When Worf makes his entrance into the third season of Star Trek: Picard, he does so in a flurry of bat’leth and blood. Brutally killing the Ferengi Sneed to rescue Picard’s associate Raffi, Worf enters in a manner becoming of a Klingon warrior. But then, his mood suddenly changes from one of bloodlust to one of enlightened calm, even going so far as to offer Raffi a cup of tea. Clearly, a lot has happened to the Son of Mogh since his time on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. And while the penultimate episode of Picard hints toward some of those years (“That was not my fault”), many questions remain.
A new comic book series from IDW gives us a glimpse of Worf’s life directly after the Dominion War. Star Trek: Defiant is a spin-off from the Star Trek universe comics at IDW, spearheaded by editor Heather Antos and writers Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly. The mainline comics follow the USS Theseus, under the command of Captain Ben Sisko, who’s sent back from the Bajoran wormhole by the Prophets to deal with the threat of Kahless II, a clone of the Klingon god. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Kahless leads a group of followers called the Red Path to destroy the many (many, many) gods and god-like beings in the Trek universe, an action that will surely throw the galaxy into all-out war.
In Defiant, writer Christopher Cantwell (Marvel’s Iron Man, and co-creator of Halt and Catch Fire) sends Worf on an unsanctioned mission to deal directly with the threat of Kahless, a decision that comes after finding that his son Alexander has joined the Red Path. With the help of Ambassador Spock, Worf steals the Defiant and goes rogue from Starfleet, joined by an unlikely crew consisting of two characters who recently showed up in Picard — Maquis defector Ro Laren, and Lore, Data’s duplicitous positronic twin —as well as B’Elanna Torres from Voyager.
“What’s great about Picard season three is that we’re able to maybe bridge some of the ‘what was up with so-and-so’ in between,” Cantwell tells Den of Geek. Working with artist Ángel Unzueta, colorist Marissa Louise, and letterer Clayton Cowles, Cantwell gets to “fill in the middle” for Worf, Lore, and Ro before they hit their endpoints in Picard.
Most notably, Defiant lays out the earliest moments of Worf’s captaincy in Starfleet, a captaincy that is, in Cantwell’s words, “frayed.” Cantwell points out that Worf’s future in Starfleet was always in question during TNG and DS9, thanks to his “insubordination and his record versus his loyalty and duty.” Although Sisko goes so far as to tell Worf that his actions mean that he will never be a captain in Starfleet, Defiant gives him that chance.
And even though he knows Worf doesn’t always make the best decisions, Cantwell remains confident in the Son of Mogh. “Ultimately, my thesis statement for this book is that Worf is an awesome captain,” he says. “The biggest hurdle I think he’s got to overcome is himself.” So while Defiant will show some of Worf’s “missteps” on his way to earning his pips and becoming a Captain, there’s no question about his eventual destination for Cantwell.
He gets some help along the way from an unlikely ally in Ambassador Spock. Like Worf, Spock is a man of two worlds, a fellow Ambassador struggling to bring together two antagonistic peoples, the Vulcans and the Romulans. But while Spock may have a reputation for impeccable logic and an unimpeachable record in Starfleet, Cantwell wants to remind readers that he’s not nearly as stoic as he likes to portray himself.
“Spock’s logic is not necessarily, at this point, empirical logic, but Spock’s logic,” says Cantwell. “It’s like a world according to Spock,” who is “so smart that he can maybe justify anything to himself and others.” We see that in Defiant when Spock encourages Worf to defy Starfleet and Sisko to go after Khaless, and to align himself with shifty characters like Ro and Lore.
And yet, there’s no question that Spock’s influence helps Worf become the man we see in Picard. “Worf has read Spock’s book, The Many and the One,” Cantwell reminds us. “Worf has studied Spock.” It’s from that perspective that Worf can recognize that his emotions about Alexander’s involvement with Kahless may be clouding his judgment, showing hints of the self-awareness he exhibits in Picard.
Despite the fact that Defiant fills in certain gaps before Picard, Cantwell is adamant that he did not write the comic with an eye toward the live-action series. He credits Star Trek line editor Heater Antos with serving as the “Section 31” between the comic writers and the live-action writers, making sure that everything lines up. So while it was Cantwell’s idea to add Ro and Lore to Defiant, unaware that they would show up in Picard season three, Antos provided encouragement and direction, allowing the comics to become an unofficial prequel to the series.
As a result, Defiant not only tells an exciting continuation of Worf’s journey, but also serves as something of a prequel for Picard. By showing how this motley crew of outcasts and opportunists deal with a galaxy-wide threat, Defiant adds shades to characters we thought we knew so well, making their live-action appearances all the more rich and satisfying.