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Alternate History in Star Trek Part 27: TNG Spinoffs of the Movie Era

By Tom Anderson

Last time we looked at Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) non-canon spinoffs, such as comics and novels, which were being released around the period 1994-2000. These came at a time when the show had been long off the air and its film representation had come to a close with “Generations” in 1994, yet the interest of writers and fans was clearly still there. The same was even more true of The Next Generation (TNG) whose series had just concluded and was now appearing in cinemas.

Interestingly, though, there was a significant difference. TOS spinoff material in the 80s and early 90s had often had the awkward compromise that its writers wanted to capture the feel of, well, the original series, with its camaraderie and aesthetics, yet also felt the need to set their stories in the later, ‘more current’, movie era. In the case of novels this often led to ambiguity, e.g. I remember being confused as a kid that Diane Carey’s novel Dreadnought! was full of references to TOS-era things, but also had Klingon Birds-of-Prey in it from the movies. Having read up on it more recently, many of the novels seem to have been implicitly set in some imaginary continuation of the TOS series into the movie era, with everyone wearing the red uniforms and so on but still having adventures down on the planet of the week. Novels can get away with such ambiguity due to the lack of visuals unless explicitly pointed out by the author (and the average Star Trek reader doesn’t expect covers to be accurate regardless!) but comics can’t get away with declaring an era through aesthetics, and again most TOS comics in that era were set amid the movies – even when, as I’ve discussed, it makes no logical sense as they’re crammed into a nonexistent gap between two continuing films.

It might be reasonable, therefore, to ask if the same would be true of TNG; would post-1994 (and especially post-1996 with “First Contact”) writers pen tales of series-style planet-of-the-week adventures, but starring the crew in grey-topped uniforms on the Enterprise-E? Sometimes, it turned out, but far less often than TOS. It was more common to set the new adventures during the seven years of on-screen TNG or, strangely often, in some sort of odd limbo in between “All Good Things” and “Generations” where we can refer to all seven years of adventures while still being on the Enterprise-D. Some books, like “Crossover” (no connection with the DS9 episode of the same name) actually make this explicit with an author’s note at the start. It’s somewhat reminiscent of how Patrick O’Brian invented extra years like, as he put it, ‘1812A’ so he could keep adding more adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin without having to progress the pace of the Napoleonic Wars.

There are doubtless several reasons for this decision, such as wanting to keep the comfortable setting of the Enterprise-D, but most obvious among them are because authors wanted to use Worf, who left the ship after “Generations” to go to DS9. The films came up with more and more contrived reasons for bringing him back, but it would obviously be far-fetched for it to happen every time in a novel, so this may be why the Enterprise-E years were neglected. I am generalising though, and we’ll see some examples of fiction set in this era.

Let’s start with comics. Last time we looked at TNG spinoffs in part 12, we finished DC’s run on the TNG comics and annuals, which ran up to 1996 and well beyond the end of the on-screen show and “Generations”, but still set during its run. A couple of miniseries I neglected to mention were “Shadowheart” by Michael Jan Friedman (which is a storyline about Worf’s human adopted brother set before his appearance in the TNG episode “Homeward” – an odd choice as it conflicts with the crew not knowing him then, and Friedman also uses ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ as a title almost simultaneously with using it for a TOS novel trilogy!) and “Ill Wind” by Diane Duane, which is a similar plot to Diane Carey’s earlier TOS novel “The Great Starship Race”.

The comic rights then came to Marvel. I’ve already mentioned “Star Trek: Unlimited” by (mostly) Dan Abnett and Ian Edgington, which annoyingly is an anthology of both TOS and TNG stories so I’ll have to discuss it elsewhere, along with the ‘Telepathy War’ crossover. One of the Unlimited stories depicts the launch of the Enterprise-E, which is – of course – also depicted in a contradictory way in the novel “Ship of the Line”. Other than this, there were only four TNG one-shots published during the Marvel era. First, in November 1996, came a fairly faithful comic adaptation of “First Contact” written by John Vornholt. 1997 saw Paul Jenkins’ interesting concept “Operation Assimilation”, which depicts the Borg attack on the Romulans in the background of the episode “The Neutral Zone” and the assimilation of a Romulan commander. None of our regular Trek cast appear, for a very different story.

