“Well, thank you, lord. My day’s complete.”
The third and final alien race is courted in this issue... this time, it’s the Toth, a nomadic race that lives entirely aboard spaceships and are the best space-based warriors in the galaxy. Each issue thus far has not only moved the Palafox rebellion closer to a reality, there has also been an increase in contact/conflict with Rok. In issue 47, there was merely the debate between the two parties on the part of the alien race sought to switch sides. In issue 48, there was some conflict over rescuing the ants’ queen. Here, Rok actually sends his own emissary to meet with the Rok at the same time as Palafox to attempt to convince them to remain loyal.
The debate over who to stand by basically comes down to a he said/he said perspective: was Palafox a tyrant or a benevolent leader? Is Rok a liberator and saviour of the galaxy or an ungrateful usurper? Strangely, the leader of the Toth, Debardinis, doesn’t actually shed much light on what may be the truth. Despite his past associations with Palafox when he was still in power, we aren’t given much information as to what he actually thinks of Palafox or Rok. It’s not something you necessarily notice on a first read as Peter David adds a lot of distractions and drama with Izak returning as the emissary’s bodyguard, Junior spying on Iron Angel, and as much going on to cover for the fact that David purposefully obscures what the truth may be. Since Debardinis is an old ally of Palafox and has also led the Toth during Rok’s reign, he should, you would assume, be able to recognise who was the better ruler more easily than is presented here.
Unless there is very little difference between the two. While there have been two pictures presented of Palafox and Rok to this point, each man has the same two attributed to them. Both are described as either the best thing to ever happen to the galaxy or as the worst thing to ever happen to the galaxy. There is no middle ground. There are either blind, devoted followers or the most hated enemies one could ever hope to find. It’s presented that if one is at one end of that spectrum then the other is at the other... but, maybe they’re just the same and Debardinis knows this and has to decide between the lesser of two evils.
Ultimately, it comes down to the emissary of Rok seemingly murdering one of Debardinis’s children. For no reason. At all. And everyone buys it without question. It’s one of the big missteps of David’s run, because it is so obvious what has happened. The only thing it has working in its favour is that Debardinis’s other child names the emissary as the murderer and who would question the word of a child? But... why would he kill Debardinis’s child? He’s trying to win the support of the Toth and he would randomly kill their leader’s kid? That no one questions this has always bothered me when the answer was simple. Who had the most to gain from the emissary seemingly killing the child?
Tomorrow: “The Battle for a Galaxy” in Dreadstar #50.