[SPOILER WARNING!!! If you have not seen the new Star Trek film yet, please stop reading as the plot is extensively discussed. You have been warned!]
Now that we know how the new Star Trek film handles the continuity issues, what exactly does it all mean and what are the greater implications to not just the original series, but the greater Trek mythos as a whole? I freely admit I may be the only one who really cares, but the more I started thinking about what this new timeline meant, the more it spiralled out of control. So, I decided to take a stroll through established Star Trek history and was surprised at all the events, large and small, that are affected as a result of two actions on Nero’s part. It all starts in the time of Mark Twain.
Time May Change Me, But I Can’t Trace Time
Chronologically the crew of the Enterprise-D make the first appearance on Earth via time travel in 1893. Should the Next Generation crew never make this journey I speculate that Guinan would have eventually become aware of the Davidians insidious plans and found a way to defeat them (“Time’s Arrow, Part I” and “Time’s Arrow, Part II”). Next we turn to Kirk and crew’s visits to contemporary Earth. Their earliest visit is to 1930, as depicted in “The City on the Edge of Forever.” There is no issue here, for if the Enterprise were to never encounter the Guardian of Forever then a drugged McCoy will never use it to go back and prevent the death of Edith Keeler. Likewise, their next two appearances in the twentieth century, 1968 (“Tomorrow is Yesterday”) and 1969 (“Assignment: Earth”) can also not occur with no disruption to history. In the former the ship’s appearance began the very problems the crew eventually had to resolve while in the latter Gary Seven could have definitely completed his assignment without assistance (or hindrance, as the case may be) from the Starfleet personnel. The Original Series crew next appears in 1986, attempting to procure a humpback whale and return with it to the 23rd Century (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). We’ll look at the event that lead to this trip later, but should Kirk, Spock, McCoy et al never take a Klingon ship back to this time history will march on none the wiser. The extinction of humpback whales was reported as happening long before the Kelvin encountered Nero so two more of the animals are, sadly, unlikely to alter that. The next visit to the 20th Century was Voyager appearing in 1996 (“Future’s End, Part I” and “Future’s End, Part II”). That, and the Ferengi visit to 1947 (“Little Green Men”) both are events that have no significant impact on history should they not occur.
In 2024 a time lost Benjamin Sisko took the place of Gabriel Bell, an important historical figure. As Bell was arguably killed due to Sisko and Julian Bashir’s presence during that time, then history would actually continue its normal course should the alternate universe cause them not to journey to the past (“Past Tense, Part I” and “Past Tense, Part II”). While writing this article I realize that this new timeline may actually “fix” several situations where the various Trek characters have screwed up their own timeline forcing them to go to extreme lengths to insure that not only does their presence remain undocumented, but that events still unfold as they should. But I digress. Our next stop along the timeline is a very crucial event, 2063 and Zephrem Cochrane’s historical warp drive test. Borg incursion notwithstanding, it would seem that Picard and his officers played a crucial part in not only convincing Cochrane in making hist first flight, but in preparing the ship (Star Trek: First Contact). Would time arrange for another gentle nudge for Cochrane? Since Starfleet and the UFP still exist, we must assume that either Cochrane plucked up the courage himself or things self-corrected.
But Still The Days Seem The Same
There are three events that happen in the late 20th Century/early 21st Century that should still occur that could possibly have an impact later on. Voyager VI gets launched meaning V’Ger still returns in 2273 (Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Khan Noonien Singh and the crew of the sleeper ship Botany Bay escape Earth in 1996 to begin their 271 years of drifting in suspended animation (“Space Seed” and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Lastly, Jackson Roykirk still launches the Nomad probe in 2002, setting it on its course to merge with the alien probe Tan Ru and eventually murder four billion beings in the Malurian System sixty-five years later (“The Changeling”). These are all events that occur prior to Nero’s altering of the timeline, so they all three should still happen. There is nothing preventing the first one and the third is dependent upon being noticed by someone, although four billion deaths would be a little hard to ignore and we must assume that Nomad/Tan Ru would not have stopped there. As for Khan and his followers, it all depends on whether or not Starbase 12, or a similar such station, is ever constructed in the sector where their ship was adrift. Technically they could just continue along, asleep and unnoticed, until the Botany Bay used up all its power.
The only series that is completely unaffected by this new timeline is Star Trek: Enterprise. It’s possible that the episodes “In A Mirror, Darkly” and “In A Mirror, Darkly, Part II” have been negated, however they both take place entirely in the Mirror Universe with no interaction with the main universe. The Temporal Cold War involved factions from the 28th-31st Centuries and featured fluidly changing possible futures, so I think it is reasonable to assume that it still occurred and affected events during the series as depicted. This includes the Enterprise‘s trip to 1944 (“Storm Front” and “Storm Front, Part II”) and Archer and T’Pol’s visit to 2004 (“Carpenter Street”). Indeed, the only series other than the original, and obliquely The Next Generation, to get a direct reference is the prequel series with Scotty’s line about Admiral Archer’s favorite beagle. The Romulan War and the founding of the United Federation of Planets should still occur unimpeded as does the Horizon leaving the book Chicago Mobs of the Twenties behind on Sigma Iotia II (“A Piece of the Action”).
