27 April 2014

Star Trek - the Chronology

An attempt (again, wildly incomplete until it's not) to watch the Star Trek Universe chronologically.  A straightforward version exists on Wikipedia.  Others have put together lists as well, which do good work.  I'm curious about how such a viewing alters the experience - not recommended for the uninitiated.

I would love some help with this, if anyone is a Trekkie novel buff, for example.  There is real value in seeing things in new ways.  Seeing  the Star Trek world in its imagined unfolding, from our past to our present and future, helps envision what Roddenberry's world might have to offer us, if we were to work toward inhabiting this future.

I'll make note of when to watch in particular episodes in [bold face in brackets].  Real world dates will be outlined in 'far left' italics.  I'll track watching //within slashes//, both in the timeline and viewing notes

3.5 Billion Years BCE

"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24-25)
  • Q and JL bond at the erstwhile beginning of life.  [Briefly near the end of episode 24 (22 min. from end on Netflix)]
2731 BCE Era (approximate)

"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Spock and Bones bounce back to some Ice Age era, when humans may or may not exist in the world (and it may not be earth).
Spock's ability to overcome his primal instincts, which are taking over throughout the episode, is the earliest (chronologically, at least) example of the common Star Trek theme that people are a product of their environments much more than they are innately good or evil (or greedy, etc.).  This is an important Utopian theme that runs throughout the series.  The implication is that if we can successfully build a good and just world, people will become good and just naturally.  It's an argument for creating the change that we want to see in the world, and trusting that we inhabitants of that world will deserve it, eventually. //4.29.14//

 16__ (very approximate)

"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Kirk lands in a sort of late-17th Century version of the English Restoration-style religious fanaticism.

"Time's Arrow" - ST: TNG 
  • "Maybe it's worth giving up cigars for, after all"- Mark Twain ca. 2369 (in response to Counselor Troi's explanation of how the 24th Century has eliminated poverty, despair, hopelessness, and power run amok generally).
One of the 19th Century's greatest humanists remarks on the achievement of the humanist project (at least seemingly) in the Star Trek universe. //5.5.14//

"North Star" - ST: E (Season 3: 9)

At some point in the late-19th Century, the Skagarans take a number of humans back to their home world (or colonized world) as slaves.  Eventually, the humans overthrew the Skaggs, and made them into the second-class citizens.  An interesting line, in the third act, about how humans have long memories after Archer says that it's been 300 years since the humans were brought as slaves to a new world.  Imagine similar lines being spoken on earth in the present day had slave revolts resulted in an overthrow of the dominant Western culture. ||Alternate history where the Southern United States is overthrown in the late 1790s and earliest 1800s and the South, the Caribbean and some of Central and South America form an Afro-American nation, which becomes a Western Hemisphere rival to the US.|| //3.2.17//


"The City on the Edge of Tomorrow" - ST (Season 1: 28)
  • The re-write of this episode famously has Kirk making the ultimate decision to allow his new love, Edith Keeler, to die, rather than his being held back from saving her (to the detriment of the entire future) by Spock.

"Storm Front" - ST: E (Season 4:1-2)
  • An alternate history in which Germany occupies the Eastern United States during the Second World War.
At times it's obnoxiously Utopian, reading the racist/sexist American 1940s as magically cured by a common enemy.

July 1947

"Little Green Men" - ST: DS9 (Season 4:8)
  • A rare Ferengi-centric episode, in which Quark, Rom and Nog find themselves trapped in post World War II American paranoia (in a little place called Roswell, NM).   [Much of the episode occurs in "real time". Time displacement about the 14 min. mark, and return to the DS9 timeline around the 42 minute point on Hulu)]
For some reason the most intentionally politically relevant Star Trek series tended too often toward 'joke episodes'. Some small critique seeps through in the selection if the paranoid Red Scare America, but overall a lazy episode.  Some small critique of American greed and gullibility (culpability) is here, but without teeth (even sharp Ferengi teeth). Cute but not memorable. //8.26.15//


