In May 2009, the eleventh Star Trek feature film boldly went where no Trek had gone before: rebooting and reimagining the franchise, under the aegis of producer/director J.J. Abrams. The film paid homage to the previous Star Trek continuity via a time-travel plot that resulted in massive changes to history, and a new timeline, now only loosely connected to the original, was born.
Time travel, alternate realities, and alternate universes are certainly nothing new in Star Trek,[ref]Alternate realities appeared in the first season of the original Star Trek, in the episode “The Alternative Factor,” and time travel was used three times that season, in the episodes “The Naked Time,” “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” and “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Both concepts would become staples on the spinoff series.[/ref] and the use of time travel to explain the creation of a new reality was certainly a clever way to explain, in-universe, why everything was suddenly so different, while also allowing the writers freedom to write without many of the constraints involved in writing stories set during the well-established time period of the original Star Trek. The evidence of the final product, however, shows differences that go far beyond Nero’s attack on the U.S.S. Kelvin in 2233.
For the sake of clarity, the new reality introduced in Star Trek (2009) is referred to herein as the ST11 reality (as it was first seen in the 11th Star Trek feature film), to distinguish it from what is known as the Prime reality, which encompasses the Star Trek continuity extant prior to the 2009 film, and also from various other alternate timelines, realities, and universes previously established in Star Trek fiction.
The distinction between the terms “alternate timeline,” “alternate reality,” and “alternate universe” is an important one. To use a tree as a metaphor, alternate timelines are branches from a single limb, while an alternate reality is a separate, though perhaps similar, limb on the same tree. Extending the metaphor, an alternate universe is a completely different tree. There have been crossovers between all three throughout Star Trek‘s history: alternate timelines, such as that encountered in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,”[ref]”Yesterday’s Enterprise.” Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode 163. Television. Paramount Pictures. 19 February 1990.[/ref] alternate realities, such as the Mirror Universe,[ref]”Mirror, Mirror.” Star Trek, episode 39. Television. Desilu Studios/NBC. 6 October 1967.[/ref] and alternate universes, such as the Marvel[ref]”Star TreX.” Star Trek/X-Men. Comic book. Marvel Comics. December 1996[/ref] and DC[ref]Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War. Comic book series. IDW Publishing/DC Comics. 2015-2016.[/ref] comic book universes.
Changes directly caused by Nero
The first major change to the future history of Star Trek that was directly caused by Nero occurred in the opening minutes of the film: the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin and the associated deaths of a number of its crew, including Lieutenant Commander George Kirk and Captain Richard Robau.[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref] The direct consequence of this was that the newborn James Tiberius Kirk was not only apparently born prematurely, but that he grew up without his father’s influence; indeed, in his father’s place was an abusive uncle, Frank,[ref]A deleted scene from Star Trek (2009) with both Uncle Frank and Jim’s older brother, George Samuel “Sam” Kirk, Jr. (only Jim called him “Sam,” at least in the Prime reality), was included in the film’s comic book adaptation from IDW Publishing in 2010. Issue 5 of the ongoing Star Trek tie-in comic, also from IDW, established that Uncle Frank was, in fact, the brother of the Kirk boys’ mother, Winona.[/ref][ref]Although the inclusion of tie-in media such as comic books and video games may be hotly contested, they were all produced in close coordination with the writers and producers of the films, and at several points, key elements from the comics and game were directly referenced on-screen in Star Trek Into Darkness.[/ref] and young Jim Kirk would find himself on a far different, and more rebellious, path than his Prime reality counterpart. In the Prime reality, Kirk entered Starfleet Academy in 2250, at the age of 17, [ref]Okuda, Michael and Denise Okuda. Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future. Pocket Books. November 1996.[/ref] where he was later described as “a stack of books with legs.”[ref]”Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Star Trek, episode 1. Television. Desilu Studios/NBC. 11 September 1966.[/ref] This new Kirk, however, was very different. Though just as brilliant, his actions put him on a self-destructive path of delinquency, earning him a reputation as “the only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest.”[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref] It was not until an encounter with Captain Christopher Pike in 2255 that Kirk finally entered the Academy in the ST11 reality, five years later than his Prime counterpart.[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref]
The second major change, with incalculable effects on the timeline to come, is the implosion of Vulcan into a miniature quantum singularity.[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref] In addition to the destruction of the planet itself, which resulted in the deaths of billions of Vulcans, the Starfleet task force sent to the planet was also destroyed, killing most–if not all–of the personnel assigned to those ships. Following the destruction of Nero’s ship, the Narada, after an unsuccessful attack on Earth, Captain Pike was promoted to admiral, and command of the Enterprise was passed on to Jim Kirk, still a third year cadet.[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref] This, too, is radically different from the Prime reality. Beyond the fact that Vulcan was never destroyed in that reality, and the staggering loss of life never happened there, more immediate changes are also present. In the Prime reality, Pike was not promoted beyond Fleet Captain,[ref]”The Menagerie, Part I.” Star Trek, episode 15. Television. Desilu Studios/NBC. 17 November 1966.[/ref] and then only after transferring command of the Enterprise to Kirk in 2265,[ref]”Q2.” Star Trek: Voyager, episode 265. Television. Paramount Pictures/UPN. 11 April 2001.[/ref] a full seven years later than in the ST11 reality.
