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Comic Book / Star Trek: Debt of Honor

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"If a starship is an embodiment of her crew and captain, then they likewise are a reflection of the ship. Encompassing both honor and shame. Enterprise was commissioned as a vessel of Starfleet. In Starfleet's service is where she has to earn her place. And my responsibility, my... penance, is to help her do it."
Captain James T. Kirk

Star Trek: Debt of Honor is a 1992 Star Trek Expanded Universe graphic novel by DC Comics, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Adam Hughes, Karl Story, and Tom Mc Craw.

The narrative of the novel is told in a series of flashbacks from a Framing Device a few months after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. As the crew of USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) join hands with the Romulans and Klingons for a covert mission to eliminate a threat to all their societies, James T. Kirk recalls his prior encounters with his Romulan counterpart, Commander T'Cel.

The comic is part of Volume 2 of the Star Trek (DC Comics) series.

This graphic novel provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Watchtower 13, one of the border outposts along the Romulan Neutral Zone, is right smack dab in the middle of the Critters' hunting grounds. Because of the large number of ships which vanished in its vicinity - victims of the Critters' attacks after major celestial events - Watchtower 13 was abandoned by both Starfleet and the Romulans as unlucky. This becomes the rendezvous point for Kirk, T'Cel, and Kor when they unite to permanently deal with the Critters.
  • Action Mom: When she reappears in the movie period, T'Cel has an adult daughter, T'Kir, who serves with her on her ship. It's lightly implied that T'Kir's father may be Kirk himself, sired after they fled the Farragut.
  • The Atoner: Kirk expresses guilt for having stolen and destroyed Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and wishes to atone by ensuring that Enterprise-A doesn't share her predecessor's fate.
  • Body Horror: The fate of anyone unlucky enough to be captured by the Critters alive: Vivisected to learn about how they work, and then mutated, twisted, and perverted into some nightmarish hybrid. Diane Morwood is utterly horrified when Kirk breaks through her conditioning, and learns what's become of her.
  • Book Ends: Kirk goes out boating with Dr. Gillian Taylor from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, who is still working with the humpback whales they rescued and brought to the future to repopulate the species.
  • Call-Back: The book opens on a Kirk having a nightmare of his encounter with Kruge and the destruction of the first Enterprise, which plays a considerable role in Kirk's mindset throughout the story.
  • Call-Forward: In the epilogue, Jim and Gillian share a toast with champagne from Chateau Picard, Jean-Luc Picard's family vineyard.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Kirk gives Scotty a copy of the schematics he and T'Cel took of the Klingon BFG, intending to use it to disrupt the dimensional gateway allowing the Critters access to that part of the galaxy. Sadly, Chekov himself doesn't get to fire it, with that honor going to Riley.
  • Clothing Damage:
    • Because it wouldn't be the TOS era without it, Kirk has his uniform torn open in his first encounter with the Critters, baring almost all of one arm and shoulder.
    • After the fight aboard the Critter mothership, T'Cel beams back aboard with a rather sizable hole torn in her dress over her right breast.
  • Continuity Porn: As it spans some 40 years of Kirk's history, the book is positively riddled with it, but a few standouts:
    • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: The book opens with Kirk on leave with Gillian aboard her boat while keeping tabs on George and Gracie. Additionally, the Probe serves as the impetus for Kirk, T'Cel and Kor's plan to lure the creatures into a trap. And at the end of the story Gracie has her baby.
    • Jame Finney is now a junior grade lieutenant serving aboard Enterprise.
    • Numerous former crewmen from the Original Series such as Riley, Kyle, and Garrovick rejoin the crew for the mission. Additionally, many episodes of the Original Series are directly referenced. Janice Rand also plays her own role in helping pulling them all together, though expresses regret to Uhura about not being able to come alone for the ride.
    • Saavik is back aboard Enterprise as well, and her appearance owes more to Kirstie Alley than Robin Curtis, especially at the beginning where she wears her hair up in a style similar to Alley's in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
    • Kirk's nightmare at the beginning references Kirk's battle with Kruge and David's death on Genesis, and the destruction of Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Khan himself puts in an appearance, cursing Kirk to live to a "ripe old age" at the cost of watching everything he loves and held dear die around him.
    • The alien creatures driving the plot are encountered at three points it Kirk's past:
      • The first incident reveals that they were responsible for the final destruction of Farragut. Additionally, the cloud creature which killed Captain Garrovick and many of the crew is mentioned prominently in the flashback to Farragut's destruction.