1997 also saw an unusual crossover – “Star Trek/X-Men Second Contact”. Wait, you cry, having read the last article, hadn’t Marvel just done a crossover between X-Men and TOS? Yes, but now they’re doing one with TNG, too, and yes they’re in the same continuity and the previous story is referenced. The concept is that the Enterprise-E got lost on the way home from 2063 in “First Contact” and has to help the X-Men fight the time-travelling Marvel villain Kang the Conqueror, including resolving time paradoxes to do with both the Battle of Wolf 359 and the equally iconic Days of Future Past storyline in X-Men. Abnett and Edgington write again, while the pencil art by Cary Nord was especially praised by Patrick Stewart. People were already making jokes about the resemblance between Picard and Professor X, which – for those not paying attention to the years – might be mistaken to referencing Stewart being cast as the professor in the X-Men films, but that hadn’t happened yet! I haven’t read this comic but I have read its novel sequel, which we’ll get to. The idea of squeezing this in after the end of “First Contact” is a bit pants, but for some reason doesn’t feel as offensive to me as some of the other ‘also after this satisfying ending something forgettable happens to spoil it’ spinoff media. Perhaps because it’s a fun crossover and the ending of “First Contact” felt like it was explicitly looking to more adventures.

Finally, we have “The Enemy of My Enemy” from 1998, also by Abnett and Edgington, which does feature Riker in his “First Contact” uniform on the cover for once. Do not make this comic part of your hypothetical Late Nineties Star Trek Drinking Game, because you will die of alcohol poisoning. Riker meets Ro Laren and asks to join the Maquis, join up with some Klingons and steal the Genesis Device. I have no idea if this turns out to be a ruse or is something to do with Thomas Riker (weird that wouldn’t be brought up), etc. because I’ve never read it and the online synopses are a bit vague. And with that, the rather brief Marvel era of TNG comes to a close. The licence then passed to WildStorm, but as their comics didn’t debut until 2000, we’ll leave them there for now. I will mention that most of the WildStorm comics are set during the run of TNG and feature the Enterprise-D and the old uniforms and logos on the cover, though.

If there was a bit of a decline in TNG comics output in the late 90s, then, the same could not be said of novels. Last time we looked at this, we’d cut off with numbered novel number 33 “Balance of Power” by Dafydd ab Hugh (1995) and the most recent ‘Giant’ novel was “Q-Squared” (1994). Let’s first continue with the numbered novels. “Blaze of Glory” (1995) by Simon Hawke knows how to sell itself to Star Trek fans – the cover is Picard and Data with a Constitution-class ship, and for once this is not clickbait. The story is about a pirate equipped by the Romulans who uses the old ship (complete with cloaking device) to raid a war-torn planet, and Picard has to stop him. In isolation it wouldn’t be that interesting, but come on, Constitution-class ship fighting the Enterprise-D!

The Romulans are back again in “The Romulan Stratagem” (1995) by Robert Greenberger. After the events of “Unification”, Sela has been relegated to command of an older Romulan warbird, and she is now Picard’s opposite number as both Federation and Romulans try to persuade the neutral Elohsians to join their side. I remember reading this one in my school library and it seemed decent enough, with a good plot twist at the end (er, spoilers) that the Elohsians actually choose the Romulan side, implied to help reignite Sela’s career. “Into the Nebula” (1995) by Gene DeWeese is a straightforward Star Trek solve the mystery plot with a planet dying from an unknown cause. Oh, and it has a galaxy rather than a nebula on the cover, because of course it does. “The Last Stand” (1995) by Brad Ferguson is more classic Trek, with Picard finding a civilisation on the verge of discovering warp drive (so does the Prime Directive apply?) but they already know they are about to be attacked by a different race, and Picard has to try to stop the war.

