New Visions #13, a story called “The Hidden Face,” is neither the best nor the worst the series has to offer. It shows some of the series’ potential weaknesses while also playing to some of its strengths, though all in a fairly middle-of-the-road sort of way. The Enterprise discovers a small spacecraft adrift with a single occupant, an emissary with the unlikely (but, let’s face it, kind of delightful) name Turan Tot Narut. Narut is wearing a big, obtrusive mask, a fact which Dr. McCoy, in particular, finds baffling. But the crew soon discovers that it isn’t just Narut, but his entire culture – and they don’t take kindly to people who so perversely bare their faces.
This is a classic setup for a good, old-fashioned first contact story, and that’s surely what it’s trying to be. But from the moment Narut is brought aboard, the crew (in particular McCoy) act aggressively judgmental. Yes, Narut’s mask seems strange, but McCoy pretty quickly determines it poses no medical threat, nor is it preventing him from rendering Narut medical attention, so the crew’s rush to be so closed-minded feels…well, not very in-character, and not very Star Trek. The dilemma and resolution in this story feel unearned, to a point, because there’s this sense that frankly Kirk and Spock are smarter than this.
The masks are kind of a cool idea, though, and they clearly would’ve been far too expensive to execute on the television show’s budget. Like with many of the recent issues of New Visions, Byrne seems to be getting bolder with editing images to create places, peoples, and details that don’t exist in the photos in any way. This becomes a little distracting in this issue, though surprisingly not because of the masks so much as the rest of the aliens’ attire looking like their fashion designers use MS Paint. Even with the kitschiness of classic Star Trek, these things stand out.
All in all, though, it’s fine. Not every episode of Star Trek is a winner, nor is every issue of New Visions, but this is not the worst Star Trek thing you could find to read, either – not by a long shot. It’s like, say, “The Cloud Minders.” Remember that episode? No? Yeah.