Star Trek
The Trial of James T. Kirk

Author: Peter David
Artists: James W Fry, Gordon Purcell and Arne Starr
Titan Books
RRP: 14.99, US $19.95
ISBN 1 84576 315 7
Available 23 June 2006

The fallout from Captain Kirk's actions against the Klingons and the Nasgul has left him on the run, with a vast price on his head - and the bounty hunter Sweeney is aiming to collect. Even if the Captain can escape the deadly Sweeney, his problems are only just beginning. He must face trial for his supposed "crimes" in order to preserve peace in the Federation...

Ooh, those folks at Titan Books' marketing department are such fibbers! Once again, their press release describes this Star Trek Comics Classics series as a chronological presentation of Kirk and co's comic-book adventures. That isn't strictly true, because five years' worth of DC Comics stories were omitted between the first volume, To Boldly Go, and the second, Death Before Dishonor. This compilation, reprinting issues 7-12 of the second DC series, picks up where Death Before Dishonor left off.

At least this time around writer Peter David is able to get on and do his job with minimal interference from the powers-that-be (or rather the powers-that-were) at Paramount. He is left alone to build upon the events of previous issues and previous movies. He even manages to throw in a couple of sneaky references to the first DC series: a graveyard scene involving Scotty in the fourth episode, The First Thing We Do..., contains subtle allusions to his 1988 Star Trek annual, Retrospect.

Though his work continues to echo the heavy-handed humour of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, it tends to work better than it did in the previous volume. Genuinely funny moments include McCoy choking on his drink as Kirk asks, "Do you think I like women?" and the Captain's Moonlighting-style love/hate sparring with protocol officer R.J. Blaise.

Such moments also serve to highlight David's great talent for writing beautifully crafted dialogue during more serious scenes. Witness the emotive exchange between Spock and his father Sarek in The First Thing We Do... and Leonard James Akaar's stunning statement of devotion in the subsequent episode, ...Let's Kill All the Lawyers!

In addition to Akaar (who was born in the episode Friday's Child and went on to appear as a Starfleet officer in several subsequent Pocket Books novels), other blasts from the past include the UFP President, the Klingon ambassador (both from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), the lawyers Samuel T. Cogsley and Areel Shaw (Court Martial), Anan 7 (A Taste of Armageddon), Bela Oxmyx (A Piece of the Action) and Maltz (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), all of whom attend Kirk's trial. The presence of the latter contradicts the novelisation of Star Trek IV, in which the Klingon ambassador suggests that Maltz committed suicide while in Federation custody. However, this could just have been a cover story put out by the Federation to conceal the Klingon officer's repatriation, lest its citizens object to such lenient treatment of a member of an aggressive species. As it happens, Maltz's survival and resulting disgrace in the eyes of his fellow Klingons ties in well with events in Pocket's three-part Genesis Wave series.

The Klingons' baiting of Kirk over the death of this son, David, in Star Trek III coincidentally serves as an effective precursor to his distrust of the species in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In the original DC series, the Captain had tended to be more open-minded about Klingons, so these scenes represent an important development in his character, particularly for aficionados of the comics.

From a visual point of view, James W Fry and Arne Starr are still far from being my favourite Star Trek art team, though there is a marked improvement in quality during the final two episodes, during which Gordon Purcell takes over the pencilling duties. The reproduction of the first instalment, Not... Sweeney!, is rather poor, as the print fades out to the left side of each page so that finer details are lost, while Tom McCraw's colouring makes the Oriental characters in the third episode, ...Gone!, look more like the Simpsons than Asians.

Those niggles aside, though, this volume - which also includes archive interviews with Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and Walter Koenig (Chekov) - is a page-turningly splendid collection, and not a trial to read at all.

Richard McGinlay

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