“Dragon’s Honour” (1996) by Kij Johnson and Greg Cox is very strange. You know when you’ve been researching an unrelated topic a lot and then can’t help but bring it into your writing – yeah, that. The Enterprise has to oversee an important royal wedding between two rivals in the ‘exotic Dragon Empire’ who base their culture on ancient imperial China because, um, (checks notes) and now want to join the Federation. I mean, I suppose TOS did have loads of planets with unexplained connections with western cultures, so East Asia can have one too, as a treat.

“Rogue Saucer” (1996) by John Vornholt is also a bit odd. The idea is that the Enterprise-D is damaged by the Pakleds and, while her own saucer section is undergoing repairs, Starfleet decides to outfit her with a new one that’d be capable of surviving crash-landing on a planet (hint, hint). However, it turns out it was all part of a ploy by the Maquis (take a shot) assisted by inside info from Ro Laren (finish the bottle) to try to steal the new saucer. I don’t know, I kind of like this idea, but it feels weird to do the saucer crash plot and set it before “Generations”. Vornholt said he was inspired by reading the saucer crash sequence in the TNG Tech Manual – I mean, yeah, but, you know, so was that film that came out two years earlier?

“Possession” (1996) by J. M. Dillard and Kathleen O’Malley, is a book I have not read, but my Kindle’s algorithm currently keeps shoving in my face because I’ve read some of Dillard’s other books recently, so I might eventually give up and read it (not that that is any guarantee that it will stop the algorithm, which routinely recommends books I have written to me). This is a sequel to the earlier TOS novel “Demons” and features people being possessed by beings from Vulcan’s dark past. This feels a bit less special considering how much TNG has done the possession plot on-screen, e.g. in “Lonely Among Us” and “Power Play” (the latter being possibly the most forgettably generic episode of season 5, possibly due to having 5 writers work on it, despite the mention of the iconic Daedalus class ship that all Star Trek fans love to bits). After the TNG contribution to the “Invasion!” crossover we have already discussed, “Infiltrator” (1996) by W. R. Thompson features a lost colony of Khan-era Augments (not then called that), Hera, whose people seek to infiltrate and take over the Enterprise – while a renegade who has turned against their ways must stop them.

“A Fury Scorned” (1996) by Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski – their first Star Trek work – features Picard with a classic moral dilemma of a planet of 20 million people about to be destroyed by a supernova, and who to save. They also have great archaeological heritage and this is implied to be another choice to save, but I feel it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest Picard would ever do that just because he loves archaeology (the Star Lost comics storyline gets his characterisation better, being contemptuous of aliens who tried to save monuments over intelligent beings in a similar situation). Anyway in the end Data is able to fix everything as usual so it doesn’t matter. “The Death of Princes” (1997) by John Peel would be a great Shakespearean reference title if this was about comets – which it isn’t. It’s two intertwined storylines, one about fighting a plague on a new Federation planet and another about a rogue Federation observer violating the Prime Directive to try to stop an assassination.

“Intellivore” (1997) by Diane Duane is one I have read. The cover, obviously, seemingly depicts a Borg sphere looming behind a planet, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot. Clickbait predates the internet, people. The titular intellivores are these old beings or technology who slurp out your intelligence, and can put illusions in your head to tempt you in in order to do it. A fellow Galaxy-class ship, the USS Oraidhe, helps out, being named after a Trill mountain and with a Trill captain, Clif (who I always pictured as Cliff Richard). He’s an old friend of Picard’s, obviously, even though in “The Host” nobody knew what a Trill was (but, of course, this is a continuity problem far beyond this book!) Anyway, approximately four and a half minutes after he’s introduced, he and his crew are immediately killed off when the intellivores lure them in and slurp out their brains. Picard even recreates him on the holodeck to have a conversation because that was easier then editing it in earlier, I guess. Yeah, not up to Duane’s usual standards.

