"Star Trek New Frontier: Double Time"

by Michelle Erica Green

After many years of mediocre offerings from Malibu and Marvel, Trek comic books under Wildstorm's Jeff Mariotte have been a delightful surprise. The Voyager stories have been entertaining, the Next Gen material well-written. Even given the hideous art of Deep Space Nine's "N-Vector" series doesn't detract from the dead-on characterizations; in fact, the art highlights the clever dialogue, since you can't really tell who's who based on how the characters look.

Now Wildstorm ventures where only Pocket Books has gone before, with the first New Frontier comic, written by Peter David -- who also scripted the twelve novels in the series that he co-created with Pocket Books editor John Ordover. "Double Time" fits into New Frontier canon to explain why the ship disappeared for over a year from Trek-time. It's a cautionary tale about playing God. Captain Calhoun acts like Superman and changes the timeline, despite Starfleet regulations and the interference of Captain Braxton, whose 29th century timeship Relativity travels the galaxy looking for temporal incursions.

Calhoun's desire to rewrite a planetary tragedy is paralleled with the convolutions of his intimate bond with First Officer Shelby. Years ago, he nearly declared their relationship over right after it began, because he wasn't sure it could work. In "Double Time," a narrative flashback (in which we get to see Calhoun and Shelby in bed together!) interrupts the "flashback" Calhoun creates by taking the Excalibur back in time to try to avert a disaster. Calhoun's own past words to Shelby from the past help her determine how to advise him in the present.

This is a clever, witty storyline, tackling a more complex issue than most Trek comics of the past, making good use of a device created for Voyager ("Future's End" and "Relativity") and referencing the plots of two original Trek episodes ("The Naked Time" and "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"). Though some of the regulars are under-used -- most disappointingly the androgyne Burgoyne, since I really wanted a good look at hir -- "Double Time" has terrific characters and a great sense of humor about Star Trek. New Frontier has undoubtedly suffered a bit because readers don't have a mental image for the crew and aliens as they do for novels based on the other Trek series.

Illustrators Michael Collins and David Roach have remedied that, creating designs for Calhoun, Si Cwan, Kebron, Soleta, and the other characters for whom we have no visual frame of reference. For Shelby and Lefler, they've stayed pretty close to the appearances of the actors who played the characters on televised Trek, which gives the new folk a reassuring connection to canon. Calhoun looks less like Pierce Brosnan or Alec Baldwin here than on the New Frontier book covers -- picture instead E.R.'s Goran Visnjic crossed with a very young Shatner, and throw in a little David Duchovny. Mysterious Morgan Primus, the Majel Barrett character, appears to have Number One's hair and Lwaxana's height, but we never see her face.

For anyone who has never read New Frontier and is looking for a painless introduction, here it is, with much of the necessary information. There's a brief summary of Calhoun's past on Xenex; his romance with Shelby; the tensions between each of them and Calhoun's other former girlfriend, executive officer Kat Mueller; Si Cwan's odd role as ambassador and exiled prince; Kebron's dilemma as a security officer who's much stronger than the people he protects; Lefler's convoluted relationship with her mother; and the non-traditional attitudes that make these people work well together, even if they veer far from what's been acceptable on Trek television. It's highly recommended.

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