Myriad Universes: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The Next Generation Part 1: Prophets and Losses

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Rom is grousing to himself about how underappreciated he is at the bar and how things would run much smoother if he was in charge when his pity party is interrupted by an irate customer. A Starfleet officer, on scheduled shore-leave, is upset that all the Dabo tables seem to be rigged to favour the house (well, more then gambling machines already are I suppose). Rom goes to fetch Quark, eager at the chance to buck responsibility higher up the managerial chain. This sort of thing would slip by most people unnoticed, but then again, most people aren't Geordi La Forge, who, thanks to his remarkable VISOR, can see things most people can't.

Geordi is joined by Doctor Beverly Crusher and Commander Deanna Troi, and all three question an evasive Quark. The barkeep denies all responsibility and threatens to call station security, “A close, personal friend” of his to escort the bothersome Starfleet officers out before Odo himself shows up and sternly asks Quark if “that Dabo table” was still “giving [him] trouble”. Geordi tries to thank Odo, but Odo actually agrees with Quark: He's not happy the commander and his two associates are here, claiming that Starfleet crews “always seem to cause [him] the biggest problems”. The constable does express a familiarity with Deanna Troi, and asks the counselor if they've met before. Deanna denies that they have, but confesses to Beverly in private after Odo leaves that she does know of him, but didn't want to bring it up.

After Deanna and Geordi leave, Doctor Crusher suddenly runs into Doctor Bashir, who is flattered she remembers him and promptly asks her to dinner. But they are soon interrupted by the ill-timed (or perhaps perfectly timed, depending on your perspective) arrival of Jadzia Dax, who promptly invites herself to dinner with Julian. But Jadzia seems altogether more interested in Beverly, who admits she once met another Trill like her once years before, and asks the science officer to remind her to tell her the story sometime.

Later in Ops, Commander Sisko, Major Kira and Dax are entertaining a party of Starfleet bureaucrats being escorted by Captain Picard and Commander Riker. The admirals want a tour of the Gamma Quadrant, and the crew prepares a Runabout for launch. Commander Riker takes the opportunity to catch up with Chief Miles O'Brien, who tells the exec all about his new life on Deep Space 9, including the school his wife Keiko recently started. Just then, the station loses contact with the Runabout, and Jadzia tells Commander Sisko that the Bajoran Wormhole seems to be behaving abnormally and erratically. But before any of them can do anything, the Wormhole seems to “reach out and grab” the admirals' Runabout, and it's gone.

The two crews discuss options in Ops, but Kira and Riker start to butt heads over whether or not to send a probe in after the ship. Commander Sisko and Captain Picard seem to have a more amicable relationship, however, and the Enterprise captain goes off to placate Starfleet Command. Back on the starship, he confers with an Admiral Kontikos in the ready room, who puts Jean-Luc in charge of the investigation. Captain Picard protests, saying that Commander Sisko and his people are much more familiar with the local space, but Kontikos says Captain Picard is more “experienced”, and thus Starfleet Command wants him in charge instead of Commander Sisko. In his log, Captain Picard expresses his frustration with the order, and empathizing with how Ben must feel, as he'd feel the same way if he was in his place. Just then, Commander Sisko himself calls, but before Jean-Luc can apologise, Ben informs him that he's heard from Starfleet as well, and wants the captain to know he doesn't hold anything against him personally.

Meanwhile, a developing situation on Bajor appears to reinforce both Captain Picard and Commander Sisko's fears: There is growing civil unrest, with demonstrators arguing that the Wormhole acting up is a sign that the Prophets will no longer tolerate outsiders, and that as Bajorans they are obligated to comply with their will. The Provisional Government wants to consult Sisko personally and immediately. Back on the Enterprise, Data tells Commander Riker and Captain Picard that there's been a string of extreme weather incidents on Bajor corresponding to the abnormal behaviour of the Wormhole. Ro Laren urges Riker and Picard to take action for the sake of her people, but the two are at a loss as to what to do.

Major Kira seeks guidance from Vedek Bareil, but he's just as in the dark as she is. He does say, however, that some of the other vedeks agree with the fundamentalist reactionaries, believing that the wormhole becoming unusable is in fact a consequence of the Bajoran people's own sectarian divisions; punishment for their inability to unite. Bareil openly muses that his position would be “a lot stronger” if he had evidence to prove otherwise, evidence he tacitly asks Kira to provide for him. Meanwhile on Deep Space 9, the head of the Provisional Government expresses his concern that the Cardassians will use the growing unrest as leverage to re-occupy Bajor. Ben responds that there's little he can do, but that the Federation has handed the case over to Captain Picard, a man he has the utmost confidence in and someone who will not tolerate the Cardassians attempting to manipulate the crisis for their imperialistic aspirations. This does not comfort the Provisional Government's leader, who would much prefer Commander Sisko be in charge, stressing that nobody in Starfleet knows Bajor better than he does. Ben reassures him that he'll “be working closely with Captain Picard”.

