All good things, as the title of the very last Star Trek: The Next Generation episode reminded us, must come to an end. It also means that, thankfully, mediocre ones do as well. And IDW’s tale Star Trek: The Q Conflict has mostly veered more towards the latter, on balance.
However, it’s all a matter of perspective. Previously, I’ve lamented what appeared to be continuity overkill, with character after character and one reference after another being shoehorned into the story. Then I spent the weekend I was supposed to be reviewing this final issue watching and re-watching the Star Trek: Picard trailer. Romulans! Borg! Seven of Nine! Data! Be still, my beating fanboy heart. And then I realised I was getting excited about the sort of things I’d been berating The Q Conflict for doing.
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However, the exact reason why I was all in favour of one and not the other comes down to a matter of approach. Whereas in the Picard trailer, each reveal proved to be a lovely and unexpected surprise, with The Q Conflict it’s felt very much like the writers have thrown everything they can at the wall, in order to see what sticks. It may be tempting to have a multi-series crossover which couldn’t ever be done in real life (mainly due to some original cast members having boldly gone); the reality is it’s just unwieldy, and the whole thing ends up shortchanging a great many of the characters.
Actually, it’s perhaps a tad unfair to tar the whole enterprise (no pun intended) with the same brush, as the last couple of issues have shown signs of improvement, but it’s taken a rather long time to get out of impulse and into warp. However, for this final instalment, it appears that we’re back to square one, and any real sense of forward progression seems to have been halted firmly in its tracks. When you’ve got some of the most powerful beings in existence gathered together, along with four Star Trek crews, and miscellaneous other characters thrown into the mix, the ending is always going to be rather tricky to land, having to try and juggle so much.
Alas, in this case, they don’t manage to quite make it stick, and the Tiptons just throw in more and more past Trek stuff instead of trying to provide a satisfactory resolution to things. Army of Mugatu? No problem. A platoon of Kalar from Rigel VII. Sure thing. And how about some of those Talosians? The conclusion pretty much comes down to a shoot out, which feels like so much original Star Trek, so it’s odd to see Kirk and crew sidelined so much, considering just how many classic episodes seemed to see direct action to wrap up a tale, as opposed to the more cerebral Next Generation, for example.
And it’s hardly a massive surprise to see that the final get-out is wiping people’s memories, as it’s the only logical way to wrap things up. One twist which I have to give credit to is that Q leaves it up to the individual characters to decide whether or not they retain their knowledge of the events which took place here, and it’s left up to the readers to decide who they feel would have had it done. By doing so, it manages to avoid being a total cliche, as well as leaving the readers to make their own minds up, meaning any perceived continuity issues are therefore their own problem.
Ultimately, The Q Conflict has proved to be an unsatisfying endeavour, as no-one seems to come off being particularly well served. If you’re going to bring together different iterations of Star Trek, then you need to make sure you have a strong story to support it; the notion alone shouldn’t be the story itself. At the end of the tale, Q admits to Picard that he carried out the whole exercise in order to try and relieve some of the crushing boredom of eternity. Well, it seems that misery loves company, and after ploughing through six issues of this story, you end up feeling like you can certainly get some insight into what that neverending tedium must feel like.
Star Trek: The Q Conflict #6 from IDW is available digitally and from comic shops.