"Carbon Creek" - ST: E (Season 2:2)
  •  T'Pol tells the story of real "First Contact", in the form of her great grandmother and her crew crash landing in a sleepy town called Carbon Creek.  While waiting for a rescue they're not sure is coming, they settle into daily life in the town, taking odd jobs and becoming part of the community.  In the end, one of the crew opts to stay on earth, and the crew claims he died in the crash  [The 1950s storyline begins immediately after the opening credits]
Another "novelty" episode.  This time with Vulcan - Ha!  A critique of the traditional nuclear household  (in a threesome of Vulcans), but there's also a proto-Spock story here, too.  All Star Trek aliens are ultimately different kinds of humans, and the final message we take away from this incident is that balance is key.  Americans are clearly crazy (Humans in Star Trek narratives are Americans, and upstart civilization late to the game, who without noticing how it happened are somehow in charge now, I guess...), but to tilt too far any other direction (French Vulcan intellectuals or Russian / Germanic Klingon pride/honor people) is to lose out on the uniquely-American gumption that (so the story goes) leads to the development of the Federation.  //8.27.15//

"Future's End" - ST:V (Season 3: 8)

Henry Starling sees Captain Braxton's ship crash land on earth in the mountains. 


"Assignment: Earth" - ST (Season 2:26)
  •  The Enterprise uses its good ole slingshot time warp technology to study "Earth's most turbulent moment in history", 1968.
 Our heroic rescue from these dangerous times are only thanks, of course, to the interference of a super-technologically advanced planet.  Seems like they could've done something about W.  //7.30.16//

"Tomorrow is Yesterday" - ST (Season 1:19)
  • The Enterprise first encounters slingshot space travel accidentally and is zapped back to a week before the moon landing. 
Novel use of getting back home and undoing any historical intervention. //7.30.16//


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  •  The Enterprise crew (this time aboard a Klingon Warbird) uses its good ole slingshot technology… this is sounding familiar. Going back in time to save the world with the help of two humpback whales. 

"Future's End" - ST:V (Season 3: 8-9)
  • The Voyager is sucked back to 1996 after being attacked by a 29th Century vessel. 
Star Trek has always had its own time as the subject at hand. When they do so explicitly it's always a bit clumsy and hilarious. In 1999 - companies with names like ChronowerX, money-grubbing executives, hacker-culture as dominant. 

1992 - 1996
  • The Eugenics Wars happen during this time.
"11:59" - ST:V (Season 5: 23)
  • Neelix becomes interested in earth history, and explores the relationship between mythic and social history.
More commentary on the small-mindedness of our own time.  This and the next several entries in the timeline (and the past several come to think of it, 1930 - 2040 or so) explore the philosophical question of history and fate.  All past events lead to the present, and these episodes call into question how we reach the future - the hopeful future of the Star Trek universe.
All evidence in our current world speaks to the contrary of the hope of finding a way to make things work - to accomplish the goal of allowing our technology to save us from ourselves.  It's clear that we could make a better world, with what have available to us.  But the only way we can imagine getting there is through some great turmoil.

"Carpenter Street"
  • Highlight of the typisch Amerikanisch stereotype has to be in the opening sequence when he eats the last piece of pizza in the box, which is in the bathroom sink...
  • The real story is about how dark the aughts and the present time is.  Recognizing how far gone most of us are in the modern era - that we are so immersed in the capitalist endeavor, that we will sell out others for our own gain.  That we will sell others for our gain.
//8.5.16// & //3.2.17//

 "Past Tense, Pts.1 & 2" - ST: DS9 (Season 3: 11-12)

"Past Tense" is a bit of a hilarious (and quite thoughtful) philosophical experiment and behind the curtain commentary on Star Trek time travel plots.  Most explicitly, the scenes when O'Brien & Kira are beaming through time in an attempt to find Sisko & Co. who've been lost in one of the formative historical moments of the early 21st Century.  They beam into the 1930s & the late 1960s in random searching of 12 possible moments in history when they might be lost (naturally, they only have enough chronotron particles to visit 7 or so...).  The two dates seem random, but both are references to TOS episodes that riff on this same theme: Making (or not un-making) history anonymously.

"One Small Step" - ST: V (Season 8: 6)

Star Trek VII: First Contact
  • This is no time to talk about timelines, but a quick word about timelines.  Like "Past Tense", First Contact starts early with the complete unexisting of "our timeline" - that is, the threat of unmaking the world we know.  Again, fortunately, the Enterprise is caught in a chrono-temporal bubble or some such, so while they witness the change in the timeline on the planet below, but are able to go back in time and "fix" things.
It's this notion of fixing, that I think is key to all of these time travel stories (as well as to the new alternate timeline movies with Chris Pine Kirk).  Fundamental, is the idea of "belonging" - that is, you belong in your own specific timeline.  The Enterprise crew that we know don't belong in a timeline where all 9 billion inhabitants of earth are Borg.  That said, based rules established by the Star Trek multiverse, each of these universes inherently already exists. 

