If there is just one word which can mean sweet succour for fans of any long-standing entertainment property – and equally send shivers down the spine of Joe Public – then it would be ‘continuity’.
Take a look at the Doctor Who of the early-to-mid 1980s, where it seemed to be geared chiefly towards the fanbase, loading all kinds of throwbacks to things that only die-hard adherents would get the full benefit of, whereas the casual viewer would likely be left scratching their head, unsure of the actual significance of a reference to something from 20 years prior. As the back catalogue of a TV or film series grew, so did the risk of alienating the regular audience, although it strangely seems not to have hampered soap operas, some of which have been around for decades.
Luckily, in these modern times, where archive material is far more accessible than ever before thanks to various streamers, plus the internet meaning that most things are now just a Google search away, continuity is now no longer the weighty anchor round the neck that it used to potentially be. No need to wait for ‘another chance to see’, or to go out and buy videos (or, as it would be nowadays, DVDs and Blu-rays). Just click into the relevant app, and – hey presto – a wealth of back catalogues can be at your fingertips. Well, until rights issues crop up, or there is a need to bin off content for tax write-offs, but that is another story altogether.
Curiously, one of the most beloved of all the Star Trek films featured the return of a character who had only appeared in one episode 15 years earlier, yet the story was so compelling and well told that it didn’t hobble The Wrath Of Khan one jot that it was a sequel to something that some of the audience would likely not have seen, or might not recall. For Trekkies, however, bringing back things from the past is a key part of weaving the rich tapestry that is their fictional universe, so continuity is a cornerstone. Lower Decks is perhaps the very embodiment of that, with far more references and in-jokes than you could shake a Grand Nagus’ sceptre at.
IDW’s Star Trek: Holo-Ween has brought us the return of an old foe, in the form of Redjac, last seen in the original series episode ‘Wolf In The Fold’. After happening across the non-corporeal being purely by chance, the crew of the Enterprise-D now find themselves at Redjac’s mercy, having taken over one of the Holodecks to begin with, and its malign influence has started to make its way through all the vessel’s systems. Having already captured some of the ship’s company, which includes Data, Redjac is toying with his victims, using some of the imagery of Halloween to torment the poor souls, all in aid of its own amusement.
With it actually giving us the Holodeck in the first place, The Next Generation has done its fair share of episodes based in that virtual environment, some of which have been far less serious than others. Holo-Ween is decidedly located at the sillier end of the scale, with the notion of this tale being that in order to fight Redjac on his own terms, an Away Team of sorts is formed, with the party’s members taking on virtual avatars based on Halloween-type monsters and characters, and their consciousnesses having new personas added, for their own psychological protection.
Cue one of the most bizarre line-ups you are ever likely to see in a Holodeck-based tale, with Riker becoming a literal wolf (or Wolfman) in the fold. Perhaps the highlight of them all is seeing Captain Picard take on the guise of Mr Hyde. You can imagine the sheer relish with which Patrick Stewart would attack the role, given just how much of a stuffed shirt Picard could be at times. Writer Chris Sequeira has offered up the chance for us to imagine how glorious it would be to hear Picard in Sir Pat’s rich, stentorian tones calling somebody a “silly, bleeding toe rag”, and that alone more than justifies the cover price of this issue.
Star Trek: Holo-Ween #2 is out now from IDW Publishing.