Friday, August 9, 2013

Star Trek: Burden of Knowledge (2010) Review


From the people who wrote and drew Spock: Reflections comes Star Trek: Burden of Knowledge. It’s in the vein of episodes like The Cloud Minders and Friday’s Child, where they beam down to visit a planet and judge it’s willingness to join The Federation. The presence of Arex at the helm tells us that this is in the animated series, presumably during years 4-5 in the five year mission.

   The people of Mygdalus 3 are a highly medically advanced society, and yet they won’t let the crew see their medical techniques, claiming doctor-patient confidentiality. Eventually they are kidnapped and one of the crew (The essential expendable Lieutenant Thompson.) is injured during an attack when the Virtili people (read: Birdmen.) are angry about late medical supplies.

    The writer, Scott Tipton, does a good job mirroring Captain Kirk’s quirky cadence with thoughtful pauses, authoritative exclamations, and metered boldface lettering. But, there are some scene which don’t feel right. For example, after luring the Virtili guards into their cell, and finding a Vulcan neck-pinch ineffective, Kirk responds with a knock-out punch. Anyone with passing knowledge of Kirk Fu knows a neck-chop delivers the knock-out blow.

    Anyway, the two races work out their differences rather swiftly, and return a perfectly-healed Lieutenant Thompson. Kirk praises their peaceful resolution as a cornerstone of Federation values, but Spock is rightly suspicious. There is a subplot which reminds me of The Return of The Archons. This time though, it’s on a planet where people who act and communicate as one body via a “thoughtwork” seek Federation admission.

 When Kirk finds out they act as one body, he says “That’s why you speak so slowly. You’re…UNUSED to verbal communication.” It seems the writer slipped in a Kirk joke. Anyway, whether or not this necessitated a subplot is unclear; but the basic idea is that since their thoughts all work as one, they are unused to individuality, which is key for Federation admission.

     While these days, a “thoughtwork” makes me think of Facebook and the communalization effect of social media, Kirk has always been a champion of individuality even back in the 60s/70s retro-future as seen in battles with Nomad, Landru, and of course, Khan…though I think more Landru here. Anyway, Kirk rejects their proposal for admission and tells them to return when they are ready. There are no exploding computers. Another thing Tipton gets wrong. If there are evil computers, Kirk must make them explode.

    I suppose the point is that time has passed, and to demonstrate that Kirk will turn Federation applicants down if he suspects anything…but we know this. Kirk returns to Mygdalus 3 and uncovers a horrible secret. The healthy Lieutenant Thompson is a clone! All the healthy Mygdalians are clones! After a smashing battle scene where Kirk crashes a medical lab with 200 Thompsons, Kirk rejects Mygdalus 3 from the Federation and quips that Starfleet could use another 200 Lieutenant Thompsons.
I mean, I’m divided on how I feel about this graphic novel. Tipton works well with The Animated Series background, and the artwork is often so good the actors’ faces and voices jumped out at me. The way Fredrica Manfredi draws a subtle Captain’s smirk or opens Kirk’s mouth in a moment of revelation is spot-on. It reminds me, at best, of an Animated Series movie, if one was ever made. Still, little moments feel out of place, and while the Animated Series is the perfect setting for weirder aliens, and silly humor…did we really need an entire subplot? And what happened to that planet? That’s the one wormhole in the entire book, but overall, I’ll give it a B!

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