Review: Star Trek-Leonard McCoy Frontier Doctor

Star Trek-Leonard McCoy Frontier Doctor

2010 IDW

104 pages

$18 at your LCS

I’m fairly sure when I reviewed Star Trek Crew a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I don’t like licensed properties.  This series illustrates why.  Another Star Trek series by legendary creator John Byrne, this series takes place after the original TV series but before the first of the movies.  It is all about the adventures of the USS Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer, Leonard McCoy and what he did in the previously unexplored period of time where the series future was in fan sustained limbo.

The reason that licensed properties have always been hard for me to enjoy is the feeling that they cannot simply stand on their own as stories without making constant references to the original source material.  In this volume those references take the form of cameos and guest appearances of characters from the original series in every chapter.  Admiral Kirk, and Scotty as well as Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, two characters that Byrne has expanded on in another Comic called Assignment Earth.  The appearances of the first two serve only to remind the reader that there is something else out there that you are supposed to know about and that what you are reading is little more than the bastard stepchild.  That is really not the case.  If creators of these kinds of stories would just take the leap (or in some cases, be allowed to take the leap) the stories would usually stand alone just fine.  The addition of Kirk and Scott adds nothing but that warm blanket of familiarity.  The problem of having a blanket is that once you are out of it, you feel cold again.  This book suffers from the same issues.  If you could get rid of the blanket entirely, you would find you were not really in need of it to be warm.  The book stands on its own quite nicely without it and the references serve only as a distraction from the reason you are there in the first place.  Anyone reading this is likely to have at least a passing familiarity with the Star Trek universe, so the addition of these elements is really nothing more that “fan service”.

There is a lot to like here, just not as much as in Crew.  Crew succeeded by giving you a character that developed before your eyes far beyond that of the relatively two-dimensional one seen in the pilot for the original series.  This book fails somewhat in that it cannot shake off the baggage that the reader will bring to it.  In this case, overfamiliarity with the characters actually hurts the story.

With it’s fairly simple starting point there is much that Byrne can do, but he never seems all that inclined to do it.  The new supporting characters are interesting but they leave the story before they can be developed into anything new.  It is possible that Byrne is planning another visit with them, but in this context it is unsatisfying.  The addition of Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln is a touch that fares better as the reader is less likely to be over familiar with them, and so can enjoy them in the context of this story more.  When the “Number One” character turns up late in the third chapter, it is a welcome surprise and even in her short appearance, adds a lot to the story and the development of the character.  I HOPE there is another visit planned with her as well.

Overall, this is not as satisfying as Crew, but serves to expand Byrne’s version of the universe well enough.  The art is much more relaxed looking than some of the earlier Byrne works and it serves the story very well.  The only thing I found distracting was the panel layout.  It is sometimes difficult to follow.  This may be attributed to the TPB format, as the spine of the book does not go flat like in a monthly floppy, and things spreading over two pages are interrupted visually.  Other than that small gripe, the art is just what one would expect from Byrne, a treat.  Unlike Crew, this story does not flow as effectively issue to issue.  That book was about a central character just like this one, but this feels more like an anthology and may have been originally better served in the monthly release format of the original four issue series.

I have another Byrne Star Trek book coming, this time focusing on the Romulans, and still have high hopes for it.  This one however turned out to be a bit of a letdown after Crew was such a hoot to read.

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