Star Trek: Countdown–when a comic book prequel is better than the movie


If you saw Star Trek, the 2009 reboot of the Star Trek universe with a new cast (except for Leonard Nimoy returning as Spock from a different timeline) you probably either liked it or hated it.  Those who liked it credited it with being another fun summer action flick.  Die hard Star Trek fans argued about where it stood with respect to the past series and movies, and took turns poking holes in the movie’s plot.

But imagine for a second a movie that bridged the Next Generation cast’s appearance in Star Trek Nemesis with this new slingshot back to the time before the original series.  Imagine a movie that brought Data back to life, that included the further adventures of Captain Picard, Worf, and Lt. LaForge, and what transpired for Ambassador Spock after the events of the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-part “Unification” story arc.  Now imagine this movie was written by the same guys that wrote the 2009 movie that was released.  The fact is, this story was written and it was released in comic book form as a prequel to the actual movie’s release.  And that prequel, called Star Trek: Countdown, is a far better story than what made it to the screen, and it explains a lot that went unexplained in the reboot movie.  In fact, it is difficult to understand how anyone understood what happened in Star Trek 2009 without having first read the comic book prequel.

To be sure, the 2009 flick was fun, and pretty good, if you could overlook the blinding lens flare camera pans that seem to typify director JJ Abrams’ recent shooting style.  The cast was a lot of fun, especially with Simon Pegg as Scotty.  The ships looked great, and the changes to the original history timeline at least were explained to fit where the story was going.

But several things were not explained.  Except for a brief flashback, why was Spock so engaged with the Romulans?  What happened to the Remans after Star Trek Nemesis?  Why did the Romulans in this new movie look nothing like the Romulans we’d seen in numerous series over the past 40 years?  Why were the Romulans wearing Klingon clothing?  Answers to these questions were answered in Star Trek: Countdown and a follow-on series called Star Trek: Nero.  And more than that we got to see what happened to the crew of the Enterprise-E after Data died in Star Trek Nemesis.

Star Trek: Countdown begins with Spock as the Vulcan Ambassador to Romulus, a few years after the events of “Unification” in Next Generation.  A star is going supernova and Spock has a plan to prevent the star from destroying Romulus but Spock can get no support.  Spock befriends a leader of a mining group named Nero who can help Spock move along with his plans.  We learn Nero begins as a good guy whose life falls apart through decisions and lack of decisions of others.  How can all the anger create the character we see in the film?  The answers are made clear here.

Both Spock and Nero meet up with the Enterprise, now captained by Data. They also meet up with Picard, now an ambassador. Geordi LaForge, now a private ship builder, is enlisted to help Spock with his project involving red matter, the project that ultimately sends him back to the time before Spock met Jim Kirk.  And by the end of the story Nero confronts the Klingons, including one General Worf.

The story is the story fans of Next Generation wanted to see, even more than Star Trek Nemesis. For those wanting to know more about Nero including why Nero’s crew shaved their heads and got tattoos and why they were wearing Klingon clothing including cloven toed boots, Star Trek: Nero fills in some gaps.

Whereas the plot originated from film writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, self-professed Next Generation fans, Mike Johnson and Tim Jones scripted this complex prequel.  David Messina’s art is solid, covering the old Trek and new Trek equally well and giving superb new uniforms to the Starfleet crew post Star Trek Nemesis.  Check out that painting of Spot in Capt. Data’s quarters above!  Credit for much of the look of this book goes to the great color work by Giovanna Niro.

Ultimately two years after its release, you can’t help but wish the production had made this movie first as an appropriate bridge to the new cast, and that the movie we’re waiting for in 2013 would be the 2009 version.  At least with this written version we got a peek at a good story that would have tied everything together, and Roberto Orci hinted at Star Trek: Countdown as being considered Star Trek canon, at least until someone changes any of its story elements on film down the road.

C.J. Bunce

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