Review: It’s Time to “Vote For Spocko” in ‘Star Trek: Year 5’ Episode 2

Review: Star Trek – Year Five Episode 2 (Issues #3 and #4)

Publisher: IDW Publishing

Written by: Brandon Easton

Art by: Martin Coccolo

Showrunners: Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly

Cover by Stephen Thompson

When I was a kid, “A Piece of the Action” was one of the first episodes of Star Trek my dad and I watched together. To this day, it’s still one of my favorites—it has humor, action, and is just plain fun. So when IDW announced that Star Trek: Year Five was taking a trip back to Sigma Iotia II, I couldn’t wait. I’d finally get some closure on the ramifications of McCoy leaving his communicator in Okmyx’s office.

Back when the Year Five writers room were just starting to break the story, they took a trip to the super-secret Star Trek archives for inspiration. Writer Jody Houser explained the experience during a panel at Comic Con 2019:

We spent about 30 minutes before the actual writers’ room just looking at things and just freaking out. Oh, look, it’s Jadzia’s wedding dress. There was a crate that the original Borg cube was in but it was underneath a bunch of other crates. No big deal.

Co-showrunner Jackson Lanzing described going into a conference room at the archives where they saw “a beautiful Mondo poster” for the second season episode “A Piece of the Action.” That brought the episode to everyone’s attention (specifically McCoy’s communicator cliffhanger), which lead to a discussion about how to sequelize it in a smart way.

The inspiration for issues 3 and 4. Art by Rich Kelly.

Issues #3 and #4 were written by Transformers scribe Brandon Easton, who wanted to focus on two things: the relationship between Kirk, Carol, and David Marcus, and a return to Sigma Iotia II. Since David is an adult by TWOK, he’s clearly alive at this time. So what caused them to become estranged in the first place? We saw what resulted on Sigma Iotia II after they read “The Book” and modeled their society after 1920s Chicago mobsters. So what happened when they reverse-engineered McCoy’s communicator?

The Enterprise drops out of warp to initiate diagnostics on its nacelles when they detect an unstable warp signature. Upon investigation, it’s coming from what appears to be a replica of Zefram Cochrane’s Phoenix ship in orbit around, you guessed it, Sigma Iotia II. A violation of the Prime Directive sent them there in the first place and much to McCoy’s chagrin, the same rings true now. He has tremendous guilt over his mistake and we see him struggle with that throughout the course of the story.

We learn that in the three years since their last encounter, the Iotians were able to access all of Earth’s history through the communicator. After studying major events like the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and the Eugenics Wars, there was one constant—a representational democracy. But they have a history of oversimplifying complex ideas and in this case, our election system. The result is a bureaucratic mess, with no infrastructure to support it and no checks and balances. We think our political system is bad? They run on a six-week election cycle so they are in a constant state of campaigning. Anyone can submit a bill, and because elected representatives are in and out so quickly, nothing ever gets done.

Because of this governmental inertia, naturally, there are progressives that want to move the planet forward, specifically into space exploration. Jojo Krako’s Astro Liberation Party was created with that in mind but in order to create real change and get out of this endless loop of inaction, they need to run the right candidate. I guess there isn’t a natural-born citizen clause in the Iotian Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise is dealing with a domestic squabble over the well-being of an alien refugee. Scotty is working to transport the Tholian child they rescued in issue #1 to a safer environment with proper access to its basic needs. In contrast, a small faction of crew members attempt to stop him by way of mutiny, going so far as to frame the Tholian child for sabotaging the warp core. Lanzing and Kelly told us that they were going to address 2019 issues head-on and they’re steering the Enterprise right into it at warp speed.

Easton is hitting on all thrusters, especially the humanistic backstory on the Carol/David relationship. We experience the heartbreaking moment Carol tells Kirk that she will not let him see his son—the precursor to the events of Star Trek II. It’s a devastating sequence that, when juxtaposed with David’s eventual death in Star Trek III, takes an emotional toll. Subsequent scenes between Bones and Kirk discussing Carol’s decision are deep and personal.

Not only have co-showrunners Lanzing and Kelly assembled an all-star team of writers, they’ve done the same for artists as well. If Stephen Thompson knocked it out of the park in the first two issues, then newcomer Martin Coccolo cleared the bases with a triple. One of the points that IDW has made is that the constraints of 1960s TV are gone and they are now able to do things TOS wasn’t able to do. This applies to action sequences, aliens, and even things like characters in front of windows looking out into space. Coccolo’s art is stunning and checks off all of those boxes. I hope he comes back later in the series.