Indirect changes resulting from Nero’s actions
Beyond the direct changes to the timeline that resulted from Nero’s temporal incursion, the butterfly effect caused a ripple in the spacetime continuum, with innumerable effects, ranging from the miniscule to the cataclysmic in the grand scheme. The very presence of both the Narada and Red Matter has produced a significant shift in both technology and galactic politics, and the effect on causality in regards to time travel events that originated post-Kelvin Incident has yet to be determined.
Following the destruction of the Kelvin on Stardate 2233.04, the Narada was captured by a Klingon task force led by Kor.[ref]”Chapter 1.” Star Trek: Nero, issue 1. Comic book. IDW Publishing. August 2009.[/ref] The crew was imprisoned on Rura Penthe, and the Narada placed in orbit there for study by Klingon engineering teams,[ref]”Chapter 2.” Star Trek: Nero, issue 2. Comic book. IDW Publishing. September 2009.[/ref] until Nero’s escape in 2258.[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref][ref]”Chapter 3.” Star Trek: Nero, issue 3. Comic book. IDW Publishing. October 2009.[/ref] This allowed 25 years–ample time–for the Klingons to study the ship’s advanced technology, which was integrated into Klingon vessels by 2259.[ref]”The Khitomer Conflict, Chapter 1.” Star Trek, issue 25. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. September 2013.[/ref] Technology in the Federation, likewise, was significantly altered in the wake of the Kelvin Incident, particularly after the discovery of Khan Noonien Singh by Section 31.[ref]Star Trek Into Darkness. Feature Film. Paramount Pictures. 13 May 2013.[/ref] Though not explicitly stated in any source, the implication is clear that surviving sensor logs of the Narada from the Kelvin and its shuttles would influence Federation technology for decades to come.
Red Matter would later prove to be another, massively destabilizing force on galactic politics. Following its use in the destruction of Vulcan,[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref] and coupled with a lack of general awareness that Nero was from the future, tensions reached a fever pitch between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire.[ref]”Vulcan’s Vengeance, Part 1.” Star Trek, issue 7. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. March 2012.[/ref] Microscopic particles of the substance were collected for study and safekeeping from the former location of Vulcan by the Vulcan Science Council, but those particles, which by this point formed a small sphere approximately one inch in diameter, were stolen by a group of renegade Vulcans posing as survivors of Nero’s crew.[ref]”Vulcan’s Vengeance, Part 1.” Star Trek, issue 7. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. March 2012.[/ref] Those Vulcans intended to use the Red Matter to destroy Romulus, but were stopped by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the Red Matter then fell into the possession of the Romulan Star Empire.[ref]”Vulcan’s Vengeance, Part 2.” Star Trek, issue 8. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. April 2012.[/ref] Several months later, the Red Matter returned to Federation hands, after Section 31 forces exchanged weapons developed for the U.S.S. Vengeance for an alliance with the Tal Shiar, and instigated a war between the Romulan and Klingon Empires, with Section 31 ensuring the destruction of the Romulan ships outfitted with the new weapons in the process..[ref]”The Khitomer Conflict, Chapters 1-4.” Star Trek, issues 25-28. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. September-December 2013.[/ref]
Section 31 became more aggressive, if not more overt, in its actions following the destruction of Vulcan, and recruitment went up following the Kelvin Incident, as well. Some time prior to 2239, Section 31 recruited Captain Robert April into its organization, as well as April’s first officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, Commander Alexander Marcus.[ref]”Countdown to Darkness, Chapter 2.” Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness, issue 2. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. February 2013.[/ref][ref]Star Trek Into Darkness. Feature Film. Paramount Pictures. 13 May 2013.[/ref] In the wake of the destruction of Vulcan, Marcus, now Starfleet’s commanding admiral, oversaw an aggressive expansion in Section 31, which was now mandated to seek out and find new technologies for use in defending the Federation. During the course of carrying out this mandate, a Section 31 vessel discovered the Botany Bay.[ref]Star Trek Into Darkness. Feature Film. Paramount Pictures. 13 May 2013.[/ref]
