Review of “Rivals”, Star Trek DC Comics Volume 2, Issues 66-68

A couple of weeks ago I weighed in on a conversation started by magicalgirlrem about T’Pring, Spock’s former fiancée. In my response I mentioned that Memory Alpha had an entry in the “Apocrypha” section on T’Pring that read:

“T’Pring appears in a storyline in Star Trek (DC volume 2) where she has grown overweight and Stonn is no longer attracted to her.”

The whole idea of a wife “letting herself go” (often meaning looks-wise) is a classic sexist double-standard in that it’s almost never applied to men. It’s also tied up in the offensive idea that larger women are inherently unattractive to men, and that how a woman looks to men is more important than how she feels. 

Basically my response was “someone find me this comic so I can tear it apart.” 

I found the only issues in that series that feature T’Pring (as far as I can tell) on ebay. Star Trek DC Volume 2, issues 66-68 (December 1994 to February 1995) make up a three-part series called “Rivals” that follows up on the characters from “Amok Time.”

I am pleased that reports of T’Pring “letting herself go” have been greatly exaggerated. Actually, they were pretty much dead wrong (and I have edited the Memory Alpha page to reflect that).

The “Rivals” series begins with the Enterprise intercepting a stolen cargo ship and apprehending two fugitives, including T’Pring and Stonn’s daughter T’Ariis:

T'Ariis in Rivals

After the comic book recaps the events of “Amok Time” (with pretty decent art, I might add), we see the page I posted at top, that explains what happened to T’Pring. As you see, T’Pring entered religious study and eventually chose to become a Matriarch of the Temple of Kolinahr rather than returning home with Stonn and T’Ariis. 

So by this point I’m clearly confused. How on earth did someone get the description I saw on Memory Alpha? I thought I’d read on to see.

For more background, there’s a plot thread going on that involves Stonn negotiating safe passage for Federation ships through a key region of space. The boy T’Ariis was fleeing with is tied up in this struggle and their actions are putting the negotiations in jeopardy. 

Spock and Kirk take T’Ariis back home to her father and her step-mother, Sepora. Stonn and T’Ariis argue (T’Ariis is pretty badass; I kinda like her) and Stonn keels over.

Here’s where I think the person on Memory Alpha must have got confused. Sepora is drawn as fatter than T’Pring and Stonn is shown to be basically still in love with his first wife. 

Sepora the Vulcan stepmother

If that had been the end of it, I actually would have been more annoyed. Not only would it have still sent the message that fat = unlovable but also would’ve added the “evil stepmother” trope. Portraying an stepmother as less conventionally beautiful than her stepdaughter (and jealous of that fact) is something we’ve all seen before and its both ageist and sexist.

But these comics don’t go that way. They don’t dehumanize Sepora but instead show her as brave and compassionate. First she tells Kirk that she feels Stonn only married her so someone could look after T’Ariis:

Sepora tells Kirk how she tried her best to care for T'Ariis

Sepora is really human…well, Vulcan…in this story. You can see how she’s strong and compassionate and you can empathize with how she developed some resentment towards both T’Pring and Stonn and probably T’Ariis for being put in a situation where she always had to give and received little in return.

Oh yeah! You might be wondering why Stonn keeled over. Briefly, each of Sepora and T’Ariis think the other is poisoning him, but that suspense doesn’t last long before McCoy finds out Stonn has a terminal infection. While Stonn is being treated, he and Spock get a chance to talk things out, and it says some interesting things about masculinity.

Stonn remembers Spock ringing the gong in "Amok Time"
“Ever since T’Pring chose me over you, Spock, I have been impelled to find myself worthy of that choice.”

What Stonn describes – feeling like he was emasculated by his former rival’s success – isn’t logical. But it reads as totally familiar because we get that there’s pressure on boys/men to live up to the ideal of the “Alpha Male” who proves himself through beating his rival and winning the girl.

Stonn tells Spock he always felt inadequate next to him
“Every day of our marriage I felt your presence. Every day, I was compared to a legend and found wanting.”
Stonn tells Spock more as he lies in sickbay
“By choosing Kirk as her champion, she silently declared that I could not have defeated you in combat.”

Stonn actually thinks T’Pring saying he couldn’t beat Spock in a fight is as bad as not marrying him, because her questioning his physical strength undermined his masculinity. It’s a messed-up thought and we see it questioned here because Stonn does everything he can to prove himself as a man measured against Spock, and ends up ignoring Sepora and T’Ariin and ultimately dying feeling regretful and unfulfilled.

And oh hey, there’s Uhura! She doesn’t have much to do with the story – I think she’s shown on one page in the entire three issues, but just in case you were wondering.

Uhura locates a signal for Spock

T’Ariin is an interesting character in this series for sure. She keeps running off with the guy she was with at the beginning and getting in all kinds of danger, but while she’s hot-headed she also clearly knows her shit. For example, she busts the guy out of jail by hacking into the computer networks.

At one point Spock does have to come and rescue her, and there is a point where there’s a bit of romantic/sexual tension between them – slightly creepy because of the age difference. He wakes her up from a nightmare in the hotel room they’re sharing to hide and after he gives her some good Spock-y life advice, she touches his face and then he holds her and against his chest. But we don’t see anything further than that.

At the end Sepora and T’Ariin make up and you get the sense both of them are going to leave behind the dysfunctions they had in their relationships with Stonn and each other.

Sepora and T'Ariin make up

So even though Memory Alpha was wrong, I’m glad I looked into it. Though Sepora and T’Ariin aren’t canon characters I loved spending some time with them and seeing their totally different personalities, each with their own unique strength. 

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