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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Star Trek: Return of the Archons (Part 1) "Return of the Archons" Part 1
Star Trek #9
Writer: Mike Johnson
Based on the original teleplay by Boris Sobelman
Original story by Gene Roddenberry

Artist: Stephen Molnar
Cover by Tim Bradstreet
May 2012

Study last updated 6/25/2020


The Enterprise investigates the mysterious planet Beta III and the rumored-only-to-exist U.S.S. Archon.


Read the full story summary of this issue at Memory Beta


Didja Know?


This 2-part story diverges the most widely of any of the new adaptations of original series episodes so far.


The name of the starship that was brought down by Landru over Beta III a hundred years ago is from the Greek word archon meaning "ruler", appropriate considering the total power over the planet's populace held by the computer masquerading as Landru.


Didja Notice?  


Page 1's prologue is stated to take place 18 months ago, as a mysterious panel of men congratulates Sulu on his assignment to the Enterprise. This tends to suggest that it takes place shortly after the end of "The Vengeance of Nero" and that "Return of the Archons" takes place 18 months after.


Sulu is offered a chance to join a covert organization within Starfleet. This is the second time Sulu has been made such an offer. In The Assassination Game, he was asked to join the secret organization called the Graviton Society. The covert organization discussed here is not named; could it be Section 31, seen in episodes of ST-Enterprise and ST-DS9 and which will come to light in the Kelvin timeline of Starfleet in Star Trek Into Darkenss? It seems unlikely though, that this second organization would offer him membership considering he'd accepted such in the Graviton Society earlier only for the purpose of turning the tables on them (at Commander Spock's behest). It's possible that an early script of Star Trek Into Darkenss featured Sulu as a member of Section 31, as his sister, Yuki, is seen to be one in "Khan" Part 4, and that our current issue was meant to set up that plotline for the movie; this is just a guess on my part, I've not been able to confirm that this was an early story idea.


The stardates in this IDW series are enough to drive a continuity freak nuts! The story proper opens on stardate 2258.241. But if it's supposed to be 18 months after "The Vengeance of Nero", the stardate should now be 2259, as the new stardate system used by JJ Abrams follows the number of the calendar year in which the story takes place. As it's stated, this story takes place not only in 2258 still, but before even the events of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" Part 1 (stardate 2258.56)!


In the captain's log, Kirk speaks of rumors that an early Starfleet starship called the Archon vanished on an exploratory mission to the planet Beta III about a century ago, but no mention of the ship exists in Federation archives. This aspect of the Archon mystery is not mentioned in the original episode; the Archon was an acknowledged Starfleet vessel of the time.


Kirk remarks in his log that an old Academy professor had told him wild stories, including that of the vanished Archon, over a few bottles of Orion whiskey. Orion whiskey was previously mentioned in the ST novel Articles of the Federation.


The town and clothing on Beta III seen here is quite different from that of the original episode. Here it looks like something out of medieval Europe, but the original episode depicted clothing and construction more like early 20th Century America.


On page 4, panel 2, Sulu has suddenly removed his gloves, for no apparent reason.


All of the Enterprise landing party members wear gloves as part of their "medieval" disguises on Beta III. Why? The natives, though otherwise dressed similarly, do not wear gloves. 


The inhabitants of Beta III are said to speak Federation Standard. Federation Standard has been mentioned on rare occasions in the past in the Star Trek universe, seeming to be a form of, or derivation from, English.


On page 16, Spock is holding some kind of scanning device with which he detects they are heading towards the power source that could be affecting their communications with Enterprise. On page 21, he refers to the device as a tricorder. But it sure doesn't look like a typical tricorder. In "Operation Annihilate" Part 1, the tricorders used by he and McCoy looked rather similar to the original series' versions.


On page 17, the remains of the U.S.S. Archon show it to have registration number NCC-189. This is the number listed for it in the Star Trek Encyclopedia.


The ship's logo found among the remains of the Archon, as seen on page 19, features a modified, sideways version of the Starfleet chevron and the Latin phrase Ad astra per aspera. This was the pre-Federation Starfleet motto, glimpsed in the ST-Enterprise episode "These Are the Voyages...", and means "To the stars, through hardships." The Federation Starfleet motto later became Ex Astris, Scientia: From the Stars, Knowledge.


Unanswered Questions


Did Sulu join the covert organization existing within Starfleet? We get no answer here, nor in "Return of the Archons" Part 2. However, "The Khitomer Conflict" Part 3 implies that it was Section 31 that approached him, and he turned it down.


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