Not since 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond have we been treated to an adventure starring the characters of The Original Series (TOS). Star Trek: Year Five offers a fresh take on TOS, creating modern stories juxtaposed with the classic look and feel of 60s Trek. It’s exciting to spend time with the classic versions of these characters and uncover the hidden journeys never before seen in the Enterprise’s legendary five year mission. Let’s warp in.
Issue ten of Star Trek: Year Five brings war to the crew of the Enterprise. On the planet of I’Qos, the ocean-dwelling I’Qosa and the land-dwelling Lo’Kari wage a bitter battle while Spock, Sulu, and Chekov attempt to escape the planet with their lives. The war had been coming for years, but thanks to a mishap from Chekov, the fire of a phaser has instigated the conflict.
Now, along with Sulu’s love Ayal, Sulu, Spock and Checkov are taken prisoner by the Lo’Kari after an attempt to hide on land. We see Sulu lash out at Chekov for accidently instigating the conflict and endangering Ayal. This is quite shocking considering the crew of the Enterprise rarely had interpersonal conflicts with other crew members in TOS. Conflicts were usually external and involved malicious aliens or spatial anomalies and were never between friends. Year Five allows the writers to expand beyond the limits of TOS and explore the characters’ relationships in a deeper way.
Hold your breath
Our heroes escape the Lo’Kari when Ayal slams through the ground beneath them, revealing water below. They jump through the hole, allowing them to swim away from their captors. We see Sulu plead with Spock to hail the Enterprise so that they may assist with photon torpedoes. Spock shuts him down, saying “We cannot involve ourselves in matters of war… despite your feelings for their species”. While he never states it directly, Spock is, of course, making a reference to the Prime Directive in Star Trek: Year Five.
Starfleet’s policy of non-interference is a central theme throughout Star Trek. “A starship captain’s most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive”, says James T. Kirk in the episode, “The Omega Glory”. Many Trek episodes involve our characters debating the morality of the Prime Directive and whether or not they should follow it. TOS played it fast and loose with the Prime Directive, as it was not yet clearly defined. Here we see Sulu come to terms with his duty as a Starfleet officer versus his personal desire to help Ayal’s people.
Ayal then summons a massive sea-monster from the depths to lay waste to the Lo’Kari. Another benefit of the Year Five comic: we can see the original Enterprise crew face threats that were inconceivable due to the limits of 1960s technology. Sulu and Ayal then share a heartfelt farewell and embrace before parting ways for perhaps the last time. Who knew Sulu was such a romantic? Ayal also gives Sulu a vial of liquid that she claims will heal Captain Kirk aboard the Enterprise. Chekov offers to test the liquid on his arm to make sure it is safe for human use.
Love vs Logic
Safely aboard their shuttlecraft, Sulu tries to reason with Spock. He wants him to understand his perspective: the I’Qosa were the victims and the Lo’Kari were the aggressors. But there is no arguing with a Vulcan. Logic always wins. Spock makes the claim that “There are never winners in war” and that both sides are to blame. Sulu dismisses this and shuns Spock, again showing us a new and different side of Sulu. One that has agency and individual wants and feelings.
Sulu recommends to Spock that he distance himself from Chekov. Spock agrees that Chekov needs more training, and assigns him off the bridge. Spock then appoints Lt. Arex to take his place. Lt. Arex himself is an interesting Easter egg, as he was only previously seen in Star Trek: The Animated Series.
We close out the issue with Sulu back in his quarters. He reflects on his time with Ayal, hoping to one day be with her again. Issue #10 of Star Trek: Year Five brought us to action, emotion, and a more subtle side of an arguably one-dimensional character, Hikaru Sulu. Hopefully, this attention to the minor characters will continue as this series progresses.