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Apocrypha Entertainment Presents:



I first started watching original STAR TREK when I was around seven years old. My mom and her boyfriend would turn on the syndicated episodes and thus I discovered all kinds of Shatner-y goodness at a very early age. Yet as much as I enjoyed TREK, my heart was more captivated by SPACE: 1999.

But soon enough, the first TREK movie hit screens, and even though a few years later I would be able to objectively notice that it sucked and sucked hard, at the age of ten I was pretty captivated by it. That world came alive for me again…

…only to take a quick backseat to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Roddenberry’s vision took a quick backseat again.

Starting to notice a trend? KHAN hit and my friends and I were blown away. But soon enough, STAR WARS was back in force for me. More TREK, then GHOSTBUSTERS arrived. Fickle? You bet. But there was always something “off” about TREK for me as much as I liked it.

NEXT GENERATION went a long way towards curing that fickleness, though. New characters, new worlds to explore, and very little else out there to turn a sci-fi fan’s eye away. But after a while, I started to lose my grip on NEXT GEN too. It took all of one episode of its first spin-off for me to understand why.

I’ve had countless arguments with TREK geeks, but I say it loud and proud: STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9 was the best of all the TREKs, including the original series. The captain was a widowed father thrust into the ass-end of space in a job he didn’t want (in the beginning). The second officer was an alien who was thrust upon the captain and had a background as a terrorist. The science officer was an old man trapped in the body of a supermodel. The head of security was a shape-shifting alien with no memory of his life before waking up as liquid in a bucket. The guy who ran the local bar was a conniving criminal. And the local tailor was a disgraced intelligence officer expelled by the enemy army.

This was the most dangerous, and perhaps the craziest, place in the galaxy. And I fell madly in love with it.

The NEXT GEN crew got four movies after their show ended, the final one, NEMESIS, landing with a thud and dying at the box office. This fate was only halfway deserved; the final space battle between the Enterprise and the Remans was executed brilliantly, easily the best one TREK ever put on the big screen. But along with the absence of any respect or due for DS9 (VOYAGER got its nod with a Kate Mulgrew cameo in NEMESIS), the overriding feeling at the end of the film was that it was a poor finish for not only the NEXT GEN crew, but for TREK as a whole.

Of course, I mention all this in anticipation of the upcoming big-screen reboot of the TREK franchise hitting theatres on May 8th. Director J.J. Abrams has gone back to the original series’ crew of characters and given them an update and a fresh start. There’s an amazing buzz around the movie, and word has been building for months that TREK’s return is respectful of the characters, the franchise, and the fans. Certainly, the Kirk-led crew are cultural icons at this point, and they deserve no less. But I couldn’t help but think back to NEMESIS and the finale for the NEXT GEN crew and wonder if they would get the due they had earned (I’ve long given up hope for any recognition for DS9, eternally the middle child- overachiever who gets overlooked by tired parents). And to my surprise, the new film has found a way to pay wonderful tribute to Picard and company.

STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN (IDW Publishing) features a story by the new movie’s scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and is written by Mike Johnson and Tim Jones with art by David Messina. And unusually for a prequel to the new movie, it does not take place in the Kirk era. Instead, it begins about twenty years after the events of STAR TREK: NEMESIS. Spock is still an ambassador on Romulus. Data is occupying the body of the B-4. And life is moving forward for the NEXT GEN. But trouble looms- a star’s supernova process is highly strange, and it’s coming explosion will destroy the Romulan homeworld ands all who live upon it. His calls for concern unheeded, Spock teams up with a smart, gentle mining-ship captain named Nero to try and stop the cataclysm from happening. Unfortunately, their plans don’t quite work out the way they hope, and a variety of other NEXT GEN folks show up to try and stop an even worse fate from happening to other planets.

For those that don’t know, Nero is the villain of the upcoming TREK reboot, and COUNTDOWN begins by turning your expectations upside-down. When we meet him, he’s not a bad man- he’s a loving husband, a strong captain, and a patriot who disagrees with his government when it comes to the effort needed to save the Romulan people. And that’s what makes this book so good- we know, no matter how well intentioned Spock and Nero’s efforts are, that Nero’s story is inevitable headed for tragedy. And it is that tragedy that will alter the course of reality itself and set him against a younger Spock, the man he once called friend, and the young James T. Kirk.

Movie tie-ins are usually a mixed bag of godawful, but COUNTDOWN is precisely the opposite. Not only is it good (very good, even), it also gives the TREK fans a gift- a way to put the results of NEMESIS behind them as the movies head back to the Kirk-led crew. This book also works to enhance the coming film, not simply adapt it in a cheap money ploy.

And most of all, COUNTDOWN whets the appetite- as much as I was anticipating the new movie, after reading this book it went from “probably sometime opening weekend” to “What am I doing that Friday afternoon?”

Getting back to the top of this piece for a moment… in the classic movie comedy AIRPLANE, Leslie Nielsen is asking a stewardess what was served for dinner on the plane in an effort to determine if food poisoning is the culprit in an outbreak of terrible sickness. She tells him that the two choices were the “chicken or the fish.” Nielsen nods gravely and replies, “Ah yes, now I remember- I had the lasagna.” There’s been a longtime debate amongst TREK fans about who the best captain is: Kirk or Picard, and I have always chosen the lasagna- I’m a Sisko man, through and through. But after reading COUNTDOWN and getting myself worked up for the new flick, and thinking hard about the fickle way I’ve always perceived STAR TREK, I suddenly wonder… will this finally be the time that I choose the fish or the chicken?

And if I do, will I get food poisoning?

Marc Mason  

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