TrekInk: Guest Review of Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1

The first issue of Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive will be released this week by IDW Publishing and BOOM! Studios. TrekMovie is pleased to host a review by distinguished science fiction author, editor, and educator Robert J. Sawyer.

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1, December 2014
Written by Scott Tipton and David Tipton, art by Rachael Stott, colored by Charlie Kirchoff, lettered by Tom B. Long, edited by IDW Publishing’s Sarah Gaydos and BOOM! Studios’ Dafna Pleban


Cover A art by Rachael Stott, colors by Charlie Kirchoff; Cover B art by Juan Ortiz

 

What’s Past is Prologue

 

A review of

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive

Volume 1

 

by Robert J. Sawyer

 

            Remember the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Unification,” Part I, first of the two episodes that were supposed to bring The Original Series character Spock into TNG? We get a brief glimpse of Spock in the teaser, then five acts of filler leading to Captain Picard saying, “I’m looking for Ambassador Spock.” A figure emerges from the shadows and says, “You have found him, Captain Picard.” At least that otherwise-lackluster episode had Mark Lenard reprising his role as Sarek—

            —which brings us to connections between Star Trek and Planet of the Apes: Lenard, of course, played Urko in the Planet of the Apes TV series. And here we have another crossover, the first issue of Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive, a five-issue comic-book miniseries from IDW Publishing and BOOM! Studios. But, unlike the opening of “Unification,” there’s no saving-grace “B” story in Issue #1, which is all we have so far.

            The teaser is clearly a riff on the classic Trek episode “A Private Little War,” with a gorilla soldier decked out like James Gregory’s General Ursus (to name another actor who appeared in both franchises), but named Marius.

            He’s trading in his old wooden-barreled Apes-style rifle for what looks like a twentieth-century-Earth automatic weapon being presented to him by a humanoid figure seen only in shadow. But we know, having seen this bit before, that it’s a Klingon arming his side in a war.

            (Although perhaps it’s supposed to be a surprise at the end of this first volume when Kirk says it’s “our old friend Kor” (from “Errand of Mercy”), you probably aren’t part of the real audience for a product like this if you didn’t recognize even sight-unseen that it was Kor in the teaser from the way he said, “Glorious.”)

            Now, here’s the problem with this first volume: we get a gorilla in the first couple of pages, and on the last page we get Captain Kirk reliving James Franciscus’s moment from Beneath the Planet of the Apes where he basically exclaims, “My God, it’s a city of apes!”

            But what’s the meat in the middle of this sandwich? Well, writers Scott and David Tipton have Uhura and Sulu—the latter sporting a John Colicos-style beard—infiltrate a ground-based Klingon computing facility and learn that, in defiance of the Organian Peace Treaty, the Klingons are undertaking an expansionary effort.

            And then? Well, permit me a momentary aside: I’ve been greatly enjoying Marc Cushman’s These Are The Voyages: TOS books, and in particular the excerpted production memos. Robert H. Justman, associate producer of the original Star Trek, had a frequent refrain in his memos, namely that television is a visual medium, and you can’t simply have endless scenes of talking heads, especially when they’re retreading ground that’s familiar from previous episodes. And comics, I daresay, are at least as visual a medium as is television—but that’s mostly what’s on offer here for the bulk of this first volume: talking heads having the same sort of Kirk-wants-to-charge-ahead / Spock-and-McCoy-urge-caution chitchat we’ve seen in countless episodes, including “Return to Tomorrow” and “The Immunity Syndrome.” Of course we’re going to go ahead, so let’s get on with it!

            Star Trek, debuting late in 1966, and Planet of the Apes, with the first film premiering early in 1968, were both famous for playing with the linear nature of time, so I found the structure of this first comic installment depressingly straightforward. Rather than beginning with one of the exciting scenes depicted on the several variant covers for this issue, none of which actually occur in this volume—Kirk beaming down in front of a half-buried Statue of Liberty, say, or a gorilla general sitting in the Enterprise’s captain’s chair—we instead get straightforward, talky exposition. The Klingons are expanding their territory not in this universe but rather into what Spock calls “otherdimensional space;” hey, here’s a gateway to that space, but don’t worry, Dr. McCoy, calculations show we can go through it and return safely back, so here we go—oh, look, apes! Fade to black.