“To Storm Heaven” (1997) by Esther M. Friesner features the Enterprise-D crew battling a plague (what, again?) on a colony world while navigating intrigue. Look, don’t say Star Trek didn’t warn you. Even aside from the Double Helix series, the number of 90s novels accurately depicting panic and irrational behaviour in response to pandemics is now rather depressing in hindsight.

Following this, the next three books (1998) form a “Q Trilogy” by Greg Cox, where Q abducts Picard and they have to team up to stop a powerful threat or something. I admit I’ve never read these so maybe they’re great, but the concept always sounded off-putting – feels like someone watched the awful VGR episode “The Q and the Grey” and decided you know what, we should do the same thing with Picard. Following this is “Dyson Sphere” (1999) by Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski. This one had a reputation at one point for being Worst Book Ever. I read it and found it to certainly be meh but that feels a bit harsh. Basically, the Enterprise-D returns to the Dyson Sphere they found Montgomery Scott on in “Relics”, accompanied by the science vessel USS Darwin - said to be ‘Voyager-class’ and I never knew whether the author meant Intrepid-class like the USS Voyager, or simply didn’t realise the confusion of using that as a (different) class name too. Also the Darwin is crewed by Horta, because of course it is. There are a few interesting xeno SF ideas in this one, like the idea that the inner surface of the Dyson Sphere replicates the continents on a planet orbiting its sun (presumably where the vanished builders lived) but it just never really goes anywhere. The blurb and a few mentions early in the book decide there might be some mysterious connection with the Borg, because… (blank stare) and towards the end of the book, a Borg ship appears on the edge of sensor range, does nothing and then leaves (really). Also the Dyson Sphere disappears into another dimension or something (taking the Horta with it, I think) so at least it serves as an explanation for why it’s never mentioned again. Pretty bad but ‘worst book ever’ is pushing it.

The next six books, all published in 1999, are the “Double Helix” hexa- sexa-… six-book series, which I’ve previously covered in a different article outside this series. Note that they are all branded as TNG, even though some of them don’t feature any TNG characters and others only barely so.

After “Double Helix” we have nearly reached my 2000 cutoff, but as there are only 7 more numbered TNG novels, finishing in 2001, I might as well cover them now. “The Forgotten War” by William R. Forstchen (1999), an author who is probably better known in the Alternate History community for collaborating with Newt Gingrich on several AH novels in the 2000s. Forstchen is known for post-apocalyptic settings, and uses one to interesting effect in this novel. Around the time of Captain Christopher Pike, a contemporary named Lucien Murat and the USS Verdun fell in battle with the alien Tarn. Over a century later, Picard and the Enterprise-D are on a diplomatic mission to the Tarn, but discover that Murat’s crew survived crash-landing on a planet, along with the crew of a rival Tarn ship. Both crews have been fighting a war for generations and now have a distorted picture of what their ancestors were like. For instance, though the Verdun descendants brand their weapons with Starfleet deltas, they imagine their ancestors gained their ranks by killing Klingons, and are contemptuous when they meet the real Starfleet officers of the Enterprise-D. There is a bit of a silly rule-of-cool thing where the Verdun descendants are using copies of P-51 Mustangs and M1 Garands constructed using information from their ship database, but it’s still a very interesting idea (and one which makes real use of TNG being set so far into the future compared to TOS). Arguably, it’s yet another case of doing the ‘idea’ of the Mirror Universe (militaristic brutality and barbarism shockingly wrapped in Starfleet trappings without encountering all the storytelling disadvantages of the Mirror Universe itself) In the end Picard and the Tarn leadership bring the war to an end by both threatening to give weapons of mass destruction to the other side to ‘theirs’ in the war, forcing peace talks.

