Monday, December 31, 2018

"The End" Week: Star Trek #56!

I still haven't seen more than the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, although maybe by the time this posts I'll have gotten the DVD's; but there was a write-up on it in Entertainment Weekly that mentioned during filming, an actor got notes that he'd be allowed to swear before saying "god." Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry famously excluded religion from the show, since he thought religion as it exists today would be defunct by the 22nd century. So I'm not sure about today's book. From 1988, Star Trek #56, "A Small Matter of Faith" Written by Martin Pasko, art by Gray Morrow.

Set back in the five-year mission era, the Enterprise is transporting injured crew members from an accident on the Defiant, one of whom is an old friend of Dr. McCoy's. The injured had taken a lot of radiation, but could be saved if they could get to Starbase 27 in the next 24 hours. (As usual, that's given as a hard number: 23 hours and 59 minutes they'd be fine, 24 hours and one minute, dead.) McCoy's more than a little irritated that they have to make another stop first, to the Starfleet Veterans' Hospital on Lavinius V, to deliver supplies. (That hospital apparently was the radiation hospital...) What no one expected, however, was an attack from the hospital--by Starfleet officers! (Actually, that seems a lot like the first part of "Dagger of the Mind.") (The Star Trek episode, not the Columbo one.)

The officers are terminally ill vets, led by En-Lai, a chaplain and faith healer. En-Lai was an alien of unknown origin, found on an uncharted planet as an infant, and was trying to get to Calydon, a system that had periodic visits from a mysterious ghost-like entity that healed anyone it came in contact with. Spock has already started to see the connection, but plays it close to the vest until he can be sure, leaving Kirk and McCoy to wonder. En-Lai does heal Kirk's broken arm--I'm not sure we see the arm getting broken, but okay--but taking the Enterprise this far off course will doom the Defiant survivors. After a failed attempt to retake the ship, McCoy tells Kirk why he's so opposed to En-Lai, besides to save his friend: his dad had wanted him to be a preacher, but he had chosen medicine instead, losing any of his remaining faith when his dad died.

On Calydon, there's a crowd of the hopeful already gathered, but they beam down the veterans and injured before En-Lai, who approaches the explode and die. Spock explains he was compelled to return, like a salmon, somehow born from energy to matter, then returning to energy. The release of energy heals the gathered people, and the vets surrender, although Kirk logs that he will recommend clemency for them. And although McCoy proclaims this is all science, he still heads to the chapel afterwards.

This doesn't sit especially well: it occurs to me that like Roddenberry, I'm basically a godless heathen, and I wonder how much Star Trek figured into that. This might've been a fill-in: per the GCD, this issue came out July 21, 1988; the next issue would be a new number one August 31, 1989! That would feature returning regular writer Peter David; and I still love the first year or so of that run.

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