Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Review: Star Trek - The Next Generation - Hive #4

Writers: Brannon Braga, Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett
Artist: Joe Corroney
Publisher: IDW Comics

Captain Jean Luc Picard has the fate of the Galaxy in his hands, but will his resolve remain strong in the face of potential genocide?

This isn't the first time the good Captain has been to this dance. In the classic TNG episode "I, Borg", Picard was presented with a paradoxical computer program, that if uploaded into the Borg Collective, would end their threat once and for all. But through talking to the liberated drone, Hugh, the crew of the Enterprise came to realise the innocent nature of the assimilated and hesitated to pull the proverbial trigger. Though years may have passed, our heroes find themselves in the exact same position. Only this time, the Borg are coming in force and the humanitarian approach isn't an option.

Considering the death and destruction the Borg Collective have wreaked across the Milky Way since last they had the option, you can't exactly blame these otherwise noble people for having an itchy trigger finger. However, much of this series has outright contradicted emotional journeys established in the shows themselves. Picard had already faced his demons in the motion picture "First Contact" and Seven of Nine progressively embraced her humanity throughout the entire of "Voyager", so to see them fall back into the hands of the Collective is downright heartbreaking.

For all the good that creative mind Brannon Braga brought to the Star Trek franchise over the decades, his writing has become predictable and trite. Ask any modern day fan their opinion of his stories and it's as if his very name were a dirty word. Just like George Lucas before him, he may've helped get us here, but he's treated us like cr*p ever since. His last effort being the notorious dreadful "These Are The Voyages", also known as the reviled Enterprise series finale. That episode was disrespectful to the show itself and relied far too heavily on flimsy shock tactics to get a rise out of the audience. It's unfortunate to find those same tendencies are still apparent today.

The sad thing is that the building blocks for a fantastic story were there. With only a few small tweaks, we could've had a fond farewell to several beloved Star Trek characters. Instead, we have an absolute mess, that wipes a handful of major players off the board in various unsatisfying ways. The strangest of all being Braga killing off his own ex-girfriend, Jeri Ryan! Her character, Seven of Nine, was Voyager's breakout star and her journey towards reclaiming her humanity was the best arc the show ever attempted. But with this series, she ultimately failed. She went back to the Borg, was violated anew and sacrificed her life in a vain effort to save thousands while TRILLIONS died around her. The heroic death is appreciated, but throughout the course of this mini-series, she fell so far from the heights of her time on Voyager. Captain Janeway would be genuinely saddened to see her personal pet project go out in such a manner.

Another confusing treatment of a beloved character comes in the form of resurrected android, Data. Braga went to alot of trouble to include the character in his story, but with seemingly little gain. Some convoluted story about the Borg assimilating the Daystrom Institute and salvaging his files from the B4 unit seen in "Nemesis". But for all that effort, what did Data actually do? He popped in, said hello to his friends (who aren't exactly given time to react to the return of their dead colleague), stood in the background as Picard and Seven saved the day, then disappeared as the timeline corrected itself. Braga, you just reversed your own reversal!

As a fan, particularly of the Borg, I couldn't help but notice the blatant repetition of classic plot devices throughout this mini. Picard facing his fears of Locutus, check. The Borg Queen gloating from her impenetrable fortress, check. A magic virus that will save the day, check. The brave hero feeding themselves to the Borg, check. It basically played like a greatest hits album. If you've seen "Best of Both Worlds", "Scorpion", "Unimatrix Zero" or "Endgame", you've seen Hive.

As bad as I thought this series was as a whole, I don't want this to come across as a denigration of everything Star Trek. I clearly love the characters and the concepts or I wouldn't be voluntarily reading the story in the first place. In trying to find the rare good qualities of Hive, let it be known that I thought the wrap-up was fantastic. I absolutely loved the idea of a free Borg race establishing their own colony, not to mention Picard hinting he was about to resurrect Data (again). These concepts were wonderful and left me with a tangible feeling of "okay, the Borg are out of the way, can we see THOSE episodes now?". There is a rabid Star Trek fan inside me and they will always long for the next adventure.

5 out of 10

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