Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Myriad Universes: The Worst of Both Worlds Part 1: The Bludgeonings of Chance
The aptly titled The Worst of Both Worlds is a preternaturally timed story, because it not only ties into the looming Borg zeitgeist of Summer, 1993 by serving as a sequel to “The Best of Both Worlds”, its plot also eerily anticipates some of the repercussions of “Parallels”, to come next year in the TV show's second/seventh season. As has become the standard for Michael Jan Friedman's event miniseries, issue 1, “The Bludgeonings of Chance”, serves as a low-key setup to an assuredly dramatic tale focusing on small vignettes and character monologues (mostly from Captain Picard) to introduce the arc's major themes before the plot itself picks up starting with issue 2. This time around, the crew is talking about the different paths their lives could have taken: As Will and Deanna put it, “what could have been, and what is”. They're having a private dinner together when Will brings up the subject of their terminated romance from years ago, asking Deanna if she ever thought about what would have happened had they stayed together. She replies she thinks about it all the time, but she doesn't regret not choosing that path, because it was their breakup that allowed them to become best friends, and she wouldn't trade that for anything.
Geordi and Beverly are playing racquetball together on the holodeck, and Beverly is winning handily. She tells Geordi not to sweat it as she's had twenty years of practice on him, picking the game up not long after Wesley was born. When he asks how Wes is doing, she replies “better than ever”, saying he's reminding her more and more of Jack all the time. The most obvious foreshadowing comes from Captain Picard on the bridge: The Enterprise is on a supply run to a planet very near the vicinity of Wolf 359 (so near, in fact, you can still see debris from the battle floating around in local space), and the captain can't help but have flashbacks to what happened to him and the galaxy there three years prior. Jean-Luc then goes on to retell the events of “The Best of Both Worlds” for the benefit of newcomers or those who need a refresher, putting special emphasis on how close the Borg came to conquering Earth and what the galaxy might be like today if they had succeeded.
He doesn't have much time to get too introspective, however, as the ship soon runs into a dimensional anomaly that opens up like a gigantic whirlpool right in front of them, threatening to drag them into it. Despite Data and Laren's best efforts, the Enterprise is pulled inside and ejected at the other end, strangely seemingly right back where they started. But as Data explains in the observation lounge to the crew afterward, while they haven't seemed to have moved through space, they've moved through dimensions: In other words, they're in the same location but in an alternate universe. As the crew begins to get their bearings and figure out how different this reality is from the one they come from, they suddenly come across a lone Galaxy-class stardrive section. The Enterprise attempts to make contact, but suddenly the entire bridge crew gets transported en masse, and quite against their will, to the other ship. Friedman doesn't waste any time giving us our gratuitous fight scene, as Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Deanna Troi, Worf, Data, Geordi, Laren and Miles O'Brien all start registering their protests with their captors with their fists.
When everyone calms down, it's revealed this ship is actually this reality's USS Enterprise, under the command of a hardened, calculating, eyepatch wearing Captain William Riker. It turns out that in this universe the crew were unable to break Captain Picard free of the Borg collective, where he remains as Locutus to this day. The Battle of Wolf 359 was far more catastrophic, resulting in not just the loss of Captain Picard, but the saucer section as well as Data, Guinan, Deanna Troi and Keiko O'Brien. The Borg then went on to conquer the known galaxy, with the Enterprise's stardrive section as literally the last remaining independent ship standing against them. And now, Captain Riker wants the crew's help to end their war once and for all. Meanwhile back on our Enterprise, Beverly is left hanging around holding the starship wondering where everyone else went.
With “The Bludgeonings of Chance”, The Worst of Both Worlds is already a powerfully oversignified story. It hints at and makes intuitive evocations of and connections to a lot of other stories, though it curiously doesn't always seem to know how to follow through on them. Its themes and framing device evoke any number stories (“The Battle”, “We'll Always Have Paris”, “The Gift”, “Thin Ice”, the TV “Second Chances” except not shit) and with all the Borg stuff it's of course a great companion piece to “Descent”. Along those lines it also fulfills Friedman's yearly quota of rectifying the borked up mistakes of the TV show by following up on “The Best of Both Worlds” in a far more effective and appropriate manner than “I, Borg” did.
But Wolf 359 also has one more association, and it's curious that Friedman doesn't seem to acknowledge it: That is, of course, “Emissary”, Benjamin Sisko and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in general. Having just finished up its own run of episodes for the year, it's certainly not like the show was any big secret anymore, so it's kind of weird to see it not even get a mention anywhere in this book. Miles O'Brien is even still aboard the Enterprise and being treated as a regular of this cast. Malibu's own Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comic line is still two months out from launching (and you bet we're going to be covering it when the time comes) but it was assuredly in development in June and maybe there was some legal problem involved with referencing Deep Space Nine in the Next Generation line, but it's still kind of counterintuitive given what this story is playing at.
Even among Freidman's own work, the lone, battered stardrive section is of course immediately reminiscent of the recently concluded Separation Anxiety arc which also, coincidentally, prominently featured Miles O'Brien. In fact, the chief played a big role in every story between that one and this one. Someone else who thankfully also carries over from Separation Anxiety is Ro Laren, who spent the entirety of the first/sixth season missing in action, except for “Rascals”, but fuck “Rascals” (and of course, “The Bludgeonings of Chance” dispenses with that episode's own failed interaction with living in the present without regrets in its first couple of pages, delivering a far more satisfying take on those themes). Laren's characterization from the previous story arc carries through here, a loyal and hypercompetent right-hand Bajoran to Captain Picard and the de facto bridge commander in the absence of the senior staff. Hell, on the alternate Enterprise she *is* treated as senior staff by Captain Riker's crew, given a seat in the observation lounge with her shipmates for the first time I think ever!
The Worst of Both Worlds is the DC Star Trek: The Next Generation story arc event miniseries I remember. The Star Lost was the one I had the trade paperback of, but I didn't consciously register that's what I was reading at the time. This was the story I remember seeing advertised: Around about this time, though probably the following year now that I think about it, I had a catalog of Star Trek memorabilia that must have been put out by Paramount and its licensees. Among its wears were things like the typical cosplay uniforms, decorative collector's plates, desk models I think, a copy of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series bible and the trade paperback collection of this story arc. So it's definitely a story that I have fond memories of and one that's going to be particularly fun to revisit, even by the already stellar standards of this series.