(written from a Production point of view)
This summary is of a story arc from the newspaper comic strip Star Trek.
With the Bebebebeque colony resettled to another world, the Enterprise returns to Starfleet Command. Captain Kirk has a meeting at headquarters and then briefs his command staff. In celebration of Admiral Nogura's birthday, there will be a "sort of spaceship regatta". The race is to show how the crews of ships work together under extreme pressure. Plus, the idea was the Admiral's grandson's, who is a cadet. Initially cool to the idea, the crew agrees to participate for the sake of the reputation of the Enterprise, becoming enthusiastic at the prospect of winning.
One of the ships in the race is the USS Bold Venture, commanded by Captain Vera DiMarco. She was in one of Kirk's classes at the Academy, and had a crush on him at the time. Kirk accepts her dinner invitation, and he and she verbally spar, trying to get information from each other on their ability to race. After dinner the Admiral's grandson, Kyoshi, visits the Enterprise and hands Kirk a sealed envelope. In it are instructions that are only to be opened upon reaching the first checkpoint. Similar to a race rally, and because of the different classes of ships included, the Enterprise will be the last to leave as it is the fastest. On the way back to Earth, Kyoshi's friends discuss how the race is designed to bring out the best and worst in people, and that it is, in reality, Kyoshi's psychology term project.
DiMarco cheats to see her task prior to reaching her first checkpoint. Kirk opens his envelope at the appointed time, and finds his task is to bring back a Thorian blood rock. The planet where it is found, Thoris Amarnis IV, lies within a loose association of pirates, thieves, and criminals. At that same time, Kyoshi and his fellow cadets are meeting with those same pirates to make sure they will be ready when the Starfleet ships arrive. They have a deal to delay the ships just a little as an obstacle to overcome, which the pirates agree they will still do. But they also hold Kyoshi and his fellow cadets hostage, figuring they can get a good ransom from Nogura. Meanwhile, the Enterprise receives an automated distress call from the Rim Explorer, which has been attacked by a cloaked free trader. The Enterprise arrives and the cloaked pirates get nervous, not having expected a warship. However, they quickly recognize that the Klingons will pay anything for such a trophy.
Rescuing the survivors, Kirk learns from Captain Clark that the Bold Venture may have received but ignored their distress call. Despite the setbacks, the Enterprise continues the regatta. Kirk and a landing party beam down to Thoris Amarnis IV and, to their surprise, find a village when they had been led to believe no civilization was on the planet. Spock's tricorder readings indicate that the blood rocks supply heat and light to the village. Kirk feels ill at ease about stealing one, and says he is "beginning to feel like a laboratory rat in a maze." He decides he will trade for the rock rather than steal it, and assigns Scotty the task of bargaining. Scotty takes to it enthusiastically, spending a lot of time getting the best possible deal. A few parsecs away, DiMarco has discovered that the lifeform she was asked to collect is sentient and has telepathic powers, making her a kidnapper. DiMarco decides to talk things over with Kirk and heads off to Thoris Amarnis IV.
The arrival of the other ship alarms the pirates, still under cloak. The cadets figure out how to short out the force field holding them, and after escaping, Kyoshi kicks over the cloaking device that is positioned next to the brig. The kick and some wire pulling totally deactivates it, allowing both Starfleet ships to see the free trader. The cadets are recaptured, and the pirates bargain for their return. But the pirates also learn the Klingons have already paid for the delivery of the Enterprise. This means the pirates are obligated to deliver a Federation warship to them or be hunted down. Both DiMarco and Kirk decide the best course of action is to beam into the free trader ship's cargo hold and rescue the cadets. DiMarco is acting heroic, which is against her character, but she feels guilty about having ignored the Rim Explorer distress call. Kirk brings along with him the blood rock he purchased. The pirates notice the temperature rise in the cargo hold and send a man to investigate. DiMarco knocks him out. When he fails to return, another man is sent. Kirk knocks him out. Then the captain of the ship goes, is captured by Kirk, and is placed in the brig along with his fellow pirates. In fact he is happy to go, as it is preferable to telling the Klingons he cannot deliver. After all that, DiMarco suggests the two remaining ships have an actual, and fair, speed race back. Kirk agrees. Kyoshi expresses some regret at the turn his experiment took, especially after he became a subject in it. The Enterprise wins the race back handily and Kirk and DiMarco make a dinner date in Chinatown.
"That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard!"
- - McCoy, commenting on the plan for a regatta
- This story arc invites a number of questions reflecting the overall quality of this particular outing:
- Why did the Enterprise continue the regatta instead of either returning the crew of the Rim Explorer to Earth or searching for the responsible party?
- How could they be surprised by a village on Thoris Amarnis IV?
- Did they beam down blindly without any sensor readings at all?
- How could any cadet, even Nogura's grandson, be allowed to experiment with three starships for a term project, including requiring that they commit crimes in his father's honor?
- The Cutter-class ship the Rim Explorer is commanded by Captain Clark, who bears a striking resemblance to an iconic American figure (see picture above). The Venture had appeared earlier in the comic strip, back in the "Husian Gambit", the 6th story arc. The ship's name, the Bold Venture, could have simply been a coincidental choice of DiVono's, but if it was then so was the subtext of romances between Kirk and the captains.
- Warkentin returned to the strip for the last time with the 8/23 strip to draw the balance of this story arc's weekday entries, albeit without credit. And there is a remarkable, and doubtless intended, resemblance between the names "DiVono" and "DiMarco".
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