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 do think TREK is going to surprise the Hell outta people in terms of quality and solid box-office.


  2. “I think what a lot of fans don’t understand is the true underpinnings of the business.”

    I understand them, I just find them irrelevant.

    “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.”

    Better that than what happened with Transformers: A successful movie that doesn’t even come close to respecting the source material. Better it die than have people who clearly don’t know the source material butchering the property.

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

    I saw Transformers for free, and I still felt ripped-off. I could feel my IQ dropping as I sat there. As a result, I would jump out of the plane without a parachute before of sitting through your mockery of Star Trek.

  3. FlameStrike said,

    “I saw Transformers for free, and I still felt ripped-off. I could feel my IQ dropping as I sat there. As a result, I would jump out of the plane without a parachute before of sitting through your mockery of Star Trek.”

    U-huh. It’s been nice having you in my consciousness for five minutes. Then don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

  4. Whoa! Tough crowd, eh Bob?

    I understand the sense of ownership hardcore fans have of long lived shows, such as Star Trek for myself. Feeling betrayed comes hand and hand with any changes that are made in the name of updating (read re-imagining or rebooting) for a new audience.

    The classic monsters: Vampires, Frankenstein, Werewolves are prime examples of the test of time such changes must endure to become accepted by the hardcore fan base, or at least the majority of it. How long and how many times these changes must occur is anyone’s guess. But I think it is inevitable that they will be accepted, at least in their own context.

    Bob; I’m looking forward to see the things you’ve done with (to) Star Trek. I admit that has not always the case though! My hope it the basic elements that are the characters and the universe they live in created by Gene remain intact.

    Tough job! Glad it’s not mine!! I really hope it does well. I just want to see more Star Trek on the big screen.

    I know FlameStrike, I’m selling out. But don’t ask me if I care, you may not like the answer!

  5. Hm, I am more a fan of the movies plus TOS and after the first trailers I appreciated that they wanted to do a reboot of the franchise.

    I actually hoped for a reboot similar to the new Bond movies: change the actors, looks and artistic approach and tell untold stories without really messing with the existing material too much.

    But no, they didn’t grow any balls and came up with an alternate universe – why not just declare this new movie canon?
    That’s simply cheap storytelling and makes this movie absolutely meaningless, like “oh, we can always go back to the universe the old geeks like”. I actually fear that if the new movie is going to be successful, it’s the “old” timeline that’s going to be meaningless.

    Nevertheless, I will watch the new movie. I just fear for the franchise to completely turn into a joke.

  6. Hmm, this is what I was afraid of… petty griping & quiblbling. Anybody recall Wrath of Khan and the biggest gaffe of all? Or do you better recall it as best of the ST movies? As long as it’s a good movie everything else is irrevelent. Trek, at its’ best is a well thought out, well dramatised story.

  7. If it really is an alternate time line story, once the time line is fixed ( as it usually is) will we see Kirk sitting in the center seat with Gary Mitchell at nav and Dr. Piper walking onto the bridge. Hope it is not just some sort of dream sequence ( like “Dallas”).

  8. As a lifelong fan of alternate realities in sci-fi, I think it might do Star Trek 11 justice. Trek has always been superb with sci-fi dimensionality, rivaled only by Doctor Who and The Twilight Zone.

    I believe that everything has its place if treated properly. This can work for Trek 11 and maybe Gene Roddenberry will approve.

  9. I can’t believe people are moaning and complaining so much about past mythology etc. So what if they decide to create an alternative timeline and tell the story from there? Even as a lifelong Star Trek fan I really don’t care, I just want to see the film because it looks awesome (and I rarely use that word) I think you all need to remember that none of this is real and it’s just a bunch of stories acted out for our entertainment. If it’s a good story well told with good acting then I’m there.
    As for the time travel/paradox thing, if you really want to deal with it you can look at the other stories as self fulfilling paradoxes where those things had already happened (Trouble with Tribbles vs DS9 version, Yesterday is Tomorrow, All Good Things etc) and this is a new choice and a new universe. But lke I said, quantum physics BS excuses aside, I just want to see a good Sci Fi film!! I mean, have you SEEN the trailer!!!!

  10. @Dave Hooks

    I’m with you, bud. Although I love all the little Star Trek universe details as much as the next guy, I’m not going to let all that ruin what may be the best opportunity ever to resurrect the withering Star Trek franchise – IF they do it right.


