Perhaps you’ve already heard of it and dismissed it as a joke. However, I am here to tell you, friends: Planet X by Michael Jan Friedman is no joke! This crossover between Star Trek: The Next Generation and the X-Men characters is a best-case scenario.

For this week’s Trek Tuesday, we’re examining the virtues of the May 1998 prose novel. Have you had a chance to read it for yourself? Be sure and let us know in the comment section.

Planet X

Planet X cover. L to R: Storm, Worf, Data, unidentified green alien, Wolverine and Riker. In the background is the X-Men "X" logo and a red alien planet. In the foreground is a TNG era Starfleet comm badge. The subtitle: "Two teams of heroes... one astounding adventure."

First, let’s cover the facts. Planet X is, in fact, a sequel. It is preceded by multiple crossover comics issues. The first is 1996’s Star Trek/X-Men #1, which saw several members of the Star Trek: The Original Series crew crossing over with the X-Men. Then in March 1998’s Star Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men: Second Contact #1, the TNG crew joined in on the crossing over.

Sadly, I have yet to track down or read either of these crossover issues. Fortunately, Planet X is written in such a way that those who are joining the narrative with the prose novel (like me) can follow along with relative ease. However, having a general familiarity with the casts of both TNG and the X-Men was an invaluable tool for my enjoyment of the story.

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Planet X was published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. And while you may not have read it, it was fairly successful. In fact, it even reached the New York Times Best Sellers Plus list in the month it was released.

In the novel, a handful of X-Men inexplicably find themselves at a Starbase in the 24th century. Soon, they make contact with the crew of the USS Enterprise-D. If this has successfully piqued your interest, please consider picking up a copy and reading it yourself. The novel is still in print and may be available at local and online booksellers and/or at your local public library. From here until the end of this article, we enter the Planet X spoiler zone.

Planet X Spoiler Zone

What’s the ultimate explanation for the presence of the X-Men in Federation space? Underwhelmingly, it’s essentially hand-waved away as meddling by Q.

Ultimately, Q wielding cosmic power is a sufficient explanation for the crossover. In episodes of TNG, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Picard, we’ve seen Q perform seemingly equivalent manipulations of reality. And the Watcher only knows that any hero of the Marvel Comics universe must be prepared to be whisked away to a parallel universe by a random godlike entity at the drop of a mask.

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However, in spite of the fact that there is canonical precedent for Q’s ability to accomplish this crossover, it’s a letdown that a more interesting sci-fi explanation wasn’t given instead. Furthermore, consider the fandoms at play here. Trekkies will accept a Boltzmann brain can spontaneously generate and turn a Starship crew into a high school play. And Marvel fans can accept a girl who can speak with squirrels without any follow-up questions. Surely an explanation that could please both these demographics could be found without resorting to “Q did it.”

Sometimes, crossovers can be accomplished with a wave of the hand, just to get the casts together. Like The Simpsons/Futurama TV crossover. But other times, the crossover can be a clever and unique part of the story. Like The Simpsons/Futurama comic book crossover. It’s disappointing that the explanation for Planet X more closely resembles the latter.

Storm on Starfleet

Nevertheless, despite the underwhelming explanation for the crossover, Planet X is well worth your while. It can be tempting to immediately dismiss a crossover between two corporate IP franchises as a cheap cash-in. And in some cases, this is what they turn out to be. There’s probably a Ferengi Rule of Acquisition that dictates that milking two fandoms produces more profit than just milking one.

But in a best-case scenario, the integration of the two franchises can give us a fresh perspective on both. And such is the case with Planet X. In the middle of the novel, a conversation between Storm and Jean-Luc Picard yields what might be my favorite distillation of Star Trek.

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First, Storm explains to Picard how she and the other X-Men have been treated where they come from. “In our world, we would have been cast out for that—purged mercilessly from society.” By contrast, she observes that those in the Federation have not just abstained from purging them. On the contrary, they have gone out of their way to embrace them.

“I hope you comprehend the wonder of a society that judges each being on [their] merits,” Storm tells Picard. “More than your technological advances, more than the great distances you have traveled in search of knowledge… this is the true miracle of your Federation, Captain. This is your greatest achievement.” While this speech is about Star Trek, it would not be out of place in the dialogue of an episode of X-Men ’97. It is elements like this that make Planet X an unmissable crossover.

Picard’s Tet-a-Tet

Finally, Planet X addresses the holographic elephant in the room using the holodeck. Near the conclusion of the novel, Picard comes face-to-face with a holographic recreation of Professor Charles Xavier.

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The scene gives the two disparate characters, both played by Patrick Stewart onscreen, the opportunity to come face-to-face with one another (more or less). It’s an amusing and gratifying scene… and you’re very unlikely to see it play out anywhere else.

Planet X is available now at local and online booksellers and/or at your local public library.

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