New Star Trek Movie Takes Place In Alternate Timeline

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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. icon razz New Star Trek Movie Takes Place In Alternate Timeline

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 ‘Trek science?’
  • A: Depends on the episode, but it is explicitly cited by Data in the episode “Parallels.”

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. I must admitt that I was pretty excited to hear about a new movie release. But after hearing the plot about change of cannon has me rather disappointed. Why change the cannon and all the history over the years. I’m really speachless over the matter. At first glance this looks like what they did to the orginal Star Wars by making the new movies geered towards teenagers.

  2. How I see it, its a cop out. Since we know jack about time travel, its the producers saying they acknowledge some canon but not all. That is all they have to say. Canon says going back in time means going back and changing things and popping back in time for the tea you were about to have.

    This canon ignores that, which I have no qualms with they should just say it.

  3. I take issue with the certainty that Star Trek IV is not consistent with our theory of time travel. Nothing in that movie precludes one from concluding that the crew went into a parallel universe, grabbed some whales (and a blond) and returned to their own universe. In fact, it makes more sense given their recklessness.

  4. If they address the alternate time line quantum physics conundrum I hope they say it plainly and not in a bunch of treknobable.

  5. Bob, I’m willing to give the film a chance,,, ;-)
    I was real happy that Majel was brought on for the voice work as the starfleet computer !!!

    Very cool !!!

  6. I assumed they were using Majel as the computer until I read somewhere that it wasn’t sure she would be the computer. That was my only worry about the movie. I guess she will maintain her record of movie and tv appearances in Trek. She should be the voice of every computer in real life too. lol

  7. Lol KenGe, I have Majel as a ringtone on my Blackberry.

    I use it as an email announcement sometimes. Its her voice saying “Incoming Transmission”.

    I love it,,,

  8. @bob orci

    First, (if it is in fact you) welcome to the site!

    Based on your conversation over at TrekMovie, I would think that one goes back in time to the same timeline but making a change puts you in an alternate one – thus when you return you’re going back to a different future than the one you left.

    This, as opposed to arriving at an alternate timeline when you first go back. Therefor I would think that the crew in STIV would never have returned to the Earth where the oceans were being vaporized and THAT Earth would have been destroyed – with the crew saving an alternate Earth instead.

    Assuming that one DOES apply the alternate timeline theory to that film. :-)


  9. Hey Vic,

    the way we understand it, going back in time deposits you at a universe that is indistinguishable to the one you left up until the moment of your arrival. When our famous crew leaves again, they could go to the future of the timeline they are in (which is now the second universe) or they can return to their original universe at the moment that they left, with whales on board. In the many worlds theory, the universe you leave isn’t destroyed by going into the past (like Back to the Future 2, which, while mentioning alternate timelines, is still a movie using classical rules of time travel). Star Trek 1V does not really take a position based on the event of the movie.

  10. Time travel has always been one of my favorite science fiction themes, even if I don’t think it is actually possible to travel into the past.

    That being said; I agree with Bob. The fact that you arrived in the past when you never existed in the first before precludes it from being the same universe you departed from.

    The problem I see is how do you return to the same universe you departed from? If time is linear, then you would most certainly proceed into the future of the second universe. The only possible way to return to the first, is if you start your return trip from the exact moment you arrived in universe #2 (like Doc Brown said). To do that would mean traveling into the past again to the original moment (and probably place) that you first arrived, say hello to universe #3.

    Here is where the sticky wicket gets started; if you must return to the original time and place of your original arrival, you run the risk of being seen (or worse interacting with) yourself when you originally arrived and changing the events as they happened originally! Say hello to universe #4 and a paradox!!

    Even if you don’t see or meet yourself you still have the paradox of being in the same place at the same time in a different universe as yourself and with yourself. This is where is time and space collapse and explode in another big bang and we get to start all over again from the very beginning. say good-by to universe’s 1 thru 4. and hello to universe #2A.

