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Time for a Holiday

How Much for Just the Planet?

By John M. Ford 

17 Sep, 2020

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1987’s How Much for Just the Planet? is a standalone comic Star Trek tie-in novel by John M. Ford. 

The dilithium-rich world Direidi is too close to both the Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. Inevitably, one great power or the other was bound to stumble across the potentially valuable world. As it happened, Klingon and Federation survey vessels discovered the world simultaneously.

Time for Direidi’s Plan C to be put into action.

Key to Plan C: the Organian Peace Treaty, forced on the Klingons and Federation by the one power that both acknowledge as superior, the Organians. The treaty does not, alas, make any provision for leaving potentially valuable worlds undeveloped. It does, however, permit the world in question to choose which sphere of influence it will join. 

Presenting the Federation’s case: Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. Presenting for the Empire: Captain Kaden vestai-Oparai and the crew of the Fire Blossom. Both parties are keenly aware of their rival’s presence. Both are aware that attempts at a violent resolution will earn a stern bottom-smacking from the Organians. Neither knows what the Direidans have planned. 

Nothing less than hijinks. Zany hijinks.


Warning: this is a funny novel and I have no discernable sense of humour. 

The Federation were (as is the way of entertainments of old) presumed to be the good guys. But it’s pretty clear from this narrative that when dilithium is at stake, the Federation isn’t going to bother itself with petty environmental concerns. They won’t worry too much about how the locals feel about having their planet strip-mined.

Assuming it does get back to Starfleet … then they’ll come in, relocate the population, and mine the place naked. That’s why we’re the good guys.” 

Olden time TV shows didn’t generally go in for continuity, preferring the narrative freedom of a reset button at the end of each episode. The Organian Peace Treaty, first seen in S1E227 Errand of Mercy,” is something of an exception, as the conditions forced on the Klingons and Federation had dramatic potential. Case in point: the treaty gives a planet with the human population of a small-town leverage over the two powers most likely to annex them. 

Unusually for a novel, this is a musical. That’s … an interesting creative choice but one with precedent. Mad Magazine, for example, did many musical parodies despite the notable drawback that it was a static medium with no sound track. 

The plot (to the extent that there is one) exists to put the various characters in embarrassing situations, seemingly uninhibited by concern for plausibility. Generally speaking, comedy that relies on misunderstanding and humiliation depicts events that occur …. organically, let’s say, without wilful assistance. In this case, there is a broader context in which the absurd situations make sense. The locals are doing to their visitors what the crew of the Enterprise once did in I Mudd,” for much the same reason. Force isn’t going to get them what they want, so other means are necessary, 

Whether or not you’ll like this book depends a lot on, how much you enjoy zany comedies, especially those of the musical variety.

How Much for Just the Planet? is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo)