Robert April was the first captain of the Enterprise, introduced in animated Star Trek.
News of the casting of Adrian Holmes (pictured above) as Robert April in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds got fans talking. Many felt thrilled the series was drawing a character from Star Trek: The Animated Series. That series’ last episode, “The Counter-Clock Incident,” established Robert April as the first captain of the Enterprise. It also established Dr. Sarah April, his wife, was “the first medical officer aboard a ship equipped with warp drive.” (Sorry, Dr. Phlox.) Other fans voiced displeasure that Welsh-Canadian actor Holmes is a Black man, while April in “The Counter-Clock Incident” is a white man.
Fred Bronson—who wrote “The Counter-Clock Incident” under the pseudonym “John Culver” because he worked for NBC at the time—seemed thrilled an animated Trek character he created is appearing in live-action after nearly half a century:
Prior to Strange New Worlds, Robert April made one other canonical appearance. More accurately, his name did. When Saru reviews a list of Starfleet’s most decorated starship captains in the Star Trek: Discovery episode “Choose Your Pain,” the name of Robert April leads it. But April has shown up in licensed projects, including Diane Carey’s 1988 novel Final Frontier and Marvel Comics’ Star Trek: Early Voyages.
Whether Adrian Holmes plays a character written to feel like Robert April in “The Counter-Clock Incident” matters more than whether the actor happens to look like the cartoon. Here’s what the series must do to get Robert April right.
What “The Counter-Clock Incident” Shows Us About Robert April
First airing on October 12, 1974, “The Counter-Clock Incident” sees the Enterprise ferrying Commodore Robert April and Dr. Sarah April to Babel, where Robert, who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, is to be honored for his two decades’ service as a Federation ambassador. An encounter with an alien vessel near Beta Niobe leads the Enterprise to a “reverse universe,” causing the grew to grow ever younger. Ultimately, Robert April, again in the prime of life, takes command of the Enterprise one last time, saving the ship and its crew, using the transporter to return everyone to their correct age. In light of April’s heroism, Starfleet will reconsider his forced retirement and consider his appeal to continue diplomatic service.
“The Counter-Clock Incident” runs less than a half-hour. Neither Robert April nor Sarah emerges as especially rich, complex characters. But what characterization the episode’s tight runtime does allows establishes some touchstones to which any depiction of Robert April must conform.
Robert April loves the Enterprise.
“No matter where I’ve traveled in the galaxy, Jim,” April tells Captain Kirk, “this bridge is more like home than anywhere else.” He still has as much love for the ship as Kirk, its current captain, does.
April tells Kirk the Enterprise “was always like [April’s] child.” He even watched its components being built in the San Francisco Navy Yards. Also, he knows about the Enterprise’s previous visit to Beta Niobe (in the original series episode “All Our Yesterdays”), suggesting he followed the ship’s adventures after his captaincy with interest.
Strange New Worlds must show us that while Robert April moved on in his Starfleet career, he left some part of his heart on the Enterprise.
Robert April loves his wife, Dr. Sarah April.
The only real competition the Enterprise has for Robert’s affections is Sarah, his wife, and a space exploration pioneer in her own right. “The Counter-Clock Incident” never explicitly states she served as the Enterprise’s CMO, although Dr. McCoy credits her with designing many tools he uses in Sickbay.
Dr. April is a smart and sensitive woman whom Robert clearly loves. When they consider remaining young at the episode’s end, Robert tells Sarah, “I don’t want to live it all over again. I couldn’t improve one bit on what we’ve had together.”
Strange New Worlds would do well to either mention Dr. April at some point, or, better yet, cast an actor to play the role, given her importance to Robert April.
Robert April lives by Starfleet’s highest ideals of service.
As Aaron Harvey and Rich Schepis write in their guide to the animated Star Trek, in “The Counter-Clock Incident” “Bronson brilliantly addressed ageism, explaining to his audience that just because someone is older, it does not mean they can no longer be of use to society” (page 148).
Robert April wants his life to matter not only to himself but also to others. He wants to continue serving the Federation—indeed, as he says, “the galaxy”—for as long as he is able.
Strange New Worlds will have to show us that Robert April lives by the same philosophy of committed, lifelong service.
If the Robert April Adrian Holmes plays on Strange New Worlds has values and principles that align with the Robert April we met in “The Counter-Clock Incident,” this newest Star Trek series will have given fans a worthy incarnation of one of the oldest figures in franchise lore.