In only four issues, we’ve seen some really extraordinary storytelling. To see a more serialized version of The Original Series is really a dream.

Keep up with all the latest inked Star Trek in TrekMovie’s Comics Category.

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I must say, this sounds pretty good. I haven’t had much interest in Trek comics aside from IDW’s superlative adaptation of the original teleplay for “The City on the Edge of Forever,” but I’m seriously becoming tempted to check this out.

I was pleasantly surprised by these. They’re quite excellent. Not much of a stretch at all to align them with the show. For the most part, the art is great too. Well worth your time.

It’s a shame that none of this is new ground. DC already revisited the Iotians and revealed the early relationship between Carol and Kirk, and Marvel also revisited the Iotians. I would really like to see something new. This series is well written and drawn, but it’s derivative.

That’s one reason I enjoyed Marvel’s “Starfleet Academy” title back in the late 90s. Brand new characters. Great, diverse backgrounds. Very character-driven.

Okay, where can I buy a Vote for Spock poster?

Instead of “Idic Forever” Spock’s slogan should be; “The Logical Choice!”

“What did the Iotians do with McCoy’s communicator?” has been a story seed at least since tie-in gazetteer _The Worlds of the Federation_ (Shane Johnson, 1989).

I’m still not convinced by the premise that the Iotians could usefully reverse-engineer a transtator-based device (unless they’ve got diagnostic instruments they weren’t using during their infatuation with the 1920s), nor that a communicator intended for planet-to-ship use could be (a) boosted to interstellar ranges and (b) that the UFP is conveniently broadcasting an Encyclopedia Galactica/NPR-equivalent/The Great Courses. (“This week on ‘History of the Founding Members,’ Professor Wellington of the University of Centaurus discusses the so-called ‘domino theory’ that dominated political thought between the major powers of Sol III circa 1950 to 1970 CE.”)

I think the idea was that galactic Wikipedia comes pre-downloaded into communicators. Which is also pretty stupid.

Such a capability would certainly be *useful*, but it’s not supported by TV-TOS, and is actually contra-indicated by Spock building a computer to search his tricorder in “City on the Edge of Forever”. Trek sometimes misses the boat on information technology. Heck, the handheld “globals” in “Earth: Final Conflict” (1997) have more versatility than TNG-era combadges and tricorders (the real world has attained most of their capabilities, except for the accordion-folding screens).

I’m going to stop now, because I’m on the verge of raising straw man objections to a story that I haven’t actually read.

I think the story builds on the 3 lead characters fear at the end of the A PIECE OF THE ACTION episode, but totally ignores the facts of the Horizon’s contamination of the culture and how it manifested into what our trio fell into.

The book being left wasn’t the result of the Horizon’s crew unintentionally leaving something behind. Unlike McCoy, they simply didn’t have any prime directive to worry about, and the book was simply one of a myriad of items left, including their trash, that the crew felt wasn’t needed in their return trip.

And yet, the Iotians hadn’t reversed engineered Horizon tech and upgraded their civilization accordingly but rather obsessed about THAT one item, a history of Earth’s CHICAGO MOBS OF THE TWENTIES. So much so, that they even reverse engineered the various 1920s’ technologies from the pictures and descriptions contained therein while completely ignoring any advantages that could have been gained reverse engineering the Horizon’s junk left behind in the the intervening years.

They made a revolutionary political, societal, and, from some of the the lines Bela said about “The Book”, even religious movement that advanced them somewhat but then left them in a perpetual stagnation that Bela wanted to end.

The real question is, regardless of whether McCoy left something behind, did Kirk’s fix to the Iotians’ stagnation also free them to go back and dig up the Horizon’s freely abandoned tech for their next technological leap? One that most certainly would have led to their eventually being abile to reverse engineer a more modern communicator?

Nice SNL skit reference.

I like all of the artwork.

Without reading the story I don’t know how that “IDIC Forever” poster arises, but it has the appearance of a social critique (or even a caricature) of the authoritarian left in American politics, which is not the sort of thing that I’d expect in a Trek story these days.

Damn it, if only we could have gotten a couple more seasons of TOS with the Season 1/Season 2 resources/team.
Alternatively wish that Nicholas Meyer got the Trek reins after Star Trek II.