This month brought comic and star trek fans alike issue number 4 of IDWs “Star Trek:Waypoint” an anthology series of stand-alone stories to highlight different facets of the 50-year franchise.
The first half of the issue begins with “The Fragile Beauty of Loyalty,” written by Vivek J. Tiwary with art by Hugo Petrus, and colors by Fran Gamboa. Our tale follows a wee little Archer as he ignores his mother’s warning to bring the trusty family beagle along on a winter trek to see the Nacacijin Gorge.
To be totally honest I was prepared not to like the first story. On paper it seemed to hit a lot of points of my personal meh-cklist (a checklist for things you shrug at). Enterprise? Meh. Archer-centric? Meeh. Boy and his dog story? Meeeeeeeeeeeh. There was a real risk of aggressive ambivalence here. But no, the story was love note to a friendship that came together nicely.
We get to see some remarkable landscapes from Petrus, and Gamboa makes the snow positively glow. Jaded as I like to consider myself, it was hard not to feel swept up in little Jonathan’s adventure, seeing those mountains breathe across my screen. For a moment I felt my heart shake for my own childhood in the brisk winters of upstate New York…before remembering I’m from Oregon.
Archer’s plein-air adventures are halted in a Suliban appearance and exit so jarring I almost expected to see a lone tromboner in the distance going wah-wah-WAAAH. What does appear is not a brass musician but a mysterious unknown beagle to save both young Archer and early 2000s UPN as we know it.
Flash forward to the Captain Archer we all know and love [sic] recording his log. Having just discovered Crewman Daniels’ status as a Temporal Agent he’s also been told that a crewmember has already volunteered and gone back it time to save him in the past. With Porthos in his lap he wonders aloud who it could have been. I was really feeling the beauty of canine loyalty at that point.
Sweetness aside, I was distracted by the idea of Porthos volunteering for a time-traveling mission. The two main images I got from it were either A) Daniels on all fours mind-melding with a dog, a single tear running down his cheek as he realizes Porthos is the bravest and noblest being he’s ever met; or more likely, B) a pre-time traveler revelation Daniels who has just been asked by Archer to cut the crusts off his sandwich for the umpteenth damn time and he “did not get his degree in time-travel school, get greased-up every morning to get into this psychedelic bondage suit, and risk life and limb on this funny farm of a goddamn ship to be this YUTZS’* FRIGGIN JEEVES and ya know what? Fine! He needs someone to go back in time and save his baby-ass? I’m sending the dog. YOU HEARD ME, I’M SENDING THE DOG!” And so there he is chucking a bewildered Porthos through a time portal. You ever tried clipping a dog’s toenails? Getting one through a portal had to be extra fun.
As far as I was concerned the only way that subtle trailing off at the end could have gone any better is if the final panel had had Porthos pop up, Porky Pig-style barking: “Th-th-th-THAT’S ALL FOLKS!”
Then the dedication page hit me: Laika Kudryavka.
Laika was a dog who became one of the first living organisms to be launched into space, in 1957 inside Sputnik 2. She was given seven days’ worth of food. A reminder that one of the major stepping stones in Soviet Space research was just a dog sent to die by the humans she trusted, for a cause she couldn’t possibly understand. There’s the fragile part. To think of a hero to whom a great future is owed and then to think of Laika’s name feels an absolute level of right.
The second story is “Mirror, mirror, mirror, mirror” written by Scott Bryan Wilson with art by Casper Wijngaard, a story that’s very TNG in attitude and outcome. Beamed down to explore a seemingly unpopulated planet covered in flowers, Doctor Crusher and Worf find themselves duplicated by a strange mirror. It’s up to Crusher, Picard and Co. to find a way to communicate with a lifeform that can do nothing other than duplicate what it sees. How do you fight a mirror? With bigger mirrors and a million more reflections to ultimately get…..another mirror! That said, the page where the big plan is revealed was an absolute spectacle
Conceptually it really does read like a lost episode that they didn’t have the floral budget for**. The characters are driven first and foremost by the desire to communicate (except when it comes to Data – him not being able to get a word in edgewise might as well be this episode’s b-plot) and their end goal is to leave the lifeform in a better state than they found it. That one sentient space mirror doesn’t have to live alone on its planet is all the happy ending needed.
Both stories are well-served as comics with their highly visual settings. I was particularly impressed with a completely mirrored two page spread from Wijngaard. Both halves of Waypoint #4 do what a comic spin-off are meant to do: giving the audience a new story in a scope they couldn’t have been able to see anywhere else.
*of course Yiddish is still around in the future. What are you, some kind of schlameil?
** Or the red-headed stand-in budget