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Planet Killer

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 12, 2001 - 5:14 PM GMT

'Planet Killer' - image copyright Pocket Books, Paramount Title: 'Star Trek: Voyager - Planet Killer'
Authors: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Publication Date: January-March 2001
Format: Comic Book

Wildstorm brings back the devil right out of hell in the Planet Killer comic series, with a twist -- there are no desperate commodores in this story, and it's set in the Delta Quadrant. Janeway still hasn't identified her adversary by the end of the first issue, but original series fans will already have recognized 'The Doomsday Machine.'

Of course, this isn't the same device Captain Kirk destroyed in the episode of that name, but its modus operandi is the same: the planet killer powers itself by devouring planets in its path, while its impenetrable neutronium hull defends against all who resist it. Built as an ultimate weapon of destruction, it has survived its extinct builders...and no one knows how to turn it off. The new doomsday machine has just destroyed eight planets when Janeway decides to try to help the local aliens by engaging it.

The lives of millions of inhabitants depend on Voyager after their fleet's destruction. Original series fans will recall that Kirk destroyed the first planet killer by ramming a damaged starship down its throat and blowing it up. Once Harry Kim recalls Kirk's heroics, Janeway thinks her problems are solved, for Voyager has tractored a damaged alien vessel from a nearby planet threatened by the Doomsday Machine. But the tactic fails.

Seven admits that the Borg fared even worse than Starfleet against this menace, which proved impossible to assimilate. She wonders whether her nanoprobes might offer a tactic for neutralizing the weapon, but there's no way to beam her inside the device and expect her to survive long enough to infect it. Things look grim -- both for the aliens and the crew of Voyager, which has taken a pounding while trying to disable the planet killer.

Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch make many references in this three-comic series to 'The Doomsday Machine'; the threatened aliens are called the Rekced (read it backwards) and the warrior saved by Voyager is named Tam (ditto). Much of the second book stylishly recalls the adventures of Kirk, Spock, and Commodore Decker from the original episode.

Annoyingly, Seven of Nine identifies the device before anyone else on the crew recognizes it -- she labels it a weapon of the extinct species 4672. (Was the planet killer engaged by the Borg the same one that later attacked the Alpha Quadrant? Otherwise, there must be an awful lot of these devices roaming the Milky Way.) Even more annoyingly, Seven comes up with the idea that ends up resolving the crisis, though her physiology limits her role in its execution; those heroics are left to the other two usual Voyager gimmicks, the Doctor's holographic physiology and Paris' hotshot piloting.

Still, the story is engaging and the artwork excellent. All the characters are immediately recognizable, with the exception of a dreadful cover of Janeway who for some reason has brown eyes throughout. The Doctor and Kirk in particular are well-drawn. Though much of the action involves the crew discussing what to do about the menace outside, the panels avoid "talking heads" syndrome. The planet killer doesn't actually appear in all its glory until late in the first comic; illustrator Robert Teranishi keeps the bulk of the device out of most of the panels, employing the horror movie effect of not showing the monster up close until the end.

Unfortunately, Wildstorm has jammed these issues so full of advertisements that it's easy to get distracted. One full-page depiction of the planet killer's violence looks like it's part of an MP3 ad on the facing page. This series does not answer lingering questions left over from Norman Spinrad's original script, such as why their creators sent the planet-killers on such a long trajectory.

All in all, Planet Killer offers a nice reprisal of a perennially popular original series episode. Janeway's crew has one of its finer moments fighting 'The Doomsday Machine.'

This is the seventh installment in a series of regular book reviews Michelle Erica Green is writing for the Trek Nation. You will soon be able to find her reviews in a new column entitled 'The Book Padd'.

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Michelle Erica Green writes regular book reviews for the Trek Nation. She has written television reviews, interviews and other features for sites such as Fandom.com and SlipstreamWeb, as well as a a number of other web sites and magazines.

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