10 years. The ongoing series that weaves in and out of the movie timeline passed issue 50 a few months ago. I have 100’s of comics and stories that wouldn’t have existed were it not for the new movies and their popularity.

This is my wallpaper at work. Don’t you love the artist’s reproduction of lens flares?

From Star Trek Ongoing Issue #50

From Star Trek (2011) #50

The release of the Peanuts movie also triggered DVD releases of more of the old specials that have never made it to DVD, and the two feature length movies Bon Voyage Charlie Brown and Race For Your Life Charlie Brown. I may have some quibbles about the fact that they were fullscreen movies cut down to fit widescreen, but considering they were only previously available on VHS, I’ll take it. Even if the new movie is lousy, these two movies are great and are now out there for everyone to enjoy.

Jurassic World was kind of a meh, but Lego Jurassic World with all four movies is a lot of fun (though sanitizing it so the dinos don’t actually eat anybody is weird).

The Star Wars movie sounds like it will actually be pretty good, but even if it isn’t we have new comics from Marvel, releases of classic series, and really expensive Lego sets that I can covet from afar.

There’s also a lot of crap that gets produced (I think my breaking point was the Star Wars Cover Girl ads). And honestly I don’t think the new Star Trek movies are suddenly going to get someone to go back and watch the show from the 60’s. But at least it’s an excuse to give the fans more to enjoy, and maybe even love.

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The Best and the Worst of Both Worlds

PicardFacepalm

I was raised on Star Trek.

Saturdays in the 90’s were spent with pizza and Star Trek, first Next Generation, then DS9 and finally Voyager. My mom taped reruns of the original series when they aired on Fox after the noon news so I could watch them after school (and homework). One of the best decisions I ever made as a college student involved dropping a database class after the first day, selling back the textbook, and using the money to buy all three seasons of the original series (before CBS decided it needed a CG update).

So naturally you’d assume I’d be pretty excited when CBS announced it will produce a new Star Trek series, airing in January of 2017.

And yeah, I think it’s pretty cool that there will be new Star Trek in the world. The new movies have been fun, and as a comic book enthusiast, I’ve been pretty stoked at the revival in Star Trek comics that’s been happening for the last 9 years.

That said, I suspect I’m not alone in really kinda hating how CBS is doing this.

The first episode will air on the traditional CBS network. After that, the rest of the episodes will be distributed exclusively on the CBS All Access platform, a Hulu-like service carrying CBS content exclusively for $6 a month.

According to executive VP Marc DeBevoise: “This new series will premiere to the national CBS audience, then boldly go where no first-run Star Trek series has gone before…

Behind a pay-wall.

At least in the United States. World-wide it sounds like the series will air via traditional over-the-air networks as well as the all-access app.

All 28 seasons of previously aired Star Trek (not counting 2 years of animated series because who would) were available for free over the air. I know we live in a “different era of television” but this feels a lot like asking us to pay for something we’ve always been able to count on for free.

I can’t decide if CBS’ logic is that the exclusive content will attract more users to the service, or that the series is niche enough that it might be better to go the way of other streaming series like Arrested Development, Community and The Mindy Project. All of those shows had original broadcasts runs and were later revived by Netflix, Yahoo TV and Hulu respectively.

But there’s something about the CBS service that has always felt less than other services like Hulu and Netflix, even Amazon Prime. It sets a precedent for a la carte channel services. I like that my $8 a month to Hulu buys me current and past ABC, FOX, NBC, CW shows (and countless other networks). Just today I was marveling at how much obscure Anime, British television and Korean drama came with my $8 a month. I’m sure CBS has some of the same, but after a while it feels like we keep spending money to buy the same things over and over again with only slight differences.

I only watch two CBS shows currently: The Big Bang Theory, which I binge watch on DVD, and NCIS, which just got 12 seasons streaming on Netflix. The only other CBS shows I’ve been watching have been available on other services, Elementary on Hulu, Numb3rs on Netflix, etc. I’d watch more CBS shows when they come on services I already own, including CBS owned back episodes of Star Trek. I would even go back to appointment television if CBS aired the new series traditionally. I’ll probably buy it if/when they release it on DVD. But until then I’ll have to wait.

Unless we can change CBS’s mind…

If you think the new Star Trek should be available over the free airwaves for all, as it has been for 50 years, send a message using the hashtag #StarTrek4All to @CBS or @StarTrek. Tactics like forcing Star Trek fans to pay for a new series, run the risk of dooming that series before it starts.

