Warp Factor Trek

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As Jean-Luc Picard’s time at Starfleet Academy continues, how does he fare in the third issue of the IDW comics mini-series about this era? Is issue #3 an unqualified success, worth beaming into at warp speed? Is the story boldly going where no Academy tale has gone before, or is it a study in interstellar monotony?

Log Entry

Picard and his classmates are about to undertake a practice run at the evasive maneuvers exam. Picard tolerates his friend Doq voicing a simple playful pun but, when Nirula and K’Ccyt make an apparently crude joke and erupt into hysterics, Picard angrily shouts at them about the exam being as soon as the next day. His response is ridiculed by the Orion Nirula, who addresses him using incorrect initials. The Betazoid Reshan Dar, annoyed that the group hasn’t decided who amongst them will lead, is highly critical of Picard; he has just literally assumed leadership. The group fails the test, much to the amusement of K’Ccyt and Nirula.

K’Ccyt and Nirula laugh at the failure of the evasive maneuvers exam

The result of the practice run frustrates Picard, who concedes that Doq might be better at pep talks than he is. Picard is determined to beat the test with full marks, since it will enable him to graduate early. On his way out of the testing facility, Picard is accosted by Resh. An argument ensues between the two cadets, Resh admitting to some of his own flaws but then mentally forcing his way into Picard’s mind without permission. Picard manages to cut off Resh’s telepathic intrusion and a physical fight breaks out between them, only for Marty Batanides to put an end to it.

Between them, Doq and Batanides carry the bruised and battered Picard out of the training facility. Batanides interrupts Doq to say that Picard would have been fine without them. Picard, though, is wrestling with feelings of inadequacy. However, he is grateful for the help of his two friends. He and Batanides disclose that they are nervous about going into space for the exam because they’ve never been there before, which Batanides points out is a fact that bonds them. At her suggestion, all three stay the night in the same room as each other. Doq boasts about having gone to space many times before.

Doq, Picard, and Batanides on a bed together

The next day, Professor Galen asks Picard why he looks beaten up, but he says he had a fall, an excuse which Galen accepts. Picard meanwhile feels relieved to have expressed his nervousness to Batanides and Doq. Even for Resh to have admitted some of his own shortcomings has made Picard feel better. He’s determined to prove to them all that he isn’t weak.

Status Report

With the second issue having ended on a cliffhanger where Picard realised that he and his classmates would have to collaborate well enough to pass the evasive maneuvers exam, jumping straight into an emulation of that test gives us an action-packed start to this issue. On the other hand, the comic’s formatting is annoyingly still not entirely explained, as it’s unclear who is commenting in particular captions that have brown backgrounds and white lettering that casually critiques Picard’s academic performance. This commentary is used to good effect here.

Picard’s choice of maneuver is criticised by the anonymous captions

When Nirula and K’Ccyt (here colloquially referred to as “Nir” and “K”)  are teasing Picard, they refer to him as “JC”. This is effective, as it demonstrates just how little they respect him; they clearly don’t care to even use his correct initials.

Both Picard’s lack of social skills and particular characters amongst his classmates continue to antagonise him. However, Picard himself would be the last person to acknowledge that his obsessive approach to his classwork is blinding him to the reality that he should be endeavouring to improve his socialising. That he is still dealing with this exact same personality flaw as at the start of the Picard’s Academy mini-series makes the story feel monotonous. It also shows that he hasn’t even learned to overcome his social problem by speaking about it with the likes of Boothby (in issue #1) and Spock (in issue #2).

The immature emotions of Picard’s classmates are clearly running rampant, which is realistic (given that young adults often experience high levels of hormones), even if the Federation in general is basically a mature utopia. Issue #3, to its credit, makes the story personal for not only Picard but also some of his peers, having Resh admit that he’s imperfect and Batanides reveal that she’s never been to space. As for Doq, it’s surprising that he has been to space more times than Picard, though this syncs well with the fact that Doq, like Guinan, is El-Aurian.

Resh invading Picard’s mind

Resh’s intrusion into Picard’s mind is severe, setting a precedence for numerous later events, such as the times when Picard had to counsel Deanna Troi after she was mind-raped, his assimilation by the Borg when he became Locutus, and when his mind was invaded by a Kataan probe that gave him the identity of Kamin. The sequence shows us that a symbol on the Betazoid Resh’s forehead lights blue when he is in telepathic contact, though the in-universe explanation for precisely why this kind of symbol hasn’t been established before is unknown, especially odd considering that many Betazoids appear in canon Star Trek. Having Resh learn a lot about Picard during the telepathic invasion sequence essentially ups the stakes, since it provides Picard’s opponent with emotional ammunition.

Indeed, this issue’s conclusion unfortunately makes it clear that Picard’s situation will likely worsen before it improves, since he still doesn’t seem to learn the lesson that he should improve on his social skills. On the other hand, the way that this issue ultimately returns the focus back to him, after giving us some psychological exploration of his classmates, is fitting and well done (the mini-series is, after all, called “Picard’s Academy”).

This issue has a couple of alternative covers

None of the covers for this issue seem particularly relevant to the story being told. Even so, it’s nice that there are a variety of covers available.

Delta2
Rating: 2/5

There is very little plot development in this third issue and the reason for that is unclear. It certainly doesn’t deliver what issue #2 seemed to promise we’d get here: the actual evasive maneuvers exam, not just a practice for it. As a result, this part of the mini-series could have been far greater than it is. At least we get some character development for Picard’s classmates, but it’s not enough to save this issue from mediocrity.

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