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Index > History & Cartography > The Planar Time of Star Trek

The Planar Time of Star Trek

Star Trek fans in general, myself included, have often tried to make sense of Star Trek and attempted to construct a single universe out of its various incarnations. For my part, I tend to consider minutiae such as starship scaling, prop or stylistic changes and such things to be interesting but ultimately unimportant. What matters is the plot, the narrative of the Trek franchise. Unfortunately there the principal problem of Star Trek lies, mainly because of its longevity and the absence of a "writer's bible". And so one of the tasks that Star Trek fans give themselves is to weave all those contradictory events and references into a coherent continuity, but that task has not been an easy one.

Despite obvious contradictions or depictions of the past that didn't quite match their previous descriptions (Cochrane's character in "First Contact", the technologies on Enterprise and the early contact with the Klingons, etc.), we have been reluctant to accept that those time travel events could really alter the timeline, mainly because we are simply used to thinking of time as a linear thing, and therefore assume that changes to the timeline would mean that what happened in Star Trek "before" that point will no longer occur. But also, because we want to be able to construct, for instance, a lineage of Federation starship designs, something that would otherwise depend on what version of the timeline we are observing, and which would become very complicated.

But what if time in the Star Trek universe wasn't linear ? If we loosely follow the actual production of the show, we go from TOS and the movies to TNG/DS9/VOY, then after "First Contact" we go to Enterprise's 22nd century, and now in 2009 we're right back where we started. But instead of thinking of all this as predestined, one way to look at it is that Enterprise is a direct consequence of the changes in "First Contact", and that Star Trek (2009) results from changes further down the timeline, but without the resulting paradox. Of course, that wouldn't work in linear time, because there would only be one timeline.

Well, I propose "planar" time. A 2-dimensional timeline, or time tapestry, if you will.

Each time one travels to the past, one not only goes back in time but travels in the second dimension as well, shifting to the "side". The previous timeline ceases to progress, and
the "new" one proceeds from that point on. The events of the previous timeline are essential to the change itself, so they must have occured, but the tapestry followed the time traveler and proceeds anew from there. And if one later travels even further back, the shift occurs in the opposite direction in order to allow revisiting that past. Since only one "version" of the timeline exists at any given time, it avoids the violations of the 1st law of thermodynamics that diverging timelines would entail.

Planar time thus allows us to take into account the changes to the timeline while still acknowledging the events of the past, eliminating the contradiction. We will posit that people or objects displaced a certain "distance" from their natural time period are immune to the changes in the timeline. This removes the threat of paradoxes, explains Guinan's temporal awareness (her own displacement perhaps caused by her time in the Nexus), and allows 31st century humans to use it to shield themselves from changes in time so as to be able to correct them if needed.

From a "franchise" point of view, planar time allows us to follow the narrative of Star Trek itself, rather than attempt to build a single, linear chain of events.

Most time travel episodes in Star Trek are inconsequential, so the "simplified" timeline ignores all but the most significant ones, and one could assume that even those changes could be more-or-less canceled by the events that weren't changed, somewhat diminishing the impact of the changes as time progresses again. Travels to or from the future or those with possible effects on a very short time period are also ignored for simplicity. The "complete" timeline integrates all but the least significant events, but is presented in a less detailed format.

A) First Timeline

Ancient Past:
 - The Organians shed their mortal coil
 - Extinction of the Tkon empire following a supernova
 - Sargon's people explore the stars
 - A terrible war forces the Talosians underground
 - The Iconian civilisation
 - Construction of the Doomsday machines
 - Godlike aliens meddle in the affairs of men