  11. Brothers,

    To quote the best TNG movie, “Timeline? Timeline? This is not time to argue about time, we DON’T HAVE THE TIME!”

    I am afraid I am one of those diehards that love the escapades into temporal mechanics, I mean, it is the QUINTESENTIAL sci-fi frontier. It cannot be done/no one knows how explain it. Where else DOES it fit? But I digress . . .

    I had thought to share but I felt this point would be overshadowed so I will mention it later (a possible plot that contiues the continuity of the last 24 seasons of cannon flawlessly).

    The main point is this, to you self-proclaimed professors of Temporal Mechanics: What happens when you fail to stop the assassination? What happens when you radically change history? The BORG didn’t kill Cochrane or destroy the PHEONIX. The ROMULANS merely attempted to influence the socio-politicals of quadrant. They didn’t destroy Earth, or attack the fledgling power. I think that is the point of this movie. It is what is so brilliant. It’s something STAR TREK has never seen. What will happen should you FAIL? ‘Tired out cliché’ is what you get when you bring up the same problem (or one requiring time travel) and/or solve it every time the same way (i.e. time travel). I mean, am I wrong? Have we ever seen sustained failure of temporal integrity? It’s the best part of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: “We lost. What do we do next?” The question is, what get’s changed?

  12. We spent over 40 years with characters we love. Now we are told those characters are NOT the characters we love but “alternate versions”.

    Why should we bother to watch a knock-off version of Star Trek?

    The heck with Quantum Mechanics- Is this Star Trek or not?

    I vote not.

  13. @Sarpok

    Perhaps you should give the film a chance and then decide?


  14. Having just got back from the movie I’m trying to come to grips with the future here. One thing that seemed to be consistent in the TV shows was that everything gets “fixed” in the end. That didn’t happen here and the “masses” who were decimated had incredible influence on the growth and development of the Federation so much so that I can’t see how the loss would be unable to result in a very different Federation and with it Star Trek.

    Not that I’m complaining, it just seems any future production in this time line would have to see a colder and harder Federation both logically and I think (though admittedly not that well versed) canon wise where we see the Federation as a more war like/hard organization due to similar events in other parallel time warp story lines in the past. (trying not to get too detailed in case someone stumbles upon here without having seen the movie yet).

    The big question is does it end here or does a new movie/series get spun out? I’d be game for either, and would imagine that will be a fun writers room to sit in. BSG made a good go of it, I think that success could be repeated here if not trumped.


  15. Personally i dont see the issue. the new trek used time travel to recreate modernize the trek universe give it new life. I was skeptical before seeing the movie and now I am impressed. the entire star trek chronology is litterally littered with time travel.

    nice example would Be admiral Janeway leaving voyager in an alternate timeline different from the one she left. viewers were pleased because to them it was the same timeline they had watched for seven years. one would hope that the new trek universe leaves time travel behind after this and uses more creative arcs for storytelling.

    Until this point Star Trek was a dying franchise. its television time run out. the books many of which were low quality stories not worth reading. JJ Abrahms has handed trek fans a diamond where as fans of the old timeline can continue to enjoy media in that story arc. Fans of the new trek have an entirely new trek univers to explore

  16. You know, I can buy the alternate timeline thing. I’d even believe that they were serious about it if they had payed attention to real science for the rest of the movie. But they completely failed to do that at almost every opportunity. Unless they’re going to tell us that this alternate timeline takes place in a universe where the laws of physics only apply when it’s convenient, they should just come out and say “Hey, we needed an excuse to not be bogged down by 40 years of baggage, so we made up an alternate timeline. There doesn’t need to be a plausable reason for it.”

  17. That’s where I get befuddled, getting hung up no the loose ends of the science as an issue point.

    It is science FICTION… doesn’t the fiction part also apply to the science part to some degree?

    They travel faster than light – that’s not real, but we accept that?

    They have transporters that apparently pick up people from various state of beings… and we accept that?

    But then to nit apart other parts that don’t seem to gel with what we know, yet could be parts of things we don’t know yet?

    I’m just sayin’, I stand befuddled?

  18. Yes Bruce, it is SCIENCE fiction. If we’re going to make up things (fiction) without grounding them in possible science, we call it Fantasy and put it in a whole different section of the library.

    Things like being able to see a planet get sucked into a black hole from another planet, likely in another solar system, with your bare eyes. What was that? Dramatic? Yes. At all possible? No.

