In the lengthy history of Star Trek, each move forwards has seemingly been a hard fought one. Just look at the original outing on network TV, in which a multi-national and multi-racial crew was seen on screen, bucking the trend of the era, in which such progressive creative steps were more a rarity than the norm.
It took until the 1990s to have the first black lead character, and only now in the 21st Century have we seen front-and-centre representation of LGBTQ+ characters, who are now able to be out and proud, rather than having them hidden away or obliquely referenced by allegorical stories. Such is the liberation of being freed of any network censorship, or having to kowtow to sponsors, thanks to the new frontier offered up by streaming services. Yes, it’s been a long road getting from there to here, to quote the opening lyrics from some show’s theme song or other.
Perhaps one of the simultaneously most and least surprising of all the developments in Trek is just how long it took to get a female Captain as the star of one of the shows. Sure, there had been women commanding officers in the franchise, but never in a leading role. And, yes, there had also been strong female characters before, but they were perhaps hamstrung by the limitations of the time. Look at classic Trek, in which the uniform of the day was a minidress. In the ‘80s, we had a female security officer who was quickly killed off, which left two other prominent women characters, one of whom was a counsellor, and the other a doctor.
The latter finally got her due in the final season of Picard, as she demonstrated not only how tough and resilient she was, but also how she was as equally capable as any of her male colleagues, if not more so. Beverley Crusher was finally able to get the kind of opportunities which she would have, well, crushed had she been given them in The Next Generation. It showed how far we have come as a society over the last 30+ years that Dr. Crusher no longer had to be written as being a ‘soft’ character simply because of her gender and her role in a caring profession.
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Knowing what we do now, it makes things interesting for the writers of spin-off media, like IDW’s lead Star Trek title, as it means they can fill in the gaps and give us some progression and development which now feels organic, rather than being out of character. As the First Officer on the USS Theseus, Dr. Crusher is certainly seeing her fair share of the action, as well as having to make some tough calls. Writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing are using this current story – forming part of the Day Of Blood special event – to test Crusher’s resolve, putting her firmly right at the very heart of both galactic and interpersonal conflict.
Kelly and Lanzing are certainly doing Crusher proud, and her response to the barbs of Commander Sela is both shocking and also completely authentic at the same time. This also acts as the catalyst for Sela to take a course of action which helps in turning things around for our beleaguered heroes, caught up in the crossfire on several fronts on Qo’noS. This is all depicted superbly by some dynamic artwork from Angel Unzueta, and so vividly and brilliantly coloured by Marissa Louise. In fact, the art is uniformly superb across the whole issue, including the double page spread which shows us the carnage breaking out across the Klingon home world.
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Strong women are prominent throughout issue #11, with Lily Sato rounding on Ro Laren and giving an impassioned speech about the meaning of being a Starfleet officer, and showing just why she resents Ro turning her back on the organisation and joining the Maquis. Meanwhile, in quite a stunning turn of events aboard the Theseus, Lieutenant Descheeni is able to galvanise Spock and Scotty into taking decisive action by employing what the former would no doubt have described as “colourful metaphors”. Taking on two Starfleet legends is something that takes a lot of spirit, and this is definitely on display here in abundance.
Overall, this is one of the strongest issues of the series so far, managing to pace things perfectly, while also giving so many of the ensemble an opportunity to shine in their own unique and distinctive ways. This is perhaps Star Trek at its finest, in any medium.
Star Trek #11 is out now from IDW Publishing.