Review 2012: The Projects:
Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation 2, issue #8.

Comics Ho, ho, bloody ho. Last week the writers of what is, without shadow of a doubt, one of the worst comic representations of either of these franchises ever were interviewed by Comic Book Resources. As Allyn suggested when tweeting me the link, "you may have an aneurysm". He was quite right. Everything you need to know about what went wrong with Assimilation2 is in there especially their lack of knowledge of Doctor Who, which they differente from Star Trek as being “science fantasy” not “science fiction” as though fantasy and fiction are opposite words and transporters seem more plausible than a machine that travels through time. They admit that Star Trek is easier for them because they’ve been writing in that universe for much longer, which explains why they probably hadn’t realised that it exists as a television programme within the Whoniverse which explains why at no point has the Doctor, Amy or Rory said, “Oh my god we’re in the Star Trek universe”. Though frankly that’s been the least of its worries.

Bizarrely this series has had its fans. The writers indicate they’ve “done convention and bookstore signings over the course of the year, everyone has been super-friendly and complimentary. I think it comes through that we love both these properties and are trying to do right by both.”  The solitary comment on the interview says, “As a fan of both shows, I really loved this series. Well done and thanks to everybody involved. As you all did a great job on it, that you should be really proud of! Loved it!” Which is fine, really. Everything is a matter of taste after all. Just because I think that this is empirically and provably rubbish doesn’t mean that someone else can’t consider that it’s an unutterably flawless work of genius. The writers certainly seem to be pleased with themselves. But for all CBR’s indication this has been a critical success, I’ve not found many reviews which are more than at least luke-warm. Starburst hates it as much as I do. Forbidden Planet uses phrases like “frustratingly uneven”.

Spoilers, spoilers, this is another synopsis. So what do we have behind the Kirby homaging cover with the baby-faced Doctor and orgasmic Worf? An extended action sequence, the issue begins with a cliffhanger resolution and the wrongness begins pretty much immediately with Amy utilising one of her three lines in the issue (“All right.”) in agreeing to provide covering phaser fire for Worf and some other security guards as they go in to sabotage the CyberBorg ship’s engines (her other lines are, spoilers, “Bye!” and “Just hope what?”). That’s Amy Pond. With a phaser. Providing covering fire for a Klingon and some security guards. Rory warns that they’re not trained marksmen. Worf suggests they’ll “do fine”. Not that we get to see this because they cutaway to the sabotage so we don’t actually see them fire at anything, which is probably for the best. If this was being acted by Karen and Arthur they’d probably be a bit grumpy, though Rory has more things to say and has an exciting moment with a door later.

Three pages later we’re back with the Doctor, Picard, Data and Riker’s Borgfriend, or friend who is a Borg (though he doesn’t appear in a frame for two pages) facing up to the CyberBorg hoards. After a page or two considering how they’re going to get past them to reach the CyberController, they’re captured anyway (which means those two pages look particularly wasteful with just twenty-two to play about with), then released again when the ship is eradiated with gold dust by the Enterprise. Once again we ask when it was established in nuWho that the nuCybermen were vulnerable to gold (not that you can’t introduce tropes in spin-off fiction but this seems incongruous). Then Picard suddenly has a translucent face-mask on to stop him breathing in the fumes. This just appears between frames. We can imagine he whipped it out of his pocket, but Starfleet uniforms aren’t known for them and no one has a bag. Where did they come from? Note the Doctor doesn’t have one. He’s holding a hanky up to his nose, which barely seems adequate.

After that, they go and see the Cyber-controller, whose a surprisingly articulate bugger. Cyber-controllers so far on the revival have been characters we’ve come to know who’ve been converted (cf, The Age of Steel, The Next Doctor) and this fella is in that realm, but his dialogue closer to the classic form ala Earthshock, with lots of fist clenching and poetic threats. He spends most of his monologue confirming what we already know from previous issues about the Cybermen converting the Borg, before he’s quickly neuralized by Data and the Riker’s Borgfriend, and the Doctor uses him to finish blowing up the ship and the Cybermen with it. We’re now at page sixteen. At no point have we been surprised, much, by any of this and what we’ve been watching/reading/snoring through is a well-executed plan. Good god, it’s boring, apart from, perhaps the dynamic moment at the bottom of page eleven with the Cyber-controller seems to leap off the ground and hover over the Doctor with Picard standing nearby with a mean look on his face waving around a phaser rifle.