            (By the way, it seems improbable as the Enterprise orbits Earth in what Spock quickly identifies as 3978 A.D.—the year the first Planet of the Apes movie is set in—that he, even if he is from a planet with no moon, would fail to notice that Earth’s natural satellite is missing, as Apes-canon suggests it must be by this time.)

            What was appealing about the premise of this comic series was its sheer audacity: how in hell, to quote Colonel Taylor, did this upside-down reality get started? How could you possibly integrate two such disparate universes? Such an intriguing mystery—which they elide over as quickly as Spock dispensing with the anomaly in “The Enterprise Incident” of Romulans using Klingon ships.

            I’d been hoping this miniseries would give us a rationale for this mashup as startling as the answer Taylor himself found, treating this as a lingering puzzle culminating in a gobsmacking revelation. But no, it’s simply not our reality, there’s an easy way home, yadda yadda yadda—shades of watching Riker and Troi experiencing the finale of Star Trek: Enterprise on the holodeck.

            Still, the art by Rachael Stott in volume one of The Primate Directive is quite good and the colors by Charlie Kirchoff are vibrant. The one gorilla we see does justice to John Chambers’s Academy Award-winning makeup design; the familiar Trek characters including Kor when he finally steps from the shadows at the end, are instantly recognizable, and for the most part the Enterprise’s exterior and interior are rendered with reasonable accuracy (although in dialogue the briefing room is called “the conference room”).

            In the end, decades ago, despite its padded prologue, “Unification” Part II turned out to be one of the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes … and we can hope that there are twists and turns to come in subsequent volumes of The Primate Directive as Kirk and company actually start to explore the Planet of the Apes. As Taylor said, there has to be something out there better than this—has to be.

——

Robert J. Sawyer is the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of 22 science fiction novels including FlashForward, the basis for the ABC TV series; with David Gerrold he edited the essay collection Boarding the Enterprise. His website is sfwriter.com.

——

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1 will be in your local comic shop Wednesday, December 31. You can read a preview of issue #1 at StarTrek.com and see some of Rachael Stott’s concept art at IDW Publishing.


Subscription Cover art by George Pérez, colors by Len O’Grady; Sketch Cover


Retailer Incentive Cover A art by George Pérez; Retailer Incentive Cover B art by Tone Rodriguez, colors by Charlie Kirchoff


Retailer Exclusive Cover www.ThinkGeek.com art by John Midgley; Retailer Exclusive Cover www.NerdBlock.com art by Rachael Stott, colors by Charlie Kirchoff

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Fred Herman

Well, that’s disappointing. I’d been hoping/assuming that the POTA Earth would be one of the “duplicate Earths” TOS posited, and that’s how Taylor’s ship managed to hit it while flying *away* from Earth. (With a side of “Or are *we* the duplicate?” Dun dun dunnn…)

SirMartman

I wonder if Kirk will do an ape ??

:-Z

Scott

So stupid.

c mills

@1 Is it a female ape?

BatlethInTheGroin

The Tiptons seem to have forgotten that Uhura doesn’t speak Klingonese, as shown in The Undiscovered Country.

Ahmed

@Robert J. Sawyer,

Are you working on a new novel? I haven’t heard anything after “Red Planet Blues” came out last year.

Ahmed, you’re kind to ask. I took some time off during and after my brother’s battle with cancer, which he lost, but have a new novel coming in April of 2016 (year after next). My editors and I are still debating what the title should be, but it does contain this line:

“This is no time for _Star Trek_,” she said. I looked at her like she’d lost her mind.

:)

Rastaman

@BatlethInTheGroin

Perhaps Uhura knew Klingonese at one point and simply forgot it after 30 years in space. At one time or another, I could speak passable Spanish. Now I can hardly even order a burrito in Spanish. Practice makes perfect!

Ahmed

@Robert J. Sawyer,

My deepest condolences for your loss.

““This is no time for _Star Trek_,” she said. I looked at her like she’d lost her mind.”

