Star Trek: The Next Generation: Terra Incognita #1 // Review
Alternate universes in Star Trek have been one of the franchise’s favorite pools to dip into whenever someone needs a decent story idea, second only to time travel. The Mirror Universe, with a bearded Spock and evil crew members, has remained a fan-favorite for decades since premiering in 1967. Coming back in comics, novels, and even showing up again in spinoff show Deep Space Nine, fans and creators just can’t get enough of it. IDW is one such creator, continuing on with their The Next Generation saga featuring their evil doppelgängers.
Scott and David Tipton continue writing this storyline, while Tony Shasteen and JD Mettler work on the art for the book. A warning for those who’ve not read the prior books in this series: it will expect you to have some knowledge of the mirror universe made for this continuity. Luckily for the average reader picking up a new series on a whim, it does fill the reader in nicely.
Picking up from the cliffhanger ending of Into the Mirror, where series regular Reginald Barclay has been kidnapped by his evil counterpart and thrown into the closet, there is a brief ranting monologue from evil Barclay over his plans to replace his wishy-washy self and have the life he’s dreamed of. The rest of the book features the Next Generation crew worrying over the recent off-screen Cardassian war and the strangeness of their mirror counterparts, while never quite noticing that Barclay isn’t himself.
The writing for this book, like most of the IDW Star Trek comics, is great. The Tiptons have a fantastic handle on the voices of the cast and crew of the Enterprise-D, and the majority of the book feels like a solid script of the TV series that someone found on the Paramount lot and turned into a comic. The real gem here is the alternate Barclay. While he acts like the original character around the main crew, his inner thoughts feel like a character is rebelling against the role a writer has intended for them. Considering this Barclay is attempting to break free of his weaker self’s role in Star Trek, it works incredibly well. However, the entire comic feels like an extended first act, with little action and a heavy emphasis on “as you know”-ing the audience. It is a little forgivable, though, as the TV series was incredibly guilty of that on more than one occasion.
The art, meanwhile, can be a mixed bag. While characters certainly look like themselves, it seems like only so much most can be done with likenesses from a 30 year old tv show. Shasteen seems to be having a lot of fun with the Mirror Barclay, making actor Dwight Schultz’s face distort and twist completely out of character with arrogance and rage. However, some characters do feel like mannequins with the faces of actors pasted on for a panel or two. At worst, though, it only looks like an awkward freeze-frame of a tv show, like someone hit pause at the wrong time. At the best of times, Shasteen’s art looks like a cel-shaded version of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and helps draw the reader into the story that much more.
While only the start, there’s a real fascinating storyline here that would have been a blast to see on the small screen. As a Star Trek comic, there usually isn’t any higher praise, but there are some minor flaws that keep it from being as great as the premise.