Everyone safely into the TARDIS. But wait, Riker’s Borgfriend has made it on board and reverting back to his programming is attempting to assimilate the time machine. At least I think that’s what’s happening. He’s sort of squatting nearby and the next moment the TARDIS is attempting to possess Data in an attempt to save itself. Again, what could and should be a big moment of joy is pissed away in a few frames before Rory’s exciting bit with a door is handed a page and a half. I keep returning to the narrative real estate portioning because over and again the writers can’t seem to decide how this story should be paced. There’s enough mileage in Data interfacing with the TARDIS to fill a whole issue and in a more interestingly structured series it would. But over and again across these issues, the more fascinating ideas with the most potential are put to the backburner in favour of repeated exposition or action sequences that merely set out to mimic what’s already been shown on television.

With two and a half pages to go, the writers tip their hand as Trek fans first of all by giving a whole page to an admittedly well executed scene about Riker coming to terms with the change in his Borgfriend via a conversation with Crusher (who seems to have been drawn in accidentally because its more of a Troi moment) and then the TARDIS crew turn up to tell them they’re going home and explain that simply by destroying this one ship they’ve wiped all the Cybermen from the timeline including the ones who appeared with the Baker version of him in issue 3. But thankfully we’re not left with much time to think about the nonsensicality of this because they’re all suddenly in the Holodeck and Picard’s telling the Doctor to fuck off out of his universe is so many words (“I hope our paths never cross again”) before telling him he’s glad to have met him (oh make up your mind). Then we’re back in the TARDIS for a single frame of wrap up in which Sean Penn in Shanghai Surprise tells his companions that universe skipping will be a breeze.  Oh course it will.

In the final frame, as I predicted somewhat previous, there’s the suggestion of a sequel as the Borg come to the conclusion that they must develop time travel, though that could just as well be a throw forward to First Contact (which had its own crossover sequel featuring the X-Men as a comic and novel when Marvel had the rights) (which makes it astonishing that it hasn’t crossed over with Batman yet because everything else has) (presumably it’ll happen if DC get the rights again) (everyone but Dark Horse seems to have had them at one point or other) (there was a weird moment in the late 80s when Marvel UK were publishing a comic then a magazine of Star Trek: The Next Generation carrying DC’s material) (a complete run of which I still have somewhere) (in the original Marvel run produced early in the run of the tv series the helm officers were a married couple who’d bicker all the time) (seriously, they're called the Bickleys) (and Wesley saved the ship in practically every story) (which is a pretty accurate reflection of the television series itself in that period to be honest).

And we’re done. Given the cack-handed way the previous seven issues have been executed we shouldn’t be too surprised the finale is as perfunctory as it is with weird pacing, pointless pages of stuff prosaically showing us action which would take seconds on screen and yet more repeated exposition. Once again, the Eleventh Doctor rarely sounds like himself, with vast generic infodumps instead of fun dialogue and the Enterprise crew largely reduced to being his companion leaving his actual companions without much to do. The artwork’s better than usual, with some nice shading and rendering of publicity photos though there’s one flashback frame featuring Riker with his Borgfriend (who actually looks more like Geordi) in younger happier times in which the artist has remembered not to give him a beard but puts them both in s3 uniforms when, to my understanding, the scene has to have been set before s1 when spandex was very much in for the officer about town.

As expected, there’s a few loose ends, primarily the guff at the beginning about the Doctor gaining memories from the Trekverse, of recognising Worf and his earlier encounter with the Kirk. In his late infodump, the Doctor says the memory banks of the ship should have gone back to normal, but that their own memories are there’s to keep. Does this mean the Doctor now has a mass of useless knowledge in his head about a reality not his own? Has it been adequately explained how they got there? I don’t remember that it has. Allyn, do you know? What was the point of introducing this rather exciting idea then doing almost nothing with apart from justifying a whole issue telling a different story with a different cast two issues in? I’d expected a Fringey moment when the Doctor and his companions forgot that they’d ever existed in a different universe and that the Tholians rather than the Daleks were his mortal enemy. Alas, it was not in the nature of this series to make to such a dramatic narrative leap.

Instead, what could have been an excellent crossover has been squandered and after seeing the amazing initial shots of the Doctor in the Captain’s chair in command of the Enterprise we’re left with a deflated sense of what could and should have been. From a first issue which materially had nothing to do with the rest of the series (and seems to have largely acted as an audition for the next big project for the writers, a series of Who comics to commemorate the 50th year of Doctor Who) (no) (really) onwards across the following seven months (can you believe it?) we’ve had nothing but disappoint after disappointment and as the months have passed I’ve wondered why I was bothering. Yet, I’d still buy each issue hoping against hope that it would do something really extraordinary. More fool me. There’s another CBR interview with the writers worth reading conducted at the start of this process. At the close they’re asked, “would you be game to come back for a second series?” and they answer:

“Are you kidding? The Doomsday Machine and Dalek Imperial Fleet put together couldn't drag me away.”

Oh please god no.

[Allyn has a much rangier analysis of the whole series with more emphasis on its failings as a piece of Star Trek.]

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