Getting Real is a Star Trek: The Original Series comic strip by Gerry Conway. It is the last of 20 stories in the US Comic Strips series, published in newspapers over a period of nine weeks by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. This story depicts events after Captain Kirk's second five-year mission but before TOS movie: The Wrath of Khan. In this story, the Enterprise time travels to Earth in 1983. But when Kirk, Spock and Scotty beam down, two kids recognized them as being from the Star Trek TV series.



Star Trek poster

Two kids about ten or 12 years old were in Ben’s Den video arcade in 1983. Malcolm was playing a space shoot-em-up game and was close to breaking the machine’s record. Joey slapped the machine eagerly, inadvertently ending the game. Discouraged, they walked outside, just in time to hear the sound of a transporter materialization in a nearby alley. They peeked around the corner and saw three people whom they recognized, and immediately asked for autographs. Confused, Spock asked the children how they knew who he was. Malcolm pointed to a wall poster which advertised Star Trek, airing Saturdays on Channel 32.

Behind you

Joey suddenly became frightened and dragged Malcolm out of the alley. He’d realized that the trio in the alley were not actors from the Star Trek TV series, but rather were Admiral James T. Kirk, Captain Spock and Commander Montgomery Scott from the 23rd century. They fled down the street and ran straight into a police officer, who upon hearing what happened thought the kids had watched too many movies. The kids warned that Mr. Spock was behind him. The officer commented that Captain Kirk was probably behind him too. “Admiral Kirk, actually,” clarified Spock, who then applied a neck pinch.

Beaming aboard

Spock left the officer apparently asleep seated against his patrol car, and asked the kids to come back with him. They reunited with Kirk and Scotty on a rooftop. Kirk wondered aloud what to do about the kids. Malcolm offered to go with them, but Joey was hesitant, since “that guy had real pointed ears.” They all beamed up, with Joey nauseous and Malcolm thrilled. Kirk realized that the two boys might not be able to return home, since their knowledge of the future might alter history. The kids asked why they were in the 20th century, and Kirk revealed that they were supposed to destroy NASA’s space shuttle Icarus. According to history, the shuttle became infected with an alien microbe that killed millions of people in Florida, a catastrophe known as the Icarus plague. Joey was revolted by Kirk's plan, pointing out that Kirk always solved problems on TV “without hurting anyone.”

The kids were taken to sickbay. Once there, McCoy tried to reassure them that Starfleet had studied the tragedy for months, and destroying the orbiter had been seen as the best way to save lives. But Joey was not convinced. He found a hypo labeled “sedative” and injected McCoy with it, leaving him slouched unconscious on a table. Joey urged Malcolm that they had to save the space shuttle, so they set out to disguise themselves by donning adult Starfleet uniforms from a closet.


Kids escaping

The bridge received a report that the kids were sighted near the hangar deck. Heading down there, Kirk and Spock arrived in time to see the kids departing aboard a two-man shuttlecraft. After rushing back to the bridge, Spock explained to Kirk that he’d realized the Enterprise was in a parallel timeline. The reason was not just because they existed here as characters on a TV show, but also because Spock had scanned the deadly microbes currently orbiting Earth, and their lifespan was revealed to be much shorter here than in their own time. The microbes would be dead before Icarus launched, so in this timeline, at least, Earth was safe. Kirk was relieved.

Meanwhile, the two youngsters were in trouble. Although Joey had been able to pilot the two-man craft toward Earth, once it re-entered the atmosphere it was beginning to burn up. With a tractor beam, Sulu caught the small ship and secured it back in the hangar bay.

Kirk told the kids they did the right thing in trying to save their space shuttle, and reassured them that their space shuttle would be safe. As the kids were preparing to beam back to their city, Malcolm asked Kirk if he was concerned about the kids talking about their adventure with other people. Kirk said nobody would believe them. They materialized in the alleyway near their video arcade, agreed with Kirk's sentiment, and headed back to the arcade.



JoeyJames T. KirkMalcolmLeonard McCoyMontgomery ScottSpockHikaru SuluNyota Uhuraunnamed police officerunnamed USS Enterprise personnel

Starships and vehiclesEdit

USS Enterprisepolice cartwo-man shuttlecraft
Referenced only 


Earth (Chicago)

Races and culturesEdit


States and organizationsEdit


Science and technologyEdit

Icarus plaguemicrobephoton torpedoplaguetime traveltractor beam

Other referencesEdit

Defender arcade gameStar Trek: The Original Seriesvideo arcade


Published Order
Previous comic:
#19: “The Retirement of Admiral Kirk
Star Trek: The Original Series
(US Comic Strips)
Next comic:
last story
Previous story:
The Retirement of Admiral Kirk
Stories by:
Gerry Conway
Next story:
last story
Chronological Order
Previous adventure:
The Retirement of Admiral Kirk
Memory Beta Chronology Next adventure:
Wagon Train to the Stars




