Some roommates can’t get along.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #17

Marvel/Paramount Comics (April, 1998)

“Culture Clash”

WRITER: Chris Cooper

PENCILER: John Royle

INKER: Tom Wegrzyn

COLORIST: Kevin Somers

LETTERER: Jim Novak

EDITOR: Bobbie Chase

On Deep Space Nine for layover before returning to Earth, Halakith (the lizard lady from the previous issue) refuses to share a cabin with Yoshi after finding out he’s gay, a response that infuriates Yoshi. While Omega Squadron tries to find common ground between the two (I’ll discuss this part separately), on Vulcan an attempt is made to pull T’Prell’s katra from Selke. However, they’ve been combined for so long that this is impossible and the two persona now battle for dominance. Unfortunately any “damage” one makes to the other in the mental landscape the other receives the same injury. With Zund’s help Edam manages to convince the two minds to work together, forming a persona part T’Prell and part Selke, taking the former’s name out of convenience. Halakith is assigned to Yoshi’s group and the new T’Prell is welcomed back to her friends, with Zund agreeing to use her Trill experience to help her accept this new consciousness.

What they got right: The two clashes work together thematically even though they never touch narratively. You have Halakith, member of a dying race, finding homosexual relations unnatural while Yoshi is also understandable upset by what he perceives as her bigotry. Meanwhile you have the Vulcan and Romulan sides of “T’Prell” also having to find common ground between their two cultures, with the Vulcan priestess noting that this may be a sign favorable to the Vulcan/Romulan reunification Spock is working towards.

What they got wrong: Under the circumstances it might have been better to have Halakith join the Omegas. With Nog on DS9  (because he was back on the show) they have an opening in their ranks, just as they did with Kamilah died (or did she?) and Edam was added to fill out the numbers. Considering the next issue teases a rematch with First Cadre, the rogue Klingon cadets, they could certainly use her, plus it would be interesting narratively to see how she works with the group as an alien from essentially another dimension. Also, does Jake know Yoshi? He’s barely spent time with Omega Squadron but at least Nog’s letters “home” would have told him about them. Yet here he acts like they’re buds.

Remember when Star Trek actually taught this? (Click for full size.)

What else is there?: As to the Halakith/Yoshi dynamic specifically, and either they didn’t hear what happened or someone at the Academy hopes that by being forced to train together they may find common ground, it’s interesting how this story approaches the points of view between the two, especially considering how it would be done today. Instead of immediately painting Halakith as a homophobe scumbag there is some reasoning behind her perspective. As mentioned her race was already dying and now she is the last. For a race in such a position relations that by biology wouldn’t produce much needed offspring being seen as taboo makes sense and they do try to relate to her perspective based on that. Captain Sisko mentions it outright (see image right) as well as noting that different species have different cultures and the both of them need to accept that agreement to disagree and not impose one point of view over another (Halakith and Yoshi both). He even brings up Yoshi and the other cadet’s own biases when it came to Nog, a Ferengi, joining Starfleet Academy as Earth in this universe has expelled the nature of currency overly embraced by Nog’s people. The early issues you may recall were partially about learning to accept Nog among them by Matt, the other members of Omega Squadron, and to a lesser extent Yoshi since he was on a different squad but friends with Matt. Matt also brings up a pre-contact race currently under study that is divided by two opposing points of view, and how it tore the two groups of the same race apart by actions they probably both regret on some level.

At the same time Halakith’s point of view is still called into question in the more welcoming nature of the Federation. One example Pava gives are all-female crews of Andorian ice schooners finding…a method of curing the loneliness. (And Jake proving that perving still exists in the 24th century.) The comic doesn’t take one side or the other but, in keeping with T’Prell/Selke’s own struggle, tries to find common ground in understanding why Halakith thinks what she does without condoning those beliefs. In a modern story Halakith would immediately be treated as wrong and hateful, and she would either not have been recruited or possibly shoved out an airlock or joining some anti-gay fanatic group that tries to kill Yoshi to show how bad it is to hate homosexuals. Although admittedly a case could be made that it leans more towards Yoshi it’s due to the acceptance of that version of Earth and the Federation as a whole but admits that as a dying race something that would not benefit the attempts to save the species being taboo has some logic to it. Basically Yoshi has the, and please pardon my phrasing, luxury (possibly privilege) of exploring—shall we say non-reproductive orientations while Halakith, who now will have to find someone here that she can reproduce with if only to keep any semblance of her species alive (that would still be interspecies and not full-blooded…whatever her people are called), does not, nor did her people as the birth rate dropped before her people were wiped out.

The only thing that concerns me, and this is may be because of how social issues are heavy-handedly approached by current writers at both Marvel and the Star Trek writing room that wasn’t an issue back in 1998, is that we’ve seen no indication of Yoshi being gay until now. Granted we also saw no indication of him being straight or asexual because his sexual orientation had no bearing on the story (today he’d probably have a rainbow colored Starfleet badge and be very effeminate or something) so it’s not the same as, for example, Bobby  “Iceman” Drake suddenly being a gay character despite years of the contrary in the Marvel Universe, or Sulu being gay in the Kelvin timeline despite protests from Sulu’s original portrayer, who just happens to also be a vocal supporter of gay rights after coming out himself, that Sulu was created as straight in the show. (Then again, the Kelvin movies bare little resemblance to the classic TV continuity anyway.) Overall the way they approached this, tying into the theme of the issue, was well handled and I don’t think today’s writers would even want to attempt this, never mind succeed at it. They seem to be less about understanding and more about…well, being a Borg-like groupthink with no flexibility. Agree with me or die rather than find understanding and compromise, and that does exist to an extent on the other side, it’s just only one of them had a stronghold on the culture and related storytelling outlets right now. Just as T’Prell and Selke had to find common purpose, cultural understanding, and unity–the supposed foundations of the Federation that Starfleet is sworn to protect and promote, so too will Yoshi and Halakith have to learn to accept each other as fellow beings even if they disagree on this issue.

What I think overall: This was a great use of a shared theme, and somehow we still got a bit of action…NOT THAT KIND, JAKE! A better issue that it would have been in 2022 and it will be interesting how this new T’Prell operates…for the few remaining issues in the Marvel/Paramount run.

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About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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