Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Comic Review: Star Trek: Leonard McCoy Frontier Doctor

    I’ve been watching Star Trek since I can remember.  For years when I was a wee lad, it was on every afternoon at 5PM, and I watched it whenever I could, seeing episodes time and again.  My relationship with the show changed over the years.  Next Gen came along and made some of the 60s sets and effects seem hokey, and the stories silly.  I watched the original cast’s films, and they also threw the show into a sort of embarrassed shadow.  For several years, I dismissed the show in general, save for a few especially good episodes.  But then, I don’t know, maybe ten years ago, I sat down and watched a few episodes again, and loved them.  Then I watched Next Gen again, from start to finish, and found myself scratching my head more often than not.  Next Gen sure has some good episodes and a few cast members who are fantastic.  But, it’s weighed down by a bloated cast of bad actors/characters, really cheap looking footage (thanks to editing on video tape, instead of the film it was shot on), and a lot of truly awful episodes.  And worst of all, a certain, almost tangible lack of imagination.  In an effort to make the show more ‘realistic’ I think, they blunt the wild creativity of the original, playing it safe and never reaching as high, and thus never achieving as much. 

    That rant is simply to explain how/why I’ve come to embrace the original cast of characters once more, after all this time.  I have read a handful of the novels, but only been able to stay interested in those set in the time of the original show (and to a lesser degree, the original cast movies).  And the same has been true of the comics.  And I’ve found myself most interested in the stories that expand the universe of that era, beyond what we saw on the show.  For example, the Vanguard novels, which are set on a space station during the original series era.  Good stuff.  So, when I saw a trade paperback featuring the adventures of Dr. McCoy in the time leading up to The Motion Picture, I had to check it out. 

    Leonard McCoy Frontier Doctor sees the good doctor and a young colleague team up for a stint with the Frontier Medics Program, where they take a small ship around to aid people on the edge of Federation space and a little beyond.  And they press an Andorian stowaway into service as well.

    The four stories contained within the volume have a great late 70s vibe, feeling like it could easily lead into the Motion Picture.  But it also has plenty of connections to the original show, and creates some interesting worlds and challenges for McCoy to face.  And like the best stories, it left me wanting more.  Writer/artist John Byrne knows his Trek, drawing on its history and expanding concepts, from a reference in the first encounter with Harry Mudd, to Gary Seven, to Captain Pike’s first officer.  Plus, I just love that it features bearded McCoy.

    If you’re a Trek fan, for sure this one is worth picking up.  After reading it, I feel like popping in The Motion Picture to see all the characters come together again.  The writing is good.  The artwork nice to look at.  The setting feels true to the show.  I hope to see more Star Trek comics of this sort.  It’s a great medium for telling Trek tales. 

Star Trek: Leonard McCoy Frontier Doctor
Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Publisher: IDW
ISBN: 978-1600107481
Pages: 104

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