For decades, Star Trek fans have wondered about the hidden years on the U.S.S. Enterprise before Captain Kirk. In “The Menagerie Part 1,” Spock said he’d served with Captain Pike for “11 years, four months, and five days,” and in Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, we finally saw some of that!
Now, after a few brief appearances in Short Treks, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) made his return in the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, with fans worldwide clamoring for its hotly-anticipated Season 2. But in the years before fans got more Captain Pike and the crew (either in the form of Bruce Greenwood or Anson Mount), there have been several novels and comics that explored the previously uncharted time just before The Original Series.
In celebration of Anson Mount's birthday this weekend, here’s a selection of Pike and Strange New Worlds apocrypha to get you energized for the good captain's adventures.
Vulcan's Glory by D.C. Fontana (1989)
Just two years after she co-wrote the debut episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Gene Roddenberry, the famous script editor from The Original Series — Dorothy Fontana — published her one and only original Star Trek novel. While Fontana’s early work on TNG looked forward into the future of the final frontier, her novel, Vulcan’s Glory, interestingly, looked back.
Although not actually canon, because this was penned by the writer famous for “Journey to Babel,” “This Side of Paradise,” and “Yesteryear,” the overall feeling of learning more about Spock’s backstory reads less like fan fiction and more like a Fontana pulling back the curtain on her process.
The novel concerns Spock’s “first” mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise with Pike and Number One and even manages to explain why Spock hadn’t undergone Pon Farr prior to The Original Series. The novel also gives us a meeting between Spock and T’Pring prior to the events of “Amok Time,” but well after their childhood betrothal. With Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' canonical pre- “Amok Time” meeting between Spock and T’Pring, this novel provides an alternate view of how they might have shaken out.
Of course, the book also focuses on Pike’s first impressions of Spock and his working relationship with Number One. The Pike of this novel is friendlier and happier than the man we meet in “The Cage,” which makes it easy to imagine Anson Mount’s contemporary Pike populating these pages. Fontana gives us a glimpse of Pike’s charm and Spock’s pre-Kirk emotional volatility. While some of this has been explored recently on-screen in Discovery Season 2 and Short Treks, Strange New Worlds fully delves into all of these concepts anew. But, the first person who gave Star Trek fans a big, bold version of the Pike-era, was the woman who gave Spock his soul. D.C. Fontana's writing in this novel is as crisp and insightful as any of her classic episodes. In some ways, Vulcan’s Glory feels like an extended series of deleted scenes from a version of The Original Series we never saw.
Desperate Hours by David Mack (2017) & The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller (2019)
At the same time that Discovery hit the screens in 2017, tie-in novels were helping to connect the Pike-era of the 2250s to the world of Captain Georgiou and Michael Burnham. In fact, the very first Discovery novel, ever, Desperate Hours, was also a Captain Pike novel! Set after the events of “The Cage,” but before “The Vulcan Hello,” the crews of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the U.S.S. Shenzou team up in an epic adventure that sees Pike and Georgiou working side-by-side. Mack’s novel, of course, predates the crossover between the U.S.S. Discovery and the U.S.S. Enterprise in Discovery Season 2 — and before Anson Mount, Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn were cast — but, just a few years later, in 2019, another Discovery novel tackled some of that topsy-turvy continuity.
John Jackson Miller’s 2019 novel The Enterprise War not only answers where the Enterprise was during the majority of the Klingon War in Discovery Season 1, but it also helps to reconcile the events of Desperate Hours with the Discovery continuity. Because he’d written both Star Trek and Star Wars novels, in 2019, Miller favorably compared “two versions” of Captain Pike in the Star Trek canon (Jeffrey Hunter and Anson Mount) to the two versions of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor) in the Star Wars canon.
From Pike’s interest in working with people named “Tyler,” to more revelations about just how many chief engineers came and went before Scotty, The Enterprise War answers all sorts of fun questions you might not have even thought to ask.
STAR TREK #61, “Door in the Cage,” from DC Comics (1994)
One of the most interesting Pike stories, this storyline — set during the TOS movie era and the adventures of the Enterprise-A — features something rarely found in Pike stories; an exploration of what happened to him after he returned to Talos IV in “The Menagerie.” In this future, Pike’s time on Talos resulted in him figuring out how to totally master the Talosian talent for telepathic projection. This means, when Spock encounters Pike in 2390, Pike is bearded, and walking around without the aid of his mechanized wheelchair from “The Menagerie.” On top of that, Pike seems to have a young son!
