Star Trek Lives Long & Prospers in "Year Four"

Space...the Final Frontier.

These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Unfortunately for Captain James Tiberius Kirk and his crew, the "mission" stopped short at three years – Stardate 5928.5 to be exact – following a run-in with one of the captain's old academy flames who tricked him into swapping bodies in an effort to kill him off as the now "dominant" male.

But lo and behold, thanks to fine folks at IDW Publishing, the Enterprise is primed to embark on the fourth year of its mission with a new captain at the helm as writer David Tischman takes on "Star Trek: Year Four" in an upcoming series set to debut in July.

No stranger to Gene Roddenberry's universe, Tischman previously penned the six-issue mini-series "Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Space Between" for IDW but characterizes writing "Year Four" as his own personal Kobayashi Maru.

"The Kobayashi Maru is a test Starfleet cadets take, a no-win situation. It's a test of character. I feel the same way about writing 'Star Trek: Year Four,' Tischman told CBR News. I had a great time on 'Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Space Between' and think my issues were fun and exciting and worked, but the original series is a completely different experience.

"I'm working hard - and the writing's been harder than I expected - but I think the stories are better because of the extra work. James T. Kirk is the only cadet to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru, and he cheated. I've faced no-win situations before. And I'm not above cheating. We'll see how I do," said Tischman, who is too young to remember the original airings in the late 1960s, but was a big fan when the episodes were rerun in syndication.

"I was sitting in our family room, too close to a humongous color console. 'Star Trek' came on right after 'Batman.' Channel 11, WPIX, out of New York. The episode that day was 'What Are Little Girls Made Of?' Androids and voice-throwing and bottomless caverns and phasers, you had me on 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,'" quipped Tischman.

The writer of Vertigo's top-selling "Bite Club" says he continues to watch the original episodes on TV Land and G4, "but I watch them as I see them – I want the reference, but I prefer the random nature of syndication to give me an honest refresher of the series as a whole."

"A Piece of the Action" and "The Cloud Minders" are must-see episodes according to Tischman and calls Year One's "Balance of Terror" his all-time favorite.

Tischman himself holds Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in great reverence and considers the three main characters of the original series the holy trinity of science fiction.

"Kirk is the ultimate adventurer. He's Tom Sawyer and Buck Rogers and Allen Quartermain all wrapped up in one – and capable of one of the longest dramatic pauses on record," explained Tischman. "Spock is the adolescent geek in all of us. Too smart for his own good, with something really special inside, who desperately wants to fit in and find a place where he can belong. The neck pinch thing and limited telepathy are icing on the cake. McCoy is crabby. I like crabby. There are too many stupid people asking for stupid things in the world. McCoy can't be bothered with that. He's great at what he does, and he lets his emotions guide his conscience. It's a good lesson – more people should listen to it."

Tischman says his take on the Enterprise and its crew will be one of respect and a sense of nostalgia and believes fans of the show will expect nothing less and the next generation of readers will pick up the characters' nuances and subtleties faster than Hikaru Sulu can break the time barrier.

"My goal is to stay 100% true to the series. Period," said Tischman. "If there's going to be a new generation of readers, they'll fall in love with the same characters – and characterizations – they'll find in the original TV show."

And while Tischman says the focus of his book will be on Kirk and the main cast, he will definitely be using all the minor characters, as well.

"I actually have a huge fondness for the lesser-used characters," explained Tischman. "Nurse Chapel and Commander Kyle and Riley and I wish Yeoman Rand was still around in the fourth season, but she's not."

According to Tischman, the series will run for six issues and Year Five is not a guarantee – yet.

"I try not to get too far ahead. I try to concentrate on one issue at a time, actually. So, the truth is, I have the first and second issue written, the third issue plotted out and I know what I want to do for No. 4," said Tischman. "We have several approved ideas for the remaining issues, but let's see where we are after No. 4 before we commit to the final two issues. Who knows, an unbelievably good idea may come up between now and then."

For now, Tischman has no plans to include someone crying the alter ego of Ricardo Montalbán's name in vain, but admits – with nothing off-limits in terms of characters and plotlines – there will be a healthy dose of fanboy moments in "Year Four."

"'Star Trek II' is my favorite of the movies and I still believe Montalbán should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but no Khan here. But mind melds and neck pinches, any chance I get," explained Tischman.

As for Klingons and Romulans, Tischman says it may be a case of been there, done that. Got the redshirt.

"I kind of feel like we've had enough Worf episodes and IDW is exploring enough Klingon heritage in 'Blood Will Tell.' And the Romulans have been covered in 'Nemesis' and several of the series. I'd like to steer away from using the Klingons and the Romulans, unless the story 100% needs them," said Tischman, who hopes his material will be worthy of becoming official Star Trek canon.

"I don't know exactly how these issues are considered. That's really a question for Chris Ryall at IDW or Paula Block at CBS Consumer Products, who's the official Star Trek person for Viacom. I'd like to hope the issues are good enough and fit into continuity well enough that they could be considered canon," said Tischman.

Beyond Tischman's Year Four reclamation project, Joss Whedon has breathed new life into his "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" franchise by presenting Season 8 in comic book form. Tischman credits the phenomenon with the simple fact that the numbers needed to succeed in comics is smaller than the number needed in TV and movies.

"It's as simple as that," explained Tischman. "Comics can also tell multiple-issue stories without having to worry about delivering 22 new episodes to the network. And that's one of the reasons comics today can be so great. Comics allow these fan-favorite franchises to live on, to explore the worlds created in TV and movies and to add to the existing universes. Comics give the fans an outlet, and that's always a good thing."

Tischman also has a creator-owned book from Vertigo forthcoming that will be announced this year at San Diego and is writing "Johnny Dollar," based on his favorite 1950s radio drama character, for Moonstone.

"I have two or three other cool things I can't talk about yet. I'm busy, which is great. And I'd love to do more 'Trek,' as much as they'll let me. 2008 is going to be a fun year," said Tischman.

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