      • Kirk's second encounter with the creatures, this time in command of Enterprise, occurred following their battle with the Planet Killer when Enterprise responded to Phoenix's distress call. Upon rescuing T'Cel and her crew, she indicates that the Romulan cruiser her ship was attempting to assist had been attacked and disabled by the Planet Killer.
      • The third incident, and the one which allows Kirk and T'Cel to begin piecing together that the creatures were monitoring a particular section of space to ambush ships responding to or crippled by major spacial anomalies, followed V'Ger's approach to earth, this time with a Klingon cruiser having been attacked.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • The stardate the story is set in places the main story in roughly 2289. However Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was set in 2286. Not only has Gracie still not had her baby - despite a humpback whale having a gestation period of eleven months - but the entire plan by Kirk, Kor, and T'Cel relies on luring the creatures into an ambush after determining they were monitoring a particular spacelane for major celestial events. While all other encounters (Farragut being attacked by the Cloud Creature, Phoenix's engagement after Kirk destroyed the Planet Killer, and V'Ger's approach to Earth) occurred immediately following the inciting events, this would require the creatures to wait for three years. The handwave is made that Kirk and his comrades used back channels to keep traffic out of the area until he could put his plan in motion, however that still creates numerous problems.
    • Gillian Taylor claims she had to partly re-learn English in the 24th century since it changed so much in her time. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home though (which preceded this) showed no problem with her speaking to Kirk or Spock, nor vice versa. The rest of the crew also had no issues while on Earth.
  • Fantastic Racism: Many examples as the three crews struggle to work together:
    • Internally with the Klingons: Kor's people are smooth-foreheaded TOS-style Klingons, and his remarks indicate an internal power struggle between his subspecies and the more common ridged Klingons.note 
    • One of Kor's officers looks down on humans, particularly Jame Finney. At least until Jame puts her in her place.
    • The Romulans immensely dislike the Half-Vulcan Saavik, considering her a traitor for identifying as Vulcan.
    • Several human security guards on Enterprise harass the Romulan T'Kir.
  • Heinz Hybrid: T'Kir is early established to only be half-Romulan, and is strongly insinuated to be Kirk's daughter (although exactly when they could have had the opportunity to conceive her is unclear given the events of the USS Farragut sequence), meaning she's half human. Her mother is herself genetically half-Vulcan, so by implication T'Kir is in total half-human, 1/4 Vulcan, 1/4 Romulan. She notes to Kirk that her mother would playfully chide her as "painfully human," and her name means "Daughter of Kir." T'Kir mentions she would like to learn more about the "other half" of her heritage, and Kirk agrees to help her along the way.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: McCoy's reaction upon his first look at T'Cel is to gripe about how not only does Kirk have an improbable ability to have absurdly beautiful women pop up out of nowhere, but that T'Cel may be the most beautiful out of all of them.
  • Klingon Promotion: A non-lethal variation occurs. Starfleet lieutenant Jamie Finney, who acts as a liaison officer on Commander Kor's Klingon ship, recommends caution in an unclear tactical situation. Khadri, a female Klingon officer taller by more than a head responds by insulting her as coming from a "coward's race" and threatens her, to which Finney reacts by knocking Khadri out with a flying kick.
    Kor: Most impressive.
    Finney: Her challenge left me no alternative, commander.
    Kor: And you rose to the occasion, Lieutenant, like a Klingon. I salute you. Of course you realize your victory entitles you to assume Khadri's status and position aboard the Revenge.
    Finney: Commander! That really isn't necessary—!
    Kor: Oh, but it is. In fact, I insist, as a means of binding our regrettably ad hoc alliance more closely together.
  • Language Drift: Gillian Taylor mentions that she had to partially relearn English because it's changed considerably in the 200 years since her home time period (there's no sign of this in the film, where Kirk and the rest speak to 20th century people in San Francisco with no problem-her included)..
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever: The stardate given puts the main action in 2289, but it also seems to take place in the same year as the Gillian Taylor scenes. Star Trek IV takes place in 2286, but humpback whale's gestation period is only 11 months. So somebody done goofed.note 
  • Meaningful Name:
    • T'Cel's Bird of Prey, Phoenix. Spock himself directly makes the comparison in their second encounter after the V'Ger incident, remarking how the old ship has risen from the ashes.
    • Also the name of her daughter, T'Kir. In Romulan this means "Daughter of Kir," one of the hints that her father is Kirk himself.
  • Military Maverick: Discussed by Sulu at one point. Kirk, T'Cel, and Kor all have one thing in common: they're often politically inconvenient to their governments, and very good at their jobs. Ergo, they get picked for difficult missions that can't really get any public acknowledgement. Their personal bonds are part of this: they can form an off-the-books Enemy Mine despite their governments being in a three-way Space Cold War.