????: Reformation on Vulcan by Surak, following millennia of strife on the planet.
????: The Preservers seed humanoid life on innumerable worlds.
1957: The first artificial satellite launched from Earth, Sputnik.
1992: The third world war. 37 Million people die.
1996: Khan and his followers are exiled into space on board the Botany Bay.
1999: Voyager 6 is launched.
2002: The Nomad probe is launched.
2061: Zefram Cochrane demonstrates the warp drive.
2065: The Valiant attempts to exit the galaxy.
2123: The first interstellar vessel named Enterprise (XCV 330) is launched, using an annular warp drive based on those of the Vulcans.
2138: Establishment of Starfleet.
2156: Romulan war.
2160: Establishment of the Neutral Zone.
2161: Establishment of the United Federation of Planets between the Humans, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites.
2163: Launch of the first Federation starship, the Daedalus-class Perseus, NCC-101.
2218: First contact with the Klingons.
2223: First Federation-Klingon war.
2243: Development of the Duotronic computer.
2245: Launch of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701, under Robert April.
2246: Kodos the Executioner orders the massacre of 4000 on Tarsus 4.
2251: Christopher Pike assumes command of the Enterprise.
2254: Discovery of Talos 4 by the Enterprise.
2264: James Kirk begins his historic five-year mission with the Enterprise.
2266: First contact with the Romulans since the war.
2267: Discovery of the Mirror Universe.
2268: The Starship Defiant is transported in the past of the Mirror Universe, initiating the Earth Empire's most brutal era. Time-travelling James Kirk encounters Gary Seven on 20th century Earth. Seven manages to prevent a nuclear incident.

B) Second Timeline

NOTE: Gary Seven's involvement, though he himself did not come from the future, is done with knowledge of the future. Therefore the change to the cold war may have had a profound effect on the coming third world war. Of course, Khan still appears in "Star Trek II" and speaks of the 20th century. He also mentions 200 years, though, and we already know that the supermen were put in stasis on at least one other occasion, so his dictatorship may have been pushed back.

1968: Gary Seven, a human agent trained by unknown aliens, prevents an accident that would lead to nuclear war.
2053: Earth recovers from the third world war. 600 million people died in that conflict.
2271: Return of Voyager 6 as V'Ger.
      NOTE: This doesn't quite add up. If Seven's involvement is meant to correct the
      timeline and make it fit with real world history, then Voyager 6's launch would have
      to be removed. Unfortunately TMP occurs _after_ Assignment: Earth, but before STIV.
2285: The Genesis incident.
2286: Kirk travels to earth's past in 1986 to recover two whales in order to communicate with aliens threatening Earth.
      NOTE: Although we can assume that the introduction of transparent aluminum this early
      in the timeline may have affected the technological development leading up to Kirk's
      time, there is no evidence on the show that it had any impact on its relevant
2293: The Khitomer Conference establishes peace with the Klingons as the Federation agrees to shelter millions of Klingon refugees on its outlying colonies.
2311: The Tomed incident leads to the treaty of Algeron with the Romulans.
2337: First contact with the Cardassians.
2341: The Klingon-Cardassian war begins. It will last 18 years.
2344: The Enterprise NCC-1701-C rescues a Klingon outpost at Narendra III, leading to an alliance with the Klingons. This is the only contact with the Romulans between 2311 and 2364.
      NOTE: The Enterprise-C's travel to the future did not create a new timeline, but
      its return to its proper time did. However, since there are no known events in this
      new timeline, it does not have its own entry here.
2355: First contact with the Ferengi at Maxia Zeta by the Stargazer under the command of Jean-Luc Picard.
2363: The Enterprise NCC-1701-D is launched under the command of Jean-Luc Picard.
2364: First contact with the Q continuum. A race of parasitic beings (Centaurian slugs ?) attempt to take over the Federation.
2366: A future-travelling NCC-1701-C encounters its future counterpart. Enterprise-D officer Yar returns in time with the ill-fated ship to assist.
2367: Battle of Wolf 359. End of the Cardassian conflict. Establishment of the Demilitarized Zone.
2368: Klingon civil war following Romulan insurrection.
2369: The wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant is discovered near Bajor. The Cardassian station Deep Space Nine, now a federation base, is moved near its entrance.
2370: First contact with the Dominion.
2371: The starship Voyager is lost in the Delta Quadrant.
2372: War erupts between the Klingons and the Cardassians. The Federation soon becomes entangled in the conflict.
2373: The Dominion War begins when the Cardassians sign an agreement with them. The Borg attempt to change Earth's past by preventing first contact with the Vulcans but fail.

