Issue one of “Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness,” billed as a prequel to this summer's "Star Trek: Into Darkness," hit comic shops today.
The series is co-plotted by Roberto Orci, who co-wrote the 2009 Trek movie and the one arriving in cinemas this summer.
The comic depicts the Enterprise crew arriving in orbit for a routine survey of the planet Phaedus -- whose civilization, when last surveyed five years earlier, had not progressed technologically beyond Earth’s Iron Age.
But when a radically advanced technology on the planet’s surface begins to impede the Enterprise’s transporters and communications, Kirk decides to leave Uhura in charge of the ship while he, Spock, Sulu and Hendorff (the bald cupcake redshirt from the 2009 movie) take a shuttle to investigate.
Are there details that might hint at what to expect from “Star Trek: Into Darkness”? Hard to say!
* “We haven’t known each other very long,” Captain Kirk tells Mr. Spock on page 11. On page seven Spock reveals he is still having nightmares about the death of his mother during the destruction of Vulcan. Simon Pegg and Zach Quinto, of course, got four years older between these Trek movies. Will “Darkness” take place only weeks or months after Captain Pike announced he was relieved?
* Scotty’s pint-sized companion is still lurking about the Enterprise’s engine room.
* Sulu mentions that the crew has already had one misadventure on the “Archons” planet.
* There’s discussion of making certain the prime directive is observed on Phaedus. (There’s long been speculation that Kirk loses command of the Enterprise in “Into Darkness” because he violates the directive.)
* The insect-y natives of Phaedus do not, if I remember correctly, resemble the primitives chasing Kirk and McCoy in the nine minutes of “Into Darkness” footage that hit cinemas last month.
MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD!
The issue’s final page reveals the man supplying the planet’s natives their tricorder and phaser rifles is none other than Robert April, who wears a Starfleet uniform and identifies himself as “former captain of a ship called Enterprise.”
The name “Robert April” has an interesting history. It was among a handful of names Gene Roddenberry considered in the early 1960s for the name of the captain of the Enterprise (“James Winter” was another) before Roddenberry settled on Christopher Pike.
Then in 1974 an episode of “Star Trek: The Animated Series” titled “The Counter-Clock Incident”) introduced a character named Robert April, a legendary Starfleet officer who captained the Enterprise before Pike and Kirk.
Our colleague at Hitfix, Drew McWeeny, has been long speculating that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Robert April, but the fellow depicted in the comic looks nothing like Cumberbatch (or any other actor associated with “Into Darkness”). More than anything, the “Countdown” April looks like animated April we saw in 1974.
How does all this tie into the coming movie? Perhaps “Countdown to Darkness” is a teachable moment for Kirk, who may learn here the dire consequences one might derive from violating the prime directive. April, to be certain, is not playing by that particular rule.
I am keen to read the next issue.
The comic series should conclude just before “Into Darkness” hits cinemas May 17.