You Were Expecting Someone Else 33 (Assimilation²)
Josh Marsfelder of Vaka Rangi, a critical history of Star Trek (he’s just started The Next Generation) and related topics (including an essay on Doctor Who), writes on the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover comic by IDW. Also, speaking of comics, no reviews this week I’m afraid – won’t be around to pick up my books due to those Cleveland talks.
Let me preface this by saying I am not a comics person. My first, and only, sojourn into the world of mainline United States sequential art was around the time there were several different Spider-Mans running around Marvel while at DC Supergirl was some kind of pink alien goo matrix or something. I took one look at that, promptly decided comics were fucked up and never looked back. I am, however, apparently something of an authority on Star Trek, which is why Phil has so graciously invited me to say a few words about the first, and to date only, time that other big polyauthored science fiction TV franchise crossed over with Doctor Who.
The one exception I made to my self-imposed rule of avoiding US comics at all costs came anytime there was a four-colour adaptation of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine during the late 80s and early 90s, during the tail-end of the period I’ve come to call the Long 1980s. Back then, you couldn’t just queue up Netflix or Hulu (or other places) to rewatch your favourite show-You had to wait for it to be re-aired, which was if not rare, at the very least unpredictable, or wait for it to come out on VHS, which took a long time. And, at least if you were someone like me, collecting TV shows on VHS was simply out of the question: Not only was it expensive (I’ve never been a terribly wealthy person), but it took forever for home video releases to come out, and it was hard to keep enthusiasm going that long. If I wanted new adventures with my favourite Star Trek heroes, I was limited to my imagination (which I daresay I’ve been blessed enough to have in abundance), or to the tie-in comic lines from DC and Malibu. Indeed, especially in the case of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, much of my memories of and perspective on the show came not from the TV episodes themselves, but the comics.
It didn’t hurt that this was something of a golden age for tie-in comics: Most of them were written by talented authors and artists who also happened to have a deep appreciation for the source material they were tasked with adapting. Indeed, Ron Moore said a number of times that he was a big fan of Michael Jan Friedman and Pablo Marcos’ run on the DC Star Trek: The Next Generation book, because it was the only way he could actually experience new stories with a cast of characters he’d come to love as a member of the audience. Oftentimes, these comics put out stories that were on par with, if not demonstrably superior to, anything being done on the television shows themselves. A lot of the reason I still have a deep fondness for this era of Star Trek is that from the beginning it was clear to me this was a kind of modern myth structure that a lot of different people could have contrasting, though equally valid, conceptions of.
In fact this was so much the case, there are some Star Trek episodes I can go back and watch today that feel somehow…off, or out of tune: They don’t jive with the mental picture I have of who these characters are and how they’re supposed to act, because I’ve spent so many years drawing that based on things I’ve gleaned from comics and other “secondary” sources. I didn’t watch any Star Trek, or at least any worth mentioning, between Summer 1994 and Fall 2000 and only just now, with the recent (and frankly astounding) high definition restoration of Star Trek: The Next Generation am I starting to seriously collect it on home media. Apart from the Season 1 and 2 DVD box sets of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I picked up when they first came out (in what constituted something of a major investment for me), this is the first time I’ve actually owned a substantial portion of the television phenomenon that’s meant so much to me for so long.
So Star Trek comics have always been particularly special and important to me. A new comic set in the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will strike a chord with me in a way even the announcement of a new piece of Star Trek visual media can’t (this is one reason, among many others, I was left cold and underwhelmed by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzmann and Roberto Orci’s recent efforts). Naturally, I was immediately intrigued when I heard IDW had acquired the license to publish new Star Trek books in 2006, and were kicking off their new line with a miniseries based on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unfortunately, any hopes I might have had for the success and longevity of that line were immediately dashed upon actually reading said miniseries.
Whereas earlier Star Trek comics seemed to have been made by people with a deep fondness and appreciation for the series, they also, most crucially, demonstrated they had a very keen understanding of how it worked and what was important about it. At my most charitable, I’d say IDW was staffed by very passionate science fiction fans who might not always have been science fiction writers. At my least, I’d say their stories tended to be exercises in pointless fanwank with wooden dialog and little-to-no conception of basic plot and narrative structure done solely to cash in on a big-name license. IDW has a very small group of creators for the size of imprint that it is, and regularly leans on a select handful of writers and artists to handle basically all of their properties. You can gather this leads to a somewhat changeable average baseline of quality.
