First Impressions – STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION/DOCTOR WHO: ASSIMILATION2 #1

Because no crossover has ever made more sense than this one. Ever.

Regular readers may recall last year I began my series of posts on the Weekly Pull midway through an ambitious miniseries called STAR TREK/LEGION OF SUPERHEROES. As stated right on the tin, it was a crossover between the IDW-held Star Trek and DC’s Legion of Superheroes. And it was glorious! It was no Watchmen, but for what amounts to legitimate crossover fanfiction, it was well constructed, and even tried to tie the normally unrelated elements together.

Plus, it was so nerd awesome that I’ll be pulling it out for years to come just to brag about how, at one time in history, alternate universe Vandal Savage menaced the Legion and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, all while lording over his collection of time machines stolen from various franchises in popular culture. Yes, this happened.

Thankfully, IDW thought well of doing the same thing again, but this time without having to tie it up with other publishers. In fact, Star Trek/Legion will be a bitch to reprint later on. But this time, IDW owns the comic rights to both properties of their latest crossover. And even more than the last two being surprisingly compatible, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION/DOCTOR WHO makes perfect sense.

Let me reiterate. Perfect. Sense.

What do you think of when you consider what property is most like Star Trek? Obviously you’d day Star Wars. Why? Good question, because as much as fanboys war against each other to defend their respective loves, the two could barely be more unlike. The only reason they’re bundled side by side is because they both have “Star” in their name, followed by a four-letter word. And all the space stuff, but that ties back into them both having “Star” in their name. In terms of formatting, they’re leagues apart. One’s a television series from the sixties onward, the other a movie franchise (counting the core of the franchises, obviously). Their underlying philosophies are different. One’s utopian futurist speculative fiction, the other a space opera using an SF setting to tell a traditional narrative. One tells the tales of various space naval officers boldly going where no one has gone before; the other tells the tale of a rising and falling empire, as propelled by the conflict between opposing wizardly orders. In space.

By every account, comparing these two does a disservice to both franchises. It just doesn’t fit, save by superficial connections. It’s like comparing the film adaptations of Battleship and Clue, on account of them both being based on boardgames. Technically accurate is the tie, but very misleading. Or how about comparing Lord of the Rings to The Dark Crystal, on account of both being fantasy stories? Technically true, and both are excellent in their own right, but it makes little sense to compare them.

If there’s any science fiction franchise that more deserves comparison to Star Trek, it’s Doctor Who. The British television series running from around the mid-twentieth century that stars a cast of characters, some recurring, that travel to fantastic places and doing fiction in a speculative fashion. It’s just that there’s one consistantly recurring character and vessel (the Doctor and his TARDIS), and they travel to various locations in time rather than just in space. And like Star Trek in America, Doctor Who is a massively important figure in popular culture in its native Britain, to the point where, after years off the air, got a reboot of sorts for a modern audience.

See what I mean? This crossover makes fantastic amounts of sense. But wait! There’s more!

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION/DOCTOR WHO: ASSIMILATION2 #1 begins with Federation planet suddenly comes under attack by the Borg, a race of cyborgs in the Star Trek universe introduced in The Next Generation. But the Borg’s methods differ this time, attacking all out instead of demanding surrender for assimilation. And they’re accompanied by another group of cyborgs: the Cybermen of Doctor Who.

For fans (or even just those with a passing knowledge of both groups), this is both chilling and perfectly logical. I’m talking a match made in heaven. Or robot hell, as the case may be.

See, the Borg are a collectivist force of cyborgs, with members and technology culled from countless worlds and civilizations. They aren’t many cyborgs, but a massive superbeing spread over bodies and wires. Their goal is to assimilate all life and tech they find, because for them it’s just the logical thing to do. “Come join the Borg, where you’ll become a part of the collective, free of the evils of individualism”. Basically, they’re space communists, taken to the extreme. And because of this, and their ability to adapt to anything thrown at them, they became the iconic enemies of The Next Generation. Where in the original series you had the Klingons, an honorable warrior race, in TNG it was space communists that turn you into one of them. Or rather, a part of it. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Then you have Doctor Who’s Cybermen. Not as iconic as the space Nazis that are the Daleks (oh hey, more parallels), the Cybermen don’t want to exterminate all life. They want to upgrade them. See, the Cybermen were once organic beings, but decided that they ought to give up being so, becoming cyborgs. Now they’re free of pesky things like disease, pain, and bothersome emotions. And now that they are so, they want to help everyone else become like them. They will upgrade the universe.

From a philosophical point of view, the two groups have similar goals, just for slightely different reasons. The Borg see uniformity and oneness as the end, and mechanization the means. Whereas the Cybermen see uniformity as a pleasant side effect of being made “better”. Both see their way as best, and their way just so happens to be very similar. So it’s no surprise, given how parallel their goals are, they’d team up. It’s only logical.

The Cybermen seem to even enjoy adopting the Borg’s mantra for themselves in this issue. Cyberman: “Resistance is futile!”

So the first part of the issue has the new best buddies invading a Federation planet, and then the rest of the issue follows the Doctor and his companions. It’s worth noting for those unfamiliar with Doctor Who that the Doctor is a Time Lord, a race of aliens who developed time machines. The most pressing quality about them is their property of Regeneration, allowing them to reform themselves when fatally wounded into a new body up to thirteen times, complete with a new appearance and modified personality. This plot point was a stroke of genius on the part of the original series creators, who made it so that if an actor playing the Doctor grew tired of his role or died, a new actor could take his place easily. It’s both a great way to smooth out the process of cast changes, and it breathes life into the role every time the plot device is used.

The one we’re following is the eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith in the current TV series. I don’t get a chance to watch Doctor Who all that often, but I’ve got nothing against Matt Smith as an actor. Many people would say that there’s never been a bad Doctor, just bad serials to put him through. And until I see otherwise (either past or future), I’m going to agree. This Doctor is joined by Amy Pond and Rory Williams, a married couple that act as the latest in the Doctor’s string of companions that accompany him on his adventures. When we first see them in the comic, the three are in ancient Egypt, stopping an escaped alien prisoner from infiltrating the Pharoh’s court and using the river Nile in a ploy to leave Earth, which would be destroyed in the process. Basically this sequence, while kind of grating in how long it takes, serves to get the readers acquainted with the TARDIS crew in their element.

After that, they try to travel to 1940s San Francisco, and by probably the same tomfoolery that sent both the Legion of Superheroes and the old Star Trek characters to a bad alternate history Earth, they end up smack in the middle of a recreation of San Francisco inside the Holodeck of the TNG Enterprise.

We’ll have to wait until next time to see how the two groups interact (I predict hijinks), but I’m liking this crossover already. The only thing that irks me is the art direction. Like Carnage USA, we’re looking as a super realistic art style, like it was painted. It’s not a bad job, far from it. I just find it difficult to enjoy reading a comic when it feels like every panel should be a paining in an art gallery all on its own. Maybe I’m just weird, but I just prefer my sequential art more stylized and subservient to the the narrative. It’s part of why the Justice League ongoing was so hard to get through.

Well, that and it took too long and made me hate the characters I should be made to love.

However, the art style does lend itself beautifully to the static faces of the Cybermen. And it’s not like such an art style alone has ever made a comic unreadable. Just look at Kingdom Come.

If this is anything like Star Trek/Legion, I’m going to love this book. It’s like every nerds wet dream. If you love either or both of these long-running science fiction shows, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Now all we need are Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, and we’ll have an unholy trinity of mechanical might.

Make it happen, IDW. You can do it. Well actually don’t, because Battlestar Galactica is stupid and overrated.

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