Love Trek references in your books :) Will keep an eye for your new novel in 2016.

Perhaps you will have something to share with us when you come to “When Words Collide 5” in 2015.

Richard Pitruzzello

I’m thinking that maybe this should be the plot of the new movie.

Daoud

@Robert J. Our sympathies on the passing of your brother.
Your work here is welcomed and appreciated. I’m glad you didn’t pull your punches on the lacking aspect of issue 1. Your parallels to Unification Part I are rational: of course, in real time, Unification Part I was being timed to the release of ST6 and purposely attempting to build box office. The Tiptons didn’t have that excuse here. Their prelude isn’t a build-up to another media release. Missed opportunity on their part too, not to use Urko *and* the Klingon Commander from TMP!! (Calling your Lenard, and raising you one. ;) )

@2, perhaps. Then the she-ape can say, “Get your paws off me, you damn dirty Kirk.”

@10. “We don’t need no stinkin’ plot”. Didn’t Mr. D’Orci just say something like that?

Shannon T. Nutt

Yeah, it sounds like they didn’t work very hard on the premise. I was hoping it would be something like the Enterprise crew had gone back in time (on one of their many adventures) and returned to the future to the POTA. They realized they did something in the past that really screwed up the future – so not only did they need to deal with the Apes, but they needed to go back in time again and fix what they screwed up.

Wow. I’m amazed that a Star Trek/Planet of the Apes crossover is getting the attention of someone of the stature of Robert J. Sawyer.

If only Robert J. Sawyer were writing the script for Reboot #3, we’d be assured of getting actual science fiction and not a senseless action movie with science fictional trappings. I’d also trust Mr. Sawyer to give us Kirk the excellent tactician and Spock the restrained and logical Vulcan scientist instead of Kirk the Jerk and Spock the human action hero who happens to have pointy ears that “Into Darkness” gave us.

I guess selling zillions of books and winning lots of awards carries no clout in Hollywood. :-(

GarySeven

@Robert Sawyer,
I discovered you from your visit with MissionLog. I then proceeded to read “Calculating God” and “Mindscan.” I thought they were both wonderful and a genuine joy to read. I had not read science fiction in a while, and I want to thank you for reinvigorating my interest in reading sci-fi again. But then I tried reading another author, and I think you just spoiled me.
Keep up the good work!
P.S. “Endless Beast of Mass Destruction” was hilarious.

GarySeven

I meant “Vengeful Beast of Mass Destruction.”

Dennis

As improbable as the explanation for Taylor not seeing our Moon may be, it is established in the first Apes movie when Landon says:

“Thunder and lightning and yet no rain. Cloud cover every night and that strange luminosity, and yet no moon.”

Landon is not saying that the planet has no moon, but that no moon is visible because of the nightly overcast. He’s mystified by a nightly luminosity that we’re supposed to put down finally to the result of high background radiation.

It’s an explanation that’s full of holes, but it’s just as clearly the intended explanation for the lack of a visible moon – not that the Moon has disappeared or been destroyed.

Disinvited

# 16. Dennis – January 1, 2015

“… not that the Moon has disappeared or been destroyed.” — Dennis

Or eclipsed or new.

Moonwatcher

Well it’s a scientific fact that the moons orbit is moving away from the earth at approximately 3.8 centimeters a year. And Taylor’s space craft landed on the earth in the year 3978 AD, 2006 years after departure. Someone do the math…. not quite sure where that would place the moon. ( But I’m sure it would not be as far away as Moon Base Alpha).

Dennis, that’s why I said Apes canon “suggests,” not “establishes” that there is no moon. :) It one interpretation of Dodge’s (not Landon’s) line — and the one BOOM! Studios itself previously took in their very good comic-book trilogy PLANET OF THE APES: CATACLYSM (with a very intriguing explanation of what happened to the moon).

The scripted line is intriguing, because all they had to say was “Cloud cover every night” to explain why they hadn’t seen the moon — but Dodge goes on to assert that there’s no moon, _despite_ the luminosity (when the logical conclusion, unless he had other evidence, would be that the luminosity was _caused_ by one or more moons behind the clouds).