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Writing Technology Fiction

Want a free copy of my latest book? Nominate Surreality on Kindle Scout and if Kindle Press decides to publish it, you get a free advance copy. Thanks to everyone who has voted so far. Because of you, Surreality was a “Hot and Trending” book yesterday. But there’s still a lot of time in the campaign left and every vote helps more than ever. Read the first two chapters and vote here:

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2VSHAGFXNJ50T

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The hardest part of this picture was selecting the color of the floppy. I still have about 100 of those things.

There are two kinds of technology books: ones that take place in the present day, and those that take place in the distant future. Both present a unique set of challenges to the author. Anybody who’s watched a technology film from the 80’s – 90’s that involved long disk write times to floppies or command lines knows what I’m talking about. Those movies seem so adorable now.

Future technology isn’t much easier. Sure, you can swing for the fences with things like cloning, teleportation, robots, etc. But you never know when the real world is going to catch up to you. And if you go for really over-the-top tech, well then you’re basically playing with magic.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned from writing a technological mysteries:

Characters carry stories, not keyboards: First and foremost, your readers must care about your characters, no matter what they are doing. Write characters who end up in a different place than where they started, who possess flaws and have goals and you’ll keep people coming back even if the tech eventually looks out of date.

Not everyone has a smart phone: I worked at the library my senior year in high school (2002-2003). That was the year we were just beginning to phase out VHS tapes from the collection. DVD players weren’t much more expensive than they are now, but not everyone has the money for extraneous entertainment. People still use the library for the free internet and computers, even if they have an active social networking life. Just because something new and shiny has come out doesn’t mean everyone will have it.

Software can do anything, except it really can’t: I’ve been binging old NCIS episodes on Netflix. It’s kinda cute how McGee breaks through complex encryption in a few seconds, something that would normally take a supercomputer a couple of years, or even centuries. Most hacks of major corporations involve human, not technology, failures. Skipping some realism allows your plot to move forward, but you often can get a lot more out of setting a few rules. One of my editor Brian’s best comments was asking me what video game avatars could and could not do. Avatars at the end of the day are puppets operated by someone at a keyboard, meaning that in emotional moments we’re not getting the same facial cues as if we were talking in person. That can set up some real moments of disconnect that drive the narrative in new directions if you follow the rules.

No techno-babble: A lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation solutions to problems can be summarized this way. Really complicated, possibly nonsense, technical explanation from Data or Geordi, followed by simple analogy the audience can follow from Picard or Riker. Sometimes Troi, who apparently doesn’t know the difference between quantum strings and filaments. Our relationship with technology raises a lot of interesting questions that can be addressed in fiction and non-fiction alike. It shouldn’t just be intelligent sounding filler in-between moments of plot. You don’t use big words you don’t know do you? Then why would you talk about a Hisenphram Gigaplexer Automonatron? Not a real thing, unless making up technology words counts as a patent. Then it’s mine.

Feel free to make a few jokes that only 10 (Base 2) people will understand, but keep it under control, okay?: I’m an engineer and I like engineering jokes. My current favorite is PEBKAC = “Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair”. That’s funny to some of you, and inside jokes can engage your core audience. But too much and your average reader will just feel lost. And even with smart phones and ubiquitous internet, nobody is going to take the time to look up all your obscure jokes. They’ll probably just put the book down, or ask for a glossary. This is a rule that can be a little hard to follow.

What’s your favorite technology book or movie?

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Star Trek vs. Batman (Trivia Answer)

Trivia Question from Yesterday:

There were a number of notable actors who gave their voice talents to Batman: The Animated Series including at least 7 from the Star Trek films and movies. Can you name them all? Hint: As far as I know TOS, TNG, DS9 and VOY are represented as well as at least two actors from the movies.

Answer:

The Riddler (voiced by John Glover)

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Played Verad Dax in DS9’s “Invasive Procedures”

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Leslie Thompkins (voiced by Diana Muldaur)

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She’s actually been in two Star Trek series TOS and TNG. Her TOS episodes were “Return To Tomorrow” and more notably “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”

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But she’s probably best known (if not best loved) for her role as Dr. Katherine Pulaski on Season 2 of The Next Generation. Personally I like her McCoy-like personality in the TNG-verse and think she’s underrated.

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Red Claw (voiced by Kate Mulgrew). This one I didn’t know till I saw it on the Wikipedia page for Batman.

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Even before she was the first female Captain in a Star Trek show, Kathryn Janeway was a tough lady.

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And now she’s Red again (in Orange is the New Black).

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How colorful.

Ra’s al Ghul (voiced by David Warner)

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Portrayed Chancellor Gorkon in my favorite Star Trek movie “The Undiscovered Country”.

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As well as Gul Madred in the two-part TNG episode “Chain of Command”. There are four lights!

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Also he played an ambassador in Star Trek V, but that’s best forgotten.

