Fact of the matter is that there are only a few chronological touchstones mentioned throughout both TOS and the movies, and some of those are highly contradictory.
|Posted: 30 October 2018 at 9:18pm | IP Logged | 4
The official chronology developed during TNG attempted to provide a coherent timeline, but it’s based on a good number of assumptions and biases, rather than, y’know, TOS itself. As JB is extremely fond of noting, the bulk of the onscreen references place TOS about 200 years in the future, which would be in the late 2100s or so. This is what FASA (and other sources) went with in the early 80s before TNG came along, and an official timeline was locked down. I think that the FASA chronology works much better than the official one. TOS takes place in the late 2100s, with the movies being set during the early 2200s (“In the 23rd Century...”). Unfortunately, Kirk’s specific reference to 2283 in TWOK throws a bit of a wrench into things, but perhaps no more so than the “900 years ago” reference in “The Squire of Gothos”. I still kinda like the idea that “2283” is actually referencing a stardate, rather than a calendar year.
Anyway, THE MAKING OF STAR TREK specifically states that the Enterprise-type (not yet codified in official lore as Constitution class) ships had been in service for about 40 years at the then-current point in the chronology (during season two of TOS, when TMOST was written). Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Enterprise herself was in service for that long, unless we take into consideration the later lore of NCC-1701 being only the second ship of the class (in contradiction of Matt Jefferies’ idea that she was the LEAD ship of the class—design number 17, production model number 01), which indicates that she would be have launched pretty quickly after the class ship, Constitution.
The official chronology currently states that the ship had been in service for 21 years prior to the first season of TOS, with Robert April and Chris Pike each helming two conjectural five-year missions before Kirk took command. However, Spock does state that he served with Pike for 11 years, with the flashback events of “The Menagerie” taking place 13 years prior to the Kirk-era portions of that two-partner.
Sulu’s reference to having served with Kirk for two years was surely written with the notion that each season of TOS represented a year of in-universe time, which is flawed. And Admrial Morrow’s assertion that the Enterprise was 20 years old in THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK is just plain wrong, and was perhaps designed to not confuse the general audience, since STAR TREK itself was nearly 20 years old at that time. Or perhaps it was a legitimate error, and Harve Bennett had simply forgotten about “The Menagerie”.
It’s been suggested that Morrow was referring to the “almost totally new” Enterprise from THE MOTION PICTURE as being 20 years old by that time, but that doesn’t work, either. After all, THE WRATH OF KHAN is explicitly said—numerous times—to take place only 15 years after “Space Seed”. The gap between the first two movies has also been artificially extended by the official timeline (with a conjectural five-year mission helmed by Kirk snuck in-between TMP and TWOK, and TWOK taking place 18 years after “Space Seed”), but it seems likely that the original intent was for there to be a gap of merely 2-3 years, just as in real time. Not that they were thinking too much about TMP when they were making TWOK, of course.
In summation, the STAR TREK chronology in any form is pretty much FUBAR, but it’s not actually important except to people like us. There’s a reason why Roddenberry and company deliberately avoided specificity in TOS regarding the time period. To repeat my usual mantra, it’s the stories and the characters that are actually important, and which should be the focus. It’s fun to try and weave disparate elements into a cohensive whole, but it certainly shouldn’t affect one’s enjoyment of the stories.
Personally, I love the fact that the Enterprise was a ship with a long history. So many new stories to be told, with so many crewmen we haven’t even met, yet. “The Cage” is pretty much the only TREK pilot to introduce the hero starship in media res, with Roddenberry taking pains to hint at a history for the ship and crew. Right down to the “space weathering” on the Enterprise visual effects model.
All of the other shows (and the first and eleventh movies) were “origin stories” which featured brand-new ships and brand-new crews coming together for the first time. Well, except maybe STD. But I don’t give enough of a **** to look up whether or not the titular ship was launched in its first appearance.
Edited by Greg Kirkman on 31 October 2018 at 9:14pm