With a few exceptions, like John Byrne’s surprisingly excellent Star Trek Crew that tells the life and times of Majel Barrett’s Number One, in the case of Star Trek, IDW almost exclusively employs an in-house team of sibling co-writers by the name of Scott and David Tipton. Sadly, the Tipton brothers do not have a particularly impressive track record for quality, being between them responsible for some of what I consider to be the worst of IDW’s catalog. Their most egregious offering to date for me had been the embarrassing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Fool’s Gold, which rather memorably turned Benjamin Sisko into Samuel J. Jackson, Kira Nerys into one of Kate Beaton’s “Strong Female Characters” and Elim Garak into Scrooge McDuck. The miniseries boasts an insipid and shaky plot to match that just barely holds together about “an alarming number of visitors” coming to Deep Space 9 who it is revealed are all on an interstellar treasure hunt.
You might have guessed by now that IDW put the Tiptons on the Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who crossover event comic Assimilation².
In regards to Doctor Who, my history is far more limited in this regard. I picked up Steve Moore’s run on Doctor Who Monthly at Phil’s recommendation, which I quite liked and that features what’s now probably my favourite version of Tom Baker’s Doctor. But that’s about it as far as my experience with Doctor Who comics goes. I haven’t read any of IDW’s offerings, though, if their Star Trek stuff is any indication I’m not exactly leaping with enthusiasm to check them out, especially for a franchise that unfortunately simply means considerably less to me (sorry…). But I certainly appreciate Doctor Who as pop culture staple and a work of narrative, and the idea of a crossover with Star Trek, in particular Star Trek: The Next Generation, is certainly something I would be excited about. If nothing else, it would be the meeting of the two longest-running and most iconic science fiction series probably in the world. Unfortunately, and predictably, Assimilation² completely fails to deliver on absolutely anything anyone would have hoped to see in the first teamup between the two elder statesmen of television sci-fi.
The Tiptons’ usual raft of problems apply, and I actually think this is the worst thing I’ve read from them. Namely, the brothers have absolutely no handle on voice or characterization of any sort: Not a single player sounds like who they’re supposed to, the dialog is so wooden and stilted and the plot twists are telegraphed so amateurishly one begins to wonder if the Tiptons might have missed their calling to work for Western Union. The person who gets shafted the worst by far is Geordi La Forge, because he’s first of all barely in the story at all, sounds nothing like LeVar Burton the few chances he *does* get to appear and gets a jaw-droppingly and flamboyantly loaded out-of-character scene near the beginning where he asks Data why he’s never considered “upgrading” himself. This upsets me a great deal because Geordi is my favourite character, and to have him say something like that is so catastrophic a misreading of who he his, what his relationship with Data is and the fundamental ethical position of Star Trek: The Next Generation I can’t even begin to put it to words. Meanwhile, Deanna Troi, Doctor Crusher and Amy Pond are all interchangeable, the Tiptons apparently assuming all women have an innate, built-in default personality of “generic and stereotypical Doctor Who companion”.
Of course, having the Borg team up with the Cybermen is the most dumbly obvious, rote and hackneyed idea for a Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who crossover imaginable. To the point, actually, that I have seen fanart on DeviantArt that handles this brief better than the Tiptons do. If you stop and think about it though, there’s really not a whole lot of material to work with in this setup: The Borg and Cybermen are superficially similar by being big monolithic cyborg things that go around assimilating people, but their intended symbolism and narrative function are actually quite different. The Borg are essentially a stand-in for the Federation’s dark side and a glimpse into its possible future, a future that could befall it should its worst tendencies go unchallenged (Well, except in Star Trek First Contact and Star Trek Voyager where they become the Cenobites from Hellraiser, but that’s beside the point). It’s a scenario where the grinding engines of capitalism and modernity basically take on a sentience of their own and, having absorbed everything else, start devouring themselves. The Cybermen, meanwhile, are, as Phil so brilliantly pointed out, supposed to be Qlippothic horrors: Star Monks who achieved a kind of dark spiritual enlightenment in the H.P. LovecraftXKenneth Grant sense…Or at least they were, until “The Moonbase” came along and fucked all that up so that now they don’t really have a purpose apart from “iconic legacy Doctor Who monster”.
(That said, I have to give a brief shout-out to Jack Graham here, who’s done a quite excellent comparative analysis of the Borg and the Cybermen showing how they can both be used as metaphors for runaway capitalism.)
And, credit to the Tiptons, they don’t actually depict the Borg and the Cybermen as interchangeable…They do something even worse. Apparently, while the Borg are dangerous, the Cybermen are *serious business* and *bad news*. This is according to The Doctor, who convinces Captain Picard to set aside his prejudice and forge a temporary alliance with the Borg to stop the Cybermen, who have gone rogue, from taking over all of space and time by giving him a quick trip in the TARDIS. There are about six trillion things wrong with that sentence, so let’s just concentrate on the major one as, unlike The Doctor, we are somewhat pressed for space and time here. The Enterprise crew does basically nothing to resolve the situation here, in fact, they just get in the way. The Doctor isn’t just the narrative prime mover, he’s the only proactive character in the entire story: He swoops down from On High to lecture Starfleet on their backwards ways (everyone except Data, natch, because everybody loves Data), hotwires the Enterprise so it can travel to the Borg homeworld in the Delta Quadrant and tells the crew every single thing they need to do to resolve the plot. Even Amy and Rory functionally only exist in this story to convince Captain Picard to listen to The Doctor because The Doctor has seen things and is wonderful and knows everything.