Khan was surgically altered, and his memory was altered as well. Once reconditioned, he was pressed into service as a Section 31 operative, and began designing weapons. Following a mission in which Khan sabotaged the mining operations on Praxis,[ref]”Khan, Chapter 4.” Star Trek: Khan, issue 4. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. January 2014.[/ref] the moon of the Klingon homeworld, Qo’noS (alternately transliterated as Kronos), and primary source of the Klingon Empire for dilithium (which resulted in Praxis’ destruction more than thirty years earlier than in the Prime reality),[ref]Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Feature Film. Paramount Pictures. 13 December 1991.[/ref] Khan regained his memory and swore vengeance against Marcus and Section 31.[ref]”Khan, Chapter 5.” Star Trek: Khan, issue 5. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. February 2014.[/ref]
The effect of Nero’s temporal incursion remains to be seen on other time travel events. In the Prime reality, the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 traveled from Stardate 3113.2 in 2266 to 1969, where it destroyed an orbital nuclear weapons platform as it was being launched.[ref]”Tomorrow is Yesterday.” Star Trek, episode 21. Desilu Studios/NBC. 26 January 1967.[/ref] In 2368, on Stardate 45959.1, the senior officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D followed a group of Devidians back in time to the late 19th century, where they brought an end to the Devidians’ harvesting of human neural energy, which the Devidians were using as a food source.[ref]”Time’s Arrow.” Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode 226. Paramount Pictures. 15 June 1992.[/ref][ref]”Time’s Arrow, Part II.” Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode 227. Paramount Pictures. 21 September 1992.[/ref] In 2373, on Stardate 50893.5, the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E followed a Borg sphere back in time to 2063, preventing the Borg from altering history, and destroying the sphere in the process.[ref]Star Trek: First Contact. Feature Film. Paramount Pictures. 22 November 1996.[/ref] This wreckage was reactivated nearly a century later in 2152, leading to a harrowing encounter with the Enterprise NX-01; during the course of this encounter, the Borg sent a signal to the Collective.[ref]”Regeneration.” Star Trek: Enterprise, episode 49. Paramount Pictures/UPN. 7 May 2003.[/ref] This signal would later lead to the Collective assimilating outposts along the Romulan Neutral Zone in 2364,[ref]”The Neutral Zone.” Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode 126. Paramount Pictures. 16 May 1988.[/ref] although this fact wouldn’t be confirmed for two years.[ref]”The Best of Both Worlds.” Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode 174. Paramount Pictures. 18 June 1990.[/ref] The ultimate effect on the timeline of this interruption in causality remains to be seen.
If the aforementioned differences were the extent of the changes, then it would be a simple matter to declare the ST11 reality an alternate timeline of the Prime reality; this, however, is not the case. A number of differences exist that cannot be easily explained.
The events of the Eugenics Wars are radically different between the two realities. Even discounting the novels on the subject, the events as depicted in the Star Trek: Khan miniseries do not align with what was depicted on screen in Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. The miniseries shows the eponymous Khan and his fellow Augments overtly seizing power in 1992,[ref]”Khan, Chapter 2.” Star Trek: Khan, issue 2. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. November 2013.[/ref] and later infighting led to widespread nuclear exchanges that decimated the major cities of the world.[ref]”Khan, Chapter 3.” Star Trek: Khan, issue 3. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. December 2013.[/ref] When the U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656 was inadvertently sent back in time to 1996, they found a Los Angeles untouched by war, with few references that the Eugenics Wars had occurred beyond a photo of a DY-100 vessel lifting off into space.[ref]”Future’s End, Part I.” Star Trek: Voyager, episode 150. Paramount Pictures/UPN. 6 November 1996.[/ref] Also, when the timeline reset after the defeat of Vosk, an image of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 was clearly visible[ref]”Storm Front, Part II.” Star Trek: Enterprise, episode 78. Paramount Pictures/UPN. 15 October 2004.[/ref]–an impossibility if New York City had been leveled in a nuclear exchange just a few years earlier. Furthermore, when Archer and T’Pol traveled to Detroit in 2004, there was, once again, little evidence to support any global nuclear warfare within the previous decade.[ref]”Carpenter Street.” Star Trek: Enterprise, episode 63. Paramount Pictures/UPN. 26 November 2003.[/ref] Clearly, any account of the Eugenics Wars in the Prime reality must be a largely covert seizure of power by the Augments (as depicted in the Eugenics Wars novels by Greg Cox).
