One of the fun things about Star Trek fiction is that, over time, it has brushed up against other fictional universes – sometimes very overtly, as in the Star Trek/Green Lantern or Star Trek/Planet of the Apes comics of recent years, and going at least as far back as some peculiar crossovers with the X-Men in the 1990s. Sometimes, though, these cross-dimensional encounters have to be more referential than that, for one reason or other, and that is where New Visions #15 exists. At least, I think so.
I know this will come as a scandalous admission, but I’m not really a Doctor Who fan. I’m fairly ambivalent about it; I’ve picked up an episode here and there, but nothing’s grabbed me enough to really dig in, though its accolades and fervent fandom alone will likely keep the show in my Netflix queue until I feel ready to really give it a shot. That all being said, even I can recognize what’s going on when the Enterprise comes across a strange vessel (bigger on the inside than on the outside, of course) with a single, apparently human occupant who calls himself “the Traveler.” (No, Star Trek fans, as near as I can tell this character is not intended to be connected to the Next Generation character of the same moniker.) The Traveler looks and, to a point, acts rather like the Doctor, right down to an eccentrically flamboyant take on twee 20th century fashion. Surprising no one, the Enterprise is soon beset by hostile ovoid robots. This homage is not precisely 1:1, and writer John Byrne throws in a few twists which will ensure Doctor Who fans won’t quite know the ending from the moment Kirk and crew beam over to the Traveler’s ship, but it’s plain what he’s drawing from.
In that regard, this is also one of the more visually adventurous issues of New Visions. Early in the series, Byrne was mostly creating sets, and the occasional starship, with added CG art. Recently, though, he’s been putting in more CG characters, like the Traveler’s adversaries in this story, populating the corridors of the Enterprise with lifeforms the original television show could never have dreamed of affording to this degree. In that, New Visions has started to take a turn toward The Animated Series; these are the kind of adventures that live-action Star Trek wanted to imply but could rarely execute.
Does that make “The Traveler” a superb story? Well, it’s not the best New Visions has offered up, but it’s fun to see Kirk and Spock grapple (sort of, anyway) with one of sci-fi television’s other great luminaries, and it’s interesting to see Byrne continue to test the boundaries of the photomontage form on which the entire series itself is predicated. Still, though, if your idea of Star Trek is less Kirk and Spock punching guys on top of shuttlecraft and more Kirk and Spock talking about the vastness of existence, it doesn’t get much better these days than New Visions.