“Interregnum”: The Final Voyage
Star Trek fandom circa the mid 1980s was a curious thing. With four blockbuster movies to its name, the franchise was most certainly not the expressly marginal phenomenon it had at least the appearances of throughout the 1970s. However, given the necessarily sporadic nature of cinema, it’s tough to see how Star Trek would have been seen as a truly ever-present thing (that is, a work that is unarguably current, which is somewhat different then the general ubiquity Star Trek has always had). That kind of presence requires, especially in the days before the never-ending sensory overload of publicity that today’s media artefacts enjoy, something akin to a regular television show, which Star Trek still didn’t have, though this would change now, in 1986, with the announcement of a new syndicated Star Trek series to premier next year.
This makes the appearance of “The Final Voyage” particularly well-timed, for, in addition to giving the Original Series a proper finale of sorts (it was a constant bugbear amongst a certain sort of fan that Captain Kirk talks about a Five Year Mission while Star Trek only lasted three seasons) that segues neatly into the film series, it also serves as a way of passing the torch to whatever the new Star Trek show would be, as it was largely assumed that the new series would follow a new crew and a new ship. That said, what’s the most interesting about all of this is the decision to do this story as a comic book instead of, say, a tie-in novel or errata to one of the movies. Comics had been part of Star Trek’s history forever, but, until recently, they had largely been resigned to doing “bonus stories”: At best, extra stories for when the TV show wasn’t on the air and, especially once the Original Series went off the air, bits of promotional merchandising to cater to the show’s fans and keep the brand in people’s minds.
This doesn’t mean the comics of the 1980s were written by and for what we know now as Nerd Culture: The larger melange of cultural signifiers we associate with this phenomenon today didn’t really exist yet (and certainly not for a franchise like Star Trek, which doesn’t really get co-opted by Nerd Culture until the mid-to-late 1990s), though if you wanted to be particularly reductivist you could maybe spot the trends that would eventually culminate in it a decade or so later. At this point, the comics division of Star Trek is in an interesting place, consisting as it does of a relatively big-name book series from DC that was pegged, however briefly, as a pseudo-official continuation of the story established in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This was of course a task made significantly more annoying by the release of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and, predictably, anyone trying to reconcile all four works together would likely find themselves with a formidable headache.…