Up to this point, as you can see, there had been an absolute fusillade of numbered TNG novels – indeed, more TNG novels than there were novels released for the still-current DS9 and VGR series. These then began to slow to a trickle, however. Only two numbered TNG novels were released in 2000, a two-part story simply called ‘Gemworld, Books 1 and 2’ by John Vornholt. These actually are set on the Enterprise-E. Because appearing in one episode of Star Trek (especially as a Starfleet officer) is an almost guaranteed ticket to appearing in spinoff books, the story revolves around the Elaysian Ensign Melora Pazlar from DS9’s “Melora” who, to be fair, was originally planned to be a regular cast member. Even though that episode was all about how Melora struggles in Earth-normal gravity because of the Elaysian homeworld’s low gravity (emphasis mine), Vornholt decides that, no, actually, she came from this artificial planet Gemworld because shut up. It’s actually home to six races living in harmony (record scratch) until now, and the Enterprise has to sort it out. Also Reg Barclay is there and falls in love. This isn’t actually the last time Melora will appear in spinoff media.

This is followed by “Tooth and Claw” (2001) by Doranna Durgin. Again we return to the comfortable, familiar Enterprise-D years, well, the timing is a bit hard to define judging by the cover, which has Worf in his regular uniform and Riker in his DS9-type one he only wears in “Generations”. Again, considering that on TV DS9 had now finished and VGR would do so a few months later, it’s striking that there remained interest in TNG broadcast years. Anyway, the idea of this one is that Riker has to go on a hunting expedition to get in with a leader of an alien race who are the only ones who can help them evacuate another alien race. But then the shuttle crashes and Riker has to fight off deadly beasts and protect the leader in question.

In contrast to this episode, numbered novel number 61 – actually the last one-off novel – is “Diplomatic Implausibility” (2001) by Keith R. A. DeCandido (a name we’ll be seeing more of later) and is explicitly set after the end of DS9. Worf is now the Federation Ambassador to the Klingons, and has to try to help negotiate his way out of a difficult impasse. The Klingons conquered a planet 200 years ago, then during their invasion of Cardassia lost control of it to local rebels, who appealed to the Federation for recognition. Now the Klingons are ready to reassert control, but the Federation are in a quandary over whether to let them or to fight for the rights of the people who appealed to them. A nicely realistic bit of diplomatic awkwardness.

The final numbered TNG novels are another two-part story, “Maximum Warp” (2001) by Dave Galanter and Dave Brodeur, whose sub-parts are named “Dead Zone” and “Forever Dark”. This one is also set in the ‘present day’ at the time after the end of the Dominion War. It uses an idea I always thought was underused in Star Trek – what if warp drive stops working? Of course, this idea has been used to great effect in the more recent series of “Star Trek: Discovery”. The concept here is similar, with ‘dead zones’ without warp or subspace communications causing interstellar civilisation to start to unravel. Picard and Ambassador Spock (of course) have to team up with dodgy Romulans to avert this shredding the uneasy peace between the Federation and Romulans, and get to the bottom of the cause. In the end there has to be a moral choice, as it turns out the effects are caused by the people of an alien planet using a device to stop it falling into a black hole. Of course, arguably the Omega Directive established by VGR (where Starfleet believes that anything that threatens warp drive must be stopped, even overruling the Prime Directive) should cover this, but I don’t know if that comes up.

In 2001 we wouldn’t have dreamed that would be the end of the numbered TNG novel series, which had continued at a strong pace after the show left the air. However, TNG novels would continue to be produced under different branding, including the later ‘Relaunch’ from the mid-2000s. We’ll cover those another time, along with some unnumbered ones from the early 2000s but for now, let’s just cover the ‘Giant’ ones in the same time period we’ve discussed. (Yes, I know this is confusing, and we’re not even onto the young adult ones yet…).

