What do you get when you combine a short story from one of the best Star Trek novelists with art from one of the best folks at Go!Animate.com?
You get “Official Report,” a six-part episode by writer Howard Weinstein and Star Animator David Mancheska that examines the contemporary issue of torture through the characters in Star Trek.
The story uses word balloons instead of voices, and it begins three months after Ensign Pavel Chekov came aboard the Enterprise, which is headed toward Tenkara, a primitive world that has substantial deposits of dilithium. (Don’t they all?)
Chekov reports to Captain Kirk, Mister Spock and Doctor McCoy that three years earlier, the Tenkaran government asked for assistance from the Federation “to help get the planet’s mining industry up to modern standards.”
“After two years, some Tenkarans started to resent the presence of outsiders,” the ensign states, and they began sabotaging the mining operations.
“A small Starfleet detachment has been on Tenkara for the past year, with limited success,” Chekov says.
Kirk states that their mission is simple: “Deliver a shipment of medical supplies to the Starfleet outpost and a Tenkaran clinic in the capital.”
To keep Starfleet’s presence low-key, the Enterprise and her crew will survey nearby sectors for the next two days. And, Kirk adds, Chekov will pilot the shuttle and serve as mission commander.
The ensign is surprised by the captain’s decision, but McCoy tells Chekov not to “look a gift captain in the mouth. Say ‘Yes, Sir.’”
After the ensign leaves the room, Spock expresses reservations about such a young officer being in charge of a landing party. Kirk replies that the mission is “a milk run. What could possibly go wrong?”
The ensign lands the shuttle near the Starfleet outpost, and he and Bones are welcomed by Captain Irene Kwan, who tells them that the Starfleet Marines posted there have very limited rules of engagement, a problem the rebels don’t share.
“So we’re pretty much stuck in defensive mode,” the captain adds.
Kwan introduces Chekov and McCoy to her executive commander, Joe Wilder, who says the medical supplies are ready for transport into the capital city, and the doctor and the ensign are to go along..
When they arrive at the clinic, Doctor Davaar greets the group, and Bones and his counterpart enter the structure, unaware that a rebel has planted a bomb nearby. The device explodes but causes little damage, and the man responsible for the attack is captured.
Davaar returns to the group and asks where McCoy is, and it quickly becomes obvious that the bombing was meant to divert them while Bones was captured.”
The group returns to the Starfleet base, and Kwan interrogates the prisoner, who holds his ground. Wilder then suggests it’s time for “aggressive, extreme tactics.”
“You’re talking about … torture?” Chekov asks in disbelief since using that tactic “wiolates everything Starfleet stands for” and “almost never gets prisoners to give up useful information.”
Kwan also says that they’ll win without sacrificing who and what they are. Her next move is to visit Prime Minister Obrom back in the capital to seek his help regarding the situation.
Sometime later, Chekov hears a man screaming. The ensign grabs his phaser and follows the sound until he sees Wilder using a taser-like device on the prisoner, a violation of his captain’s orders.
To prevent Wilder from continuing, Chekov stuns the Marine with a blast from his phaser, but a guard returns the favor, and the ensign loses consciousness.
After receiving no help from the prime minister, Kwan returns and accuses Wilder of becoming “a barbarian in my absence” and Chekov as “ineffective” when trying to stop him.
However, Wilder said his tactics succeeded, and the prisoner gave up a location where McCoy might be found. Having no other leads, Kwan says she’ll go on a covert rescue mission—but without Wilder or Chekov since the captain can no longer trust them.
When the Starfleet officers attack the location, they find themselves outmanned and outgunned. That leads Kwan to declare that the intelligence was “bogus.” She orders her troops to retreat, but while attempting to provide cover, she is killed by rebel fire.
After attending a funeral for the captain, Wilder tells Chekov that he intends “to make sure Kwan didn’t die for nothing.”
But at that moment, a soldier tells them both that McCoy is back—and alive.
Bones later tells Chekov and Wilder that he was treated well by the rebels and was taken to a mountain stronghold because they needed a doctor to help their seriously injured leader, Rivaj.
While providing medical assistance, McCoy learned that Rivaj believes the Federation would turn a blind eye to any problems on the planet if that meant they could still get the dilithium.
Bones responds that “the Federation doesn’t annex other worlds, but the Klingons sure do!”
Just then, McCoy is told that the prisoner is going into cardiac arrest and needs immediate surgery.
Hours later, Wilder and Chekov meet Bones coming out of the operating room, and the doctor says his patient is “out of danger.” However, he states that the rebel had been “brutalized,” and that information will be included in his report.
When McCoy leaves, Chekov gives Wilder a chance to tell what really happened. If not, Kwan would receive the blame for the incident. Wilder responds that it’s still his word against Chekov’s.
The ensign then speaks with the two other Marines who witnessed the incident, but they say they have no proof of what really happened. As a “starshipper,” Chekov will soon leave the planet, but they’ll be stuck with Wilder as their commander.
“That’s not good enough,” the ensign exclaims. “If ve let this go, not only does Vilder get avay vith it, but ve have to live with knowing ve let him!”
Spoiler Alert: If you’d rather watch the ending yourself, go down to the link at the end of my review; or if not, continue reading.
When McCoy returns to the shuttle, he’s escorted by Wilder. As Bones goes inside the vessel, Chekov warns Wilder that he will report what really happened, and the commander again states that the ensign has no proof.
At that moment, the other two guards approach the ensign and the commander and ask to speak to McCoy.
They begin explaining to Bones what happened to the prisoner, and in a sudden change of heart, Wilder admits that he tortured the rebel.
When the Enterprise returns to Tenkara, Wilder is taken into custody to face a general court-martial on Starbase 12.
Back in the briefing room, Kirk tells Chekov that his report is “very blunt” and asks the ensign if he wants to change anything before it’s sent to Starfleet Command.
“I may only be an ensign, Sir, but I know vhat I saw,” Chekov says. “My report stands.”
“Good,” ‘Kirk replies. “You’ve set yourself a pretty high standard. I’ll expect you to live up to it.”
Spock then states that Chekov’s actions on Tenkara are “both ethical and completely logical.”
“Just remember what the Bible says,” McCoy states. “’The truth shall set you free. … but first, it’ll make you damn miserable!”
When Spock notes that the New Testament doesn’t have the “addendum” McCoy added, the doctor responds: “Well, it should!”
It’s time for me to put on my animated Clint Eastwood hat and get reviewing:
The Good: “Official Report” is an excellent tale set in Chekov’s first days on the Enterprise. Since it’s a short story, the episode could shift the spotlight from Kirk and Spock while discussing a current issue. Nicely done!
The Bad: I felt that the ending was a bit forced. Had this been a story in the imperfect Deep Space Nine universe, Chekov and the other Starfleet officers would probably have had to live with letting Wilder get away with his misdeeds unless some evidence came to light.
The Ugly: I guess we’re in the middle of an “evolution” of Go!Animate characters changing from the full-body style of the Trek characters (above, left) to a style with no arms or legs but an image with a head, hands and feet (above, right). The mixture felt a bit odd at times, but the story more than made up for it.