I know perfectly well why this story turned out like this. It’s because Doctor Who is right now more popular than it’s ever been and is the darling of science fiction communities the world over while Star Trek: The Next Generation, even though 2012 was its 25th anniversary, is still an ancient show that was popular before today’s kids were even born and that, statistically speaking, nobody has given a shit about since 1994. I’m not, as I’ve written elsewhere, jealous of Doctor Who’s success: I don’t hold that kind of petty and irrelevant grudge. I’m not just reacting badly to this because I’m a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m not just upset because Star Trek: The Next Generation means more to me than pretty much any other television show and is among my most beloved pop culture memories. I mean, I *am*, because I felt after reading Assimilation² that the Tipton brothers were belittling and dismissing my favourite show and that hurt me quite badly. But my main objection is that this is a terrible, terrible way to do a crossover event. Indeed, letting one team completely overshadow and wipe the floor with the other is just about the most basic, fundamental failing you can make when writing a crossover event. Not to mention the fact the Tiptons’ apparent preference for Doctor Who over Star Trek: The Next Generation has me somewhat concerned that they’re in charge of the, er, *Star Trek* wing of IDW, though I guess that would explain a lot.
(There’s even an entire issue that’s little more than a pointless and strangled excuse to get Tom Baker’s Doctor interacting with the Original Series crew. One really does get the sense the Tiptons would rather be writing literally anything else.)
There are a ton of great concepts for a Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover, any of which would have worked considerably better than Assimilation² does. It’s an idea that’s been around for a long time, too: Doctor Who has been aware of Star Trek since at least the Terrance Dicks/Barry Letts/Jon Pertwee era, and the Star Trek production teams of the Long 1980s were all demonstrably avid Whovians. Commander Riker uses a sonic screwdriver in “The Naked Now”, which was the only fun thing about that episode, there’s the somewhat famous list of the first six actors to play The Doctor that flashes onscreen briefly in “The Neutral Zone” and Doctor Crusher adorns the walls of her sickbay on the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D with roundels from the TARDIS.
The most high-profile idea for a crossover though came from Russel T. Davies himself. Davies a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation (describing the fifth season story “Darmok” as featuring a brief that has forever inspired and “haunted” him, to the point it apparently led him to write the episode “Midnight”), and had wanted his New Series to visit and pay tribute to Star Trek from the beginning: In fact, it was one of the first ideas he had. That show would have been Enterprise, and the concept of linking its own Temporal Cold War to the Last Great Time War of the new Doctor Who is such a stupefyingly obvious and brilliant idea it’s little wonder it never happened. Indeed, in the Enterprise episode “Future Tense”, the NX-01 comes across a mysterious time ship with a human pilot that a bunch of major powers are vying for. Designer Mike Sussman wanted the ship to transform into a blue British police call box, but was shot down. Think how much fun that might have been. Meanwhile, Assimilation² seems like it was done just because it had to be done, and that’s perhaps its biggest crime.
The Classic Series also almost interacted with Star Trek: The Next Generation: Had the show been renewed for the 1989-90 season, Andrew Cartmel and his team were working on serial for that year that would have a pastiche called “Earth Aid” where Ace briefly has to take command of a vast starship in the employ of an Earth-based Starfleet. Change that from a parody to a full-on crossover and you’d have a delightful brief for a special: Imagine Ace on the bridge of the Enterprise trying to act like Captain Picard, or indeed imagine her getting to talk to Tasha Yar (in my mind, this is an alternate version of “Yesterday’s Enterprise”). Hell, imagine how the *actors* would have got on. That would have been something to see. For you Big Finish fans, “Earth Aid” was redone as one of those “Lost Stories”, though I can’t speak for how good it is this removed from its original context having not heard it. Also on CD is another Sylvester McCoy serial, “Bang-Bang-a-Boom!”, which is a bang-on parody of the po-faced 1990s grimdark that sunk the Dominion War era of Star Trek done as a Christmas pantomime.
Even though “Bang-Bang-a-Boom” is skewering Star Trek, I still like it and still think it works because it has a degree of affection for its source material. That’s what Assimilation² utterly lacks: There’s no sense of fun or excitement anywhere here, for either Star Trek: The Next Generation *or* Doctor Who, which rather seems to defeat the purpose of doing a crossover in the first place to me. I mean, if you can’t find anything happy or joyful to take home from bending license regulations to get two groups of beloved iconic heroes to meet and fight evil together, why bother? Not just with the crossover itself, but with this kind of writing in general. Doctor Who and Star Trek: The Next Generation are among a select group of pop culture ephemera that have transcended their origins to be part of our shared cultural history; modern myths to help show us how to live better lives and be better people. These are precious things to be treasured, nurtured, shared and passed on to younger generations so they too can maybe find something meaningful in them. You shouldn’t be in the business of curating if you can’t find any love in your heart for them.