The next ‘Giant’ novel after the ones we’ve already discussed was “Crossover” (1995, not the DS9 episode) by Michael Jan Friedman. Despite the title it’s not a crossover in the usual sense (and in-universe is the name of the Romulan planet on which it’s set, sceptical ‘hmm’). Basically, the Romulans have caught Spock and are about to execute him (but, oddly, don’t know what he looks like, leading to an ‘I am Spartacus’ scene) and Picard wants to do something but his hands are tied. No matter, Spock’s old friends McCoy and Scotty are still around – McCoy tries to pull rank on Picard, then realises he’s become the very same interfering ambassador type he always hated in TOS, while Scotty has a different plan. He goes to a museum and steals the last remaining original Constitution-class starship, the USS Yorktown (save us from Clever Shout-outs that contradict other Clever Shout-outs, because the Yorktown was also meant to become the Enterprise-A) along with the Romulan cloaking device from “The Enterprise Incident”. In fairness there is an interesting discussion about how Scotty is able to use the advanced 24th century computer on the shuttle Picard gave him to control the Yorktown’s systems as though he had a full crew. Scotty’s rescue attempt initially meets in failure, but he confuses the Romulans by claiming to be a time traveller from the past. In the end, they are able to rescue Spock, but warbirds catch the Yorktown just as she crossed the Neutral Zone and meets the Enterprise-D. Fortunately, McCoy is able to bluff the Romulans by pointing to a different threat massing on another Romulan border and they’d better not start anything with the Federation. Spock then infuriates everyone by wanting to go back to Romulan space and continue his work anyway. “Crossover” is good fun and basically the last gasp of the ‘very cautious crossover’ phase of Star Trek (it’s almost like a TOS-TNG crossover but not an actual one, because we’re not allowed to do that), which is the antithesis of the sort of thing we’d see a few years later from people like Keith R. A. DeCandido.

Michael Jan Friedman also penned the next ‘giant’ novel, “Kahless” (1996) which is a sequel to the TNG episode “Rightful Heir”. An ancient scroll is rediscovered giving a new account of the life of Kahless, legendary founder of the Klingon Empire (who was cloned back to life in that episode) and the Empire is subject to tumult and disagreement as the Klingons argue over it. Strangely, the book features excerpts from the mythologised scroll interspersed with the more prosaic real events of history, but the audiobook only has the former. Apparently the makers think that historiographic criticism is only for sighted people? Odd decision to say the least.

I previously mentioned Diane Carey’s “Ship of the Line” (1997) which is about the launch of the Enterprise-E (and, of course, there’s also a comic that depicts a different version of this). It’s also a sequel to “Cause and Effect” and is intended to reflect the fact that Captain Morgan Bateson (Kelsey Grammer) recorded a voice line about him and the USS Bozeman being part of the fight against the Borg in “First Contact”, audible in the background of that film. According to Carey, that Bozeman was not the 80-year-old original but a new ship by the same name (which does make more sense!) Carey also pulls the interesting idea (later used to great effect by Jack Campbell in his Lost Fleet series) that, technically, Bateson is now Starfleet’s most senior captain by date of service, and Picard worries that he’s the automatic choice to command the next flagship, the new Enterprise-E. Unfortunately, it’s also around this time that Carey, formerly one of my favourite Trek authors, started to go a bit off the deep end with some ideas (I’ll discuss this more when we get to how “Best Destiny” influenced Star Trek 2009). For example, she decides the old Bozeman was a ‘border cutter’ because she’s obsessed with early US history, and makes up a bridge crew that doesn’t match the one we could actually see on screen in “Cause and Effect”. There’s also a rather mean-spiritedly tragic bit where one of Bateson’s officers discovers that his wife spent her life searching for him after the Bozeman disappeared into the time rift, and ended up dying under nasty circumstances as a result. Anyway, Picard has to get the Enterprise-E back when Bateson’s aged old Klingon nemesis takes it over, and ends up with the command, while Bateson settles for the new Bozeman.

Peter David’s “Imzadi”, which I discussed in a previous article, got a sort-of sequel in 1998 in the form of “Triangle: Imzadi II”. I never liked the concept of this one, which focuses on the brief Worf-Troi relationship in season 7 of TNG. However, I have since discovered that David didn’t like it either; he hated using the ‘Imzadi’ tagline with it and comparing it to the earlier book (considering the far more epic scope of the original). Indeed, David had been promised that ‘Imzadi II’ would only be in small letters under ‘Triangle’, then was angry when the publishers then broke their promise). He also planned for the book to end with Riker proposing to Troi, only for that to be vetoed, and he became angry with having to get rid of a scene he had been proud of. And then, only a few months later, “Insurrection” came out and put Riker and Troi back together anyway and they did end up married. I can understand his frustration.

