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Allan Summerall
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Posted: 30 October 2018 at 4:06pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Whenever I watch Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, my curiosity is piqued during the scene where Admiral Morrow tells Kirk that the "Enterprise" is 20 years old and I try to figure out "How?" The movie "Enterprise" was a refit/redesign. Nearly everything was upgraded/replaced (as Captain Decker phrased "An almost totally new Enterprise"). It's been alluded that after "ST:The Motion Picture" the crew embarked on a second 5-Year Mission, but that's not really canon I believe. Now, I understand ST:TMP puts it 2 1/2 years after the original 5-Year Mission but I'm not too clear on how long then between ST:TMP and The Wrath of Khan. Maybe Greg Kirkman or JB,as the resident experts, have an answer?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 30 October 2018 at 4:28pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

That “20 years” comes from the same skewed thinking that has Sulu, in “The Deadly Years” saying he’s served under Kirk for two years.

Based on what we know, the starship had probably been in service about 30 years when we first “came aboard”—probably not coincidentally the same age as the (pre-atomic) aircraft carrier of the same name.

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Allan Summerall
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Posted: 30 October 2018 at 6:39pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Thanks JB!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 30 October 2018 at 9:18pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

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.

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
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 30 October 2018 at 9:33pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I can easily be wrong, but I thought the Enterprise's commission date was on the commemorative plaque on the bridge.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 30 October 2018 at 9:40pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

The original Enterprise’s dedication plaque was very simple. I have a resin copy of it on my wall!


U.S.S. ENTERPRISE

STARSHIP CLASS

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF.


It wasn’t until TNG that we started getting plaques with lots of detail, including commissioning dates.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 30 October 2018 at 9:52pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Not until the anal fanboys took over........
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 October 2018 at 1:25am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

You can see how the tail started wagging the dog in TMP. On the one hand, it wasn’t a bad thing that they had scientific consultants and put a lot of thought and design work into the ship’s control consoles and whatnot. Having believable details (something a step beyond consoles with row after row of unlabeled buttons and generic blinking lights) can certainly help with one’s sense of immersion in a fantastic setting.

However, this more detail-oriented attitude quickly led to the sleek and futuristic design aesthetic of TOS being replaced with lots of buttons and knobs and blinky lights. And, by the TNG era, lots and lots of detail being added into things like computer screen displays (complete with in-jokes and sight gags) and dedication plaques.

I’ve really come ‘round to the idea that less is more, and that the simplest designs and concepts are often the best and most memorable ones. It’s a fine line between using realistic details to carefully build a sense of verisimilitude, and obsessively dwelling on minute details which aren’t actually important. Or, worse, which detract from the logical mechanics of an established fictional universe. The increasingly-clunkier ships of the TREK franchise look progressively less futuristic, not more. 
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 31 October 2018 at 4:44am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

So, there’s only two years between the end of TOS’s five year mission and TMP? I have long imagined there being a bigger gap between them. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 31 October 2018 at 7:12am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

So, there’s only two years between the end of TOS’s five year mission and TMP?

••

Or five, according to some--with the ship having completed only ONE five year mission with Kirk's crew.

A lot of opportunities were missed in the TOS movies, not the least of which establishing longer lifespans for the characters. Shatner's fiftieth birthday becomes Kirk's fiftieth birthday, instead of, say one hundredth (or more).

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 October 2018 at 9:26am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Roddenberry and company deliberately compressed the timeline so as to have less of a gap in-between TOS and TMP. Ten years had passed in real life, but the film makes mention that it had been 2 1/2 years since Kirk commanded the Enterprise, with 18 months of that devoted to the Enterprise redesign. Kirk also explicitly mentions that he spent “five years out there”, thus squashing the possibility of a second five-year mission in-between the series and the movie. I have the feeling that they didn’t want to give the sense that the characters had a bunch of adventures which we never got to see, or that they went on another mission which went entirely unseen.

This time-compression is the reason why the official timeline had to artificially lengthen the gap between TMP and TWOK. TMP was released ten years after TOS, but the movie pretended it was only 2 1/2 years. TWOK was released three years after TMP, but the official chronology puts 14 years in-between those films. And, of course, the constant references to “Space Seed” having taken place 15 years prior to TWOK is a reference to the real-time gap between the episode and the film.


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 31 October 2018 at 10:14am
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John Byrne
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Posted: 31 October 2018 at 10:11am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Well, we now know they went on a whole bunch of previously unseen exploits! ;)
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 October 2018 at 10:15am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Yes, indeed!
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Allan Summerall
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Posted: 31 October 2018 at 2:20pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Thanks Greg! I knew I could count on you and JB to help out :)
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