October 8, 2014 @ 12:24 am
Blimey, Assimilation was bad. I have to admit to not making it past the first issue, but kept an eye out for the following issues and Byrne stole them in comic shops.
Ironically, there have been Star Trek:TNG/Doctor Who crossovers to a certain degree (at least when it comes to characterisation)* in that Q is essentially the Doctor: a being of great power who, having taken a liking to humanity, likes to interfere. The central conflict on any Who/Star Trek story should be between the Doctor and the Captain, because the Doctor is the walking opposite of the Prime Directive, and any dialogue from Picard to the Doctor should be along the lines of Patrick Stewart to John DeLancey.
When taken into the Tardis by the Doctor, Picard shouldn't react with awe but with horror at all this power in the hands of a dilettanti. And similarly, the Doctor should mistrust the Federation for essentially pretending to be explorers while flying about in battleships.
At best they should come to a grudging respect for the other man's character while disliking how they operate. And the monsters should be incidental: Star Trek has never really been about monsters, whereas Doctor Who revels in them. For a story that almost writes itself, Assimilation gets it badly wrong: it should be about comparing American and British Sci-Fi Utopianism, and finding the tension in the contrast. Instead, we got fan-fiction of the lowest order.
*Planet of Evil can also be seen a critique of Star Trek by Dr Who, although that was very much the Shatner model: Kirk is reduced to an out of his depth politician, and his stoic first in command is almost lethargic in his inability to act upon things.
October 8, 2014 @ 12:36 am
Yeah. Due to the slipshod way Diamond UK deliver to the only comic shop in the Highlands, I'm missing about half of this. And I was astonished to realise I didn't care.
I don't know what the rest of IDW's Doctor Who material is like because licensing issues mean it isn't for sale over here, but the other IDW Star Trek comics I've read, I mostly quite liked. Mind you, I don't think any of them were written by the Tiptons.
October 8, 2014 @ 12:58 am
The art complements the story by zipping from quite accurate where the artist obviously uses photo reference to little better than fingerpainting where he doesn't. Often multiple times on the same page.
October 8, 2014 @ 1:27 am
I will simply state that I really liked it, a lot, and after he set up how bad the previous work of the authors' was I was waiting for the "but somehow this is fantastic". I only bothered reading it after several of my friends who care more about comics than me told me the crossover had turned out really well, and was pleasantly surprised they were right.
Best part was still when the Doctor says "Oh dear, I'm remembering things that didn't happen," and we get the sequence where Spock, Kirk, and the 4th Doctor fight the classic-era cybermen in bold crayola colors!
I could go on, but I don't feel like there's much point in the same way, "I like the basic tenor and feel of the Saward Era and most of the episodes Philip strongly dislikes," left me without much room to comment. The gap in taste leaves me short on words, I suppose.
October 8, 2014 @ 2:05 am
I don't think having one element of a crossover trash the other is necessarily a mistake. Having the Cybermen comprehensively outclassed by the Daleks in Doomsday made sense (amusingly, the Tiptons ignored it). It's stupid here primarily because anyone familiar with both programmes is going to consider it ridiculous. Doctor Who fans aren't going to be happy that the Doctor Who monster "beats" the Star Trek monster (well, fans over 8 years of age won't, anyway, unless they're massive Harry Hill fans).
Similarly, I don't think Doctor Who fans are likely to enjoy the Doctor dominating proceedings. If he was going to save the day it would be far more interesting for him to be marginalised or disbelieved for most of the story. As it is, the Tiptons seem to have bought into the swirly-coat-TimeLordVictorious-deity aspects of the character, and then dialled them up to 11.
So yes, I think your arguments stand from a Doctor Who point of view as well.
If these two programmes are going to meet, they have to somehow deal with the drastic difference in philosophy, particularly regarding the nature and value of hegemony. A bit like what Carey said, actually.
If the Tiptons wanted to do the plot they did it would have made more sense with the Daleks. Maybe that's what they wanted, but the Terry Nation estate said no?
October 8, 2014 @ 2:08 am
Man, if you're going to bring the Doctor into Star Trek, you've gotta have him go up against Q.
I haven't read Assimilation yet, but I probably will…
October 8, 2014 @ 2:24 am
But I can only see Seven making it work.
