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
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.
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.
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