Later, Commander Sisko and Captain Picard, along with Geordi and Chief O'Brien, take the Rio Grande to run some tests on the Wormhole. Unfortunately, from the readings he's been taking, Geordi doesn't think the Wormhole will be be safe again anytime soon. In fact, he thinks there's a chance it might have been damaged permanently. As Sisko and Picard discuss their options, Geordi and Miles talk. Apart from the Wormhole, Miles has been a bit worn down by the constant technical problems and breakdowns on Deep Space 9, and Keiko's own hardships are getting to him. Geordi immediately jumps in to help, saying that if the Chief wants to transfer back to the Enterprise, he can make it happen.

On the station in question, Worf and Deanna are walking down the Promenade together. Worf doesn't like being on Deep Space 9 because it reminds him of how he was lied to about his father surviving the attack on Khitomer. Worf is looking for Odo, but before he can report, the constable shuts him down. Intruders are trying to access a computer uplink unused since the Cardassian occupation, and he's assembled a security team, including Major Kira, to check it out. Worf offers to help the DS9 team, but asks Deanna to stay behind (because of course he would). In the turbolift, Worf and Odo discuss the latter's distaste of firearms, but then Odo spots the intruders, Kira is shocked, as it soon becomes apparent that the intruders are Cardassians themselves.

Their own advertisement makes their intentions perfectly clear: “The most exciting Star Trek event of 1994 will not be televised”. Nor, like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Hearts and Minds before it, could it have been. And in October, the moment Star Trek has been building to for two whole years finally arrives: The two concurrently-running modern incarnations of the biggest name in science fiction meet and join forces in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The Next Generation. Also known (both presumptuously and fittingly) as The Landmark Crossover. As two series that were always designed to go together and compliment each other from the outset, this is a classic comic book style team-up that was as inevitable as it seemed technically unfeasible. In spite of episodes like “Emissary”, “Birthright, Part I”, “Past Prologue” and “Firstborn” (as well as the first draft of the appropriately-named “Crossover”), this is a story neither of the actual TV shows could actually do: For one thing, it would have been prohibitively expensive, and there was also the small matter of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show no longer being in existence at the time.

So with the TV shows unable or unwilling to commit to an event of this magnitude it was, as always, up to the tie-in comic book lines to rectify matters. But this does disguise how challenging it was for even them to pull off: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The Next Generation was a personal passion project for the creative teams at both Malibu *and* DC-They were all friends and Star Trek fans alike, and from the outset there were fears something like this would never be possible. With Paramount giving the Deep Space Nine license to Malibu and DC still holding the one for The Next Generation, it did appear as though the two crews were destined to never meet because of the bureaucratic licensing nightmare that would require. But all parties did eventually decide that this was too good an opportunity to pass up regardless, and the respective higher-ups gave the go-ahead for a frankly unprecedented inter-publisher collaboration.

Certainly DC and Marvel had a history of working together on special occasions, but DC's partner this time was Malibu Comics, an upstart indie label making their name on niche tie-in lines for anime and Japanese video games: That was considerably more unusual. But, in the spirit of Star Trek's much-bandied-about inclusivity, they somehow pulled it off. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The Next Generation would be a four-part miniseries published jointly by both DC and Malibu, with each company getting half the story. DC got this issue, the first one, and they put their very best writer on the job: Michael Jan Friedman. As the scribe in charge of the monthly Star Trek: The Next Generation book, there was nobody in DC's stable who knew these characters better then he did (in fact, if I may get in my requisite once-a-chapter shot, Friedman also knew these characters better than the people writing the show did).

But what's really impressive here is that, while the Next Generation characters are naturally as pitch-perfect as we'd expect coming from Friedman, the Deep Space Nine ones are as well. Friedman has never written these characters before, yet he must have been keeping close tabs on at least the show, as he feels as comfortable with them as he does his own regulars. Odo and Dax are particular highlights for me, as the former's gruff snarkiness and the latter's wise mischievousness are proudly on display here. Speaking of the characters, from the beginning we get a good overview of this series' approach to the crossover: The plot framework is as good a device to get the Enterprise and Deep Space 9 crews working together as any, but more importantly is how the book immediately goes out of its way to pair up characters from each series into their own microplots.