October 8, 2014 @ 2:31 am
Agree with all of this. I read all of Assimilation because my friends were already picking it up and handing the issues off to me when they were done. I wouldn't have gotten beyond the second issue otherwise. I completely agree with Marsfelder about huge missed opportunity to give each franchise a fair shake to critique the other. It's easy to have the Doctor running around like a maverick on the Enterprise, nimbler, faster, funnier, and more innovative than the Starfleet squares. What's more interesting is that Star Trek – particularly in the person of Captain Picard – is particularly well-placed to offer what I think is the foremost valid criticism of the Doctor, and by extension Doctor Who: that the Doctor solves immediate crises, but almost never sticks around to do the crucial work of picking up the pieces and establishing a sustainable social order after. That's less glamorous, quotidian, day-to-day work, not at all the Doctor's style. And to be sure, as a fan, I wouldn't want it to be; that would completely mess up Doctor Who. But I wouldn't mind hearing him called out on it every so often. There's far more bite in Harriet Jones saying "You come and go" then in endless Davros/River rants about how the Doctor is somehow as bad as the monsters. Picard is a dead-on perfect iconic character to make that critique, and I couldn't believe it was nowhere in Assimilation.
October 8, 2014 @ 4:10 am
One problem of writing DW fanfic (which, in all the ways that count, Assimilation is) is that the Doctor can take over the narrative. It's even more tempting in crossover fiction. Seems like the Tiptons fell into that trap. Just tell me: do the Doctor and Captain Picard have any philosophical debates? That would make the book worth preserving for posterity's sake.
Speaking of fanfic, there's a "Land Of Fiction: Female Doctor Challenge poll" at Gallifrey Base; http://gallifreybase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=207190 . (I would have mentioned it last post, but it seemed inappropriate ) We have 16 short stories (one submitted by yours truly) featuring a female Doctor. That's the only similarity: we have horror, comedy, surrealism, and more. If you think a female Doctor is a stupid idea, then you should definitely read the stories, since the challege was meant to confront skepticism about female Doctors.The voting ends at this Sat; you can vote for as many stories as you like, but once you send in your votes, that's it–no second tries, it's that kind of poll. (I learned that the hard way.) If you don't have a username in Gallifrey Base, you'll need to register (it's free, but it might take a few days to go through.) The vote ends on Sat, so enjoy the story, and get yer votes in! (Oh, and which authors go with which story will only be revealed after the vote, in order to minimize bias).
October 8, 2014 @ 4:33 am
"the Doctor can take over the narrative"
For sure. Reminds me of this amazing Moffat quote in Frank Cottrell Boyce's recent Telegraph piece on writing for the show:
"I asked Steven Moffat for advice. 'Easy,' he said. 'Just give the Doctor the very best movie idea you ever had and he will chew it up in 40 minutes.'"
October 8, 2014 @ 4:34 am
I'll read those stories this week!
October 8, 2014 @ 4:59 am
Carey beat me to the observation that the Doctor's closest Star Trek equivalent is Q. He and the Enterprise crew ought to clash immediately, until they bond over their one shared value, wonder. Data and Geordi are the obvious bridges here.
I have heard that "A Matter of Time" was originally proposed as a Doctor Who crossover, but that this idea was discarded as impractical almost immediately. However, I don't have any solid sources on this–it's just a rumor that was around in the day and I've heard it repeated as fact a few times since, most recently in SFDebris' review of the episode.
Given that it involves finding a charismatic trickster in a tiny, time-traveling pod, I can see both how it could have started as a Doctor Who crossover and how an unsubstantiated rumor could have started, so I really have no idea if it was ever considered as one or not.
October 8, 2014 @ 5:10 am
Not being able to find the difference between Deanna and Amy seems particularly damning.
If we're looking for Time Lord parallels in Star Trek, there's also Wesley's Traveller.
October 8, 2014 @ 5:40 am
Davies a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation (describing the fifth season story “Darmok” as featuring a brief that has forever inspired and “haunted” him, to the point it apparently led him to write the episode “Midnight”)
Could someone expand on this? I'm having trouble seeing how you get from "Darmok" to "Midnight."
October 8, 2014 @ 5:45 am
Josh somewhat cheekily leaves out the detail that Davies has never actually seen "Darmok," and that the inspiration comes entirely from the description of it as being about "a creature that can only speak through metaphor." Davies says something to the effect of "this sounded like something that the episode couldn't possibly live up to." But if you reduce "Darmok" to that idea, it's not hard to see how the creature that can only speak through other creatures' speech might follow from it.
October 8, 2014 @ 6:25 am
I don't see what she'd add to… Oh, wait.
October 8, 2014 @ 6:53 am
The Traveller is rather more of a tourist than the Doctor is, though–he seems perfectly content to leave intact the power structures around him. He's more of a straightforward sage than a trickster, while the Doctor is much more of the latter, though he sometimes plays at being the former.
