On Things I’ve Been Reading

Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2 #1
IDW Publishing
Written by Scott & David Tipton, with Tony Lee
Art by J.K. Woodward

When I was about nine, I started watching Star Trek. I remember going with my dad to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for my birthday. When I was about ten, I started watching Doctor Who. I remember seeing “Pyramids of Mars” (which made quite an impression for many reasons, among them Lis Sladen in the white dress) and “The Five Doctors” (which made no sense to me because I didn’t know who any of these other Doctors were). In high school, aged fourteen, I remember getting very excited for Star Trek: The Next Generation when it began. On Saturday nights I’d watch that at 7 o’clock, and then late Saturday nights I’d watch Doctor Who on West Virginia Public Television. Patrick Stewart in the early evening hours, Colin Baker late at night. A difference of five hours, that’s how close the worlds of Star Trek and Doctor Who were for me. Five hours.

What if these two worlds were closer? What if the Doctor’s TARDIS, which can go anywhere in space and anywhen in time, slipped a track and landed someplace unexpected? Someplace like Duckburg. Or the unmarred Arda before the coming of Morgoth. Or the Benny Vandergast Memorial Theater. Or the bridge of the Enterprise-D. Doctor Who is, in many ways, a narrative universal solvent. The TARDIS can go anywhere.

Crossovers like this are the stuff of a thousand fanfics. I should know. I’ve written a few in moments of boredom or to scratch an itch. I’ve read a few others out of curiosity. (Currently, I have one of the most famous of the crossovers, Jean Airey’s The Doctor and the Enterprise, on my Nook thanks to an hour’s work with Calibre.) But even if CBS were game for a crossover between Star Trek and Doctor Who, since they’ve allowed crossovers with the X-Men and the Legion of Super-Heroes, I never thought the BBC would go for it.

I was wrong. In February, IDW Publishing, the comic book publisher that carries both the Star Trek and Doctor Who licenses, announced they were publishing a crossover this summer.

Two weeks ago the first issue of IDW Publishing’s Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who crossover mini-series, Assimilation2 arrived in comic shops. Due to some shipping nonsense, I finally got it on Wednesday. Due to deadlines, I finally read it this morning.

It was okay. I liked it well enough. The dialogue rang true. The painted artwork style was nice (but I think I’d have preferred a traditionally pencilled and inked comic).

But.

There’s always a “but.”

The cover, which features the eleventh Doctor and Captain Jean-Luc Picard, promises a lot, which the first issue doesn’t deliver. This is a prologue (a Borg/Cybermen alliance attack Delta IV in Federation space), and a chapter one (the Doctor has an adventure in ancient Egypt), with a cliffhanger that puts the story on the cusp of what the cover promises — a meeting of the Doctor and Picard. (And you can guess how that meeting will go. The Doctor will think he’s in 1940s San Francisco when he’s actually on the Holodeck, Picard will think his Dixon Hill program has gone haywire and he tries to make the Doctor go away, Worf will come along and sort it out by tossing the Doctor in the brig because he’s breached the Enterprise‘s security, much wackiness ensues.) Even though the first seven pages do take place in a Trekian setting, Assimilation2 #1 really feels like little more than issue #17 of IDW’s just-concluded ongoing Doctor Who series.

I’ve seen people criticizing the first issue in various online fora because the ancient Egypt runaround seems so pointless, yet I expect that it will have some payoff eventually (that the Doctor has a telepathic vision of the Borg is certainly suggestive). The issue is mainly set-up. This issue introduced the Doctor and his companions to an audience that might be unfamiliar with them. It’s a safe bet that the second issue will do the same with Captain Picard and his crew, and then the third issue will see the two science fiction icons — the Doctor and Captain Picard, working together in common cause to defeat their mutual enemies. I suspect that, like many of IDW’s Star Trek comics (excepting John Byrne’s work, the vast majority of which is one-and-dones), this will read better in a single sitting in the inevitable collected edition.

This issue on its own, though? Reading the first issue of Assimilation2 is like reading The Lord of the Rings through “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony.” Or it’s like trying to judge “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” solely from “World’s End.” We don’t have enough to make a judgment of the whole. At best, we can give this an incomplete. Based on the creative team, I know the story will pick up. At the moment, though, it’s difficult to recommend this issue to someone who wouldn’t already want to read it. There’s just not enough there on its own terms.

Some continuity notes…

  • The stardate given on the first page — 45635.2 — places this midway through Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s fifth season between “The Outcast” (Riker falls in love with an androgynous alien) and “Cause and Effect” (Brannon Braga’s timey-wimey story where the Enterprise is stuck in a time loop). This also places the story before “I, Borg,” though I’m not sure if that will be important.
  • Delta IV is where Ilia (the navigator from Star Trek: The Motion Picture) hailed from. The Deltans are a very sexual race, and according to Roddenberry’s novelization of the film xenosex with a Deltan is so mind-blowingly awesome that it will drive a human insane, so Deltans are required to take an oath of celibacy.
  • The Cybermen have the Cybus Industries logo on their chestplates, so they’re from the alternate universe known as “Pete’s World.”
  • The Doctor mentions knowing Mark Twain, which reminds me that this takes place before “Time’s Arrow” as well. It would be interesting if the Doctor and Guinan eventually have a conversation in Ten-Forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if Guinan knew the Doctor.
  • Though he doesn’t appear in this issue proper, it’s worth nothing that Jean-Luc Picard, after the loss of his earlier command, the Stargazer, and before he assumed command of the Enterprise, traveled in the TARDIS for a time with the sixth Doctor and Frobisher, a Whifferdill in the form of a penguin.
  • Rory Williams, during the two millennia he guarded the Pandorica, masqueraded as Tip Dorrit in the mid-nineteenth century. It gave him something to do.

2 thoughts on “On Things I’ve Been Reading

  1. ” traveled in the TARDIS for a time with the sixth Doctor and Frobisher”

    What, what and when? Comic book? Short story?

    I think you’ve nailed it. They’ve gone for the easy option — TARDIS materialises on Holodeck. Much more interesting for him to materialise somewhere else in the Roddenburyvese and have the two groups moving towards one another. We’ll see.

  2. ” traveled in the TARDIS for a time with the sixth Doctor and Frobisher”

    What, what and when? Comic book? Short story?

    Sadly, just in my imagination. It’s one of those things that I think should be true, so I treat it as true, even though it’s absurd and isn’t true. :)

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