How many times did James T. Kirk wantonly violate the Prime Directive?
Well, it’s not like I’m not expecting a serious answer to that question; after all, that would take the fun out of the character, wouldn’t it?
However, while I am sure that some die-hard Trek fan will most certainly be willing to send me the full accounting of incidents in the TOS canonical record, this is just one just one of the many endearing traits of this favourite starship commander that is effortlessly and deftly illustrated in the latest of IDW Publishing’s Star Trek: New Visions – The Hidden Face.
It’s clear in this book that legendary comic creator, John Byrne, knows Star Trek – and Captain Kirk. It’s established in his track record with IDW’s other stellar Trek comic collections. But for Byrne, this is more than just his profession – this is the love of a true fan who knows his fandom intimately well.
In fact, I’d venture he was one of those fans who used to record episodes on an old tape recorder so he could play it back whenever he wanted. I was one of those kids too – I get it. How else were you going to memorize the dialogue?
The Hidden Face is a story of the ephemeral Kirk. When the Enterprise rescues the survivor of a crippled, primitive space vessel, they discover that the occupant is far from grateful to his benefactors. In fact, he is even offended by their presence. With a visit to the space-farer’s planet, it is soon revealed that the source of his ingratitude is based on his own culture’s taboos.
Yet this doesn’t stop Kirk from trying to open communications with this race or even trying to convince them that they are wrong.
The Prime Directive – well, it’s just a thing, you know?
As much as we, in this age of political correctness and open-minded attitudes, may rankle at the thought of violating another species’ racial or cultural values, it was this type of pioneering, “cowboy-diplomacy” attitude that marked Kirk’s success – and charm. Despite bungling his way through first contact situations, he relied upon the conviction of doing the right reason rather than the right process; definitely a hallmark of the 1960’s series.
There are other markers in this book that identify the time that classic TOS was born into. Spock makes reference to one of the cities’ of the rescue victim being similar in pollution levels to New York, without noting which century.
Kirk also makes reference to Alexander Dumas’ “The Man in the Iron Mask,” a classic piece of fiction that was adapted to film three times within the 20th century and a story that history-loving Kirk would have easily evoked. Of course this is something Kirk would know. It’s these subtle indicators that make Byrne not only a creator of his time but demonstrate his natural and easy affinity for Trek storytelling that make this book so successful.
Of course, throughout the story, Kirk still also manages to display his dignity, his sense of fair play and his easy, nonchalant relationship with the other characters. He relies on Spock’s knowledge, he trusts McCoy’s conscience and he knows that Mr. Scott can provide him with any technological advantage he can imagine.
All these elements are there in this story and Byrne’s love of this fandom is instrumental in displaying them in a casual, masterful manner. It’s this expertise that is responsible for imbuing this book with the same flavour as a fan would expect in turning on her television set to watch a re-run episode from the 1960’s.
Of course, the question that needs to be asked is: how long can Byrne sustain this effort? It must take an immense amount of time to not only write the story, but search for the appropriate images he needs for his artist’s eye to arrange in the right position.
Then there’s the fact that some of the frames require editing for item insertion and the creation of those original images to begin with. There’s definitely a lot more roundabout activity in the creation of New Visions #13 than in a straightforward drawing role, of which Byrne is a master.
So – I wonder how many more times Kirk can violate the Prime Directive?