It appears that the odds are against the crew of the Starship Enterprise, and the situation grim. Same as it ever was, then. In this case, Admiral Kirk and Lieutenant Commander Uhura are in the belly of the beast, having been taken captive by the Romulans.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Commander Sulu and a version of Nyota Uhura hailing from a parallel universe are on the trail of a parallel version of Lieutenant Chekov, one Luthar Akris, who is in possession of a deadly superweapon known as the Nightbringer. Our Mr Chekov has been seriously wounded, and needs to get back to the Enterprise for urgent medical attention. Back on the ship, Mr Spock is having to lay down some metaphorical covering fire with a Starfleet Admiral in defence of Kirk’s position, while McCoy is having something of an existential crisis.
There is so much going on in the third issue of Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes, it all starts feeling like a jumbled mess, with the story flitting from plot strand to plot strand, crisis to crisis, without a pause for breath or time to take in what is happening. There are many decent ideas in play here, but whether they should have all been thrown together is a different matter. While giving those other members of the bridge crew outside the Holy Trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy something to do is always welcome, the way which they are being used here leaves something to be desired.
Chekov – who always seems to be the one coming off worst in any scrapes – is essentially written out of action for most of the issue, being so critically wounded as to be taken out of commission. What could have potentially been something of an interesting character study, with Chekov coming face to face with an evil counterpart, is effectively off the table for now, which is such a terribly wasted opportunity. Uhura is also given little of merit, being sidelined in favour of her doppelgänger, and the most she gets to contribute is being the ‘victim’ in the hoary old ‘get help’ ploy (as seen in Thor: Ragnarok), and talking about Romulan eye shadow.
Yes, cliches abound here, with another one being a reason as to why Akris needs to be captured rather than killed. All this is enough to make the reader roll their eyes so far back they may end up with a view of the inside of their own skull. This comes across like such lazy, hackneyed writing on the part of Marc Guggenheim, and just feels like so many chances to do something interesting being squandered. Indeed, the whole tone of the story fails to sit right, and continues coming over as something better suited to J.J. Abrams’ ‘Kelvinverse’ than the Star Trek we know and love.
Another thing which seems off-kilter is the very combative, invective-heavy Admiral Mohamed, who could have walked straight out of Alex Kurtzman’s current iteration of Trek, in which ‘colourful metaphors’ are used with abandon. Look at Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, in which the joke is that the enlightened people of the 23rd Century have no idea how to swear, leading to amusing consequences. It badly jars, then, to have a character using bad language, acting like this is an everyday thing for all concerned. Not an issue of primness or pearl necklace clutching, instead one of trying to be faithful to the content and tone of the era when this is set.
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Another substantial failing is the continuing poor likenesses of the characters being committed to the page by artist Oleg Chudakov. While you can forgive a certain amount of artistic licence and some flourishes and stylisation, there are points where people’s resemblances vary significantly from one panel to the next. It would be unreasonable to expect photo-realistic depictions, but – to cite one example – Dr. McCoy’s depiction varies from making him look like a stroke victim, to appearing to have been sat too close to a fire and started to melt. Arguably, though, the quality of the art is perfectly in keeping with that of the writing.
In contrast to the rest of IDW’s current Star Trek titles, Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes is increasingly seeming like the sick man of the range, and – unless things happen to turn around quickly – should be as mercifully euthanised as Dr. McCoy’s father in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes #3 is out now from IDW Publishing.