    I’m willing to accept the premise that time travel is possible through black holes, and that such time travel could create an alternate reality. I’m also willing to accept that, at some point in the future, we’ll be able to make space ships that can withstand the gravitational forces of a black hole and get up the speed to escape from one, making the time-travel-through-black-holes thing feasable. I can’t accept that that same ship, though, could be destroyed by a black hole just because it was convenient for the plot.

    There are several other points in the movie that are like this, but I won’t go into them because most of them would be more spoiler than you can find by doing a Google search and not clicking on any of the links.

    Faster than light travel has not been proven impossible, and therefore works in science fiction. Transporters were clearly explained in Star Trek canon to break up your body into the individule molecules that make up said body and move them at very high speeds to a desired location, then reassemble them into you. This may very well never be feasable (the energy required to do such a thing would be huge), but there’s nothing saying it will never be possible.

    The key point of good science fiction is that (at the time of writing) it could be possible. While this movie may have been good fiction (for the most part), it was not good science fiction.

  19. re: Deamandred

    I do agree that all of star trek is certainly riddled with time travel, however, in this context, it’s telling the story from the alternate timeline’s perspective. this is going to be accepted by the general public, and every future star trek release, series, movie, or otherwise, will be based on it. As much as it’s upsetting, I really am pleased that it will bring about a new generation of star trek. Really the only issue is that there’s going to be 2 different canons now, old trek and new trek, and they simply cannot merge.

  20. Why can’t they merge? In Mirror, Mirror, that should that other realities exist; the same for TNG episode where Worf was jumping from one quantum reality to the next. That’s what’s soo good about the Trek universe…anything is possible.

  21. John, what I meant is more that, the new timeline will never be the original timeline. By official canon, it should be referred to as an alternate trek universe. for example, technologies that are only invented in the alternate universe, should only be a part of “alternate universe” trek canon.

  22. That’s dumb, why would Spock promise to save Romulus by attempting to save it in an alternate time line when he knows full well that he could save the real time line by traveling into the past the same way he did when he saved the whales.

  23. There are those who understand why old trekkies are unhappy. They are those who do not.

    One more time:

    Star Trek is, to many people like the history of the future. OUR history hopefully. The old Enterprise is a part of that history.

    The new movie is a rewrite of that future. Whether it is in a parallel universe or not is a little irrelavent. Was the future changed or not? As far as I am concerned, the old future is gone- is anyone ever going back to the old universe? If not, then it is gone.

    Tied up in this is the STORY of Star Trek. Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry and a whole lot of writers. This Star Trek has been discarded by the new writers that DO NOT CARE what went before. Abrams DOES NOT CARE about the next generation or DSN. HE SAID SO, the only thing that matters to him IS THE UNIVERSE of Kirk and Spock. HE SAID THIS.

    Call me old fashioned but if someone takes a piece of classic literature and keeps only what he likes and throws the rest away I think he is being a real jerk.

  24. Hear hear sarpok!

  25. I’m with Sarpok. I’m a Star Trek geek and I love seeing the Trek universe lore being written. Every time there is non-canon stuff introduced, it upsets that process. This time around I actually went into the movie knowing pretty much nothing about the plot, except that it involved the younger TOS crew and Romulans. (I never read much stuff up ahead, to avoid spoiling myself since I did that in the past). Towards the end of the movie I was praying for them to be able to reset the timeline, bring Vulcan and also Spocks mother back. I realized that this universe was not the same as when the movie ended. I’m not only going to complain, the movie was impressive enough and had lots of pleasant surprises. But because I was expecting a movie that was part of the current canon Trek universe, the new turn of events tainted it a bit for me. On the other hand, I guess Star Trek XII will also be part of this universe, so perhaps we’re going to see a bit of continuity in that respect. But it will take a lot of getting used to for me.

  26. Jeez, Loved the movie.
    So to all the whiners, purists, & whoever else…
    It’s the dream,it’s the concept, it’s the imagination of a shipload of people who dared. Why dump on that? Isn’t the real point “to boldly go where no one has gone before”??
    Yeah, the movie at points jars with the Holies of Holies. So what, they themselves did that, to themselves, over and over again. And I think they knew what they were doing. Logically, because we still have Trek.
    I’m okay with alternate timelines, paralell universes, and complete revisions only because Trek said it was so. It’s the story, it’s the whole damned point of who we are and why. And that was Gene’s dream. The new movie captured that.