Commander Sisko and Captain Picard are the obvious ones, and ample time is provided to setting up their working relationship. But nicely, while it starts a bit fraught, Friedman, professional that he is, resists the urge to bring up that Wolf 359 business. Rather, he decides instead to have Starfleet Command throw its weight around and put Captain Picard in an awkward situation. Also here we get a glimpse of a Geordi/Miles pairing that was frustratingly underutilised on Star Trek: The Next Generation itself, though Geordi sparring with Quark is far more entertaining. Similarly, Odo/Worf is the team-up that is flagged here, though the far more intriguing Odo/Deanna is briefly hinted at (remember that). A lot of these team-ups seem superficially to be rather rote and obvious, though the book actually wants us to notice this as at least Friedman's next issue is going to play with our expectations a bit. The best example of this is the most exciting interplay we get in this issue: Julian/Beverly/Dax. It's set up to be a boring old love triangle, but, as with a lot of things in this series, it's not quite what we'd expect. And though I know nobody would give me the Beverly/Dax exchange I really want to see, Friedman does puckishly allow for that reading in their one scene together.
 
In fact, the one character I was a bit disappointed in is not one of the Deep Space Nine players, but one of Friedman's own: It would be cosmically stupid for Ro Laren not to be in this story but, as always, she doesn't get a lot to do. And though I'dve loved to see her interact with Kira, this is the story that really drives home how redundant and superfluous poor Ro has finally become, given the role Kira ends up playing later on in the miniseries. But in spite of that comparatively minor blemish, this is an auspicious start to what has to be the most deservedly presumptuous Star Trek event ever. At no other point in time could this have happened, and at no other point in time could the tie-in comic series ever have been this ambitious. We've officially reached Peak Star Trek.

Comments

ferret 8 months, 3 weeks ago

You've now convinced me I want to get all these in some giant graphic novel form :-)

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Josh Marsfelder 8 months, 3 weeks ago

It's long out of print, but this series does in fact have one!

http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Landmark_Crossover

A few others of the DC and Malibu story arcs and miniseries got trade paperback releases too...Hearts and Minds did, as well as The Star Lost. I seem to remember The Worst of Both Worlds getting an omnibus too, though I can't seem to find it. There are also assorted collections of one-off TNG and DS9 stories reprinted by various publishers.

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Allyn 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I used to have DC's giant promo poster for this (a miniseries with Worf and the Generations adaptation -- they had interconnected covers) on my dorm room wall.

I haven't read this in a very long time, so all I have are rough impressions.

I remember that Ro only appeared in the DC issues. She was, as you say, a favorite character of Mike Friedman, and so she appeared in the DC issues but not the Malibu issues. I suspect that's why she's so superfluous -- Friedman and Barr had an overall outline for the series, and when it came time for Barr to write his issues he may not have known that Friedman decided to give a small role to Ro.

I also remember being annoyed with Picard and Sisko in later issues, particularly their "Anything you can do, I can do better" attitude toward one another. I don't remember the exact crisis in the series -- something to do with hurricanes on Bajor, maybe? -- but I remember that each one was trying to show up the other in one sequence where they're trying to save a Bajoran village. It was annoying, and I wanted to reach into the comic, smack them both in the face, and tell them to grow up already.

This was "Peak Star Trek." Most people think that Star Trek's peak was circa 1996 with First Contact, but I think the peak came in 1994, with the end of TNG, Generations, and the impending launch of Voyager (and its television network). Shatner and Stewart were on the cover of Time Magazine! Star Trek wouldn't be as visible again until, arguably, the 2009 film. Star Trek remained "high" past the peak, but it never again reached the heights of 1994. (An argument I made in an article for Star Trek Magazine several years ago.)

And as a Star Trek comic reader, there were some really interesting things happening at this time. There was this mini-series. Mark Altman had the "Lightstorm" special from Malibu in the summer of '94 that managed to be a prequel to Generations. DC had a Worf mini-series at the same time.

Then it begins to fall apart. Malibu's Voyager series never launched. (Though they did a DS9 tie-in to "Caretaker," as I recall. Titled "The Maquis," I think.) Paramount pulls the licenses from DC and Malibu at the end of the year -- and DC goes out with a TOS/TNG crossover. And then we're without Star Trek comics for twenty months until Marvel gets their line going, and despite doing some interesting material (particularly Early Voyagers), it crashes and burns when Marvel gives up on the license (for complicated reasons). And the Wildstorm era that followed, though interesting, was notable for being mini-series and specials. The age of the ongoing Star Trek comic was over.

So, yeah, I can see how 1994 was "Peak Star Trek Comic."

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