Published May 10, 2023
Comics and Klingons with Christopher Cantwell
The Star Trek comics writer stops by the latest episode of The Pod Directive.
Star Trek: The Pod Directive is back with a brand new episode! The TV creator and Star Trek comics writer Christopher Cantwell joins the podcast as a fan and is greeted by fans of his own!
Our hosts Paul F. Tompkins and Tawny Newsome are excited to welcome the creator of one of their favorite shows, Halt and Catch Fire, before diving into Cantwell's Star Trek fandom, his IDW comic series STAR TREK: DEFIANT, and why everything always comes back to Klingons... not that we're complaining.
On Character Development in '90s and Older Television
Tompkins praises the characters of Cantwell's Halt and Catch Fire, "The development of character on that show is, I think, very rare that over the course of the seasons. These people, they're complete individuals, they're completely distinct from one another and they really go on a journey in a way that you don't often get to see on TV where most television, you kind of want the people to stay the same. They're always their character and their character is always this for the entirety of the series. And I think that it's so rare in television, the journeys that these four individuals go on."
Relating it to Star Trek, the guest and hosts note how the characters on The Original Series appear static, with Cantwell adding, "My favorite is the old Star Trek where it was these guys were these guys. No arcing, no evolution."
As for Star Trek: The Next Generation and television of that era, Cantwell recalls, "Television, I feel like up until the '90s, I was talking about this with my wife because we're working through X-Files right now, and there is this unspoken rule that even if the worst, most catastrophic thing happens, you still go to school the next day and you still go to the office. The teacher's like, 'This paper's due,' and the boss is, 'Yeah, that was crazy when this monster killed this person, but we have midterms coming up.' It's just kind of that's the way it is. And the Enterprise-D is very much like that. It's like, 'We got to keep going guys. Sorry.'"
"There's so much intense stuff happening. And then Riker's got to learn those lines [for another play]," quips Cantwell.
During the pandemic, Cantwell had the opportunity to introduce his two young sons to The Original Series and The Next Generation, which he hadn't watched since it first aired, and that's when he caught the subtleties, "But in re-watching it, because I watched it when it came out and I was younger then, but they start with these kind of flagpole character traits that they do incrementally work to evolve. It was Picard who is uncomfortable around children and not a family man. And it's clearly by the end, we get to a lot of really interesting places with him, with Wesley, with other children on the ship when they're all stuck in the turbo lift and he's got to give them different jobs. And the ship is his family by the end. I think Data's probably the most obvious. But the kind of way they just hand Beverly the ball and just give her whole episodes to be this kind of master detective. We just did the one where she sits in the captain's chair for the first time. So she goes from grieving widow to real leader. There're arcs for each one of them. It's really nice. It's very elegant."
On the Appeal of Worf
The conversation segues to the discussion of Worf, which Cantwell notes that through his portrayal across seven changes, he gets to arcs and evolves as much as Data.
"[Worf] has this amazing kind of split identity crisis," reflects Cantwell. "I've talked about this with Jackson [Lanzing] and Collin [Kelly] who write the flagship STAR TREK book for IDW, but he is the definitive more than I think Kirk or any other characters. The definitive statement on masculinity in the Star Trek ethos, at least through Next Gen, he has such an amazing growth as a man. It's so interesting. And Klingon really, it's a kind of stand in metaphor there for a lot of things in terms of cultural and ethnic identity and masculine identity and all these things. And he seems to be almost the most malleable through those seven seasons at least."
On how he was recruited for the STAR TREK: DEFIANT series, Cantwell talks about how Lanzing and Kelly crafted an incredible story in the flagship STAR TREK series, along with IDW comics editor Heather Antos, who's charged with an actual Star Trek comics universe that supplements the shows and movies.
Born out of the STAR TREK flagship comes his DEFIANT series, which Cantwell explains, "I pitched my version of it, which was The Dirty Dozen, but in the Star Trek universe. And so it takes place in the same time in tandem with the STAR TREK book."
"I get my own crew of people, but nobody wears Starfleet uniforms in my book," continues Cantwell. "It's all kind of Worf and Spock have stolen the Defiant, and they go and recruit everybody from good people with checkered pasts like B'Elanna Torres from Voyager, all the way to Lore. They're like going to go steal Lore's pieces and put them back together because they need his positronic brain and his knowledge."
If you want to hear Cantwell detail his essential Worf episodes, including "Birthright, Part I and II," the bureaucracy of Gowron's chancellorship, the Klingon empire, where in the timeline the comic series fit (post-Deep Space Nine, but pre-Nemesis, fyi), the makings of a comics crossover event, and more, listen to the latest episode of Star Trek: The Pod Directive!
Be sure to pick up STAR TREK: DEFIANT, as well as get a taste of his next crossover event "Day of Blood" in the free STAR TREK FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023 one-shot available at your local comic book shop!
Fans can listen to Star Trek: The Pod Directiveon Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and via StarTrek.com.