    The next time someone tells you to go do something with yourself, remember the paradox, is hell! :)

  11. I so love this idea. I think it’s brilliant in so many ways for them to approach Trek in this manner. It doesn’t invalidate TOS, in fact, it makes it’s history necessary in order for the story to take place. And after this origin story is complete, the universe is the limit for our famed crew. I hope everyone who might be interested in this film hops over to trekmovie and takes a look at this subject thread. Great stuff from Orci and the fans. And every now and then our guru Vic shows up. And for those of you who think this story line is a cop out or lazy writing – just give it a chance in May – I think we all will be pleasently surprised.

  12. This constant talk about “canon” is what makes Trekkies sound like fanatics to the rest of the world. There is no such thing as “canon” in science fiction! SF is a speculative genre, which, by definition, precludes “canonical” thinking. Religion asks for canon; science asks for logic and facts. SF only asks “What if…?”

    So, what if we could re-imagine the origins of our beloved Star Trek characters in a way that appeals to contemporary viewers (new and old fans)? This should be no harder to accept than an Elseworlds or What If comic book. Most classic characters have been re-imagined over the years (Sherlock Holmes, Batman, Superman, and coming soon, The Spirit). Rather than ranting on about “canon,” real fans should be cheering the survival and persistence of these timeless heroes.

  13. @bob orci

    I *love* time travel stories, but they make my head hurt. :-) I do believe they’ve been overused a bit in Trek over the years, but I can understand its use as a device in the new movie.


    I agree with you about the nitpicking of “canon.” I’m a HUGE Star Trek fan going all the way back to TOS but I’m not going to get bent out of shape if the crew of the Enterprise sees Romulans before the episode “Balance of Terror” takes place and all that.

    As long as this film is faithful to the spirit of the original and the characters and doesn’t get too goofy with the humor (PLEASE tell me the “swollen Kirk” scene is as bad as it gets!) then I’ll be satisfied.


  14. @790
    IF I RECALL???!!! I am Kahless, the Unforgetable!!! What part of “Unforgetable” don’t you understand, petaQ??!!!

    I don’t think that means you don’t forget anything, Kahless.

    And your “opinion” counts about as much as your species…NOTHING!!!

    Okaaaayyyy. Someone got a bad bash of gagh. :-) ;-P

    Yes they did look all the same, but if you recall, all universes hadn’t seeped (I guess that’s the proper word for it) into that quantum universe. We are such geeks. B-)

  15. May your Bloodwine be served at cockpit tempature Kahless!!

    Alternate universe’s are all part of the quantum mechanics.
    Those Enterprises’ according to Orci’s law of Quantum Time Travel theory should have looked the same yet slightly different…
    (Just like this new ship)
    But I guess Berman & Braga had a different opinion of Time Travel…

    I loved that “parallels” episode,,, :-)

    And what’s with the Spock gravatr,,, Klingon?

  16. @professorj
    I wholeheartedly agree.

    But they must have Finigan; I have to insist on that. 8-)

  17. I have to say that I think this IS the best thing they could do for the movie. It allows JJ and his team to use the original characters and the Enterprise in a familiar setting while still allowing them to be creative with the plot and design of what we know as Star Trek.

    Now, I’m quite surprised at the reaction of some of those who commented on this post. I thought they’d be glad that the more dramatic changes don’t effect the sacred canon, because history is altered at the beginning of the movie. But they’ve come up with, ‘this time travel theory violates the canon because this is not how Star Trek portrayed time travel.

    Look, none of us know anything about what really happens in time travel because no one’s ever traveled through time. So how do we know that this new theory isn’t really accurate?

    I’m just saying that this makes everything that happens in the movie okay to me because in the end, the “real” Star Trek still happens, (happened?) while still giving me a newer version of the greatest Sci-Fi creation of all time.

    And I don’t think this is a full cop out because it probably took a lot of time and energy to come up with this new time travel theory. And it had to make the story acceptable to old fans, new fans, and still respect all Trek that came before it, and this works, I think. So I’m glad that this is the route they took. Can’t wait ’til May!

