It’s not an epic conclusion to The Star Lost, nor is it an unexpected one. The ship works. Wesley figures out how to pilot it. Worf and Darios bring everyone home, even the “hostiles”. There’s a heartfelt reunion, and the family is “once again whole”. There is, you could argue, a teeny bit of playing for time and space as the ship travels so fast the crew ends up in Klingon territory, unable to communicate their intent and with their engines about to overload. Of course, the Enterprise happens to be the nearest Federation starship and is called in to investigate at the request of the Klingon High Command. But this is a serial, and serials end up getting stretched. It’s fine. It works.
But as we’ve been learning over the past few months, it’s not the plot itself, epic or otherwise, that’s what’s important here. In fact, The Star Lost seems to tacitly play against our assumption that it is-“Homecoming” opens up with the destruction of Lanatos by comet impact. Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher console the Lanatosian governor, who’s still sore about their decision to bring along the Skriiti instead of the Lanatosian monuments. Beverly says that “Planets are balls of mud – things. They can be replaced. When a person is gone, he’s gone forever”. And it’s here I might start to disagree a little bit with the story’s broad-strokes ethics. I get the sentiment Friedman is trying to go for, but from an animist perspective that’s simply an indefensible argument. Land, and “land” can come in many different forms, has life energy and we are all bound to it in some way. You could argue the book tries to hedge against this with the governor’s rebuttal, but he’s a racist and not at all sympathetic.
It’s not a huge issue and I’m surely nitpicking, but it’s not something my perspective allows me to let slide.
That aside, what’s interesting to me is that in any given TV episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, that scene on the bridge with Jean-Luc, Beverly and the Lanatosian governor would have been the *conclusion* to the story; the denouement. Here though, it’s just the lead-in and the meat of “Homecoming” is still to come (of course it is, as the Lanatosian stuff is and always has been a secondary story thread). That says something about not just the scope of the story we’ve been watching unfold for the past few months, but also where its heart is. One thing I really love about this issue from this point is where it places its little cliffhanger beats: As soon as the Lanatosian mess is resolved, Deanna Troi politely reminds Captain Picard to promote Data and Burke, the relief tactical officer who has been covering for Worf since the disappearance of the Albert Einstein. He’s interrupted when he tries to do this by the reveal of the plot twist with the Klingons and this is addressed at several points during the story. And each time when it happens, the action cuts back to the Einstein crew.
In other words, the tense race against time to the conclusion isn’t to save Lanatos, to get to the alien ship before the Klingons make a preemptive strike or even to save it from self-destruction. It’s to get Worf and Commander Riker back on the Enterprise before Captain Picard is forced to promote Data and Burke.
“Homecoming” is a special extended length issue, and it uses that time wisely to further emphasize how the Einstein story and the Lanatosian story are reflections of each other, and also gives all the characters more time to express their feelings. Deanna, who has spent the majority of this series providing support for everyone else, finally gets to confide in the Skriiti, who sense her loneliness. There’s a wonderful scene where they say that they can sense a “sadness inside” and Deanna, immediately assuming they’re referring to themselves, attempts to counsel them. But they respond that it’s not in them, but in her. There’s more of Captain Picard dealing with his guilt and moving beyond it, which becomes the key to the climactic reunion. And rushing back to the Alpha Quadrant at top speed, Wesley and Nigata deepen their relationship as they work together to bring everyone home safely. And this time, she gets to provide emotional support to him as he develops doubts about his ability to pilot the alien spacecraft. It’s the single healthiest and most positive relationship Wesley Crusher has ever had with anyone.
Even Doctor Selar gets a meaty role, serving as Worf’s “Number One” on the team and proving herself to be more than capable of filling the Beverly Crusher, Science Officer and Katherine Pulaski, Chief Medical Officer roles both for its dynamic.
That said we also do get more straightforward and physical action this time than is often the case for the comic line: A good deal of the first few acts is Worf, Wesley, Nigata and and Darios punching and shooting their way through wave after wave of Romulan and Ferengi mooks in their attempt to escape the starship construct. It’s eminently reminiscent of the very earliest Star Trek: The Next Generation comics from 1987 when Tasha Yar was slicing and dicing her way through a bunch of giant robot mechs, and perhaps even all the way further back to Aliens. It’s silly, but endearingly so. This does get subverted later on though, as Worf and Darios remind each other that the best course of action is not to leave anyone behind, even those who would position themselves as their enemies. And anyway, this has always been a part of the comics after all, and it is deserving to see a little of that here. It’s more than earned it.
Because the other thing about “Homecoming” is that this is DC’s contribution to Star Trek’s 25th Anniversary, a singularly auspicious celebration that was in many ways a kind of annus mirablis for the franchise. This is the one year where Star Trek’s past, present and future potential all coexisted simultaneously for one magical confluence. We’ll address the TV series’ contribution in time, of course, and the year was also marked by such events as the launch of the Playmates toy line and one of the best, most influential Star Trek video games ever made. And behind the scenes, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Gene Roddenberry and Brandon Tartikoff were secretly planning something unprecedented. But here in the land of four colour pulp magazines, we get a special confluence of our own-Michael Jan Friedman and Pablo Marcos have stepped up tot he plate showing they’re more than capable of standing alongside the very best of the best their Hollywood counterparts can offer without sacrificing any of the little nuances and eccentricities that make their medium special.
It’s very fitting that The Star Lost be the story from this series most heavily associated with the 25th Anniversary, and that it should make a reappearance in 1993. This is a story whose images, atmosphere and iconography have haunted me ever since, and it’s one whose material worth and merit absolutely lives up to those memories. There’s a dreamlike and timeless quality here that seems to have tapped into the collective zeitgeist: We exist here in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s victory lap, in overtime for the Long 1980s. There’s a blossoming sense of ecstasy and confidence that seems poised to take over the world. Somehow, someway, against all odds, we’ve made it. Let’s give in to the energy and go for one more round.