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This article is about the TOS comic. You may be looking for the TOS novel: Shell Game.

"Shell Game" was a 32-page TOS comic strip. It was the 36th weekly story arc in the UK comic strips series, published in 16 installments in Valiant and TV21 in 1973. In this story, James T. Kirk rescued the leader of the Sklurrians from a Romulan-held planet.


Teaser, 25 August 1973 
Captured by hostile Romulans, Captain Kirk and "the Shell Supreme" — ruler of the strange snail-beings of Sklurr — were taken to the colonized planet Karr and put in the arena to face a savage monster! To the delight of the Romulan Emperor and the howling mob, they fought with cunning success ... but they were only playing for time!


Following a space battle with several D7-class Klingon battlecruisers, the USS Enterprise resumes its mission of exploration in the Tharkian sector without defensive missiles. A sister-ship is en-route to resupply them, and Kirk plans to rebuild the ship's defenses in the next system. As the Enterprise approaches the star Danae Victoria, it is accosted by a probe in orbit of the 12th planet. Kirk destroys the probe with phasers, then sensors locate a nearby derelict. Boarding it, they discover several large snail-like beings who had been killed by a similar attack that had vibrated them to death. The Enterprise is then hailed from neighboring planet Karr in the Romulan language — they ask why their probe had been shot down, then fire interplanetary missiles at the starship. Kirk realizes that Romulans had occupied Karr and were using probes to blockade the 12th planet.

On the surface below, natives think the new visitor must be Karrian or Romulan, so they launch a weapon containing a molten plastic that envelops the Enterprise and causes life support failure. But their leader realizes that the starship might be friendly and chooses to investigate aboard his command ship, and after communications are established, the Sklurrians remove the enveloping plastic. The Shell Supreme and his aides leave their ship in pressurized spheres to board the Enterprise through an airlock. But a Romulan battlecruiser approaches and targets the defenseless Sklurrians. Kirk quickly intercepts them with a shuttlecraft, letting them board through the shuttle's airlock. But Romulan missiles disable the shuttle, and before the Enterprise can return fire with phasers, the Romulans have gassed the shuttle's occupants and taken them hostage.

Waking in the brig of the battlecruiser, Kirk communicates a plan to Spock via telepathy. As the prisoners are offloaded on Karr, Spock beams down in disguise to track them down. Local Karrians cheer as the Romulans take their prisoners to an arena to fight against a giant two-legged dinosaur. The Shell Supreme's aides are terrified, and when they try to flee, they are shot down by Karrian guards. While the Romulan emperor himself watches, Kirk and Shell Supreme are put in the arena. They cunningly evade the dinosaur, stalling for time. Spock jumps into the arena with a targeting device so they can be beamed up, but when it doesn't work, he hands Kirk a type-2 phaser. Kirk fires at the creature's neck and the beast collapses. Thanks to the phaser, the three are able to flee the arena and hide in an abandoned building to give Spock time to repair the targeting device.

The Romulan commander orders Karrians to hunt the escaped prisoners with a terrastron, a three-headed dog bred for tracking. Shell Supreme recognizes the animal's howls and urges them to flee, with Kirk and Spock sometimes riding atop the giant snail's hover platform to avoid leaving a scent trail along the ground. They also set a building on fire before escaping into a forest, which eventually gives way to grassy plains and then a wet marsh, but the howls continue behind them.

Meanwhile, several raiders engage the Enterprise. Over his communicator, Spock advises acting captain Montgomery Scott to fake a surrender in order to trap the raiders. Scott surrenders, and the Romulans order the ship's officers to disembark into space wearing environmental suits. As they seem to comply, a group of Romulans jet into space aiming to execute the officers. But the Starfleet spacesuits are empty, and the Enterprise then destroys the four raiders with phasers. Now free to help those on the surface, Scott sends Hikaru Sulu down with a shuttlecraft.

In the marsh, with the terrastron closing in, Kirk and Spock again climb onto Shell Supreme's hover platform, this time to cross a body of water. The guards sneer that this won't deter the beast. Luckily, at that moment a large, carnivorous, four-legged dinosaur spots the terrastron and chases it. They battle, and the dinosaur wins. As it starts to chase the three fugitives, the shuttle arrives. Sulu helps Kirk, Spock and Shell Supreme to climb aboard just in time. Shell Supreme says that events have united them, and Kirk hopes that the Sklurrians will join the Federation.



James T. KirkLeonard McCoyMookorNereusMontgomery ScottSeptonShell SupremeSpockHikaru SuluNyota Uhuraunnamed USS Enterprise personnel (crewmen, bridge crew, helmsman) • unnamed Karriansunnamed Sklurriansunnamed Romulans

Starships and vehicles

USS Enterprise (Constitution-class heavy cruiser) • groundcarhigh-security transporterNCC-1701/3 (class F shuttlecraft) • Romulan shuttlecraftSklurrian command shipSklurrian starshipunnamed Romulan starships (Romulan battlecruiserRomulan raiders)
Referenced only 
Karrian spaceshipKlingon war fleet


Danae VictoriaKarr (Arena of KarrKarrstern) • RomulusSklurr
Referenced only 
Earth (Rome) • JupiterTharkTharkian sector

Races and cultures

Referenced only 

States and organizations


Science and classification

air-circulating plantairlockall-stations microphoneanesthesia gascommunicatorforce shieldengineeugenicsforce fieldgeneratorguard probeheadphonehover platformjetpacklaser torchmissilephaserplastic stiflerpressure suitradio proberespiratorrifleriflerocketscannerstabilizing multigyrotransportertype-2 phaseruniversal translatorviewscreen

Ranks and titles

acting captaincaptainchief engineercommandercrewmandriveremperorgovernorguardhelmsmanofficerRomulan emperorShell Supreme

