What with Star Trek Into Darkness coming out (relatively) soon, I thought it only right to take a look at one of the franchise’s treks into transformation and the metafeminine. Yes, technically any of the many series’ and movies’ many “aliens are just humans with brow ridges” examples could count as metafeminine. But as much as I am a fan of green-skinned women and pointy ears, I decided to dig a little deeper and concentrate on an example of transformation in Star Trek.

Transformation is not a foreign concept to Star Trek. From being turned into rocky cubes to having personalities moved from body to body, the Enterprise might as well have -TF at the end of its name. But, instead of going back and finding one of those filmed scenes and risk people burning images into their TVs/computers, I decided to find a more low-tech example;

Issue 8 of Paramount ComicsStar Trek: Starfleet Academy.

The cover to my copy of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #8 (1997)

The cover to my copy of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #8 (1997)

As usual, spoilers.

The comic opens with a recap of a recent battle with a power-hungry shape-shifter. While the danger has passed, the cadets are still a bit shaken from it – especially the psychics. Here we get our first look at Pava, a blue-skinned white-haired female cadet who also sports a pair of antenna (see cover). While the crew banter and deal with their personal issues we also meet the group’s female Vulcan, T’Priell.

An early conflict is caused by Cadet Astrun’s psychic thoughts accidentally projecting to his superior, Ensign Li. This wouldn’t be so bad, except Astrun thinks Li is being hard on him because she is venting suspicions about her cheating husband. T’Priell is able to calm the situation.

Soon the cadets come across the El Dorado. The adrift ship is heavily damaged and unresponsive to their calls, so a team is beamed over to search for survivors. They find a lot of destruction, and one boy; Charlie Evans.

Now, if you’ve ever seen any of Star Trek: The Original Series (or read the cover of this issue) you’d know that Charlie Evans has appeared in Star Trek lore before. He’s better known as Charlie X, and he’s not one to be trifled with. He gets easily stressed out and begins using his alien-gifted reality manipulation powers to get his way. And, if you’ve managed to piss off Captain Kirk, you’re probably going to end up being taken back by your adopted alien family and not be well received by Starfleet should you pop up again.

In fact, when Ensign Li starts to suspect Charlie’s story she does a little research and finds the original field report about him. Clearly she didn’t read it well enough. While alone with him the first thing she does is start yelling and pointing her weapon at him.

The first thing Charlie does is turn her into an immobile statue of biological metal.

Because Li and Astrun have something of a psychic connection, Li (trapped in her metal body) concentrates and manages to pass on what she knows of Charlie to Astrun. The readers get to see a bit of Charlie’s past, including when he made a woman who spurned him fade away.

Sadly, Astrun has learned nothing tactical from Li’s fate and his plan is, essentially, “Get him!”

So of course Charlie banishes the cadets to the same pocket dimension he sent the El Dorado‘s crew. There Pilar Ana, the aforementioned ship’s captain, teams with the cadets to form a plan. Ultimately they decide to use telepathy to draw Charlie into the pocket dimension, and then use more telepathy to cut off his powers.

Not a great plan. Especially since it is, essentially, “Get him!” all over again.

Charlie uses his, you know, ability to manipulate reality to chain up some attackers, turn others against each other, and transform Captain Ana into some sort of silver material before unraveling her like a spring. But that doesn’t mean the cadets back down.

Eventually both sides are pretty soundly trounced, but Charlie is arguably on the winning side. With only T’Priell left standing she speaks with Charlie and gets him to admit that, during a bout of extreme loneliness, he accidentally split his personality. This dissidence has been causing the majority of misunderstandings and issues, and during a moment of clarity he sends both crews back to a habitable planet in their own universe, and reverts everyone back to their proper biological structure.

However, it is suspected that this selfless act by Charlie may have been his last.

While the cadets deal with what they’ve just been through, the issue closes out with a new villain making himself known.

Metafeminine/Transformation moments;

  • Cover – Ensign Li is a living marionette under Charlie’s control (complete with string and pink cheek circles), while Pava and T’Priell stand posed on a chess board as if they are paralyzed.
  • Page 1 – Amongst the many people and features forming out of the shapeshifter’s liquid is a female head.
  • Page 4 – Pava, a blue-skinned white-haired alien woman with antenna, is first shown in the comic. She appears throughout the story.
  • Page 6 – T’Priell’s Vulcan ears are first visible, including a close up. She appears throughout the story.
  • Page 16 – Charlie transforms Li (along with her uniform) into immobile biological metal at the molecular level. Her pose is held well throughout, and is visible on Pages 16 (panels 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), 17 (p 1, 2), 18 (p 1), 19 (p 1, 2), and on Page 30 she is turned back with some great “held pose, oh wait, I’m alive?” reactions in panels 1 and 3.
  • Page 17 – Flash back to original Charlie X episode, where a women fades from this reality.
  • Page 24 – Captain Ana is changed (along with her uniform) into some sort of silver substance and unraveled like a spring.

THE FINAL VERDICT: I enjoyed this comic and its stand-alone story, and any fans of immobile transformation or metafeminine aliens would do well to pick it up. Star Trek fans should enjoy the many call-outs to other series, but the cadets have a pretty terrible ability to plan, which affects my ability to enjoy them.

First off, I always prefer a story that portrays its female characters as strong and smart in addition to sexy, and that Star Trek tradition is upheld throughout Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #8.

Yes, the immobile transformation of Li is fully clothed and there is just barely the hint of any process to her change (and that’s only the bottom of her pants), but damn I have to give the creative team – John Royle (penciler), Andy Lanning (inker), and Kevin Somers (colorist) – mad credit for not only keeping her pose extremely consistent throughout the comic, but also choosing to display her as much as they did. She’s even banished to the pocket dimension with the other cadets (something I would have totally overlooked if she’d not shown up with them), and visible in panels she really didn’t need to be.

And then there’s even a changed-back reaction shot at the end?

Rarely do inanimate fans get this sort of quality treatment, and that really needs to be recognized here. Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #8 is an exemplary work in the statuefication field.

Plus, you know, a fairly quick-paced action story with strong, smart, and sexy alien women in form-hugging uniforms. What isn’t to love?