New Star Trek Movie Takes Place In Alternate Timeline

Published 6 years ago by

old new ncc 1701 New Star Trek Movie Takes Place In Alternate Timeline

Man… I love it when I’m right – and this makes twice in one week for me. πŸ˜›

Over the course of the last few weeks I’ve read small comments by Roberto Orci over at the TrekMovie site which led me to believe that yes, Star Trek “canon” issues (how this film fits into the overall Star Trek history) would be addressed in the new movie.

Today we not only confirmation of that – but exactly HOW these apparent inconsistencies will be addressed.

In an discussion over at TrekMovie, Anthony (who runs the site) finally asked the question that Trekkies have been wanting the answer to:

“OK, now let’s get really into it… the big question is: Is the destruction of the Kelvin, the canon reason why everything is different?”

Will the following answer be satisfying? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. I’ll include bits and pieces of the interview, you can head over to TrekMovie for the whole thing (which is quite long and technical and will be a joy to read for real Star Trek fans).

Roberto Orci: It is the reason why some things are different, but not everything is different. Not everything is inconsistent with what might have actually happened, in canon. Some of the things that seem that they are totally different, I will argue, once the film comes out, fall well within what could have been the non-time travel version of this move. So, for example, Kirk is different, because his back story has totally changed, in that his parents…and all that. But you are saying that maybe Scotty or Spock’s back story would not be affected by that change?

Roberto Orci: Right.

Anthony: Does the time travel explain why the Enterprise looks different and why it is being built in Riverside Iowa? Yes, and yes.

So J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie takes place in/creates an alternate timeline/version of the Trek universe we know and love. He talks a lot about quantum physics and the new way of viewing time travel (if it were actually possible). According to Orci, the old time travel paradox question of whether you can go back and kill your own grandfather has been answered – and the answer is: Yes.

The idea is that event would exist in an alternate timeline in which you would never be born. In that timeline you’re a guy who came from nowhere and killed the man who was to be your grandfather. In that timeline you will never exist. According to this theory there is NO WAY to go back in time and change events that will affect the timeline you started from.

The problem with even this explanation is that it goes against what has been established in previous Star Trek episodes and movies: In prior Trek time travel DOES repair problems and the crew returns to the “fixed” future they left. Examples of this include the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” where a starship was sent back to fight a crucial battle and it set the existing timeline straight, and the film “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” where Kirk and Co. went back in time to bring humpback whales back to the future to avert the destruction of humanity.

The reasoning given is that at the time those were filmed there was a different view of time travel. Actually the version of time travel they’re using in the new film goes all the way back (in movies, anyway) to the first Back to the Future film, where Dr. Brown explains the splitting off of an alternate timeline to Marty as a possibility if something went wrong.

Anyway, here’s the summary of the whole thing in bullet point form:

  • Q: Why do some things appear different in the new Star Trek movie?
  • A: There is an alternative timeline created by Nero traveling back in time.
  • Q: Is everything different in the alternative timeline?
  • A: No, some things remain the same.
  • Q: Does this alternative timeline wipe out the original timeline (from TOS – Nemesis)?
  • A: No, quantum theory says they both co-exist.
  • Q: Does the original timeline continue?
  • A: Yes, again as explained by quantum theory.
  • Q: Does this quantum theory approach conform to β€˜Trek science?’
  • A: Depends on the episode, but it is explicitly cited by Data in the episode β€œParallels.”

So there you have it. What do you think? Are you satisfied with this explanation of why and how they were able to update and change things in the movie?

Star Trek opens on May 8, 2009

Source: TrekMovie via AICN

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  1. No, no, it makes sense to have the Quantum Theory version of time travel rather than the “Hollywood” rendition, but it’s cheap story telling. It makes time itself kind of meaningless, and time travelers even more so.

  2. sooo…we still have a huge contraction then if it goes against those examples you point out about time travel theory in old trek movies and eps?


  3. That’s one hell of an alternate time-line then. I’d like to see those two Enterprises’ face off. Although that probably wouldn’t be a fair fight.

  4. y’know this is similar to an explination given by Trunks on DBZ (anime geek time) in the show, he said the reason why the androids were still alive in his time was the fact that his coming back through time only afftect the current reality that they were in and not the one he was in. That also explained WHY he and his younger self could touch and be near each other withour ripping the fabric of the universe apart

  5. I wonder if super glue could repair the fabric of the universe in a pinch?

  6. I think the alternative timeline explanation is just a copout for poor writing skills by people not familiar enough with the franchise to do it justice. Shame-shame-shame! I’m still looking forward to the movie though, because it has been so friggin’ long since the last one!

  7. I really do think they’re trying here – update it for new fans but not enrage existing fans too much.

    Another bit of good news we didn’t write up is that Majel Roddenberry will be reprising her role as the voice of the computer. If THAT doesn’t make this feel like Star Trek, nothing will. :-)


  8. Yeah she really is the voice the “Computer”…at least we have that

  9. Being more of a fan of the movies than the series, I do want to see the moment when Kirk assumes command of the Enterprise…as the films were set in the twilight of Kirks career…

  10. I know that this is off topic, but for those who do not know tv guide channel is airing a behind the scenes look of the new trek at nine tonight

  11. It makes sense but the only ones that will get that explantion are the Trekkies,,,
    The film has to blow them away or this new Trek will fall back into just another summer movie…
    Btw I think a lot of us pretty much saw this coming at warp 9.98888996

    Never forget these words Abrams,,, “I’m taking an awful risk Vader, this had better work!”

