It has only been a few months but with no new Star Trek: Discovery episodes to stream until the end of the year, fans will be relived to hear that the show’s annual is out now and focused on one of the most popular characters: Lieutenant Paul Stamets. With Discovery’s first entry into comics providing a backstory to T’Kuvma, the annual also returns to a pre-Discovery story as we follow Stamets as he makes first contact with the mycelial network and Doctor Hugh Culber.
Stamets will be easily recognisable to readers who found him sharp and with little patience for Starfleet in those early episodes. Before becoming a starfleet officers, we find Stamets and his mycology partner, Staal, examing strains of mushrooms during a terraforming mission on Devena Prime. They discover prototaxites stellaviatori which will form the spore drive used onboard Discovery. Diving into his research at the expense of a night at the opera, Stamets clicks that the latin translation for prototaxites stellaviatori is “star traveller” and wonders it could be a way to journey across the galaxy instantly.
Years of research brings Stamets to Alpha Centauri in front of the Federation research council and the scientists contempt for Starfleet is justified as there research is dismissed. Yet, the consequence of that rejection sets him on a course with Doctor Culber, his future partner. That fateful encounter has been reversed engineered from one of the most popular episodes of the inaugural season, ‘Magic to Make The Sanest Mad Go Mad’ when Stamets recounts that first encounter to Michael Burnham when he tells Culber to “get lost!”
Discovery’s first season has been filled with controversial moments and few inspired as much backlash and online outrage like the murder of Culber. The same sex relationship between Culber and Stamets, long overdue for a series which prides itself on diversity like Star Trek and arrived with a lot of hype and the pairing of Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz on prominent publications but that relationship and Culber were cut short when he was murdered by Ash Tyler.
The ‘Bury Your Gays’ viewpoint was brought out and the writers seemed taken aback by the backlash, immediately letting slip that Culber would return at some point in the first season and that with sci-fi no one is truly ever dead, especially not in this mycelial network. For fans still hurting from that creative decision, show writers Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson have delivered a fantastic comic that should appease some fans by adding to a relationship that we hardly knew in the series.
Star Trek: Discovery’s first season rarely had the chance to breathe and let us explore the characters when they weren’t under the pressures of war or survival, which made for gripping television. However, this slower paced character piece focusing on Stamets allows us to learn more about what makes him tick and how he’s become one of the most popular characters in the crew.
This story offers hope and a potential tease for something that has been missing from season one, exploring strange new worlds and exploring our characters in their more natural environments.