Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How Many Aliens with God-Like Powers Can One Galaxy Hold?

Speaking of alien races with god-like powers: in just the first season of Star Trek: The Original Series alone, we had the Thasians ("Charlie X"), the Organians ("Errand of Mercy"), The Talosians ("The Menagerie"), the unnamed race that built a thought-powered pleasure planet ("Shore Leave"), Trelane's race ("The Squire of Gothos"--retconned in an Expanded Universe novel to be a member of the Q), the Metrons ("Arena"), and the race that built the Guardian of Forever ("The City on the Edge of Forever"--though those guys seem to be extinct). Later seasons tossed in several more god-like races, including the actual Greek god Apollo.

It seems our galaxy is stuffed to the brim with these guys. You literally can't stop at a random asteroid to collect a few rock samples without practically tripping over yet another god-like race.

So, in Gold Key's Star Trek #13 (Feb. 1972), I really don't know why Kirk and his bridge crew are surprised when a creepy guy in robes suddenly appears in the captain's chair and takes over the ship. It's the sort of thing that happens to them all the darn time.

Creepy guy goes by the name of Nomad. He comes from a planet that had achieved peace and prosperity, with robots doing all the labor. Bored with this, he left the planet and spent time wandering about the galaxy, observing different races and learning many things. 

The two pages in which Nomad gives us his back-story are wonderful. Both Len Wein's script and Alberto Giolitti's art hit just the right mix of wonder and bittersweet loneliness. 

Nomad has hijacked the Enterprise because he now wants to go home. But he is very friendly about it, returning control of the ship to the crew the moment they arrive at his home planet. The whole hijacking thing is then conveniently forgotten when Spock realizes they have just seeked out a new civilization. So Nomad brings Kirk, Spock and McCoy to the surface so they can look around.

This does not go well. Nomad's race has been enslaved by their robots, who in turn are being controlled by Nomad's power-mad brother Niklon. The robots are immune to phaser fire (though Nomad takes out a few with his staff before it runs out of power) and communications with the ship has been blocked.

The good guys are all captured and tossed into a dungeon with the rest of Nomad's people. But Kirk and Spock have quite a lot of experience in escaping from dungeons. Within two panels, the Vulcan rigs up a trap to electrocute their robot guard and (with Spock wearing the robot's "skin") the freed captives attack Niklon's headquarters. At first, the battle goes against them, but Nomad is able to retrieve his now-recharged staff and turn the tide. 

This is a good, solid science fiction adventure story with imaginative art and a lot of great action. But the best part--overshadowing the rest of the tale--is Nomad's all-too-brief back story. I really, really like that part. I wouldn't have minded a spin-off series in which we followed Nomad around during his wanderings. 

In fact, though good for what it is, the story loses some of its power with the Enterprise reaches Nomad's home planet and he abruptly becomes less powerful. (His staff is the source of his powers and when the batteries run out, he's just a normal guy.)

Though perhaps that was just as well. There's far too many god-like aliens scampering around the galaxy already. One day, they'll get together and unionize. Then where will the rest of us be?

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