Other references

alert status (battle stationsred alert) • arenaanimalarmaments sectorassignment patchatmospherebeambridgebrigcapital citychaindinosaurdogengine roomFederation Starfleet ranks (2260s)fireforestgasgoldgorillagrasshourlogicmileminutenumber one motive plantorbitparking orbitpigplasticpolycephalyprison cellRomulan languagesecondsnailsnakespacestar timeStarfleet ranksStarfleet uniform (2265-2270)telepathyterrastrontreeuniverseVulcan nerve pinchwater


Related stories

Other early appearances of the Romulans:

Arena combat was also featured in:


  • This story was not printed with a title, but it was given one ("Shell Game") for its reprinting in the omnibus The Classic UK Comics, Volume 3.
  • The comic strip was notable for introducing the ruler of the Romulan people, later established as the Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire.
  • This story continued directly after the events of the previous arc, "Spheres of War", the only instance in this series in which events from one story influenced another. The previous arc took place in 2267 prior to the signing of the Organian Peace Treaty.
  • This was the second-longest story arc for artist John Stokes. His previous arc was two pages longer.
  • When Spock suggested surrendering as a ruse during starship combat, Kirk rightly called him out for contravening rules of battle. However, the Romulans planned to slaughter Enterprise personnel after they disembarked. (Surrender (military) article at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
  • Valiant and TV21 cover illustrations during the run of this story: #91 William Tell, #92 John Surtees, #93 Ilie Nastase, #94 Jesse James, #95 Ed Stewart, #96 George Stephenson, #97 Valeriy Borzov, #98 Ernest Shackleton, #99 Raymond Burr, #100 Napoleon Bonaparte, #101 Lee Trevino, #102 Rudyard Kipling, #103 Charlton Heston, #104 Mike McManus, #105 William the Conqueror, #106 Chris Brasher. Heston's illustration was of the famous chariot race in his 1959 movie Ben-Hur; an homage of that scene with a Heston lookalike appeared in TOS comic: "A Bomb in Time".


  • Though this was the fourth appearance of Romulans in the UK comic strips series, it was the first time they were depicted with pointed ears, though they still dressed and behaved like Romans.
  • Kirk and Spock were able to communicate telepathically from vast distances, an ability not seen in other stories.
  • After the narrator explained that Danae XII was known by its inhabitants as Sklurr, James T. Kirk suddenly began referring to the planet that way, perhaps for the sake of simplicity for readers.
  • Only two aides were captured with the Shell Supreme at the beginning of the story, but three were killed on Karr.
  • Montgomery Scott asked for the "number two shuttle" to be readied to rescue Kirk and the Shell Supreme, but the ship Hikaru Sulu piloted was NCC-1701/3, the same shuttle that appeared earlier in the story.



UK comic strips
Weekly story arcs "Life Form Nonexistent" • "The Crucial Element" • "Beware the Beast" • "The Third Party" • "The Children of Stai" • "Skin Deep" • "The Eagles Have Landed" • "Spectre of the Zond" • "Nor Any Drop to Drink" • "Menace of the Moloth" • "The Klingon Ultimatum" • "The Marshall Plan" • "Mutiny on the Dorado" • "The Ageless One" • "Thorpex" • "Under the Sea" • "Revolt on Dak-Alpha" • "Where Giants Tread" • "I, Emperor" • "Slaves of the Frogmen" • "Key Witness" • "Nova-Thirteen" • "Prison Break" • "Vibrations in Time" • "The Aging World" • "By Order of the Empire" • "Creeping Death" • "Ground Zero" • "The Collector" • "To Swiftly Go..." • "The Mindless Ones" • "The Perithees Alliance" • "The Saboteur Within" • "The Void of Storms" • "Spheres of War" • "Shell Game" • "To Rule the Universe"
Annual stories "Target: Zargot" • "A Bite of the Apple" • "Captives in Space" • "Planet of Rejects" • "Gateway to the Future" • "The Zodian Sacrifice" • "Smoke and Mirrors" • "Planet of the Dead" • "What Is This Thing Called Spock?" • "The Gods Have Come!" • "Rock and a Hard Place"


Published Order
Previous comic:
Spheres of War
TOS comics (UK comic strips) Next comic:
To Rule the Universe
Chronological Order
Previous adventure:
Spheres of War
Memory Beta Chronology Next adventure:
The Perithees Alliance
Previous comic:
Spheres of War
Voyages of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), Year Two Next comic:
The Perithees Alliance

Production history

  • This story was serialized in two-page sections over 16 consecutive weeks in Valiant and TV21 magazine. Ten issues (91-98, 100, 101) were 36 pages with the Star Trek segment printed in color on pages 18-19. Four issues (99, 102, 104, 105) were 40 pages with the segment printed on pages 20-21. Two issues (103, 106) were 44 pages with the segment printed on pages 22-23.
June 1973
  • 23 June 1973: Pages 1-2 published in Valiant and TV21 #91.
  • 30 June 1973: Pages 3-4 published in Valiant and TV21 #92.
July 1973
  • 7 July 1973: Pages 5-6 published in Valiant and TV21 #93.
  • 14 July 1973: Pages 7-8 published in Valiant and TV21 #94.
  • 21 July 1973: Pages 9-10 published in Valiant and TV21 #95.
  • 28 July 1973: Pages 11-12 published in Valiant and TV21 #96.
August 1973
September 1973
October 1973
September 2017 
Reprinted in the omnibus The Classic UK Comics, Volume 3. (IDW Publishing)
16 July 2020 
Reprinted in the omnibus Graphic Novel Collection, Volume 121. (Eaglemoss Collections)

External link