If there’s one thing sci-fi franchises love, it’s a good crossover. And sci-fi franchise comic series love them most of all, or so it seems. Titan has done more multi-Doctor escapades in Doctor Who than you could shake a Sonic Screwdriver at. Dynamite had the 1970s and 2000s crews meeting up in Battlestar Galactica Vs Battlestar Galactica. We’ve even recently had Star Trek vs. Transformers gracing our comic book pages.
It seems the sky’s the limit when it comes to providing fan service by delivering the sorts of stories that would be impossible to realise on the small or big screens for a variety of reasons. Novels are the nearest rivals, but comic books at least have the advantage of being a visual medium and can help make those fantasies that little bit more real or vivid. It’s therefore no great surprise that one of the staples of Star Trek in comics is the temptation to have the various series and crews cross paths with each other. What IDW has done here is therefore continuity porn of the highest order, by giving us a meeting of Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway, which is the sort of thing normally found only in the fevered dreams of fanboys.
‘The Q Conflict’ starts out with Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E on a rescue mission to save the inhabitants of Cestus III from the collapse of its system’s star. In the past two days, there have been a total of eight irregular stellar events (to put it in layman’s terms, supernovae), which has caught the attention of Starfleet, as these events have resulted directly in the deaths of thousands so far. Upon arrival at Cestus III, however, the collapsing star suddenly resets itself in the blink of an eye, and following further investigation, Picard finds evidence of the involvement of Q, the superbeing whose presence has haunted this Enterprise crew all the way back to Farpoint Station, at the very start of their voyages together.
Picard summons Q, demanding that he explain what’s going on, and why people are dying across the cosmos. Q tells him that every few thousand eons, the higher beings try to assert that they are just as powerful as the Q Continuum, and the resulting conflict spills out into our reality for a couple of hundred years. Given the scale of the devastation, Picard considers the collateral damage resulting from the Q Continuum’s jockeying for supremacy to be unacceptable, and accuses Q of being as irresponsible and unethical as Q once considered humanity to be. This gives Q the idea of having humanity sort out their conflict, and so he promptly whisks away Picard and the Enterprise-E bridge crew to an unknown location (later revealed to be Cestus III, apparently centuries in the future).
Once they’re able to take stock of their situation, they soon find that they aren’t alone, and are joined in short order by Captain Benjamin Sisko and his crew from Deep Space Nine, Captain Kathryn Janeway and her team from the USS Voyager, and Captain James T. Kirk and his legendary shipmates from the original USS Enterprise. Q explains they they will all face a number of challenges, and will be representing different beings in order to decide who’s supreme – these are the Q Continuum; Trelane, from the original Trek episode ‘The Squire Of Gothos’; the Metrons, from classic Trek‘s ‘Arena’; and Ayelborne, leader of the Council of Elders on planet Organia, who Kirk encountered in ‘Errand Of Mercy’.
It’s a thankless task to have to try to knit together all these various elements from the first four Star Trek series, so writers Scott & David Tipton find themselves with something of an uphill struggle in trying to make it all work. Another complication here is that even the three 24th Century-era crews are taken from several years apart, rather than the exact same moment in time, which seems like an odd choice, but will no doubt play out with some valid reason in a subsequent issue. The surprise here is that they’ve gone to all the trouble of bringing in Kirk and crew into the mix, as there’s all sorts of continuity no-no’s as to why this really shouldn’t happen.
We know that Bones has met Data, Scotty was rescued by the Enterprise-D crew, Spock encountered Picard on Romulus on the 24th Century, and Kirk and Picard had teamed up in Star Trek: Generations. As none of them recall the events which are about to unfold, we can only assume that there will be some sci-fi copout to ensure that everything is forgotten, in order to be able to maintain the integrity of Trek‘s own internal history and timeline.
It just feels like such a cheat, however, to have to pull such a move, although absolutely necessary, and fills you with a sense of trepidation early on as to how exactly the Tiptons are going to write their way out of it. You know it’s coming, but you still can’t quite brace yourself for the awfulness and inevitability of it. Presumably a mindwipe from Q, resetting everything. Hopefully it will be something more imaginative. But Picard better not wake up and find Q in the shower.
Not so much a teamup, as the crews are to be pitted against each other, it’s also hard to see how all of them will manage to get out of this affair with their integrity, and without looking weak, foolish or like bad guys. It seems like an insoluble problem, the sort that scuppered plans to set Kirk’s crew against Picard’s in Generations, as someone would come out looking worse off. Hopefully, the Tiptons will have the odd trick or two hidden up their sleeves, otherwise things are going to get awfully messy and awkward terribly quickly.
It’s all setup so far, so let’s hope the payoff is going to be worth it.
Star Trek: The Q Conflict #1 is now available from IDW Publishing.