October 8, 2014 @ 7:59 am
Ah. That makes sense. I've always thought that the popularity of Damon summed up much of the appeal of TNG — an absurdly implausible story elevated to greatness by Patrick Stewart's ability to spout utter gibberish with eloquence and conviction.
October 8, 2014 @ 9:02 am
October 8, 2014 @ 11:01 am
Let me be blunt — Assimilation was a misfire.
I know people who loved it. I don't understand why, except that, generally speaking, those people were not Doctor Who fans.
There was a lot of potential — the TARDIS landing on the Enterprise and deforming a Star Trek narrative can work. See Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad's The Blue Angel. But I don't think the Tiptons were the writers to execute that. And, after reading Prisoners of Time, I feel confident in saying that it's clear they've never seen Doctor Who.
Their primary mistake, I think, was in treating the story as a Star Trek: The Next Generation story with the Doctor as the main guest star. They didn't have any idea what to do with Amy and Rory. I wrote on my blog at the time, "If this were the episode 'Sarek,' then Amy and Rory are as useful as Ki Mendrossen." The result was a story that was one of the dull, talky, fifth season bottle episodes. There was little boldly going. Instead, there was a lot of sitting around on the Enterprise, talking about things happening and very little doing.
Rereading old blog posts, like this one on issue #4, suggests to me where Assimilation may have gone wrong — plot approvals. I kept hoping, as the series wore on, that someone would find themselves in jeopardy. Perhaps Rory would be captured by the Borg and assimilated. Perhaps the Doctor would be. I wrote then, "Maybe the Doctor should get assimilated by the Borg. That would certainly be different, though if the Dalek Asylum’s nanomachines didn’t convert him into a Borg drone, then Borg nanites probably would assimilate him, either. However, that would make a killer cliffhanger to issue #7, an image of the assimilated Doctor announcing his Borg identity." And perhaps the Tiptons planned to do so — only to have the BBC nix that idea because it was too similar to what Neil Gaiman did to the Doctor in "Nightmare in Silver." That would explain why the series seems to lose focus and momentum around the fifth issue; the Tiptons seem to have no idea of where to go. I know, that's just speculation. But, having worked with licensors, I can see how that would work. They think they have a good idea, even a great idea, and then they're told they can't use it.
I'm curious what the sequel, which IDW announced at New York Comic-Con a few months before they lost the Doctor Who license, would have been like. I've seen some sketches by J.K. Woodward that may have been for fun, or they may have reflected what they planned to do — Amy in the Original Series miniskirt on Kirk's Enterprise. And this series certainly produced some interesting prints that Woodward sold to raise funds when he lost his house; a print of Amy and Rory in Original Series uniforms at the edge of the Guardian of Forever while Kirk and the Doctor lunge at them from the TARDIS hangs in my dining room.
I'm still waiting for the perfect Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover.
October 8, 2014 @ 11:58 am
an image of the assimilated Doctor announcing his Borg identity.
I assume that would have been 'Eleven of Thirteen'.
October 8, 2014 @ 1:35 pm
IDW had some good and they had some bad.
They didn't start off well. The Gary Russell mini-series was marred by inconsistent shipping and inconsistent art. Tony Lee's The Forgotten was stronger narratively, but again, inconsistent shipping and three different artists. It wouldn't have been wrong to say, "IDW can't handle Doctor Who," in the first year and a half of the license because they were doing an uninspiring job with it.
They did a series of one-shot specials that were pretty solid.
Then they did an ongoing series with the tenth Doctor by Tony Lee. Let me see if I can find what I wrote on Gallifrey Base about it… Ah, here we go. I found it:
"To be honest, as a monthly comic, I wasn't the biggest fan of it. For the first half of the run, it wasn't obvious that it was going anywhere. It started with a celebrity historical. We went into a Star Wars-esque space opera. There was "Tesseract," which was A Wrinkle in Time crossed with "Inside the Spaceship." Then in "Don't Step on the Grass," things started coming together. Little things you didn't notice suddenly gained in importance. There was a very big story going on here, and it wasn't even a story you realized was even there until you were hip deep in it. It's a story that benefits greatly from a reread (and a concentrated reread at that) because it plays out faster and the connections are more readily apparent. It's a story about destiny — the Doctor, Emily, and Matthew all have destinies they don't know but cannot avoid. It's also a story of loss, in particular the Doctor's loss; he wins the individual battles, but in a very real way he loses the war he didn't even know he was fighting because he can't save Matthew and Emily from their fates. Much as I hate the phrase "timey-wimey" (it was cute, but now it's stupidly overused), the whole 16-part epic is a timey-wimey tenth Doctor series could have been like, and I have called this whole story the series 5 we didn't get in 2009.
"I would like to think that the tenth Doctor pays a visit to Emily (or, in this case, Miss Spring) after she walks out of the party for Archie Maplin during his long goodbye at the end of "The End of Time, Part Two." In my mind, I know it happened. But I would never ask Tony Lee or Matthew Dow Smith because I wouldn't want them to tell me otherwise.
