Swap Shop’s Trek parody

Comics Just awful. After an issue that amounted to a stand alone Who story, another which was half stand alone Trek, half an issue of missing the scenes we’d all been waiting for and a third which amounted to a flashback we’re finally in the two teams working together material and since I haven’t read enough Trek comics to suggest it’s one of the worst Trek comics I’ve ever read, I have read enough Who comics to at least able to say its one of the worst Who comics I’ve ever read. At least the mid-70s World annuals have a certain surreal charm. This takes what is one of the best ideas for a comic ever then pisses it down a Jeffries tube.

Once again the storytelling is modular enough that the issue can be split up into roughly three chunks. The first resolves the cliffhanger ending of the Doctor meeting Guinan which should have enough material for a whole issue, but we’re presented with six pages in which the two of them agree that something’s gone wrong with the timeline to the point of effecting their memories, in other words, pretty much what we’ve already gathered from the previous two issues. Once again, the writers are simply repeating exposition rather than moving the story forward. Once again they’ve squandered the potential to do something interesting.

Next we’re into another scene in the Enterprise’s meeting room in which Data miraculously offers a set up for the next chunk of the issue, a visit to a planet which has been attacked by the Cybermen and Borg. It’s fairly typical of Trek that some useful information turns up like this via the ship’s scanners like some electronic Huggy Bear but it’s a boring approach to storytelling and doesn’t come naturally in the flow of the narrative. Ultimately it leads to Riker being asked to mount an away team and unsurprisingly the Doctor asks if he and the Ponds can tag along. Cue the expected transporter scene which is efficient if predictable (see below).

The rest of the issue’s about the investigation and aftermath. The Enterprise crew meet a Cyberman for the first time and vis-versa. Both have malfunctioned so they’re barely a threat. Just a couple of issues it seems, this great alliance has fallen apart and the two cyberborgish races are attacking each other rendering nullifying what was hyped to be the main point of the story, which is followed by, in the dying moments of the issue bizarre scenes in which Picard considers an alliance with the Cybermen against the Borg and the Doctor with the Borg (or some open dialogue) none of which rings true, followed by a tease of next issue’s cover with Picard in the TARDIS.

Well hum. If these reviews about been about anything, they’ve been about the hope that the series gains momentum and heads off into left field. It’s certainly done that, but only because I’d not expected anything this dull. Huge moments like the Doctor using the transporter for the first time are there for the milking (previous t-mat travel accepted) but it's over in three frames beginning with Rory if the ship’s going to land on the planet which is the kind of Jokoid which might have turned up in Swap Shop’s Trek parody in the 1970s, presumably delivered by Cheggars pretending to be Chekov.

At no point does this feel like the Eleventh Doctor. The art says Matt Smith (just about) but he’s generic Doctor all the way, without any of the wit he’s infused with by writers Johnny Morris or Scott Gray in the Doctor Who Magazine strip and a shadow of what was even achieved in the first issue. He’s says Ponds a bit, but much of the time he’s the kind of Pertwee/Baker amalgam with Mark Gatiss says he and some of the other writers fell into producing dialogue for in their first drafts when the show returned in 2005. Not that he even has that much to do since the writers have finally decided they’re writing a Star Trek story which happens to have a Time Lord and some civilians in it. You could replace him with Data and tell much the same story.

Amy and Rory have more to do this month. Nothing to do with the actual story, they’re still being dragged about like a contractual obligation, but they’re at the forefront of the frames and have dialogue with other characters. None of that dialogue rings true of course. There’s a bizarre scene with Troi, half of which is just them introducing themselves to one another, the other half their relationship with the Doctor in which Amy sounds like Rose, them needing to look after him. But the writers clearly don’t know what to do with them (a different approach, like having each of them kidnapped by a different cyborg faction, could have made them critical from the start) and if anything they’re a distraction.

Speaking of which, the artwork’s also becoming ropier as the series continues. Perhaps faced with deadlines, the artist’s work is increasingly muddy and impressionistic. The characters all generally look about right, but there are a few frames which border on a naive art approach (hello, page sixteen) and the geography’s all over the place planet side as there's no sense of how time's passing. We’re not quite in the territory of some of IDW’s early Angel comics, it doesn’t actively work against the script to render it incomprehensible, but there are moments, big, potentially epic moments, which disappear into a few brush strokes and strange angles.

Also, as the comments under TrekMovie's bizarrely generous review (in no way is this artwork "outstanding") remind me, it's still looking increasingly likely the writers either haven't realised that Trek is a television series in the Whoniverse or are simply ignoring the fact.  Again, that's a shame and certainly makes a nonsense of the whole storyline about the Doctor having knowledge of this strange, new, or a least different world.  He must know what a Klingon looks like, because he's seen it on television which should have made this whole trip seem like a sideways step into the land of fiction rather than a whole new reality.

I’m not sure anything can save what’s increasingly looking like a bunch of flirty covers in search of a story. What could have been a massive battle between the aligned forces of good and evil across realities is already beginning to destabilise into endless pages of exposition punctuated by character moments which are the stuff of poorly realised fan fiction (bottom of page 10 probably, those guys simply don’t talk like that and it’s not even proper English). But we’ll still be buying it through to the bitter end because you never know. There could indeed be an incredible metafictional reason why all of this is happening.

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