Mr. Freeze (voiced by Michael Ansara)

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Portrayed Kang in TOS and DS9.

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But not this Kang.

Kang

Lucius Fox (voiced by Brock Peters)

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Played Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek IV and VI.

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As well as Captain Sisko’s father Joseph in DS9.

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Dr. March (voiced by Rene Auberjonois). He appears in the first animated series episode “On Leather Wings”

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And all the time on DS9 as Constable Odo.

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Never looks very happy.

Can you name any more that I’ve missed?

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More Technology From The Future: Star Trek and the PADD

Star Trek has always been a decent predictor of technology, from flip phone communicators to turbolift doors, and even hyposprays. But probably the most prescient device was the PADD (Personal Access Display Device).

Image Source: iO9

Image Source: io9

Not only did the PADD predict hand-held data entry and reading devices like the iPad and Kindle, it’s also one of the early cloud based devices. The PADD had the ability to tie into the main computer and download data on a particular book, technical document, image, or tech specification. They were even used for gaming, as Jake Sisko had quite an addictive Dom-jot habit (ah the perils of distraction even for the 24th century writer).

The devices were limited and special use. It seems like there ones for every shape and size task, and that they were handed between officers like paperwork in the mid twentieth-century. Most people say that we can get by on only a single device, yet even those of us who have tablets probably also have smart phones.

I have four of these “PADD’s” knocking around in my bag, and while they may have more functionality and storage, they’re just as specialized. One device can read my books to me and play limited games (and doesn’t get glare in the sun). Another is my primary library device, containing over 2000 books. My Kindle Fire is primarily a comic book reading device, and my other Android tablet is my auxiliary comic book and visual reference tablet (currently being used to look through 1000’s of RPG Maker image files). I suspect I’m not alone in this.

Image Source: Memory Alpha

Image Source: Memory Alpha

Our modern PADD’s come in all shapes and sizes, from full sized iPads to tiny smart phones, and we often do use a stylus to write (probably the only way I’ll be able to text on a smart-phone with my meat fingers).

Libraries today are already experimenting with the idea of having Kindles and iPads available for checkout, and Jeff Bezos has at times tried to make the Kindle as cheap as possible so that everyone has easy access to reading. In Bezos’ case part of the aim is to get people into the Amazon infrastructure, but still the idea of everyone having one of these devices, or even being able to just hand them out freely is enticing. I’ll always be a bit possessive with my gadgets, but the barriers to entry for tech like this are getting fewer.

And the specialized PADD’s in Star Trek do suggest an interesting idea for the future of book reading. eReaders have often been perceived as a threat to physical books, but there are ways to transform the digital tablet into a similar device, whether if it’s displaying the cover of the book you’re reading on the back, or by making a one off cheap tablet with navigation for a single book. I’ve always been more of a fan of general rather than single use products, but I think there is a happy medium to be found here.

Do you have multiple tablets, or you try to keep it to just one? What about the cloud? Do you like to read books on the device, or connect to the internet to read?

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Hidden Star Trek Comics Gems

Instead of my typical review post this Friday, I thought I’d give some of the Star Trek and Comic Book fans a little treat. I’m always working on my digital and physical Star Trek collections, and in my Amazon searches I found four collections for 99 cents that contain some of the best Star Trek stories ever told.

As far as I can tell these collections are a bit of an error from IDW. Amazon does not have the resources to verify all of its content and leaves that responsibility to the publishers. I had this happen when I bought Batman #408 (Jason Todd’s first post-crisis appearance). It actually contained the content for Batman #409. I contacted Amazon, who contacted DC, who eventually corrected the issue. What IDW meant to collect here (I believe) was the individual issues for the Star Trek Archive: The Best of Peter David (for 3 of the 4 collections in this post). The content for each of these is actually whole Archive collections of 5-6 comics each, probably some of the cheapest graphic novel stories you can pick up.

Star Trek Archives: Best Of Borg

Listed as Star Trek: Best Of Borg

Writers – Michael Jan Friedman and Paul Jenkins, Artists – Peter Krause, Pablo Marcos, Steve Erwin and Terry Pallot

BestOfBorg_Cover

This collection contains DC Star Trek: The Next Generation #47-50 (more commonly known as “The Worst Of Both Worlds” and Marvel Special: Operation Assimilation.

The TNG story is probably one of the best arcs in DC’s 80 issue TNG run. The Enterprise is pulled through a dimensional vortex into a parallel universe where the Borg have assimilated most of Earth. The Enterprise saucer section was destroyed during the rescue attempt of Captain Picard who remains as Locutus, over-seeing the Borg’s final assimilation of Earth.

