Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes #4 – Comic Review

With the canon of Star Trek still being written (and indeed rewritten, if the second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is anything to go by), it means that there are some unintended effects on spin-off media. Some of these may have a negative impact, and others will actually gain from the new lore being depicted on the screen.

Take, for example, the case of James T. Kirk and Nyota Uhura, whose first ever encounter has been depicted in the episode ‘Lost In Translation’. The dynamic between the pair is quite an interesting one to watch, given that we know them more from their interactions in the original series, plus the run of subsequent movies. Nichelle Nichols such did a remarkable job with such thin material, given that Uhura was written as an incidental character, one who actually had to wait for over 40 years to actually get an official first name (in an alternate timeline, to boot).

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While it would be easy to paint Uhura as having initially been written as being little more than a glorified receptionist and switchboard operator, it overlooks moments like her taking the navigator’s position in the episode ‘Balance Of Terror’. It seems that Strange New Worlds is doing its very best to try and retroactively build up Uhura, by pushing her right to the foreground, giving her a proper backstory, and emphasising her many talents; an opportunity that was sadly never given to Nichols. After so many decades of just opening the hailing frequencies, finally Uhura is getting some justice.

Probably one of Uhura’s most remembered interactions with Captain Kirk was in the episode ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’, where the characters engaged in what has been widely heralded as the first interracial kiss on television (it actually wasn’t, but it was certainly one of the most prominent). Other than that, it feels as though Uhura tended to be one of the ensemble of supporting players, and never really got a piece of the action in the way that some of the others did. IDW’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes is rectifying that, by making Uhura an integral part of the story.

Writer Marc Guggenheim has given us not only the Nyota we know and love, but also one from a parallel timeline, in which she is a fearless General, a truly formidable individual who is not to be taken lightly. Guggenheim lets us see the contrast between the two, giving our Uhura a glimpse at just what she could be capable of becoming under some radically different circumstances. This character exploration is a very welcome move, as well as the push to make her front and centre in the action, by teaming her up with Admiral Kirk, allowing her to show her mettle.

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Seeing her interplay with Kirk here has been unintentionally enriched by their initial encounter in Strange New Worlds, with the younger Kirk not only building, but also showing a great deal of respect for her. As such, seeing the two working together on an undercover assignment feels to be not quite so unusual a move, in light of the bond we now know exists between the two. After a rather faltering start, Guggenheim looks to have now settled down into the storytelling, making things feel rather less jarring in the way some characters are portrayed, with the humorous sparring taking place between Spock and McCoy giving some much needed light relief.

Guggenheim has also managed to broaden things out here by delivering a rather nice – and unexpected – continuity link to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, certainly adding a bit of extra texture to things. Sure, the story still revolves around a rather anachronistic McGuffin, and the main villain of the piece is so cliched and thinly-drawn, but they are definite signs of improvement here: it just seems such a crying shame that it has taken until the fourth issue for things to begin turning around. The last thing this tale needs right now is for this slight progress to be reversed in the next chapter.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes #4 is out now from IDW Publishing.

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