  • In the final panel of the story and the series, Malcolm wore a shirt with “Star Trek Lives!” on it.
  • The city setting was not named, but it apparently was Chicago. Artist Dick Kulpa’s hometown was Loves Park, Illinois, not far from Chicago.[1] The wall poster, seen most clearly in the strip from October 21, 1983, advertised Star Trek as being on channel 32. Chicago’s WFLD channel 32 broadcast Star Trek episodes in the 1970s and 80s.[2] And, in the strip published October 28, 1983, a tall building with two prominent antenna was visible behind Kirk, a building which resembled either the Sears Tower (now named the Willis Tower) or the John Hancock Center in Chicago.[3] (There were five other channel 32s in the United States. They were in Anaheim, Calif., Honolulu, Houston, San Francisco and Tampa Bay, Florida.[4] San Francisco’s KQEC channel 32 from 1970-1988 was a PBS station with limited on-air programming[5] and would not have aired Star Trek.)
  • This story tied for third shortest in the series, at 42 panels long (published over a span of 48 days, skipping Sundays). Called Home was also 42 panels long (over 42 days). Only It's a Living at 35 panels (over 35 days) and Terminally Yours at 36 panels (over 41 days, skipping Sundays) were shorter.
  • This was the last of five stories written by Gerry Conway, famous for co-creating Marvel’s Punisher and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man comic book. Conway wrote the final arc in the strip series, creating a period when Admiral Kirk revisited the Enterprise before the events of TOS movie: The Wrath of Khan.
  • No stardates were given in the story, but it seemed a continuation of Gerry Conway’s story arc, with Spock a Captain and Kirk an Admiral. The rationale for Gerry Conway’s stories being set in 2279 was presented in the article for TOS comic: "Send in the Clones".
  • When Malcolm and Joey first spotted the Enterprise crew in the alley, they thought they were William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and James Doohan doing a promotional tour for the latest Star Trek movie.
  • Kirk apparently felt that beaming down to determine the exact date was necessary for the mission. However, in TOS episode: "Tomorrow is Yesterday", Spock was able to get “exact chronometer readings” fairly quickly upon their arrival in the past. And in TOS episode: "Assignment: Earth", Spock was able to provide a list of current events for their place in time without beaming down.
  • Despite being disguised in contemporary clothing while walking around a United States city in 1983, Spock did not hide his ears, as he did in TOS episode: "The City on the Edge of Forever" or TOS movie: The Voyage Home. That may have been on purpose by the writer and artist, so Spock would be more immediately recognizable to Malcolm and Joey as Spock. It also would have made the visual story humor easier for casual newspaper readers to follow.
  • Among the visual humor, Spock stared deadpan behind a police officer who said he was “all ears” to know more; Kirk and Spock contemplated the sight of themselves and the Enterprise being on a poster; and two kids sneaked around the Enterprise believing they would go unnoticed just because they were wearing Starfleet uniforms.
  • The Enterprise shuttle stolen by the kids was of the two-man shuttlecraft design seen during Gerry Conway’s arc. Four of these shuttles were flown previously, but only the wrecked Copernicus in TOS comic: "Goodbye to Spock" had been mentioned by name. As the boys escaped the shuttle bay in the shuttle, Kirk reminded Spock of his opinion about how easy these shuttles were to pilot.
  • In a panel published November 3, 1983, while seated next to the two kids, Uhura wore a variation of the maroon uniform that appeared to be a one-piece dress, without black pants.
  • No explanation was provided for how the Enterprise ended up in the past of a parallel timeline. The story ended with the Enterprise still in that timeline. It was left untold how they returned to their own timeline, or if they completed the mission.


  • Kirk told the kids that he would stop the Icarus plague by firing photon torpedoes at the Icarus shuttle during its launch. Writer Gerry Conway clearly meant for Admiral Kirk to say something in that scene which would seem highly unlikely for Captain Kirk from the TV series to have said, so that the kids would call it out and then be motivated to take direct action to try to save the orbiter. But the tactic itself was not strategically sound. Torpedoes could have destroyed Icarus, portions of Cape Canaveral, or additional space shuttles which resided at Canaveral. That would have significantly altered the future of space exploration and demonstrated that extra-terrestrial spacecraft were a threat to the entire planet. The effects to the timeline might have been more far-reaching than the plague they were sent to prevent.
  • The notion of a United States space shuttle exploding shortly after launch in 1983 eerily presaged the loss of Challenger in 1986. (Wikipedia)
  • In a very odd twist of fate, the strip published on the day of Columbia’s launch was the one in which Sulu used a tractor beam to rescue the kids in the two-man shuttle from burning up in the atmosphere. In a catastrophe 20 years later, Columbia would burn up in the atmosphere. (Wikipedia)

Related storiesEdit


  1. Dick Kulpa’s hometown
  2. Chicago’s channel 32 history
  3. Shapes of Chicago buildings
  4. Other channel 32s
  5. San Francisco’s channel 32


External linksEdit

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