The parallel crew of the Enterprise enlists the help of the prime crew to retrieve Locutus and defeat the Borg. But First Officer Shelby and Miles O’Brian have other agendas that may spoil their plans for getting home.

The art’s a little simpler for this arc then you might hope for, but it does have some nice character moments, action shots and the cover art is stellar.

This moment alone makes the whole thing worth-while:

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The Marvel story details a Romulan Commander’s contact with the Borg. It’s been a while since I’ve read the special, but it’s pretty good. If you buy anything in this post, buy this collection.

Star Trek Archives: Best Of Kirk

Listed as Star Trek Archives: The Best Of Peter David #5

Writer – Peter David, Artists – James W. Fry and Gordon Purcell

BestOfKirk_Cover

This collection contains DC Star Trek (Volume 2) Issues 7-12, highlighted by the story “The Trial Of James T. Kirk” (issues 10-12). It’s a shame issues 1-6 aren’t readily available in digital form, as the whole 12 issues forms a longer story-line with several episodes.

Here’s what you missed from issues 1-6: The Klingon empire has put a price on Captain Kirk’s head for perceived crimes against the empire. In the midst of this, Kirk and Company encounter a new race of religious fanatics headed by The Salla, who can cause a man to die just by telling him to. But not Kirk. Kirk is hunted by Captain Klaa (that Klingon commander from Star Trek V) and the Salla all while trying to settle a dispute on a warring planet.

His unconventional solution to the episode earns him further scrutiny from Starfleet and the presence of Federation observer R. J. Blaise who despite an antagonistic relationship, begins to take a liking to Kirk. In the midst of this, Sulu is being pursued by two women and Kirk is having to deal with the antics of one of his new, and over-eager security recruits.

In these issues (7-12) Kirk saves a dying planet from a plague, and a maniacal despot, though the circumstances of that rescue are unclear. He also encounters a bounty hunter eager to profit from the price on his head. Feeling his actions hampered by pursuit from without and within, Kirk consents to a trial in the federation counsel to justify his actions as Captain.

The scenario may be a bit of a stretch, but the characterization here is some of the best, both for the new and old characters. It’s a shame Paramount clamped down on extraneous characters because these secondary stories are some of the most interesting. There’s only so much freedom a writer can have with the big three, but with their own characters they can do anything.

Star Trek Archives: The Best of DS9

Listed as Star Trek Archives: The Best of Peter David #4

Writer – Mike W. Barr, Artists – Gordon Purcell, Rob David and Terry Pallot

BestOfDS9_Cover

This collection includes Malibu DS9 1-5 and the Aschcan story “Hostage Situation”. Malibu started its DS9 run around the same time as the show itself, and it’s a shame it didn’t get as much time to play with the storylines introduced by Worf and the Dominion (the series ran for 32 issues). Still, the stories in this collection capture some of the best elements of the early seasons of the show, particularly a station that still had many unexplored sections and was clearly not a federation starbase.

Mike W. Barr penned these tales, and has had a relationship with Star Trek comics since the first DC Star Trek series (and a couple of Marvel tales from the best forgotten post motion picture series).

Deep Space Nine is always a series I want to see Star Trek fans get into, and these comics are a great entry point.

 

Star Trek Archives: The Best of Peter David

Listed as Star Trek Archives: The Best of Peter David #1

Writers – Peter David and Bill Mumy, Artists – Curt Swan, Ricardo Villagran, Gordon Purcell and Arne Starr

BestOfPeterDavid_Cover

This collection is the archive I believe was going to be split into individual pieces (that’s how it is listed on Comixology). It contains DC Star Trek (Volume 1) Annual 3 and DC Star Trek (Volume 2) Issues 13-15 and 19.

Issues 13-15 wrap up some of R. J. Blaise’s story with Kirk (though her real conclusion is in a later special) while telling the tale of some planetary heroes (who bare some resemblance to Lost In Space characters, hence Bill Mumy) who have been in hibernation for years and are now returning to their planet in triumph. But is there a home for them to come back to?

Issue 19 is a tale of Kirk trying to memorialize a member of his crew who died on a mission but is someone he didn’t know at all. As it turns out no on else knew him well either. It’s a nice portrayal of the death of a redshirt as a real human being.

Annual 3 is the best thing in the collection. Scotty learns of the death of one of his oldest loves and the tale is told backwards through their on again, off again tumultuous romance. It’s bittersweet, but shows a side of Scotty beyond just a grumpy engineer.

All in all, more than 20 issues for less than 4 bucks, across three crews and the best decade in Star Trek comics.

Note: Amazon can correct these at any time so you may want to back them up after buying if you want to keep the full version. On the other hand, if no one complains (and who would, really), then you may never have an issue.

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