Star Trek #56
DC Comics (November, 1988)
“A Small Matter Of Faith”
WRITER: Martin Pasko
ARTIST: Gray Morrow
COLORIST: Michele Wolfman
LETTERER: Tim Harkins
EDITOR: Robert Greenberger
The Enterprise is transporting radiation victims, one of whom is an old girlfriend of McCoy’s. However, a nearby planet needs supplies so they make what they think will be a short stop with plenty of time to get the victims to a Starbase for treatment. Instead the ship is taken over by En-Lai and his followers who seek a ship to reach the planet Calydon and the “bright lady”, a being who shows up once every few years and brings healing to others. En-Lai is (for lack of a better term) a “faith healer”, but appears to have had actual healing power as some point, which manifests itself the closer they get to Calydon. While the crew try to take back control of the ship Spock stops them, convinced that the legend and En-Lai’s powers are both true and connected. Indeed they are as he and she are two halves of the same being and in a final act heals both the radiation victims and En-Lai’s sick followers.
What they got right: This franchise is not really all that kind to religion and faith. We’re talking about Captain James “Godslayer” Kirk after all. He’s defeated both fake gods and beings with godlike power, a few of which inspired actual religions. (Meanwhile he gave good PR to a Satan analog. It’s part of my joke theory that Kirk serves Satan, whether he knows it or not. Just look as his career and the notches on his bedpost.) While En-Lai’s powers end up being biological rather than paranormal it’s still a change for the series. This includes McCoy, whose father was one of those who believed only God can cure people and died rejecting medical treatment. We also see Starfleet has chaplains and not just a room where marriages are held, which is also a first. (And must be a harder job considering how many religions in Starfleet counter each other, including in deity counts.) It’s not endorsing religion or faith but it does say it shouldn’t be discounted either, which as a Christian I’ll accept from this franchise.
What they got wrong: The guest artist must be using the old Gold Key comics for a guide (the artist had never seen the show) because the bridge doesn’t look like the actual ship. If the radiation is quickly treatable and En-Lai’s people are looking for a ship with casualties, did they just run out of nearby options or did they not realize they have proper treatment for the victims that didn’t need healing like his followers did? And what happens to that stasis technology they found now?
Recommendation: As what I think must have been a filler story (used if the regular creative team can’t make the due date for whatever reason) it isn’t too bad. It’s not pro-religion but it is pro-faith, not condemning believing in a higher power, even if that power is biological. It’s worth a look.