With the theatrical debut of J.J. Abrams’ extremely anticipated “Star Trek: Into Darkness” only a little over a month away, IDW Publishing concludes its lead-in to the movie with this week’s “Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness” #4 by writer Mike Johnson and artist David Messina.
So far, Johnson has taken readers to a strange planet where a civil war has broken out among the native species. After Kirk and crew land planetside, however, they discover that one side of the civil war is being led by former — and presumed dead — USS Enterprise Captain Robert April. As the series races towards its final issue, April has retaken control of the USS Enterprise and a war with the Klingons looms on the horizon.
Johnson spoke with CBR about “Countdown to Darkness,” explaining what the series is building towards, how closely he worked with “Into Darkness” producer Robert Orci on the story and what he has coming up in his ongoing “Star Trek” series.
CBR News: Mike, with everything that’s happened so far in “Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness,” what should readers expect to happen in the big conclusion? Will any new crewmembers or famous locales from Treks-past be showing up in the last issue?
Mike Johnson: The threat of a galaxy-spanning conflict breaking out between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. No new crewmembers [appear], but aside from April, we meet a character named Mudd. Unlike the chubby guy in the mustache from the original series, this Mudd is a young, female Bajoran. The explanation for this difference will be revealed as the series unfolds.
Obviously this Mudd is very different from her precursor, but which of the re-booted characters is most like their pre-booted version? Which is most unlike the pre-booted version?
I think they’re all fundamentally the same, despite the alternate timeline, but if I had to choose (and I’m talking about the characters, not the actors, who are all equally fantastic), I’d say McCoy is most like his doppelganger, simply because his cynical Southern charm is one of the few constants in the multiverse.
The most different is Kirk, only because in this new timeline he grew up without his father. I think we saw the extent to which that made him different play out in the last movie, especially when Pike came to recruit him. After that, we saw his core character come through, the one that is the same in both timelines: smart, brave, an explorer and a natural leader.
Would you consider “Countdown to Darkness” essential reading for fans to fully enjoy the new film? How closely to the start of “Into Darkness” does “Countdown to Darkness” plan on leaving off?
As with the previous “Countdown” for the 2009 movie, reading the prequel will give you extra context for what happens in the film you wouldn’t otherwise have had, along with references and in-jokes you wouldn’t notice otherwise. This time, we get to carry the story on after the movie, too, so in the comics you will get a story that continues from Countdown, goes on through the movie and picks up again in the ongoing Trek comic series as we show the aftermath.
As for how close we leave off in the comic before the movie starts: Very.
What’s the writing process like in writing what’s the official prequel to such a big-budget movie where every tidbit of info is closely guarded? Do you find it at all constraining?
I hash out the story with (“Star Trek” writer/producer) Bob Orci, then I listen to the “Enterprising Young Men” track from the 2009 movie score by Michael Giacchino at a very high volume. Then, I write the script, and we make any necessary changes before it goes to print. It’s a challenge trying to not spill secrets, but at the same time having those limitations often results in cool things you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
In addition to this mini and the ongoing “Star Trek” series, you also wrote “Countdown,” the prequel comic for J.J. Abrams’ first “Star Trek” film. What do you love so much about the “Star Trek” universe?
I love that it’s “our” universe. It’s a story about our Earth, our future, and instead of the typical post-apocalyptic stuff we see everywhere, it shows an Earth where we were able to figure things out and come together, where the label “human” was more important than any particular nationality or religion. In a nutshell, “Star Trek” is about hope.
Did you get to spend any time on the set of “Star Trek: Into Darkness?”
I am an idiot, because I was invited to visit but couldn’t make it at the time (short of a transporter beam helping me get there), and by the time I was able to go, the shoot had wrapped. But I got my set fix on the first movie, when I sat in the Captain’s chair and ran around the bridge pushing buttons.
Have you had any feedback from J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Robert Orci or Alex Kurtzman on any of your “Star Trek” work?
I get feedback and direction directly from Orci. Hopefully the rest of the gang digs it! Damon had kind words for the original “Countdown” comic on the last movie’s DVD commentary, which was extremely cool of him.
Could we see a Mike Johnson credit on a future “Star Trek” film?
I’d love to write a movie, and especially a “Trek” movie, but I feel so fortunate already to write “Trek” for comics.
“Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness” and “Star Trek” #20, both written by Mike Johnson, come out this Wednesday, April 10, from IDW Publishing.