I grew up with Star Trek: TNG. It began airing as I was learning more about the world. Where my father had Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the original NCC-1701 (No bloody A, B, C, or D!), I had a Galaxy-class starship filled with families engaged in finding new life and exploring the bounds of the universe. This series has not only provided me with some of the defining entertainment of my life, but also what is considered by a few people as the greatest finale in the history of television. When I saw that IDW was giving the franchise a "Deviation," I simply had to see what was going to happen. Donny Cates took a moment from what I honestly believe to be the best TNG film of First Contact and changed the pivotal moment that that entire movie was trying to protect. It makes for a perfect Trek story: good action, a faith in the human spirit that can thrive when petty differences are set aside, and a majorly cool moment that breaks the continuity of the whole damn thing.
Cates has a great write-up in the back of the book that allows him to explain why he chose this story - this moment - to augment. It stands as a good intro to the piece all told, and if you find yourself unsure after reading this, check out that page before picking it up; it should give you everything you'll need. That said, this is one of the most fun alternate worlds that Trek has seen, and that universe has had a few. The crew we're familiar with is changed in fundamental ways, owing to the history of the Federation never having been written as the Romulans were the ones to make First Contact, not the Vulcans. Humans have been enslaved and are forced into labor for the good of the Empire, and Riker leads a team to rescue the one man that may put everything back to right. The continuity error is built on the back of the pivotal moment, as the final page gives us an iconic starship that ought never to have existed. As Cates leaves the ending open for more, perhaps there's some kind of quantum fluxing or impediment drive that will explain its presence, along with the symbol that Riker carries around his neck above his midriff-baring shirt.
In the ending note, Cates actually states, "Riker on a horse playing Snake Plisken to a ravaged Earth," and that's where the character designs just get started. Josh Hood has plenty of fun with the re-imagined crew, from the warrior Troi going very Kira Nerys to the pacifistic Worf pulling a page from Deadpool's Axis style. Everyone has a strong connection to the topsy-turvy of the world. The reason for the quote at the top is because the Picard analog reminds me so much of "All Good Things..." that I had to go back and watch the whole finale again. (My wife is tolerant, loving, and great at ignoring me when necessary.) Even though the world is not as it's supposed to be, everything feels authentic and logistically sound. The last page is glorious to behold, and the covers are really a treat. My pick goes to Rachel Scott and her lovely world-mashing with Picard and Crusher as Mulder and Scully. It's just awesome. The whole book is action packed and detailed well, with plenty of little touches that are given just enough highlight along the way to add intrigue for a continuing series. And why not? Abrams and IDW have opened the door for plenty of cross and do-overs that another might make for an interesting read.
This Deviation is fun, which I think was really the goal with the whole project across all the series that have participated. It's not meant to change the work but give a Farnsworth patented What If? machine a little spin to turn things on their head and engage us in a new way. Much like Metallica hits played by Iron Horse (A bluegrass band, if you're a fan you really need to check it out.), it only serves to accentuate how solid the original is by turning things on their side and seeing that the core is still as strong. Go into this one with the sense of adventure ready to take you to a next generation and a willingness to chart the unknown possibilities of existence.
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