‘Terra Incognita’, IDW’s latest Star Trek offering, continues to use its pages to flush out characters from the series and create new stories that could have easily fit into The Next Generation‘s run. In issue #3, the spotlight shines on Dr. Selar. The Vulcan Starfleet officer first appeared in the episode ‘The Schizoid Man’ and also featured in several TNG novels, but ‘Terra Incognita’ is filling in some gaps in her history.
On the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher and Dr. Selar are trying to save Vulcan embassador Hendryk, who is taking part in a diplomatic mission between the Federation and Cardassian Empire. Hendryk is in a coma and likely to die before the important negotiations can continue. Crusher and Selar decide to try a risky procedure involving a cortical simulator net (does that mean anything? Are these real science words? No idea!) that must be pulled together by Barclay.
Barclay, as you may recall, is not the real Barclay. After the events of ‘Through the Mirror’, the Mirrorverse Barclay managed to sneak aboard the Enterprise, incapacitate his doppelganger and take his place. Three issues in and no one is the wiser: in fact, people seem to like this Barclay more. La Forge and Crusher sit and chat about how he’s finally come into his own, he seems so confident and professional, he’s doing extraordinary work – and he’s even got himself a date. You can’t help but feel bad for the real Barclay, trapped and oblivious to the fact that his co-workers are getting along swimmingly with his evil twin.
The cortical net fails, and Hendryk is only given a fleeting moment of consciousness before dying. His death parallels Selar’s father’s death, told through flashbacks. Selar’s father fell while exploring and Selar’s mother was given the duty of transporting his body and soul back to Vulcan in a ritual known as Katra. A dying Hendryk asks Selar to perform Katra for him, and she agrees, taking his soul into her body. The Katra ritual is something shown as sacred and important to Vulcan culture and Selar treats it as a huge honour.
This opens up a conversation between Selar and Captain Picard, who wants her to use her influence as Hendryk’s soul-carrier to enter negotiations on his behalf. Selar and Picard discuss Vulcan traditions and Picard tells her about mind-melding with ambassador Sarek. Selar is impressed with Picard’s knowledge of Vulcan culture, and more importantly, his respect for it. This conversation gives her a chance to understand her captain better, and ultimately convinces her to negotiate with the Cardassians on Hendryk’s behalf before returning his soul to Vulcan.
With most of the story revolving around death and the sacred rituals involved, the comic is more sombre than other issues. The artwork on ritual, specifically transporting the body up Mount Selaya, is beautiful and otherworldly without looking out of place. Despite being one issue in an ongoing series, ‘Terra Incognita’ #3 could be a standalone about Vulcan philosophy, and how Vulcans navigate their culture and their duty to Starfleet.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Terra Incognita #3 is now available from IDW Publishing.