(written from a Production point of view)
This summary is of a story arc from the newspaper comic strip Star Trek.
Captain Kirk, Spock, and Lt. T'Yee are about to beam up with medical supplies from Manark V, a Federation member, when they are attacked by a man wielding a mace on a chain. T'Yee is injured, Spock stuns the man with a phaser, and the Manarkite ambassador apologizes profusely. The man is a terrorist, opposed to Manark V's Federation membership. After the Enterprise leaves orbit, they proceed to the Vanowen colony, which is plagued by Rigellian fever. When Dr. McCoy learns of the attack, he explodes in anger, calling the Manarkites savages and completely irrational. His eyes also have an unusual glow about them, which is unnoticed by the crew. Storming out rather than discuss things with Spock, McCoy returns to sickbay.
Dr. Chapel is examining T'Yee's wound in sickbay when Chapel is stunned and a shadowy figure removes her from sickbay. Spock and Kirk, engaged in a game of three-dimensional chess, discuss that many of the crew have reported "aberrational behavior" in Dr. McCoy. Kirk grants Spock's request to investigate, guessing it is probably little more than stress. After the investigation, Spock is convinced "that the Dr. McCoy now aboard the Enterprise is not the Dr. McCoy we know". Moreover, he can prove it. At the same time, Chapel - now with glowing eyes - is attempting to give T'Yee a sedative. T'Yee screams, sensing that Chapel is not whom she appears to be. Outside in the corridor, McCoy hears the screaming. But he is quickly rendered unconscious by a nerve pinch administered by Spock, who does not hear T'Yee's cries for help. Spock then examines McCoy in sickbay in private, with the data access restricted to Kirk and himself. His scan shows "that brain structure matches no known patterns in humanoids. In sum: entity is not Dr. McCoy... but is evidently an alien duplication of him."
Spock returns McCoy to consciousness, but uses a Vulcan mind meld to erase memory of his examination. Chapel then introduces a duplicate T'Yee to McCoy, saying she is "one of us now". As Kirk is sending a message that the ship is delayed due to an ion storm in the sector, Spock informs him of what he's found out. Looking over the data with Spock, Kirk feels the ship shake and after a harrowing ride in a free-fall turbolift, discovers that they are "bracketed" by Romulan cruisers of the K't'inga design. The Romulans claim the Enterprise has violated their territory and are moving to destroy the ship. Kirk is confused, since they should be nowhere near Romulan space. Spock confirms their position: in the Romulan Neutral Zone. "It would seem the Romulans have developed a new weapon with which they not only evaded our sensors, but also temporarily incapacitated them... causing a navigational error that allowed the Enterprise to proceed into the Neutral Zone". Warp drive is offline due to the attack, but rather than press their advantage, the Romulans leave the sector at maximum warp. Casualty reports come in, with Scotty being among them. He has a concussion and first-degree burns, and despite his protest that they don't seem quite normal, is treated by the medical staff. The treatment includes being placed in a scanner so that a duplicate can be made of him – one with glowing eyes. The intention is to duplicate all the injured and discard the originals.
Kirk decides not to do anything about McCoy until they can figure out what the alien is trying to accomplish. As he makes that choice, the duplicate T'Yee determines she is to distract Kirk so the duplicate Scott can accomplish a task on the bridge. Her solution: offer to bring Kirk his dinner in his quarters, since Kirk's personal aide was injured in the attack. Kirk is flustered by the offer, but agrees.
Starfleet's answer to the problem of a damaged Enterprise is to have the Enterprise rendezvous with the USS Potemkin, which will finish the mission. Kirk then has his dinner delivered to him in his quarters by the duplicate and casually attired T'Yee. She tells him that she has arranged to be assigned as his personal aide because she is "fascinated" by him. Kirk replies that he is finding himself being "drawn" to her. Kissing T'Yee, Kirk calls Uhura and asks not to be disturbed.
Uhura contacts Spock. She is concerned that the computer shows that various injured personnel are returning to duty much sooner than she would have anticipated. Meanwhile, the duplicate Chapel states that "32.2% of the crew has been replaced by members of our race". The duplicate Scott arrives on the bridge to correct a computer malfunction, but Sulu doesn't believe him and activates a channel to Spock without Scott's knowledge. Spock goes to the bridge and orders Scott to stop. When he doesn't, Spock places Scotty under arrest; rather than comply, Scott attacks. Spock easily defends himself, destroys the station to prevent further tampering, and contacts Kirk. Kirk is bothered in that he had asked not to be disturbed, but Spock tells him that unless immediate action is taken the ship may be taken over by hostile alien forces. Kirk asks Spock to meet him in the briefing room, and tears himself away from T'Yee, who is seen in silhouette with a transparent cape.
