Myriad Universes: The Wristwatch Plantation

The Wristwatch Plantation

My initial plan here was to follow up both iterations of Star Trek Phase II with a look at the Star Trek comic strip that ran in US newspapers from 1979 to 1983. There are a number of reasons why I wanted to do this, chief among them was that, given its time frame, it would have given me a very nice “third season” of Phase II, putting that show on about equal footing with the Original Series in terms of episode count (or at least episodes *worth* counting) and neatly providing a gap between the first Star Trek movie (which wasn’t actually a movie) and the next two (which were).

Also though, I was really intrigued to learn that, for the majority of its existence, the strip was handled by none other than Sharman DiVono, a television and animation veteran who, along with creator Mark Evanier, was the head writer and co-showrunner of Garfield and Friends, which happens to be one of my favourite television shows of all time. I was genuinely excited by the prospect of a Star Trek overseen by DiVono, and I fully expected to see and be delighted by how she’d apply her wry postmodern humour to the Star Trek universe. But, once I started to prep for this section by reading a few of the strip’s story arcs, I quickly discovered they weren’t actually anything to write home about. They all seemed like quite bog standard and uninspiring pulp action serials set in the Star Trek setting, nothing I had come to expect of DiVono’s work on Garfield was present and, most worrying of all, the first two arcs were beginning to give “Savage Syndrome” a run for its money in terms of offensive depictions of teleological evolution and “primitivism”. Maybe I can blame that on DiVono’s co-writers.

So, because I was nearing the end of my patience as it was (in hindsight, it was a bad sign that I couldn’t come up with anything terribly interesting to say about the actually quite solid and enjoyable “World Enough and Time” and “Enemy: Starfleet”, I decided to scrap that plan, and none of you *really* want to read about mediocre tie-in comics for another month any more than I want to write about them. But, there was one arc I knew I had to cover regardless of what I did with the rest of the strip, because between January and July, 1982, DiVono teamed up with Larry Niven to give us an epic, sprawling return to the Kzinti and the Known Universe with “The Wristwatch Plantation”. Perhaps predictably, judging by how “The Slaver Weapon” turned out, this is just as much of a pulp serial as the rest of the strip’s arcs were, but this is a good one.

But before I leap into the story, I want to take a little time to talk about the strip itself, as this is probably the only time we’re going to engage with it and there are several noteworthy things about it apart from DiVono herself and the rather changeable quality: First of all, I was very, very impressed with Ron Harris’ artwork: Star Trek looks extremely good for a newspaper comic strip, with detailed.…

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