  • Non-Human Humanoid Hybrid: In her first appearance in the comic, T'Cel is depicted as acting quite a bit more passionately than Vulcans typically do. She later turns out to be half-Vulcan, half-Romulan like Saavik (who also appears in the comic): her mother was rescued from an Escape Pod well before the events of "Balance of Terror" and mistaken for a Vulcan, and declined to correct the Federation's mistake, and had her with a Vulcan. Downplayed since technically Vulcans and Romulans are subspecies of the same humanoid species.
  • Ramming Always Works: How the Critters attack their targets: Ram small, shuttle-sized pods into them and spill out to attack. The Romulans adapted the same idea into their assault shuttles, hardening the nose cones for fast boarding operations.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The galaxy is an enormous place. Yet somehow the four incidents which drew the creatures into the story (Farragut being attacked by the Cloud Creature, the Planet Killer's rampage, V'Ger's return to Earth, and the whale probe) all managed to occur in roughly the exact same area of space.
  • Setting as a Character: Actually becomes a plot point. Kirk declines to follow T'Cel in exploring the dimension the creatures came from because he feels he betrayed the original Enterprise in Star Trek III by ending her career as a fugitive from the law. Therefore he feels he has a responsibility to ensure Enterprise-A has a long and honorable career of her own.
  • Shout-Out: At one point Gillian Taylor listens to a recording of the band Cats Laughing, referring to the recording as "the Excalibur Sessions". Chris Claremont has referred to the band a few times during his run on Excalibur, noting that they were Kitty Pryde's favorite band. A lieutenant Emma Bull (named after the science-fiction writer who was also a member of Cats Laughing) was stationed on the Enterprise also.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Although not directly called attention to, there's a number of subtle hints that T'Cel's daughter, T'Kir, may be Kirk's. She remains behind aboard Enterprise when T'Cel takes her Bird of Prey through the dimensional portal to save the others.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Kirk and T'Cel have feelings for each other and share a kiss (and possibly more) before being separated when she abandons their escape pod to draw off Romulans snooping around the site of Farragut's destruction, but T'Cel's disappearance and later reappearance as a Romulan Imperial Fleet officer puts a damper on that. At the climax, T'Cel plans to take her Bird of Prey through the dimensional portal to explore it and invites Kirk along. He declines out of a sense of responsibility to keep Enterprise-A from suffering a similarly ignominious fate as her predecessor.
  • Tragic Time Traveler: Downplayed with Dr. Gillian Taylor. After being sent to the future from the 80s as a result of the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, she mentions having a lot of trouble adjusting to the future, even re-learning English because the language evolved so much since her time.
  • True Companions: Kirk did not plan for Enterprise and her crew to become involved in his mission, and intended to meet with T'Cel and Kor alone in fears of sullying the new ship's reputation before she even has an opportunity to build one. Uhura rightly chides him over how short-sighted he was thinking that the men and women under his command would not leap at the chance to help him deal with such a major threat to the Federation.
  • Tuckerization: The minor character Diane Morwood is named after fellow Star Trek EU writer Diane Duane and her husband and occasional co-author Peter Morwood. There are references to other science fiction/Star Trek EU authors among the crew: Vonda N. McIntyre (assisting Chekov with a weapons modification), John M. "Mike" Ford (author of Klingon world-building novel The Final Reflection; his crew counterpart is mentioned as a "Klingon expert"); Samuel R. "Chip" Delany (assisting Scotty in engineering).
  • Walking Swimsuit Scene: With the exception of one brief scene where she changes into some vintage '80s clothes provided by one of Kirk's associates, Gillian spends her entire time in a swimsuit. Justified as she also spends most of her time both on her boat observing Gracie, and scuba diving to interact more closely with the animals.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Klingons, inspired by the Planet Killer, developed a cannon capable of destroying planets. A prototype was built onto one of their Dreadnoughts, that was subsequently attacked by the Critters. Kirk and T'Cel take full schematics and sensor readings to essentially blackmail the Klingons into abandoning the project, or else risk a 3-way war of mass destruction, as T'Cel and Kirk both know that if they report their discovery, the Federation and Romulan Empire would doubtlessly declare war over the existence of such a weapon.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Jame Finney earns this compliment from Kor and the rest of his crew, after Finney not only manages to lay out a Klingon woman almost twice her size when said woman got in her face, but her ferocity and tenacity in battle, and willingness to stun Scotty to return to Revenge to help the rest of the party fight after Scott tells her that the signal is too far gone to bring them all back. At the end, this leads Kor to offer her a post as cultural liaison between his people and the Federation, in a cultural exchange similar to Bailey's posting with Balok of the First Federation.