C) Third Timeline

NOTE: Borg incursion into this period, known to Cochrane, makes humanity more cautious and the Vulcans more protective, delaying the creation of Starfleet. It may also affect the design of NX-01 and the technologies available in the 22nd century, though it may average out by the 24th, canceled by surrounding, unaffected events.

2063: Zephram Cochrane demonstrates the warp drive. The event attracts the attention of the Vulcans and leads to first contact with an alien species.
2151: Travels of the Enterprise, NX-01, the first starship to bear the name. First contact with the Klingons following Suliban interference.
2152: First contact with the Ferengi.
2154: End of the temporal cold war with the Suliban and their mysterious future benefactors (Sphere Builders?).
      NOTE: The timeline was temporarily altered from 1945, but then oddly restored.
2155: First contact with the Romulans.
2374: Species 8472 breaches into our universe and confronts the Borg. They are ultimately pushed back.
2375: The Alpha Quadrant rallies to defeat the Dominion from the Gamma Quadrant.
2377: The starship Voyager returns to the Alpha Quadrant after barely foiling a Borg invasion plot.
2379: The Remans under the clone Shinzon attempt to overthrow the Romulan Star Empire.
2387: The Hobus supernova threatens Romulus. Spock halts the advance of the disaster using red matter but fails to do so before Romulus is destroyed. The Romulan Nero attacks, and both craft are caught in the resulting black hole and are thrown back into the past.

D) Fourth Timeline

NOTE: We assume that the later date for the construction of the Enterprise is somehow due to Nero's intervention. It has been suggested that this is due to scans made by the Kelvin of Nero's ship, allowing Starfleet to reverse-engineer some 24th century technology and integrate it into NCC-1701's construction. With the Kelvin's proximity to the Klingon border, other issues may have come into play, such as a ill-fated rescue operation to recover the shuttles or a confrontation with the Klingons.

2233: Nero emerges from the future and destroys the USS Kelvin. James Kirk is born when the shuttle carrying his mother narrowly escapes Nero's attack.
2258: Destruction of Vulcan. Launch of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701, under James T Kirk.

E) Notes About Time-Travel Events

TOS: "Assignment Earth": See above. There are actually two time travels, here. The first is Gary Seven's future knowledge, and the second, Enterprise's travel to investigate the change.
"Star Trek IV": See above.
TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise": See above.
TNG: "Time's Arrow": In order for this to work, Data must have traveled to the past initially without finding his own severed head. That time travel then triggers the episode itself.
DS9: "Past Tense": Minor change.
"First Contact": See above.
DS9: "The Visitor": Temporal change operates as normal but through different means.
VOY: "Future's End": Travel from 29th century to 20th. Corrected ?
VOY: "Timeless": Minor change.
VOY: "The Year of Hell": No visible changes to the timeline.
VOY: "Endgame": Minor change.
ENT: "Broken Bow": Interference from the 26th century. See above.
ENT: "Shockwave": Interference from the 31st century. Corrected.
ENT: "The Expanse": Further interference from the 26th century.
ENT: "Twilight": Timeless beings. Their destruction resets the timeline at time zero.
ENT: "Zero Hour": Short interference in WWII. Restored but still creates a new, if identical, timeline.
"Star Trek": See above.

F) Parallel Timelines

In TNG "Parallels" and all episodes pertaining to the mirror universe, we see alternate realities. But those cannot be older or future timelines, because they continue to progress while our own planar time does, as well. Therefore we can conclude that there are several, perhaps an infinity of timelines sprung from time zero, each with its own planar chain of events.

(Theory by Belz...)

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