Annuals can always be hard to place when you’re trying to organize your comics. In some cases, they wind up being the end of a major storyline in your series–like the three New Teen Titans annuals that acted as “season finales” for that year’s stories. Other times, they are part of crossover events and you wind up wondering if you should file them as part of the book or as part of the crossover event. And then there are ones that are extra-sized adventures that more than likely fit into the series at the time they are published, but can be hard to figure out where to file based on events in the main book.
Thankfully, I didn’t have a problem with either of these annuals.
Coming out after issues #19 and #30, respectively, Star Trek annuals #1 and #2 told stories that bookended the five-year mission told in the original 1966 television series, with Kirk taking over the Enterprise and going on his first mission and then the final adventure of five-year mission. Both also guest star the Enterprise‘s previous captain, Christopher Pike, who had been played by Jeffrey Hunter in “The Cage” and was played as disabled in the repackaging of “The Cage” known as “The Menagerie”.
[A quick aside: Back in the late 1980s, I owned “The Cage” on videocassette, and it was a reassembled cut of the episode that used black-and-white footage from the original pilot and color footage from “The Menagerie.” When I re-watched it on the Blu-Ray collection, it was presented in full color, and I believe it came from another print of the episode that had resurfaced in the intervening years.]
Both of these stories piqued my interest almost immediately because I’m a sucker for a good “untold, historical tale.” The Lost Years and its subsequent series of novels in the early Nineties were some of my favorite of the original crew books, and I also remember really enjoying the novel Final Frontier, which details the original mission by the original captain, Robert April. So to have Pike back was a treat.
Annual #1 has Pike on the Enterprise with Kirk and gives us a reason for Majel Barrett’s “Number One” not being on the crew that’s a little more cruel than I would like. Upon meeting Kirk, she pushes him out of the way of huge falling object and winds up having her legs crushed, so she won’t be able to serve on the ship. I would have preferred that Pike tell Kirk that Number One won’t be his first officer because she’s getting command of her own ship–heck, maybe she wanted Enterprise and is resentful that Kirk got it. That would have made for an interesting story or two down the line. But hey, I don’t know what they were allowed to do with those characters.
So anyway, Pike stays on board for the initial cruise and the crew encounters an alien race named The Tralmanii, which get their energy from failing stars and whom Pike had thought he’d “saved” years before during a mission of his crew. The creatures capture Pike, and it’s up to Kirk to save him.
In Annual #2, the Enterprise gets its official orders to return to Earth because the five-year mission is over; however, they are weirdly re-routed to Talos IV, the planet that had been visited in “The Cage” and “The Menagerie” and where a disabled Christopher Pike is being held captive and tortured by Klingon Commander Koloth. Kirk and his crew are forced to endure various hallucinations from the past five years before they finally overcome the Talosians’ illusions with help from Vina, Pike’s love from those two episodes, before returning to Earth.
The adventure in each is great but is almost of secondary interest to the character building and some of the continuity fun. In the first annual, we see the reaction of already established crew members to the new brash young captain taking over (Mr. Scott is not exactly thrilled to meet Kirk), and Barr is also able to put Gary Mitchell aboard the Enterprise as the first officer, which helps establish his presence on this ship prior to “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” I think it also tidies up the continuity glitch regarding Bones not being on the ship in that episode–he would have been off ship attending his daughter’s wedding. It’s great to see Barr writing a young Kirk and the renderings of the characters by David Ross and Bob Smith are excellent.
Annual #2 has some great Dan Jurgens and Bob Smith art and also serves as a great series finale–if the show had survived long enough to make it to the end of the five-year mission. Series finales are often clip shows in some regard, and what the Klingons force the Talosians to do is make Kirk and company relive things from the mission, including the death of Edith Keeler from “City on the Edge of Forever.” Not only that, the presence of Pike and the Klingons as the bad guys really just gives the original mission a nice send-off; however, we also get some foreshadowing for the first movie, as Will Decker comes on to the ship in the new uniform (which Uhura likes because it’s not a miniskirt despite someone calling it “pajamas). Decker in this annual is like Kirk in the previous, and it’s great to see this bookend the mission the way it does.
Overall, these are up there as some of the best Star Trek comics I’ve read so far. There’s clearly a love for the characters and the show and the stories wind up being worth of an extra-sized annual.