When IDW and Boom! Studios announced a crossover comic miniseries that would bring the Star Trek and Planet Of The Apes universes together, the initial impulse might be a dismissive one, as the two seem incongruous. But the creators behind it feel differently.
“The biggest appeal is that, I think, these are by far the most influential science-fiction worlds of the late Sixties and early Seventies,” offers co-writer Scott Tipton of the story that takes place during the time frame of the original 1968 Planet Of The Apes, “and to everyone’s surprise, they fit together even better than we expected.”
That point was driven home to editor Sarah Gaydos at this year’s New York Comic-Con. “I watched a lot of people pick up the free preview of the first issue,” she relates. “Each one of them initially laughed at the idea, and then immediately their demeanor ‘switched’ to, ‘Wow, that is so cool!’ Almost as if they were saying, ‘Why didn’t anyone do this before?’ That is the sort of crossover I like to do.”
Its appeal is surprising considering the thematic contrast between the two. Star Trek, of course, ultimately brings with it optimism and hope, while Apes – no matter how hard it endeavours not to – is mired in pessimism (just look at the end of every single Apes film from the original film series to the new one).
“There’s definitely an interesting contrast there,” notes co-writer Dave Tipton. “Remember that both Star Trek and Planet Of The Apes were very much products of their time. With Star Trek, you get the more optimistic, brighter side of the Sixties, and with Planet Of The Apes, you get the more pessimistic, darker side. We knew from the start that this project would address those differences.
“Both lean more toward realistic science fiction,” he continues, “as opposed to science fantasy. There are certain expectations about how things work within internally consistent rules in terms of science, cause and effect, history, and so on. Our goal has been to respect that and produce a story that makes sense for both franchises.”
Adds Scott Tipton, “More than anything else, both have a real-world sensibility about them rooted in their Sixties roots that makes them work together far better than anyone might have expected. You can very easily see Captain Kirk and his crew beaming down on the Planet of the Apes and discovering the unsavoury truths that lay below.”
Dave Tipton points out that the story is very much tied into the themes and dilemmas associated with both franchises, saying, “The political and philosophical tensions we saw in the original Star Trek between the Federation and the Klingon Empire play an important role, as does the difficult position Taylor finds himself when thrust into Earth’s future.”
Muses artist Rachel Stott, “The philosophies between the two franchises are very contrasting, but in that way I think it’s very reminiscent of the style of story that you would get in an episode of the original series of Star Trek. A lot of those stories revolved around Kirk and the crew discovering an alien planet or civilisation that was very different from our own, and yet those differences and exaggerations would be used to highlight some aspect of our own society – which is what Apes and to a greater extent most of sci-fi is also all about. So I think in that way the true ‘mission statement’ of original Trek is still honored in the book, except instead of it being a new planet, we ourselves are rediscovering the Planet of the Apes through the eyes of Captain Kirk.
“I feel there’s more of a leaning in sci-fi in mainstream media now towards blowing things up, and shooting aliens first then asking questions later (which I don’t mind at all if it’s done well),” she elaborates, “but what I love about Apes is the fact that it’s strongly emphasized that there are good apes and bad, as well as good humans and bad. Then, of course, you put Taylor into the mix and he’s not shown as a paradigm of the perfect human – he’s short tempered and a bit heavy-handed, but he works with Zira and Cornelius and eventually they end up understanding each other, even forging a bit of a friendship.
“Trek has the same philosophy – that most conflicts arise from a lack of understanding between differing parties. Sometimes it takes time and a lot of effort, and it can be frustrating, but I think both franchises show that the best and most long-term conflict resolutions come from communication.”
The Prime Directive, says Scott Tipton, plays an important part in this series, as the question of how much interference is allowed – or is beneficial – has always been a big part of any Trek storyline. “And when it’s Earth’s history,” he muses, “even a parallel Earth, those moral dilemmas become all the more prominent.”
A parallel Earth would seem to be the only way to explain how Earth’s future can be so radically different for each group of characters.
“That’s the real question, isn’t it?” he laughs. “Classic Trek has always embraced the notion of the parallel universe, such as in ‘Mirror, Mirror,’ which certainly made our storytelling quandries a little easier to deal with.”
Also much easier to deal with is that Colonel George Taylor will actually look like Charlton Heston, which was not the case when Marvel adapted the film back in the Seventies, as IDW reached out to and struck a deal with the Heston estate.
“I was so excited that we were given permission to draw Taylor in all his original grizzly glory,” smiles Stott. “He’s a really fun character to capture because he has such a distinctive appearance, and Charlton Heston uses such unique facial expressions and body language.”
“That’s been one of the great joys of this project,” agrees Scott Tipton. “That was so important to us, that Taylor, who really is the heart of the Apes franchise, can be represented in a story like this. Not to mention that the Kirk/Taylor clash in issue #3 is so much more iconic when it’s William Shatner and Charlton Heston on the page.”
IDW’s Star Trek/Planet Of The Apes #1 will be available to buy from 31 December 2014. To discover more excellent comics, pick up our 100 All-Time Greatest Comics bookazine now!