    (Grand Moff Tarkin,,,). πŸ˜‰

    He was dead within 24 hours. Just fyi

  12. No surprise. Best approach to placate the old fans, bring in new fans, and wipe the board clean of canon to allow fresh new voyages to take place.

  13. I have been hoping this was the explanation.
    It works for me.

  14. Hmmm… This is all I know about time travel: You can go back in time and become your own grandfather and cuddly-miniature carnivores who sound like orson welles have the power to fix it… (or not, it’s their choosing).

    But seriously, this does get me a little more interested in Star Trek again. This is good news to me. πŸ˜€

  15. I’m a Star Wars fan, and I’m REALLY looking forward to this Star Trek movie!

    Is that a good or a bad reflection on the movie? I mean, I’ve never really enjoyed Star Trek… but this one has me very intrigued.
    (My Trekkie mate thinks its a sign of the apocalypse!)

  16. ahh but it does coincide with the old episodes of the “fixed” future.
    because! assuming the fabric of time isnt as fragile to change as it is supposed to be, fixing a problem in the past will change nothing but the problem in that past’s future (the new timeline).
    if you had timeline A, and you go back in time to fix something in the past, you create an additional timeline B, separate from A. and you can go forward in time to timeline B where only one detail has changed. aha!

    so that’s why the alternate timelines Are consistent with ye olde view of a single timeline. hee

    then again, this negates the whole butterfly effect theory, one that i find fascinating enough to declare it as TRUTH.

  17. Not meaning to split hairs (but it’s a bit of a geek trait, let’s face it)… but wasn’t it the second Back to the Future that Doc Brown explained the alternate timelines thing? After old Biff went back with the sports book and changed history.

    It’s my preferred view of time travel anyway, it’s easier to understand and hurts my head slightly less!

  18. @Lank

    I’m pretty sure the Back to the Future reference was from the first film. :-)


  19. An Analysis: So Orci pitches this new twist of a prequel under the premise of Quantum Mechanics.

    Then Abrams, et al, can pitch their version of Trek in terms they think the fans will eat up. Then the fans will be more willing to accept the new version of this Star Trek world.

    Not a bad BUSINESS plan if you think about it. This way, we don’t come away from the movie confused because we’ve been prepped. They spin technical jargon that trekkies are known to eat up and it creates a whole new opportunity of direction for the franchise. Free of all the burdens of past mythology.

    I’m a bit disappointed in yet one more time twist from the mythos of Star Trek, but again – fresh new directions, no past to create expectations and new material for countless conventions to come.

    You go Abrams!

    PS: I don’t dislike the idea. I’m just using the pragmatic side of my brain at the moment.

  20. I’m actually wondering whether they address this alternate timeline business explicitly in the film.


  21. Okay so let me get this straight… The Star Trek movie that is coming takes place in a Parallel world. The original Star Trek we know and love is still exists. For some reason Spock travels back to change things. Isn’t this a bit much for the average movie goer take in?

  22. I’m a Trek fan and I like this idea. We have to be honest; there were aspects of TOS that didn’t fall in line with itself. Take, for instance, warp speed itself; the slingshot timetravel calculation that Spock used in Naked Time, Yesterday is Tomorrow and Trek 4 doesn’t make since if warp speed is many times the speed of light (they should have reached our sun in less than a second). The reference to Parallels where Worf jumps from universe to universe is a more valid representation. Also, current string theory could be involved in this. It is also a good way to introduce new Trek stories involving the same original characters.

    Also, Vic, I think Back to the Future 2 was the movie where Doc Brown makes reference to not being able to jump to an original past timeline unless you go back to prevent the timeline from changing in the first place (stopping Biff from using the almanac).

  23. @Alfredo
    Would you believe I understood what the Architect was saying in Matrix: Reloaded? Ok, after seeing it for the third time I understood. :-)

    If we Trekkers can understand Geordi and Data, this shouldn’t be a problem. πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€

  24. @Kahless,,,
    The reference to TNG’s Parallels, episode…

    If you recall the Enterprise’s all looked the same,,,
    Oh and they were from alternate realities… 😎

  25. So what..

    Yes the Time Travel could change

    *Voyager arriving on Earth in the mid 90’s (and in pursuit of a mad Bill Gates type who reversed engineered the future

    *DS9 Crew coming back to stop the assassination of Capt. Kirk;

    *Saving the whales for the future

    *Enterprise E stopping the Borg before they stop Cochrane. (Is Ensign Hawk still floating in space?)

    *Is Archer’s Enterprise still canon? At least until that last episode,anyway?

    Questions, how perplexing! I have but one answer!
    Better sit down for this one, folks!

    If this movie screws up and they want to do another Trek film to clean up the mess?

    Bring in ye ol’ deux machina….Q.

    There it is. No concerns.

  26. you make the title of the article a spoiler? thanks a bunch!

  27. When I heard that Nimoy was in and Shatner was out I had hopes that time travel was not going to be the story line copout that that it seems to be. To me this is just a way to placate old fans (which I’m one), and draw new ones. All without getting overly creative and develop a story line that can peacefully coexist with TOS canon.

    My version (the one that came to me after a lot of cleaning with strong ‘household’ chemicals, in an unventilated room) had old Spock as a Starfleet Academy Professor giving his final lecture and the students convincing him to speak about the early years of the most famous of starships: The Enterprise. This would allow for deviations from canon, which students could question and Spock would clarify (ala The Princess Bride).

    I know this post is a little late, but in an alternate timeline I was the first to leave a comment. Time travel can be so time consuming. πŸ˜‰