“The Best and the Brightest” (1998) by Susan Wright is one of several attempts to do a Starfleet Academy-set series, either on TV, film, novels or whatever medium. In this case, with original characters, rather than the backstory of ones we already know. On paper the idea has merit, especially as it avoids all the continuity snarls and prequel problems of the backstory approach. However, I was very underwhelmed by the book and it’s one of very few Star Trek books I’ve started and then never finished.

Back to Michael Jan Friedman again for the next ‘giant’ book, “Planet X”, which (strangely!) continues the TNG/X-Men crossover begun in the comics. On their way back from that crossover, the X-Men turn up in a Starfleet storage facility a year later, and the Enterprise-E has to come and rescue them – and recruit them for their help in dealing with a planet which has started to see a mutant-like ‘transformed’ population of their own appearing. This was actually my first ever introduction to the X-Men, as I never saw the Saturday morning cartoon or read the comics, and, well, it was an interesting experience.

There are things to complain about, like Friedman misunderstanding how warp drive works and the antagonists being an EVIL race of the week called the Draa’kon who have a ship that can stand up to the Enterprise-E (yeah, right) but overall, it’s actually a well-executed crossover. Worf and Wolverine get to team up and kick ass, on and off the holodeck. Picard fancies Storm (who would probably be weirded out if she knew, as she makes a hologram of Professor X who bears a resemblance to Picard – again, a joke made BEFORE Patrick Stewart was cast as Xavier in the films!) Crusher gets to use Starfleet medical technology to analyse Archangel and advise him on the effect of nanomachines from Apocalypse in his blood. There’s some good moments of how both groups are impressed with different aspects of each other – Troi’s (much-mocked by fans of the show) empathic study of the enemy is impressive to the X-Men, because few telepaths in Marvel can reach out their minds thousands of miles like that without the benefit of technology. The range of Starfleet transporters is also impressive to them, whereas Nightcrawler can only transport himself a couple of miles – but because his works by a different means, he can teleport straight through the enemy shields. So Picard flies the Enterprise-E on a very close pass to the enemy, Nightcrawler brings himself and Data across, and then Data sabotages the enemy ship. Data also gets to show himself to the mutinous ‘transformed’ mutants on the planet below (who, of course, have been put in camps by a paranoid government like this is an X-Men story) as someone different who was discriminated against. Storm goes toe-to-toe with a would-be supervillain and wipes the floor with him. In the end, the get to the bottom of the mystery on the planet and the X-Men are sent home for real this time. There’s a fun scene at the end where Q and the Watcher from Marvel observe the scene from a distance, Q with sunglasses, a deckchair and a cocktail of course. It turns out that all of this was a ploy by Q to help Picard out a little in a typically cryptic way. “I know how it is,” Q tells the Watcher as he must depart, “places to grow, people to be.”

Michael Jan Friedman, once again, wrote the next book, “The Valiant” (2000). This is meant to be a follow-up to “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and is set aboard the Stargazer during Picard’s years as second officer – he finds himself in the captain’s chair after an attack kills his superiors. The book is therefore part of a running series using the Stargazer crew that Friedman developed for earlier books like “Reunion”, which eventually became an official sub-series. It turns out that, although the Valiant absolutely, definitely was said to be destroyed in the TOS episode, it still had survivors because shut up, and their descendants have mini and less troubling versions of Gary Mitchell’s esper powers. An extragalactic alien race, the Nuyyad, are now invading (has anyone told the Kelvans) and Picard is on the spot making decisions that might decide the fate of the galaxy. It is a good framing for a ‘making of a captain’ story, but I remember being a bit underwhelmed.

There are more TNG books to discuss, but let’s use the 2000 cutoff and leave it there. It will still be a while before we finally get back to on-screen Trek to finish off DS9 and VGR. First, I want to talk about a second wave of Star Trek video games – including the one which I have the most memories of, “Star Trek TNG: A Final Unity”.



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