"I'm not going to say that IDW is perfect. They're not. They've made missteps, like the Star Trek crossover. Even in their missteps, they still care deeply about doing the best job they can, and when they do hit, they hit it very well indeed."
The Tony Lee eleventh Doctor series was a little more "adventure of the month"; there wasn't an overarching plot to it.
The Andy Diggle eleventh Doctor series that followed that did have an overarching plot. It was fun.
Prisoners of Time, the 50th-anniversary series, was an horrific boondoggle. I hope to see it eviscerated here.
"The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who," Paul Cornell's special in which the Doctor lands in our world on the eve of the 50th-anniversary, was a loving valentine to fandom.
October 8, 2014 @ 5:44 pm
Ursula Le Guin liked it.
October 8, 2014 @ 8:55 pm
"Amy in the Original Series miniskirt on Kirk's Enterprise."
In a quiet way, this sentence seems to say so much about some of the motivations behind this sort of enterprise.
October 9, 2014 @ 5:08 am
Yes! The art was what really sunk the book for me. The story is uninspired (it's a problem when Picard's immediate thought upon meeting the Doctor is "You remind me of Guinan," for example) but the art is just the sloppiest possible mess. It's clear that Woodward is aping Alex Ross's style, but Alex Ross remembers to make his art look finished.
October 9, 2014 @ 5:09 am
I really enjoyed the 4th Doctor/TOS section. I wish the whole story had been set during that time. The writing was lighter and funnier, and the art was much more appealing.
October 9, 2014 @ 5:31 am
I liked it too, but for pleasure of watching Stewart and Paul Winfield babble eloquently at each other. The plot is still nonsensical.
October 9, 2014 @ 6:15 am
A Voyager crossover where the 7th Doctor meets both 7 and the Doctor. That would be fun, right?
. . . Right?
October 9, 2014 @ 9:13 am
"I'm still waiting for the perfect Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover."
I had a stressful and challenging day at work. To take my mind of things I considered the issue of the elements needed for a Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover.
The questions that need answering are which crew, which doctor, which companion(s) and which monster. After some thought I felt also that it was important that the crew are separated from the captain and that the companion(s) is separated from the doctor. Given that it made the most sense to have the Doctor on the enterprise (sans Tardis) and the companion/captain somewhere else (space station/moonbase/planet/other ship/back in time/other dimension/pocket universe etc). If the Doctor is on the Enterprise without a captain it would be dull to have him interact with Spock/McCoy (TOS). However Riker (TNG) is basically the exactly right kind of quasi-military officer for the Doctor to interact with. So that means the companion would be with Picard somewhere else.
So the question becomes which companion would be most fun to interact with Picard. I think the answer is unequivocally Donna Noble. At that point the rest becomes irrelevant as I would pay good money to see Catherine Tate take on Patrick Stewart in any old plot. 🙂
October 9, 2014 @ 9:14 am
Someone tell me: How does the comic deal with the continuity issues involved in having two fictional histories collide? I assume a story aimed at this audience, and particularly one that takes the fanficcy approach described in this blog post, is not going to ignore that; there's probably going to be at least some hand-waving. So…parallel universes?
October 9, 2014 @ 12:06 pm
Yep, parallel universes. And, IIRC, some sort of suggestion that the Doctor becomes part of the ST universe the longer he stays in it (hence the Fourth Doctor episode) which never goes anywhere or gets satisfactorily explained. (The fact Star Trek exists as a TV series in the DW universe, as illustrated in "The Empty Child", "The Impossible Astronaut", The Face of the Enemy and the DWM comics with Izzy, is, of course, completely ignored.)
October 9, 2014 @ 12:20 pm
Thanks. Clearly, the events in parallel universes leak into the Whoniverse via the Land of Fiction. (I think I just wrote the precis for a very bad Virgin tie-in novel.)
October 9, 2014 @ 12:36 pm
It seemed they were playing with the idea that either the universes were merging or they were bleeding into each other — there's the fourth Doctor/Kirk runaround in issue #3, but there's also Picard's trip in the TARDIS in issue #5 where the Doctor takes him to see what happens to the Slitheen and the Judoon at the hands of the Borgified Cybermen and he expects the Slitheen and the Judoon to matter to Picard as if he knows them — except this was an idea, if it were there, that got entirely dropped.
Another way to read Picard's TARDIS trip is that there are Doctor Who planets in the Star Trek universe and, presumably, vice versa. I sort of like the idea that there's a Skaro in the Star Trek universe; perhaps they avoided the long war and Davros is known throughout the Beta Quadrant as one of galaxy's great philanthropists.
