Star Trek: Trill in Review
Star Trek: Trill is the third and final issue in a series of “one shot” comics which focus on one Trek alien race per issue. The other couple of issues in this series feature Ferengi and Klingons. Whereas a Trek fan could easily imagine the scenarios presented in both of those based on title alone, the Trill are less transparent. Although Trill are known for carrying memories, the nature of those memories and the possibilities of how they could operate in the story are infinite. Jody Houser, who has written comics for Stranger Things and Supergirl, focuses this story on a new character: Trill archeologist Vanah.
At the start of the comic, Vanah is exploring some ancient ruins on the planet Hesperides I together with her research assistant, Bessa. During their expedition, Vanah mentions the word “primitive”. Since she is easily convincing as an intrepid Trill archeologist, she should be aware that anthropologists have long abandoned words like that to describe a culture or its artifacts. This is more a problem with the Star Trek franchise than with the author. Star Trek has a long history of cavalierly using the term “primitive” to describe pre-warp people, their lodgings or belongings. So, even though the term is problematic generally, its usage here is in keeping with the franchise as a whole.
Vanah explains that, in order to pursue her career in archeology, she turned down the opportunity to become a host. A Trill turning their back on being joined is almost unheard of, and so Vanah telling this story serves to quickly establish emotional intimacy with both the audience and her fellow Trill, Bessa. Opening up about her past lets you into Vanah’s inner world while also drawing a solid line to connect her past and present.
There’s one specific negative that I hope is merely a typo: Vanah referring to a Trill symbiont as a “symbiote”. It’s odd that this only happens once, with every other reference to a “symbiont” calling it exactly that. A symbiote and a symbiont have about as much in common as a wet chicken and a quantum singularity. Trekkies who are far more persnickety than me about details may interpret this as a breach of trust, because it commits the sin of mixing franchise-specific jargon with another unrelated franchise. That said, while Star Trek’s alpha canon uniformly refers to the magic worms of the Trill as “symbionts”, beta canon has occasionally used “symbiote”, such as in the DS9 novel The Conquered.
After Vanah explains how she declined to become a host, events in the next scene ironically — and with great comedic timing — lead her to being joined. A joined Trill passing away in the vicinity of her remote dig is the triggering event for the character to carry on a tradition she was understandably ambivalent about. Vanah’s joining is like that of Ezri Dax on Deep Space Nine because of their initial lack of access to the caves on Trill to adjust, although Vanah manages to reach those caves shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, a plothole begins to emerge just before the climax, regarding a character’s murderous vendetta. The vengeful character, Murod, is desparate to exact revenge on behalf of his father. Murod has been killing new hosts of the same symbiont that his father was joined with, and to which Vanah is now the host, because he blames the symbiont for having destroyed his family. Tragically, Murod doesn’t understand until the very last moment that his murders also have a devastating affect on his father. A Trill would understand, however, that hurting a present host traumatizes the previous ones as well. This plot point is a forgivable stumble because of how it functions in the overall story and what this revelation does to develop both Vanah and Murod.
Star Trek: Trill has been published with two different covers — an A cover by Hendry Prasetya, and a retail incentive cover by Alexandra Beguez. Of these, I much prefer the A cover. The retail incentive cover unfortunately makes the main character look like a victim even though she isn’t portrayed that way in the story.
Rather than fall back on hollow nostalgia, Trill creates an entire world with a few new characters within a single issue. To its credit, the story shows feminine people living on their own terms. There are a few instances when, wide-eyed, Bessa prompts exposition from Vanah, but otherwise, the characters feel believable. Jody Houser thoughtfully showcases not only a well-rounded cast of characters within the confines of a single issue, but also addresses something that I’ve always been curious about as a Trekkie: what does joining with a symbiont feel like? And how might the personalities of the previous hosts assimilate into theirs?
I appreciate that, over several pages, the author sits with Vanah’s confusion and discomfort about being a newly joined host, particularly around her getting acquainted with her symbiont’s previous hosts. Artist Hendry Prasetya deftly depicts Vanah’s inner and outer worlds continuously crashing into each other. This issue also delves into the topic of Trill reassociation beautifully, and the unexpected turns in the narrative leave me hoping this story will continue in some form or fashion. As Vanah says in the comic’s final panel, “And my story is only just beginning.”