  18. There’s a theory on time travel I read once that speculated time travelling to the future was not possible as the future is not set, its constantly in flux. (There goes fate)
    You could only time travel to the past,,, :-)

  19. It is possible to warp time, as we all know by constant acceleration time moves slower for the traveler than the surrounding universe.

    Traveling to the future I think is the only way possible, but than you would be stuck there. Going into the past seems like making a waterfall fall up, or putting a nuclear explosion back into it’s bomb casing! Once time has past it is, as they say, history. There is no putting the genie back into the bottle.

    But this is Star Trek! Kirk would never let a little thing like a genie stop him! :)


    It just hit me one thing that bugs me about the new Enterprise: The saucer looks like a piece of plywood! About 5/8ths I’d say.

    Yea, yea I know. I’m the one who a time machine.

  21. We have to take into account that we are talking about a plot device in a science fiction film… :-)
    However David, if what you believe is true, mastering time travel would also mean mastering parallel dimensional travel,,,

    As a matter of (theory) travelling inter-dimensionaly would give you the side effect of time travel…

    So really having a time travel device is quite primitive,,,a dimensional device would be the real deal,,, 8-)

  22. Your right 790, time travel is so five minutes ago! Besides all you really need is a good cardboard box, just ask Calvin and Hobbs!

    Trans-dimensional travel is sure to be all the rage! You just have to build a wormhole generator in your basement and you could ‘slide’ from one universe to another!

    Sounds like fun, can’t wait to get started! :0

  23. KUDOS to the Calvin and Hobbs reference! The ultimate spaceman, … Spiff!

    And yes, time travel is so …
    5 minutes ago… or 5 minutes from now… depending which way you crank the hand generator handle!!!

  24. Bob Orci, after you proved Transformers to be nothing more than a joke, why should anyone believe you take Star Trek any more seriously? Your nonsense spin on this time travel issue sounds like you’re just trying to prevent an expected backlash from outraged Trekkies after they see how badly you and Abrams screwed things up.

  25. I’m not asking you to believe anything. The movie will speak for itself. You are mistaking our willingness to interact with interested parties for spin control.

  26. @bob orci

    And I *do* appreciate your taking the time to drop comments here. :-)


  27. “The movie will speak for itself.”

    Mr. Orci, the trailers, and your previous efforts, already have, as far as I’m concerned. You’ve already butchered my favorite SF franchise twice, with the second mockery being released in June. You’ve never written anything else I could rate even as high as mediocre. And now you’ve written a movie in my second favorite SF franchise, and it appears to butcher that one as well.

    Given my past experiences with you, or rather your comments, I can believe that you’re not interested in spin control. It seems to me more like box office damage control. After all, why worry about the backlash once you have the money?

    I, however, am not falling for it. I learned my lesson with Transformers. I will not let myself get ripped-off again.

  28. lameStrike said

    “It seems to me more like box office damage control.”

    It is fair for you to question my (and Alex’s) abilities as a writer. But as far as our motives, you may have to accept the fact that a fan of the same sci-fi properties that you love can come to different conclusions about how to render them on the big screen. In neither the case of Star Trek, nor in the case of Transformers, are the the hardcore fan base part of the major calculus of the studios projections for success (last Trek movie died, last animated TF movie was 25 years ago and it died). They hope to attract a general audience, and it is our job to make sure that happens. Therefore, what possible motivation would we have to interact with the hardcore fans? I’ll tell you. We believe it is possible please a general audience and a majority of hardcore fans, and that is always our intention. We are open to discussing our process with fans because that is what we would want. Simple as that. There’s nothing to “fall for.” To paraphrase a line of dialogue I love, “I only lie to people I care about.”

    Nonetheless, hopefully you’ll feel differently after you see Star Trek (for free on an airplane, of course).

  29. I think what a lot of fans don’t understand is the true underpinnings of the business. This leads to some of their disappointments.

    There’s the mythos, then there’s the business end that needs to make ends meet. Without that, the myth becomes legend and lore of yesteryear.