Just Gonna Have To Be A Different Man
This leads us to Nero’s arrival in the 23rd Century and he immediately changes things. The USS Kelvin is destroyed, killing George Kirk. This singular event significantly alters the life of James T. Kirk and seems to have other ramifications as well. Beginning with Kirk, it seems without his father’s influence he turned out to be a thrill-seeking, rebellious young man. It’s doubtful he was on the Tarsus IV colony to witness the massacre perpetrated by Governor Kodos (“The Conscience of the King”). Kirk now doesn’t enter Starfleet Academy until 2255, five years later than he originally did. This means he doesn’t get hazed by Finnegan (“Shore Leave”) and doesn’t meet Gary Mitchell (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”). It’s possible John Gill could still have been influential teacher to him (“Patterns of Force”), but Ben Finney would have already been assigned to the Republic, which Kirk would have never served aboard (“Court Martial”). Likewise, Kirk did not serve as tactical officer aboard the Farragut meaning that he never visits Neural and befriends Tyree in 2255 (“A Private Little War”), nor is he aboard the ship when it encounters the cloud creature at Tycho IV (if it ever does) (“Obsession”). The Axanar peace mission would have been conducted without the young cadet Kirk. Kirk becomes captain of the Enterprise almost seven years earlier than in the original timeline. None of this rules out the possibility of Kirk meeting Carol Marcus, so David Marcus could still be born.
Curiously, the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 launches much later than it did in the original timeline. Robert April never commanded the ship and Christopher Pike served as her skipper for a lot less than the original eleven years. Pike, having likely distinguished himself elsewhere is now a fleet Admiral after captaining the Enterprise on its maiden voyage. Whether or not he will avoid his fateful encounter with delta radiation in a few years remains to be seen. The ship also seems to be more advanced technologically then it was originally. My speculation on that is after the Kelvin‘s ill-fated encounter with a mysterious ship of clearly advanced design, Starfleet accelerated its research and development and made bolder advancements in starship design and equipment. Also, while events have changed in the lives of all Kirk’s crew to bring them together on the Enterprise much earlier than in the unaltered timeline, there isn’t enough known about their individual pasts to be able to say what’s different. That is, except for a certain Vulcan with a human mother.
Spock’s history up through his graduation from Starfleet Academy remains unchanged. He does not serve as Pike’s science officer for eleven years due to the late launch of Enterprise and Pike’s early promotion (“The Cage”, “The Menagerie, Part I” and “The Menagerie, Part II”). The major events for Spock in this new timeline are the destruction of Vulcan and the death of his mother. Interestingly, those two events result in some positive developments for the half-Vulcan/half-human. He and his father, Sarek, reconcile much sooner than the eighteen years it took originally (“Journey to Babel”). Perhaps even more importantly, Sarek’s blatant admission to having loved Amanda plus the tremendous emotion turmoil he was forced to come to terms with have apparently helped Spock reconcile his two sides fairly rapidly. The fact that Spock is willing to openly engage in a romantic relationship with Uhura is evidence of this. I think his conversation with his counterpart from the future only helped in further understanding how his emotional and logical halves could compliment each other. I think we’ll see a much more assured and less conflicted Spock going forward.
Pretty Soon Now You’re Gonna Get A Little Older
It is impossible to fully speculate how things play out for the characters of the original series going forward or for the generations to come, although it’s reasonable to assume that things will proceed in the general direction we’ve seen. However, the destruction of Vulcan raises a point worth speculating on. Considering that the UFP will become much more human-centric now it is easy to imagine that tensions with the Klingon Empire will continue for many, many years and possibly even heighten. This makes it unlikely that the Federation and the Empire will sign the sign the Khitomer Accords in 2293 (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). At the same time, consider all the work the future Spock has done towards re-unifying his people with their long-lost brethren, the Romulans (“Unification, Part I” and “Unification, Part II”). Considering there are only approximately 10,000 Vulcans remaining, unification with the Romulans would be one course of action to consider. It’s possible that unification would succeed and have a positive unfluence on the reclusive Empire to the effect that it could be the Romulans that end up signing a peace accord with the Federation instead of the Klingons. That could even mean a Romulan instead of Worf serves aboard Picard’s Enterprise-D, or whatever Enterprise model Jean-Luc commands. That or I’m just getting crazy with speculation.
You’ve Left Us Up To Our Necks In It
No matter what events transpire in future films sequels, television series and/or novels based in this new timeline I, for one, am excited by the possibilities. Anything can happen at this point and, while some it may seem familiar, the Star Trek universe is no longer the same. The great thing about this new alternate universe is that new stories can be told without being beholden to over forty years of continuity. At the same time, since this is an alternate timeline, all the adventures that we know and love so well have still and will still occur. Nothing invalidates them and they can be watched or read anytime. To be honest, I’ve felt that Star Trek as it was had shoe-horned as many stories into the original five year mission as it possibly could and, if tales would going to be told about Kirk and Co., something needed to be done to accommodate them. J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof have come up with a most elegant solution. It is not a reboot, it is not a reimagining, but a bold new direction full of exciting possibilities. Star Trek is firmly in their capable hands and I can’t wait to see what they do with it next.