October 9, 2014 @ 12:40 pm
Well, if they both have Earths…
October 10, 2014 @ 6:58 am
I'm not even a Star Trek fan, and I would totally watch that!
February 18, 2015 @ 5:39 am
Though this article is mostly about Assimilation2 which I seriously disliked, I am honestly glad to see someone else coming forth and admitting that they don't like the IDW run on Star Trek.
I am somewhat on the same bandwagon. I was a big Star Trek fan for a long time since The Next Generation (then watching the original series and its movies afterwards), and followed the franchise up until Enterprise which I disliked for various reasons (though I admit Season 4 has its good moments and I have somewhat of a personal fondness for S2's "Regeneration" despite it not fitting in the timeline, no the writers did not resolve this was in a good and satisfying manner)
But eventually I started to expand my interest, this getting into games, books, and of course comics.
I started with the second Marvel Star Trek in the 90s and though that run did have plenty of average stories it is still the one that sticks with me the most as it also had some true gems too like Early Voyages and Starfleet Academy (yeah the students were sort of X Men like but I liked the stories)
In my opinion Marvel's people also did what I consider the best TNG/DSN crossover "Telepathy War".
It is not the best Star Trek story but I felt it was much better than the DC Star Trek and Malibu DSN crossover. (to be honest I find Friedman's run on TNG and Deep Space Nine comics rather average, I also never really liked his ST books)
I have to be honest that I was not following Deep Space Nine on television at the time as I found it somewhat boring compared to Voyager (yeah that show had serious issues too), so the idea of the Dominion doing an attack on the Alpha Quadrant was a double whammy for me. (did not know about the Cardassian/Dominion alliance)
Anyway, I also in general liked the mini series and one-shots wildstorm did afterwards, especially the New Frontier comic, and before the books became average I enjoyed the comics that tied in with the ST books released by Simon and Shuster.
February 18, 2015 @ 5:39 am
Well then IDW got the license after a temporary hiatus in ST comic releases, and like the writer I was seriously disappointed by the first mini series.
Sure the issues were mostly written like a Star Trek stories, but it felt more like something you would get if you ordered a writer to come up with a story but play it absolutely by the numbers (in this case, 'The basics 101s of ST)
None of the joy and fun of previous comics was in this forgettable mini series, and I felt that the follow ups were much the same.
Eventually I did figure out where some of the problems lay, the writers kept going back to episodes of the various television series, kept using plot devices from episodes or even did full blown references to them, as if this would excuse their own often very average scripts and ideas.
Only a few writers such as Byrne (ST Romulans, Schism, Crew, etc) and the occasional random good story by the Tipton brothers (yes even they occasionally got it right) somewhat saved IDW's run before I eventually decided to stop buying them all together.
Stuff like Alien Spotlight and that captain mini series had their highlights but also really never lived up to their potential. (god that Borg spotlight story was bad, time travel, super cubes, hokey science)
And then we get the crossovers which IMO these days feel more like a last ditch effort to save interest in a comic series than really trying to do a fun 'hey what if these characters met' possibility.
The Infestation crossover (the one Tipton bros story I liked) was actually rather in the spirit of Star Trek rather than another average zombie story.
The original Star Trek crew meets the Legion of Super Heroes I can not comment much on as I don't read Legion of Super Heroes
The Assimilation2 one which is discussed here was basically a complete waste of time, going through the standard clichés and tropes of Star Trek and Doctor Who again. (BTW, I love the description of the Cybermen as star monks with a dark belief)
And now we have a Star Trek meets Planet of the Apes crossover I feel will also turn average.
Speaking of average, honestly don't read Star Trek Hive, the mini series that was to celebrate TNG's anniversary.
It was written by Braga and includes basically all the stuff he pulled in Voyager including Borg time travel, super powerful alien invaders, and an obsession for Seven of Nine.
February 18, 2015 @ 5:40 am
Last I wanted to talk about are comics that are based on the new Star Trek movies.
If the movies basically copied the scripts from the movies based on the original series (in particular Wrath of Kahn), the comics basically copied the episodes of the original series until they headed off into their own direction with stories.
Now this series was launched with the premise that the writers wanted to re envision classic series episodes as if they happened in the new universe, but honestly what were they thinking?
People want to read new stories, not basically the plots of the old show with a few different plot twists here and there, if they want to see that again they can watch the series.
Even the original stories are rather a mess to be honest, a lot of them are action stories and not even always that interesting, and the few attempts at mystery are never pulled off well.
There is also a lot of retconning going on, especially to history prior to Star Trek 2009, apparently the 90s were also changed when time travel occurred in that movie.
The new ST universe is not an alternative timeline, it is a complete different universe.
Great for people who like that, less for people who want to see more of the original universe.
No in general, I feel Star Trek in comics like in movies has run its course and that it is time to bury it instead of letting it shamble on in a zombified state.