Review: IDW’s Star Trek: Discovery – Captain Saru (spoiler free)


Captain Saru gets to shine in this Star Trek: Discovery one-shot from IDW Publishing set after the first season. It doesn’t disappoint.

I can’t quite get enough of Star Trek: Discovery at the moment. I’m hoping it’s a bubble that won’t burst but I feel I’m being spoiled by the phenomenal strength of Season 2. I haven’t looked forward to a weekly episode of Star Trek since the latter years of Deep Space Nine, so when the opportunity to review IDW‘s latest Disco title came my way, I jumped at the chance. We previewed it here.

Kristen Beyer, Disco staff writer and Trek novelist, is again on hand with Mike Johnson, veteran Trek comics author while Angel Hernández is on art duties and they are clearly quite a team: solo, they’re more than impressive; as a triumvirate they are pretty unstoppable.

However, the first hurdle to get over is to stop gazing at the stunning Paul Shipper cover. If you can do that then hopefully you won’t regret what you find inside.

Yes, the conceit that one of the crew is coincidentally aboard another Starfleet vessel, the USS Dorothy Garrod, that has gone missing and that USS Discovery, undergoing a refit of sorts back in Earth orbit, is the only ship available to investigate, is very old school Trek,  but that actually gives Captain Saru a grounding, that we are in a modern version of what we know and on very familiar territory.

Set before the finale of Season 1 and in the aftermath of the war with the Klingons, Admiral Cornwell assigns acting-Captain Saru to track Garrod‘s last known location, with only Burnham and a skeleton crew under his command.

Beyer naturally finds Saru and Burnham’s voices and their intonations, their very inflections jump off the page. It’s a delight. It really is. Bolted on to Hernández’s respectful and spot-on artwork, for me it’s the most Disco-esque of all of IDW’s output so far and very much a companion piece to the character-centric second season.

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This is Saru’s story. When the plot is fully underway, he rarely shares panels with anyone else, whether that’s Burnham or this story’s antagonists (of whom we don’t learn much but who are definitely familiar to Trek fans, thereby negating the need for any background exposition). His dialogue is true to form, he has logic and understanding. In many ways, he is the moral compass for the series and with his threat ganglia still in place, he is able to control events around him far more than I would have unfairly (on my part) not given him credit for.

His antagonists express an element of racism towards him, which is unexpected in today’s fragile times, but nevertheless understandable from a story perspective. The antagonists don’t really give a toss about political correctness and I admire Beyer and Johnson’s courage in raising it. Saru of course is given the best responses to the negativity he is presented with and it reinforces the concept of Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations as well as the notion that not every civilized race in Roddenberry’s idealistic future is accepting.

Burnham is given second place here but some great scenes that top and tail the story. As much as I consider Saru to be the series’ anchor for right and wrong, Burnham here is presented as the focus for Saru, which is a great development, especially seeing as they had something of a fractious working relationship in the past.

Season 1 of Discovery was often criticized for its negative view of Trek. I didn’t really pick up on that to the extent of some: these guys were at war with the Klingons and with some Mirror Universe counterparts getting in on the act, there was little room for pleasantries.  But we establish here in Captain Saru that the Federation, that Starfleet, is as healthy as it ever was and always will be (just ignore Section 31!) and that the respect the USS Discovery crew has for each other is really on display.

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There is, then, as much as a stand-alone story here for Saru as there is a precursor to the style of writing and essence that Season 2 adopted. For a comic book spin-off to evolve just as its parent show has is a testament to the care IDW rightly demand in their output. The quality of Star Trek‘s existence in this media is secure.