The Cochrane Chronology Conundrum

On the face of it, Zephram Cochrane’s life is pretty straightforward. He was born in 2030 or ’32, made the first warp flight in 2063 and vanished right after the opening of the Warp Five complex in 2117 or ’19. The uncertainty in the birth and disappearance dates is caused by differences between a timeline briefly visible in ENT “In a Mirror Darkly, Part II” and more specific references to the opening of the Warp Five Complex in ENT “Broken Bow”. Unfortunately, there’s more: Zephram Cochrane has to be in his early thirties during “Star Trek: First Contact” by this chronology. His age is never formally established during the film, but the actor playing him is in his mid-fifties. It’s been argued that he’s been prematurely aged by a difficult life, but that’s a problem, too. If he looks that old in his thirties, it becomes a bit of a miracle that he makes it to 87 at all. More objectively, “young” Zephram Cochrane is shown in TOS “Metamorphosis” played by an actor who was in his thirties at the time. It takes a real suspension of disbelief for both these portrayals to represent the same man at about the same age. It also makes it very difficult to understand how it is possible for the person in TOS “Metamorphosis” to be recognisable as the person in “Star Trek: First Contact”. Of course, for the group of fans who’ve just said “NO!” to “Star Trek: Enterprise” there isn’t a problem. Cochrane is born around 2013, and disappears around 2100 (give or take a few years).

There is another possibility. In fact, I had all the information I needed, but it took me ages to see it. Alpha Centauri A is about 1.537 times more luminous than our own Sun, so the years on a planet like the Earth in the Alpha Centauri system would be proportionately longer. Given that TOS “Metamorphosis” establishes that Zephram Cochrane is linked to Alpha Centauri, what if he counts part of his age in Alpha Centauri years? There’s too much uncertainty for this to be any better than a series of guesses, but it seems most reasonable to me that he would count his age in Earth years up to his emigration, and in the longer Alpha Centauri years after. Based on that, the longest reasonable time he could be living on Alpha Centauri would be from 2065 (after his Princeton commencement address in 2064) until soon after the opening of the Warp Five Complex in 2119. To keep these rough figures simple, let’s say 2120. Although these figures can’t ever be terribly precise, the year on Alpha Centauri would be nearly a third longer than Earth’s if the amount of light it gets from its sun is exactly the same as Earth gets from our own Sun. If we assume that Mister Cochrane emigrates to a chillier planet, then there’s no reason why the year couldn’t be up to 1.77 Earth years long, without it becoming so cold as to be uninhabitable. Using these very approximate numbers, and given the total age of 87 at disappearance, it becomes possible for Zephram Cochrane to be around fifty during “Star Trek: First Contact”. I’ve erred on the side of caution, and placed his birth around 2013, matching my extremely rough TOS “Metamorphosis” calculation above.

by StrauchiusStrauchius on 07 Dec 2010 18:18, last updated on 25 Feb 2015 09:37