Spock can’t reconcile how any of this is possible, and the issue plays out mostly as a mystery. How can Pike really have a son? Is the telepathic projection of himself more real than his body? Written by Steve Wilson with art from Rob Whigham and Arne Starr, this story explores, perhaps, the one thing often left out of the Pike mythos — his quasi-happy ending. Were he and Vina happy together on Talos? And if so, what was Pike doing to occupy his mind? In this story, the answer turns out to be — He was really, really busy!
STAR TREK: EARLY VOYAGES from Marvel Comics (1997-1998)
The rights to publish Star Trek comic books were briefly held by the legendary Marvel Comics only twice. First, from 1980 to 1982, and then again, from 1996 to 1998. While the first Star Trek-Marvel period was exclusively focused on adventures set after The Motion Picture, the late '90s Marvel offerings from the Final Frontier were decidedly more diverse. This era gave the world the first Star Trek: Voyager comic book series, the legendary Starfleet Academy series, an audacious crossover between Marvel’s X-Men and Star Trek: The Original Series, an anthology series called STAR TREK: UNLIMITED, and even more adventures set in the Motion Picture-era; STAR TREK: UNTOLD VOYAGES.
But, perhaps the most interesting Star Trek series from this Marvel period was the ambitious monthly series, STAR TREK: EARLY VOYAGES. Focused on Captain Pike’s time on the U.S.S. Enterprise, this Marvel comics series was, in almost every way, the precursor to Strange New Worlds. Not only does the comic focus on Pike, Spock, and Number One, we also get to meet several “new” members of the Enterprise crew including the very cool Chief Engineer Moves-With-Burning Grace.
All 17 issues of EARLY VOYAGES were written by Ian Edginton and Dan Abnett. The series is perhaps best remembered for its bold alternate-universe Pike story in which Yeoman Colt (from “The Cage”) accidentally time travels from 2254 to 2293, splintering the timeline. Spanning issues 13-15, this results in a bizzaro TOS-movie-era in which an older Captain Pike (wearing the monster maroon uniform) is in command of the U.S.S. Enterprise-A, Kirk never stayed in Starfleet, and Number One is in command of the Excelsior. These storylines also manage to weave-in references to First Contact, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and The Undiscovered Country.
The art for EARLY VOYAGES featured beautiful work from Patrick Zircher, Michael Collins, Javier Pulido, Greg Adams, Steve Moncuse, Marie Javins, Matt Webb, and Janice Chiang.
Burning Dreams by Margaret Wander Bonanno (2006)
Written by beloved Star Trek novelist, the brilliant Margaret Wander Bonanno, this book is basically an alternate biography of Christopher Pike. From his childhood in Mojave to his earliest career moves in Starfleet, and even an extensive portrait concerning his love of his horse, Tango, Burning Dreams is the apocryphal Pike story to rule them all.
The book’s epic scope begins in the rarely-explored late 2220s and ends in the pre-TNG 2320s, a few decades after The Undiscovered Country and well beyond Pike’s “death.” For fans who want to see how Pike’s life might have begun, but also how aspects of his influence touch various aspects of the Star Trek timeline, this book is a treat. Getting into the specifics of the plot of this one would spoil the huge swings Bonanno makes. In some ways, this book is like A Hundred Years of Solitude for Star Trek.
Naturally, like all the other entries on this list, there’s no reason to think Burning Dreams will be part of the real canon of Pike’s backstory. In fact, Discovery has already established several things about Pike’s parents that are different. But, Burning Dreams is still an amazing achievement, a book that managed to bring Pike to life beyond his time on the Enterprise in a way that is both exciting and extremely tender, too.
WATCH: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Official Trailer
If you loved all the Pike-era ephemera on this list, here are a few more honorable mentions — the novel Legacy by Michael Jan Friedman (1991), The Captain’s Table novel Where the Sea Meets the Sky by Jerry Oltion (1998), the novel Children of Kings by Dave Stern (2010), the IDW one-shot comic book issue CAPTAIN'S LOG: PIKE by by Stuart Moore with art by J.K. Woodward (2010), and the DC comics STAR TREK ANNUAL: “All Those Years Ago,” written by Mike W. Barr, Marv Wolfman, and Dave Cockrum, with art from David Ross, Bob Smith, Carl Gafford, and Augustine Mass (1985).
Ryan Britt (he/him) is the author of the non-fiction book Phasers On Stun! How the Making (and Remaking) of Star Trek Changed the World, out from Plume Books. His science fiction journalism and criticism appear regularly with Inverse, Den of Geek!, Vulture, and Star Trek.com. His other writing has been published with SyFy Wire, VICE, the New York Times, and elsewhere. Ryan is an editor at Fatherly and lives in Portland, ME with his wife and a daughter who adores tribbles.
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