The question is, in these temporal bubble moments, is the timeline that our Enterprise inhabits being changed, or are they being moved into a parallel timeline/universe where whatever conditions they observe always already (threw in some Heidegger!) existed.

More comments made recently: http://stogie10.blogspot.com/2016/07/celebrating-american-hope.html?m=1 //9.20.16 & 7.20.16//

Real time of Star Trek: Enterprise -

Season 1 of Star Trek: Enterprise includes a lot of one-off, standalone, "alien of the week" episodes, which is typical of a new Star Trek series - needed to explore new characters and explore what works and what doesn't in a new series.  A few gestures toward the Temporal Cold War, particularly in the season finale, but this new prequel show spent a lot of time looking backward in time - to the 90 years of fictional time since first contact and the Vulcan's tendency to hold back human progress into space.  The show also looks back the 55 years since The Original Series, and nostalgically re-introduces some themes and species (Andorians, anyone?).

Season 2 of Enterprise is more one-off episodes - 'rut-roh, Hoshi's disappearing!' - and also a further exploration of the Temporal Cold War.  The Suliban feature prominently, and time is a common theme.  Time travel, storytelling, abandoned minefields, past rivals returning... The series is the closest in time between the time it aired and the era its portraying - 150 years.  I think this relative proximity makes it harder for the showrunners to simply imagine 22nd Century humans as inhabiting an entirely different headspace.  //2016//

Season 3 is a fantastic re-direct; really revitalizing the show from its loss of steam.  Rather than a lot of one-off episodes and a Temporal Cold War that was hard to get invested in as a major arc, the cliffhanger from Season 2 kills off millions of humans in Florida with a Xindi attack on earth.  The Xindi, this season explains, are several related species who live in the Delphic Expanse.  As it turns out (have i mentioned this post contains spoilers?), the Expanse is an attempt by transdimensional beings to take over our space, and they convinced the Xindi that humans were destined to destroy them - thus the attack on Florida (well, they were trying to destroy earth, not just Florida, but were stopped mid-attack).  Season 3 is about trying to thwart the next Xindi attack.

Season 4 starts in the midst of the Temporal Cold War, with Archer stranded in late-WWII America, and trying to re-set things right by getting the pesky alien-assisted Nazis out of North America.  The season as a whole has the sense of being rushed and thrown together - as if Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were looking over their shoulders at the looming cancellation and trying to cram all of the story-lines they had plotted for seasons 4 - 7 or so into one fun season.  The Eugenics Wars holdovers - the Augments - get an arc; the complete overthrow of Vulcan political order gets an arc; Andorians, Tellurites, Vulcans and Humans trying to forge a complex peace treaty (which will lead to the Federation) gets an arc; plus the reason that Klingons looked suspiciously like spray-tanned humans in TOS gets a fun and kinda hilarious arc.  Plus the mirror universe; anti-alien (i.e. globalization) radical organization Terra Prime.

  • Re-watching Season 4 in particular redeems the quality of Enterprise.  While it was on, it was fun to have Star Trek back on the air, but i think Season 4 shows that this could have been every bit as good a series in the long run - great major story arcs coupled with fun and exploratory in-between eps.  Enterprise was the first series since TOS that really tried to dig through the real fears of the era it was created in.  In retrospect, Enterprise forsaw even Trumpism to some extent... Earth wasn't ready for the Federation... but it needed it.  The U.S. (which has always been represented by humans in Star Trek) isn't ready for globalism... but it needs it.  
"These are the Voyages..." - ST: E (Season 4: 22)

The real time of this episode occurs in 2370, during Season 7 of Star Trek: TNG.  Riker is Hamleting a decision, and procrastinating by going to the holodeck to watch Jonathan Archer's mission while en route to the founding of the Federation.


The USS Franklin is lost, as seen on some grainy footage in Star Trek Beyond. [At the 1:01 point in the film]

The opening scene of Star Trek also opens an entirely new timeline, in which we see James Kirk born and George Kirk die.  [Through 11:30 or so until the opening credits].
In the standard, non-Kelvin universe, Kirk is born in Riverside, Iowa.  In the 2009 movie, he is born on the USS Kelvin.


