Then Along Came This Space Fungus

“Star Trek: Discovery” has just reached the end of its first eight (or nine) episodes as I write this. Like every new series, starting from and including “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, I have to admit I’m not really convinced. That’s not stopped me from including the shows in my timeline, and there’s a big question about how useful a timeline would be if it included nothing that wasn’t 1960s “Star Trek”.

All the same, I was a bit dismayed when the very first story announced that the 11th May, 2256 was the same as stardate 1207. I’d just come up with a system that I might not like best, but which seemed to tick most of the right boxes. It even had only one time where the stardates went back to zero, at the fairly reasonable point where “five-figure” star dates replaced the “four-figure” ones. Needless to say, my carefully worked-out stardate sequence didn’t match up with this astounding new piece of information.

Maybe it’s Me?

So perhaps the team making “Star Trek: Discovery” have cracked stardates, and will be announcing their system in the fullness of time? It seems unlikely. Even during this short run, with only three stardated episodes, any underlying system is remarkably hard to spot, with the stardates beginning at S.D. 1207, moving up to S.D. 2136, and then slipping back (in the very next story) to S.D. 1308. It’s definitely in keeping with the way stardates behaved in the 1960s, but it really doesn’t help me much in coming up with a system.

But, shouldn’t I at least try to see whether this new “official” conversion can throw light on a system of stardates? I’ve tried. The big problem is that it’s basically too low a number, too late. If “1,000” stardate units is equal to a year, then TOS “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is likely to be starting in June 2266. That’s late. TOS “Turnabout Intruder” will still fall in late 2270, so the five-year mission does fit where it’s supposed to, but that raises another problem. The gap between TOS “The Trouble with Tribbles” and DS9 “Trials & Tribble-ations” is specified to the day, and bumping the stardates up like this makes the figures impossible to accommodate, because VOY “Homestead” is pretty much forced to start on 5th April, 2378. There’s some “wriggle-room” in all this, but nowhere near enough.

What if I’m wrong about “1,000” stardate units being a year? I could be, but what alternatives come up? Taking the two end-points, 11th May, 2256 and 5th April, 2378, I calculate that things might just about work if “1,000” stardate units is equal to 360 days. That’s very close to a year, but then the problems start. TOS “Where No Man Has Gone Before” will fall in April 2266. TOS “The Trouble with Tribbles” is on 8th July, 2269. That’s only a Thursday, not a Friday. More to the point, DS9 “Trials & Tribble-ations” will be on 20th August, 2374. That would be S.D. 51266, and very definitely a year later than it’s supposed to be. You could say that the “years” last 360 days, and the “months” are decimal stardate “months”, but I really do think that’s cheating. Even if you do it, the DS9 “Trials & Tribble-ations” stardate comes out at 50015, and I think that’s not quite enough to fit properly into the right season of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. I then run into the problem that “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” will be in September 2292. Even without arguing about whether James Kirk’s birthday is “really” in January or March, I’ve come nowhere close to either option. The gap between TNG “Data’s Day” and VOY “Homestead” will stop working, because each year is five days too short. To put it bluntly, the only dates that will work plausibly are the ones in DCY “The Vulcan Hello” and VOY “Homestead”. It seems a big sacrifice for a very small result.

So what if there are two sets of stardates, the “four-digit” based on what we know of 23rd century dates, and the “five digit” ones in the 24th century? I can’t get that to work well either. None of the options gives results that really fit. Why isn’t TOS “Charlie X” at Thanksgiving? Trying to make it happen gives arbitrary and unworkable values to how long “1,000” stardate units last. The underlying problem is that if 24th century stardates are so obviously based on an Earth day and an Earth year, why aren’t the earlier ones the same? I’m not saying that they can’t be different, but I’m really struggling to think of a reason why they would be.

Hit the Reset Button!

In best “Star Trek” style, I’ve concluded that there has to be an arbitrary re-zeroing of stardates between “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Star Trek”. Why? I don’t know, but it’s the only option that seems to work. Oddly enough, it does mean that Tuvok is actually 29 Earth years old at the time of “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”.

Of course, without knowing what will be happening later on in “Star Trek: Discovery”, it’s impossible to say whether this “new” cycle of stardates is worth the effort. All it takes is another helpful conversion between a stardate and a conventional date, or a casual reference to the Klingon-Federation War having lasted a specific amount of time, and my shaky suppositions will collapse into ruins. For the time being, I’m speculating as the series unfolds, but I may easily decide to just wait until it’s finished and then try to make some sense of it.

This shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of the new show. Stardates have never worked, and there’s absolutely no reason for them to start doing so now. On to the timeline!

Calibrating Stardates

by StrauchiusStrauchius on 20 Nov 2017 14:54, last updated on 20 Nov 2017 14:55