Thanks to J. J. Abrams notorious walls of secrecy he erects around his films, we still know very little about the plot for the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, even though it is set to open in just a few months. But Wednesday saw the release of Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness #1, the first issue of a four part comic book miniseries that serves as a prequel to the upcoming film. And if you’re questioning whether a comic could be canon with a film franchise, we would like to point out that Robert Orci, who co-wrote both the 2008 franchise reboot as well as the upcoming film, so he is in a position to make sure that the comic storyline matches up with what will be happening in the film. Also, back in 2011 it was announced that Orci would oversee IDW’s ongoing Star Trek comic series because as writer Mike Johnson explained “he can steer us clear of story elements that might conflict with what’s coming up in the next movie, and we can lay in subtle clues to what’s coming up so that once you see the new movie you can go back and see how it evolved in the comics.”
So with that prelude, let’s turn to the issue at hand (pun slightly intended) and see what we can glean about the upcoming film.
The inside cover tells us that it has been several months since the events of the first film and over that time, Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise have had numerous adventures since then. This is undoubtedly a reference to IDW’s regular ongoing Star Trek series, in which they have retold stories from the classic Star Trek TV series within the confines of the new, reboot franchise continuity. This is confirmed by Sulu mentioning “that whole Archon thing,” a reference to the ongoing series’ adaptation of the television episode “Return of the Archons” in issues #9 and 10.
Spock has been having nightmares about the death of his mother during the destruction of Vulcan and his inability, though not fault of his own, to save her and this has put a strain on his relationship with Uhura. Meanwhile, the Enterprise comes into orbit around the planet Phaedus. Given that its indigenous population was reported to be on the technological level of Ancient Rome, the Enterprise crew expect to do nothing more than a quick routine scan and then be on there way. However, before they can even start scanning a strange energy wave from the planet hits the ship, knocking out scanners, communications and the transporters. Realizing that something has seriously changed with the natives, Kirk, Spock, Sulu and Lt. Hendorff (the bald security guard from the 2008 Star Trek film in a nice continuity nod) head towards the planet’s surface in a shuttle. As they approach a settlement, the shuttle comes under fire and crashes, leaving Sulu injured. Kirk and Spock go to explore their surroundings and are approached by some natives who have (slightly old) Federation technology. The aliens part to reveal that they were given the tech by a human who introduces himself thusly –
To be continued next issue…
For those who aren’t too steeped in Star Trek mythology, Robert April is the first captain of the Enterprise, before Captain Pike, Kirk’s predecessor. There had been some speculation that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Robert April in the franchise’s rebooted continuity, even after it was announced that his character was John Harrison.
But as you can see from the frame above, this Robert April looks nothing like Cumberbatch. Of course, there’s the fact that the Captain April character was introduced in the animated Star Trek series episode “The Counter Clock Incident,” (watch it on CBS’s website here) which featured characters aging backwards. Could we be seeing an older version of the character who will slowly de-age Benjamin Button-style into Cumberbatch? Possibly, but I tend to doubt it if only because it seems like an interesting visual idea for a character to do that Abrams would want to do it on screen and not have it happen in a comic book tie-in that only a fraction of ticketbuyers will ever read.
One thing to note in the issue though is the discussion of the Federation’s Prime Directive which prohibits Starfleet officers from interfering with lesser advanced civilizations. I have to wonder if this is something that will somehow impact Kirk and company in the movie proper.
Will things become clearer in four weeks when the second issue hits stands? We’ll see.