Post-title sequences in Star Trek featuring a tween-age Kirk totally totaling his step-father's classic car.  Subsequent seen is Spock's own adolescence, and the pains of being a half-human on Vulcan.  Also around this time would be the scenes of Sarek's memories in ST:D episode "Lethe" (Season 1:6).

Sarek drops Michael Burnham off at the Georgia. ST: D (Season 1:2).  Some time before this, perhaps this very same year or in the years prior Sarek is seen choosing Spock's future over Michael Burnam's when he is told that only one of his non-pure-blood Vulcan children will be able to attend the science academy.  ST: D (Season 1:6)

Sometime between 2249 & 2254
The scene in Star Trek where Spock turns his back on the Vulcan Expeditionary Group, eschewing their offer and choosing to enter Star Fleet.

"The Cage" - ST: TOS (Season 1:1)

100 years after Season 4 of Enterprise.  The pilot that didn't make has a lot of elements of the series - a "Bones" figure, who is the elder mentor to the captain.  Pike has the same discontent that will haunt Kirk later in the series - not sure whether he should be here at all.

Real time of Star Trek: Discovery -
May 2256
ST: D (Season 1: 1-2)

There has been an "easy read" of the first couple episodes of Star Trek: Discovery as a Trump-America allegory where a nationalist Klingon Empire regroups and begins to mess up everyone's happy socialist utopia.  Sucks.

But it's useful to recall, that even in this reading, less than one lifetime later (namely James Kirk's lifetime), Klingons and the Federation are on the border of peace and understanding (see Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country). 

It's easy to read Star Trek as meaning something; and especially something that you want it to say.  But even at the most cynical - our current struggle with understanding what is happening in America, Star Trek's clear answer is that the end result will be resolution and progress.  Worf will serve on the Enterprise, and there is unfortunate history that leads up to that. 

The best, simplest take-away is to always assume progress and togetherness.  We will win.  But it will take time.  That said, who wants to be on the wrong side of history?


November 2256 - ?
ST: D (Season 1: 3 - 6)

While each episode is building an exciting arch in a way that no previous Star Trek series has, the first several 'real-time' episodes of the series are also moral and ethical vignettes - doing what's right vs. following orders; recognition of a sentient "creature's" inalienable rights; familial obligations and standing up to racism in an evolved, logical society. //10.23.2017//

ST: D (Season 1: 7-9)

Episode 7 is a hilarious fun-fest, and at the same time a serious project in character development.  The next two episodes are heavy, and get to the mid-Season finale (yeah, other Star Trek shows didn't have these...) at the peak of exciting insanity. //11.20.2017//

ST: D (Season 1: 10-15)

The crew heads to the mirror universe and back.  On their return (because tracking timelines in two universes seems a bit obsessive...), they're 9 months further in the future, and the Federation has all but lost the war with the Klingons.  Thanks to the Terran Emperor, the Federation wins (or at least ties), and life goes on...
What's not clear, is which life we're operating in here.  This could be the standard Star Trek world we've come to know, or the Kelvin timeline (nothing major enough has occurred - Vulcan has yet to be destroyed, etc.).  It may also be its own separate timeline - which would be a waste, I'm afraid.
But this may very well be the orthodox Star Trek world, but if so, it is telling how close the Federation came to losing the war.  Kirk's racism against Klingons in the movies, and the underlying animosity, is understandable to some extent. //2.15.2018//

Star Trek: Into Darkness shows this as the day/month/week (not sure how stardates work!) of Spock's death in the Kelvin timeline.

2269 - StartDate 5943.7
"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Spock recognizes (and accepts) he can't go back to the ice age he's been longing for...

"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • "Encounter at Farpoint" - JL's arrival on the Enterprise [Throughout Pt. 1]
Picard comes across a bit crazy in these moments, which is cool.  Interesting will be to view this episode alongside "Farpoint" when the chronology gets there. //4.26.14//
- StartDate 479.88 
"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • Worf and Deanna days - JL in a low-cut gray shirt [Throughout Pt. 1]


"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • Jean Luc's present - in the Vineyard, and beyond - (25 years after JL and Geordi served together) [Throughout Pt. 1]. Troi is dead, unmarried to both Riker and Worf.

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