Thursday, June 27, 2013

“Everything is as it should be”: Tomorrow is Yesterday

Current theory points to the Enterprise being responsible for medieval Earth legends about the Skyships of Magonia.

The following is an excerpt from the archives of the United Federation of Planets Temporal Integrity Commission. It appears to be a fragment of an introductory text for prospective Agents educating them on proper temporal mechanics and etiquette.

It is common knowledge the the United Federation of Planets of our time requires all Starfleet officers to observe strict adherence to the Temporal Prime Directive. As its name would suggest, this directive is an extension of the earlier Prime Directive, which was a policy of nonintervention with the natural development of cultures less developed then ours. The logical outgrowth of this core premise, the Temporal Prime Directive clearly states that interference with historical events is strictly forbidden, and the current timeline must be upheld at all costs. In our age of freely available and accessible time travel, the preservation of the sequence of events leading inevitably to this glorious present is of paramount importance. Under no circumstances will any time travel event that could jeopardize or even nullify the possibility of this particular future coming to pass be tolerated, and the stewardship of our timeline can only be seen as our primary responsibility as Starfleet officers.

Once time travel technology became commonplace in all the civilized cultures of the galaxy, an interstellar pact was signed between all the major political powers mutually agreeing to prohibit the use of that technology for any purpose other than pure, untainted scientific research. Furthermore, the agreement outlines explicit guidelines, instructions and procedures on how time travel can be undertaken safely, rationally and virtuously without contaminating or endangering the timestreams that lead to our reality. The ratification of this treaty and related documents, which collectively became known as the Temporal Accords, remains the fundamental guiding tenet of Federation and Starfleet policy to this day. Although most governing bodies freely accepted the new terms, many more did not, and broke off their Federation alliances, feeling that temporal mechanics should be used to change the past for self-centered and misguided notions of “personal improvement”. Such temporal incursions are the greatest threat to our safety and sovereignty, and it is the sworn duty of all temporal agents to track down and repair the damage caused by such incursions, and ideally preventing them from occurring in the first place whenever possible.

Although time travel of any sort is discouraged if it can be avoided, Federation and Starfleet policy does acknowledge that the past holds merit from a scientific perspective. One of the reasons it is imperative that we do not change the past is that studying it both teaches and gives us perspective for how to live in the present. In this regard, a history of time travel is beneficial to help us better understand the moral and ethical ramifications of temporal mechanics, why Federation policy has evolved to the point it has and how best to handle a time travel situation should you happen to find yourself in one. it is the past that provides us with a map with which to chart our behviour in the future, both for helping us to decide what choices it is in the best interest of the majority to take, and which it is in their best interests to avoid making again.

The earliest known record of Federation time travel occurred on stardate 3113.2 when the U.S.S. Enterprise, registry number NCC-1701, under the command of James Tiberius Kirk encountered a black hole, resulting in the ship travelling several centuries into the past to the Earth of July, 1969. The event has since become the ideal template for the handling of all time travel events, both those of an accidental nature and incursions of malicious, selfish intent. As with much history on file regarding Captain Kirk, the example he sets in this case is one to which we all should strive, for the good of the timeline, the galaxy, and our most sacred freedoms.

There is, of course, troublingly inconsistent data on record about the actual origin of this event. Captain Kirk's recorded logs of the event posit his time warp took place on stardate 3113.2 as the result of a chance encounter with a black hole while in the middle of a routine supply run, although there is also evidence the event actually took place on stardate 1704.4, and was instead the result of a contained matter-antimatter implosion in the Enterprise's warp engines, a last-ditch attempt to free the ship from a decaying orbit around the planet PSI 2000. Such contradictory evidence would seem to support the hypothesis that a temporal incursion occurred prior to the events on file, possibly the doings of Federation enemies acting in opposition to the Temporal Accords for some unknown, yet most certainly nefarious purpose. While the origin of the mysterious “Lost Kirk Incursion” is a hotly debated topic amongst Federation scholars and Starfleet temporal agents alike, the time travel event that we have on record is undeniably a significant one, and a cornerstone for the temporal stability policy we maintain and strictly enforce to this day.

The events as we know them begin shortly after the Enterprise's encounter with a black hole, thus leading to the discovery of the “gravitational slingshot effect” that has since become the foundational theory of modern temporal mechanics. After communications officer Uhura and science officer Spock were able to corroborate to Captain Kirk that the ship had, in fact, travelled back in time to July, 1969 the Enterprise was intercepted by a crude jet-propelled scout vehicle from the atmospheric military organization that existed on Earth at the time, in the region then known as the United States of America. As the ship was carrying nuclear weapons that could have jeopardized his ship, Kirk correctly made the decision to use a sustained tractor beam pulse to entrap the vehicle and transport the pilot aboard before it broke apart.

Although it is regrettable Kirk was forced to beam the pilot aboard, thus revealing to him the true nature of the Enterprise's temporal displacement and endangering the stability of the timeline, it would have been much worse for Kirk to have let him die, as the pilot was in fact Captain John Christopher, the father of Colonel Shaun Geoffrey Christopher, the pilot of the first manned mission to Saturn and thus a historically significant individual. Kirk also wisely chose to withhold strategic information about the Federation of the time to Christopher and a guard who was subsequently accidentally beamed aboard the ship due to a failed attempt to retrieve visual evidence of the Enterprise's approach into US airspace, claiming to Christopher that he instead represented the interests of the archaic United Earth Space Probe Agency. In particular, it would have been a grave threat to the integrity of future events had the true nature of the black hole been revealed to any of the corrupted individuals, as Earth scientists were just beginning to formulate the theory positing the existence of such phenomena approximately the same time this event took place, albeit in the corrected timeline.

Perhaps the most praiseworthy action Kirk undertook during these events was his keen reasoning that a reverse slingshot effect would send the ship forward in time and, if a precise transporter beam-out occurred, then Captain Christopher and the guard could be returned to the exact moment they were removed from their timestreams and, as the events had no longer happened, they would remember nothing. this allowed Kirk to cover his tracks in such an elegant manner it has rightfully become standard operating procedure for all Federation temporal research ships. The only exceptions to this standing order are, of course, granted to temporal agents acting in the interest of the Temporal Accords who are allowed to interact with timestream natives should they judge it to be appropriate and necessary to sufficiently respond to crises and emergencies and maintain structure and stability. Agents desiring such privileged access should seek Level 10 Security Clearance from the managerial offices of the Temporal Integrity Commission and are encouraged to seek a positing on a Federation timeship.

There is little wonder why James Tiberius Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise are the most storied captain and most storied ship in Federation history. The exploits of this fabled pairing are decorated and celebrated such that they could almost be seen as modern-day legends. Thankfully, however, rationality prevails in our more enlightened age. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise were no more mythic heroes than this year's graduating class of the academy: They were merely competent and professional human beings who were as dutiful in their day as any officer is expected to be today. This is why we should study and learn from Kirk: He is a fitting role model for valour, honour, and sober respect for the virtues of law, order and the inevitable march of history. We must not give in to the temptations of misty-eyed romanticism and declare Kirk or others like him heroes, icons or legends, but we should look to their stories for advice and guidance on how best to craft ours.


  1. Is this about the fundamental impossibility of adequately dealing with people in the past pretending to be from the future meeting people from the past which were those people's actual contemporaries, in the context of an episode about the importance of not changing the future from a show which then went on to have huge impact on the future of the actual world?

    Because, yes.