X-Men: The Animated Series ended in 1997 after five seasons on a bit of a cliffhanger: The frail Charles Xavier, near death, was whisked into space by the Shi'ar Empress Lilanda in an attempt to save his life. We never got to see if Charles survived or returned to Earth, but showrunner Eric Lewald's ideas for what could've happened sound great.
Speaking to Syfy Wire about his upcoming book on the making of one of the most iconic superhero cartoons of the '90s, Previously on X-Men, Lewald came up with an on-the-spot pitch for the first arc of a hypothetical sixth season of the show. Honestly, it sounds pretty good:
Season Six could open, months later, with the X-Men in disarray - a few gone, the ones remaining at each other's throats. They miss their leader. Then somehow they are called to - and transported to - an existential crisis on Lilandra's distant world. The team grudgingly reunites "for Charles", heads off to space, solves the crisis, and a somehow-healed Charles Xavier is either able to return to Earth with them or, if he can't, his heroic final sacrifice heals the team's wounds and they return to Earth as the proper X-Men again.
X-Men being jerks to each other before jetting off into space to either find their mentor restored to health or tragically lost in a sacrifice that reforms the team for good? That sounds amazing. The cartoon only barely scratched the surface of the X-Men's cosmic exploits in covering "The Dark Phoenix Saga". Taking the team right into the Shi'ar Empire to try and save Xavier sounds like it could've had a ton of potential. Not bad for an idea Lewald had on the spot, even if it was a couple decades too late.