“There’s No Place Like Gnomes!” (22 pages)
Writer: Martin Pasko
Pencils: Luke McDonnell
Inks: Gene Day & Sal Trapani
Letters: Janice Chiang
Colors: Carl Gafford
Editor: Allen Milgrom
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover artists: Luke McDonnell & Allen Milgrom
This post has been in draft form for months, mostly because this issue is a real chore to get through.
Just take a look at the cover, with the awful brown color hold background and the strange proportions of the attacking gnomes versus the one in Spock’s hand.
It gets just a little bit better on the first page, which is nicely colored.
The story begins with Kirk, Spock, McCoy and some guards beaming down to the planet Valerian — Pasko must be a fan of Christin and Mezieres — for an annual check-in with Federation colonists who have not replied to hails.
Scans on the surface and from the bridge show there are humanoid life forms, though they are only 15 centimeters high — too small to be part of the Andorian colony — and they’re coming from beneath the surface.
The encampment is abandoned and Chekov comforts Themon, a female Andorian who is on her first planetside assignment. Pasko was clearly trying to echo the season two episode “The Apple.” Today, Chekov’s pattern of romancing junior female officers during landing party missions just looks creepy.
A shambling humanoid creature appears, trying to speak. He’s zapped with some kind of energy flare, and McCoy takes him back to the ship for examination. Just then, similar creatures grab Themon, Chekov fires his phaser, and a fight breaks out. The creatures, however, appear only interested in disarming the Starfleet officers.
Back at the beam-down point, security guard Sternbach is watching over the supplies when gnomes rise up through the earth and toss him into a tree.
This continues for a few pages, with the humanoids at one point dragging away Themon by her hair (or perhaps her antennae), and gnomes popping up out of the ground wielding crossbows and hammers.
They drive off the humanoids, which Spock identifies as trolls and the little people as gnomes. Back on the ship, McCoy’s annoyed to find his patient is shrinking in height.
Kirk is bemused and annoyed by the whole thing. Me too.
The crew checks in with Sternbach and decide to take the supplies back to the ship. Once they beam up, though, a little armed troll on a flying bat escapes from the boxes and starts wrecking the transporter room.
On the surface, Kirk and Spock meet with the gnomes and Spock deduces that this alien race must have visited Earth in the past and inspired the legend of the gnomes. This is another of Pasko’s echoes from the original series (“Who Mourns for Adonais?” for example).
The bat-mounted dude on the ship makes it to the bridge, where he dive-bombs Uhura’s station and is at last captured by security. He starts speaking Irish-accented English and surrenders, but communications are out with the surface.
Down below, Kirk, Spock and Chekov follow sensor readings for Themon into a cave populated by Trolls, who attack.
Back in space, aboard a ship that bears no resemblance to the USS Enterprise, McCoy and Chapel’s patient continues to shrink. The bat-riding critters are put in the brig, and when zapped by the force field, lose their red caps and transform back into regular looking gnomes.
The landing party finds Themon, who’s just fine. McCoy calls and says the creature he beamed up had an alien virus that caused his transformation. He’s got a cure, of course, which returns the troll to his natural form as a human. He beams down and gives the cure to the trolls, who are revealed as the missing Andorian colonists.
I can’t even begin to summarize the ending of this issue, but it turns out that there’s only two gnomes, and their caps give them powers of illusion, etc. Kirk puts on one of the hats and beats the little shits at their own game, then high-tails it out of this miserable issue.
Closing it off is a terrible pun from Scotty, again an echo from the final scene in “The Trouble With Tribbles,” though completely lacking in humor or originality.
There’s no letters page this issue, because it’s clear the series is on its last legs awaiting cancelation. Only two more issues to come, but this one is clearly the nadir of the series.
I don’t have much to say about the art. It’s not the worst art I’ve ever seen, and a lot of the time it’s recognizable as Star Trek of this period. But it’s not good, either.
I have to say that I’m glad later versions of Star Trek were able to move past the original series’ predilection for tales in which Earth fantasies turn out to have been inspired by real aliens in space. I know that budgetary and technical limitations drove the need for those stories, but they generally do not hold up well as TV shows or comics.
And with that, I can at last file away this ugly cover and stop looking at it. Blech!