They say you can have too much of a good thing. Well, according to IDW’s Star Trek comic adventure The Q Conflict, you can also have too much of a duff one too. Now three issues in, and boldly going nowhere fast, other than into the an(n)als of Trek mythology.
When they’re good, series crossovers can be very, very good, but when they’re bad, it’s often. It takes something special to be able to tie together the disparate parts of 50+ years’ worth of franchise material in these sorts of big events. Sadly, that’s not in evidence here. Also, crossovers seem to be happening so frequently now, it feels like they’re buses – don’t worry if you miss one, there’ll be three more along shortly. They’re done so often nowadays, there’s no real sense of occasion anymore, unlike when Dr. McCoy turned up in ‘Encounter At Farpoint’, way back at the very start of The Next Generation, for example.
You’re a crossover writer. You’ve got 28 main characters, plus four villains to fit into your story. Do you:
(a) Give it up as a bad job, and hand it all over for someone else to do?
(b) Write everyone so generically and blandly that lines of dialogue could be interchanged without any real impact?
If you guessed (b), you might be responsible for The Q Conflict. It’s such a shame Star Trek has apparently become so inward-looking over the last decade, as it’s all about fan service and focusing on what’s gone before. Thankfully, there are signs things are changing – with rumours of a major format change for Season 3 of Discovery, for one thing – but it seems we have to put up with examples of literary onanism like this before then. If you can hear a sound, it’s probably that of Gene Roddenberry spinning in his grave so fast, he could probably drill through the hide of a Doomsday Machine without difficulty.
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Which would be very handy for our cross-series crews, given that the latest piece of continuity porn we get is in the form of a Doomsday Machine, as seen on television in, uh, ‘The Doomsday Machine’, back in 1967. The titular planet killer only made one on-screen appearance, but it’s one of those bits of Trek lore that has proved so memorable that it’s turned up again and again in non-canonical sequels, whether in novels, other comic series, or even in computer games. The creator of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski, apparently even pitched the return of the Doomsday Machine when he put together a proposal for a brand new Star Trek series back in 2004.
As such, it’s therefore low hanging fruit when it comes to finding things used in Star Trek for a return appearance, but it at least has the advantage of not having been explained to death, so there’s some mystery remaining, and plenty of room to fill in the blanks. Alas, writers Scott and David Tipton haven’t take advantage of this, and it’s just a generic planet killer, with no effort to try and flesh things out. There are so many open goals which end up being easily missed here that it becomes an exercise in frustration, and a wasted opportunity to try and do something bold or dynamic, rather than retreading what we’ve seen before. Not so much a sequel as a re-quel.
The issue ends with Q promising things are going to become more challenging. Judging by what meagre offerings we’ve had to put up with so far, I suspect that Q means that as much for the readers as for the assembled Starfleet crews.
Still, on the plus side, at least it’s not Star Trek Vs. Transformers. Silver linings, and all that.