Spock receives a coded message which prompts him to ask for a brief leave from his duties on the Enterprise – all to reunite with a past acquaintance and, of course, get drawn into a mystery he did not expect. If, in a lot of ways, this plot hook sounds very much like a few previous New Visions stories, you’re not wrong. Byrne has come to rely on the premise of a guest character from an episode resurfacing with a new, cryptic problem for the Enterprise crew to solve.
Like most ruts, though, Byrne doesn’t quite manage to make this story, “The Hollow Man,” compelling enough to differentiate it from previous instances of essentially the same plot. That it is a Spock story nearly exclusively does little to help matters; though there are brief scenes where Kirk and Bones debate whether or not they should interfere with Spock’s private business, for the most part, this story is Spock interacting with guest characters – and unlike some of the show’s best Spock episodes, there’s very little out of the ordinary for Spock. He is confronted with a problem that he intends to solve logically. Without a better conflict for his character, Spock can be a dreary protagonist without being able to play off the other Enterprise crew.
This is also one of the issues of New Visions that leans most heavily on CG environments and photographed models, rather than screenshots from Star Trek itself. While the CG works in a certain kitschy way – maintaining the colorful angularity of the original show’s set design – Byrne’s use of photo models for some side characters is jarringly apparent, especially when standing next to an image of Spock grabbed from the late ‘60s. It looks like Byrne tried to reduce the photo quality on these characters a bit to make them blend in better, but the result is just that some characters appear a bit blurry. Readers of New Visions to this point will probably tolerate these visual bumps, but newcomers may find the overall package rather unattractive.
In the end, this ninth issue of Byrne’s Star Trek series will strike returning readers as somewhat repetitive, and new readers as almost amateurish. Though Byrne maintains his usual command of the characters in question – and, to be fair, “The Hollow Man” could easily be mistaken for a Star Trek episode on plot alone – this is one of his weakest efforts in the series to date. Byrne has produced better stories with essentially the same premise, and with more visual flair to boot.