Finally, after three lacklustre issues, IDW’s Star Trek: The Q Conflict has started to get into first gear. At long last, it looks like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel – or, as in this case, wormhole.
So far, Q’s contest has felt far more like a trip down Memory Lane (or maybe Warp Drive might be more appropriate), with a whole load of shameless continuity which has been masquerading as a storyline. However, it feels as if the story (such as it is) has been given some time to be able to breathe, and not feel quite so frenetic or rushed. Having seen things so far through the perspective of Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E, it’s Sisko’s turn to be our focal point, and not before time.
In the extensive pantheon of Star Trek commanding officers, it sometimes comes across that Benjamin Sisko seems to get a rather raw deal. When Deep Space Nine started, one of the criticisms which ended up being levelled at him was that he was only a Commander, not a full Captain, as if that made him somehow less worthy of being a series lead. Nowadays, thanks to Star Trek: Discovery and Commander Michael Burnham, we’re now accustomed to having a lead character who doesn’t hold the rank of Captain, but back in the day, that felt to some fans almost like a cardinal sin.
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Even when Sisko finally got promotion, it still appeared as though he was being just begrudgingly accepted, as though he’d not really earnt his place. Another criticism levelled here was that being in charge of a space station meant the show was boldly going nowhere, so – by association – Sisko wasn’t a ‘real’ Captain. Thankfully, Deep Space Nine seems to be going through a reappraisal of sorts, due in part to recent documentary film What We Left Behind (which is being screened across the UK and Ireland on 26th June), so it’s nice to have Sisko being the focus here.
Q’s latest task is to get the attention of the Prophets – the mysterious beings which inhabit the wormhole protected by Deep Space Nine – in a move which comes with an ulterior motive: Q invited the Prophets to participate in his games, but they had flatly refused, so it seems he has a grudge which he needs to settle. The DS9 crew – split between the four competing teams – have a home turf advantage here, and in Sisko’s case he sees his status as Emissary as giving him a particular edge when it comes to this task. However, it appears that trying to extract an appearance from the Prophets is a little like trying to wake a sleeping tiger, and Q may end up getting more than a scratch.
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Kirk’s plan involves taking his Enterprise into the wormhole and trying to hail the Prophets directly – he ends up visited by the Prophets taking on the form of people who he’s known, including Edith Keeler (as seen in ‘The City On The Edge Of Forever’, played by Joan Collins). It’s a nice touch, and ties into the long-held belief that she was the only woman Kirk has ever truly loved, as she’s a character who turns up with semi-regularity in different media. Kirk also gets to see Gary Mitchell (from second pilot episode ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’), and Christopher Pike – with his prominent role in Discovery, having him (sort of) turning up here means that we’ve inadvertently had a crossover with a fifth Trek series.
Another nice bit of character continuity here is having the appearance of Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan, who’s known to have past experience with the Q Continuum, so it’s entirely appropriate to have her turn up here, and give Picard counsel. In fact, the whole issue is a much slower and far more thoughtful affair, so writers Scott and David Tipton do seem to have finally found the right pacing for the story, and learnt not to cram everything in at such a frantic tempo.
Having set the wheels in motion, it’s now looking as though Q’s bitten off more than he can chew by attracting the attention of the Prophets. Let’s just hope these current signs of improvement carry on through to the next issue, so that the whole exercise feels as though it’s actually been building towards something of significance.