Another inexplicable change between the Prime and ST11 realities surrounds the world of Beta III and its inhabitants. In the Prime reality, Beta III was inhabited by a humanoid civilization that had been taken over by a computer intelligence called Landru, so named for its creator. It was contacted in 2167 by the Daedalus-class U.S.S. Archon; the ship was destroyed and the crew “absorbed” into “the Body” of Landru.[ref]”The Return of the Archons.” Star Trek, episode 22. 9 February 1967.[/ref] In the ST11 reality, however, Beta III was a human colony established in 2167; it became the site of an experiment by a Section 31 scientist, Dr. Cornelius Landru, and when the (apparently) NX-class U.S.S. Archon attempted to intervene, the ship was destroyed and its crew “absorbed” into “the Body” of Landru’s computer. The existence of both the planet and the Archon were then wiped from Starfleet’s files.[ref]”The Return of the Archons, Part 2.” Star Trek, issue 10. IDW Publishing. June 2012.[/ref]
More perplexing is the existence of the U.S.S. Enterprise commanded by Captain Robert April, of which he took command in 2229.[ref]”Countdown to Darkness, Chapter 2.” Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness, issue 2. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. February 2013.[/ref] This Enterprise existed for at least four years–perhaps more–prior to the Kelvin Incident, which is another significant variance. In the Prime reality, the U.S.S.Enterprise NCC-1701 was launched in 2245,[ref]”Through a Mirror, Darkly, Part II.”Star Trek: Enterprise, episode 95. Paramount Pictures/UPN. 29 April 2005.[/ref] under the command of Captain Robert April. [ref]”The Counter-Clock Incident.” Star Trek: The Animated Series, episode 22. Filmation Studios/NBC. 12 October 1974.[/ref] It was the first Federation starship to bear the name.[ref]”Relics.” Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode 230. Paramount Pictures. 12 October 1992.[/ref] In the ST11 reality, however, April’s Enterprise was decommissioned in 2257,[ref]”Countdown to Darkness, Chapter 2.” Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness, issue 2. Comic Book. IDW Publishing. February 2013.[/ref] and the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 was not launched until the following year, on Stardate 2258.42.[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref] Further, April’s Enterprise was also of the same Constitution class design as its namesake; in the Prime reality, the Constitution class would not enter service until 2245,[ref]Okuda, Michael and Denise Okuda. The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future. Pocket Books. May 1994.[/ref] at least sixteen years later than the ST11 reality, if not more.
Another unusual difference is the age of Pavel Chekov. On Stardate 2258.42, Chekov said that he was 17 years old, placing his date of birth in the year 2241.[ref]Star Trek. Feature film. Paramount Pictures. 8 May 2009.[/ref] In the Prime reality, however, on Stardate 3468.1 in 2267, Chekov stated that he was 22 years old, placing his date of birth instead in the year 2245.[ref]”Who Mourns for Adonais?” Star Trek, episode 33. Desilu Studios/NBC. 22 September 1967.[/ref] It remains unclear how the Kelvin Incident could have affected the year of Chekov’s birth; although that is possible, it is nevertheless implausible.
Finally, there is the issue of the Gorn. Not only do the Gorn of the ST11 reality look radically different from their Prime reality counterparts, they were firmly established in the ST11 reality as originating from another galaxy, only coming into contact with the Federation on Stardate 2259.32.[ref]Star Trek. Video Game. Namco Bandai. April 2013.[/ref] In the Prime reality, however, the Gorn are native to the Milky Way Galaxy; although the Gorn Hegemony would not make contact with the Federation in the Prime reality until 2266,[ref]”Arena.” Star Trek, episode 19. Desilu Studios/NBC. 19 January 1967.[/ref] it was known to the Orion Syndicate as early as 2154.[ref]”Bound.” Star Trek: Enterprise, episode 93. Paramount Pictures/UPN. 15 April 2005.[/ref] It is very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile this difference. Even if the Gorn in the Prime reality were, in fact, of extragalactic origin, they would nevertheless had to have begun their expansion into the Milky Way more than a century before the Kelvin Incident.
Upon an initial, cursory review, the ST11 reality would appear simply to be an alternate timeline of the Prime reality, albeit one with uncharacteristic visual discrepancies. A deeper examination, however, shows this not to be the case. Too many inexplicable discrepancies exist for this to be true, and those differences are simply too significant to ignore. The continuity of the Star Trek universe that has existed since the 2009 film is, and always must have been, a reality independent of the Prime reality.
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