Spock explains that Scott tried to tamper with the computer only after Kirk gave orders not to be disturbed. He does not think it a coincidence and believes that T'Yee, Scott, and others are conspiring to take over the ship. Since McCoy was first to be duplicated, they head to sickbay. On the way, they reason that the casualty list would tell them who has been replaced with duplicates, and that that was the data Scott was trying to erase.
Rendezvousing with the Potemkin (a Miranda-class ship), Sulu tells the transporter room to get the medical supplies ready to beam over. The crew finds only empty crates, though. Spock scans the crates and learns that a microscopic alien embryo was inside the containers and escaped detection. It then fed on the medicines and escaped, living inside the medical computer. Just then, a large alien bursts out from behind the medical computer wall and is shot at by Kirk. He misses, and the creature morphs into something able to fly; it is a "shape-changer" and can take on the shape of anyone or anything whose physical data is in the medical computer bank. Chekov and a security guard arrive. The guard tries to shoot Kirk instead of the alien, as the guard is a duplicate. Spock "nerve-pinches" him, but the activity allows the alien to hide.
The alien, in the shape of a snake, attacks Kirk again but this time Kirk fires on target. Stunned, the creature reverts to its natural form: a native of Manark V, where they originally picked up the medical supplies. Learning of this, T'Yee tells her fellow duplicates that their discovery means they must abandon the ship and deal "death to the crew!" T'Yee begins to transport the duplicates to Murakam, a planet to which the ship has been diverted as duplicates were in control of the bridge. The plan: leave the real crew aboard and have the ship crash into the planet. Just in case, the duplicates arm themselves with phasers. Kirk, Spock, and Chekov rush down to confront the duplicates who are left and find themselves in a fire fight. Kirk sets his phaser to overload and uses it like a grenade. It explodes and takes out several duplicates. The sensors show where the Manarkites beamed down, and Kirk remarks that they have to pursue them "or we'll never see our friends alive again!"
Spock notices that internal sensors show Human lifeform readings still on the Enterprise. Spock goes in search of the crew and finds Scott sealed in his own quarters. The orbit decaying, Scott goes to work with Spock to find more of the crew and restart the engines. Meanwhile, Kirk and Chekov beam down to confront the "alien impostors". They enter a cave and Chekov falls down a hole. Kirk sees T'Yee, but doesn't realize she is a duplicate because her limited telepathic ability – sufficient to cloud his mind – was also duplicated. She reaches for him as to kiss him. Suddenly, a Manarkite alien appears, as does Chekov. Chekov shoots at the alien, but the duplicate T'Yee leaps into the path of the beam. It slices through both her and the alien, killing both. In her death, T'Yee assumes her true form as a Manarkite alien, which Chekov can tell was the leader of the alien impostors.
A rumble is heard in the caves. The phaser blast triggered a cave-in, and the men run for the exit only to find a dozen Manarkite aliens waiting. Kirk calls Spock and orders a wide beam phaser blast at his coordinates, on stun. It works. The Manarkites are interrogated by Starfleet and it is discovered they were in league with the Romulans. The plan was for them to take over the Enterprise. The ship speeds to Organia to pick up more medical supplies, and Kirk confesses to McCoy that he is as fond of the real T'Yee as her duplicate. Kirk invites her to dinner, which she refuses, saying "That would be improper, Admiral". The story ends with McCoy saying in response to T'Yee's resistance to Kirk's charms, "Got your work cut out for you, Jim!"
"Uhura, I don't want to be disturbed for the next hour."
- - Kirk, ensuring some privacy with T'Yee
This is the third time the comic has returned to the theme of secession from the Federation, the second time McCoy has been replaced by a lookalike, and the second time it has invoked Rigelian fever as a plot device. It also hearkens back visually to the duplication sequence in TOS: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?". There are a few nice touches. One is the reference to an ion storm, not heard of since the original series. Also, a wide area phaser shot on the ground from the ship was used in TOS: "A Piece of the Action", but had not been seen again prior to this. The communicators from the second film were used as well. Another nice touch would have been a more compelling reason for not immediately arresting the McCoy duplicate once found out. Or why the crew was kept alive at all. And one wonders what McCoy's reaction would have been to the surprise nerve pinch had he not been an alien duplicate but just grouchy.
The aliens themselves look remarkably like the alien from the movie Alien, which had come out four years prior to this story arc. But the most troubling bit is the subplot of the normal, unduplicated Kirk expressing affection and lust for a young lieutenant under his direct command; it is both forced and somewhat difficult to accept. In a nice change, Uhura and Sulu are shown as being among the most prudent and professional of officers, much more so than Kirk is shown to be in this story. Pasko originally intended to use the character of Saavik, but was apparently prohibited to do so by Paramount Pictures; Lt. T'Yee took her place for story purposes. For unknown reasons, possibly related to an attempt at cost-savings due to poor distribution, the Sunday color comic was no longer produced beginning with this story arc.
- Lt. T'Yee
- Captain Kro-Regas
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