PORTLAND, OR — Fans of the popular science fiction franchise Star Trek have, for decades, lined up squarely into two fervent camps: Trekkies, and Trekkers. But the new Star Trek films change everything, starting off with a time travel story and a twist — all of Trek’s canon history after the birth of the iconic Captain Kirk is effectively wiped out when history is changed, leaving director J.J. Abrams (creator of Lost and everything else you’ve watched lately) free to re-tell the story of the
first second starship Enterprise like never before. Better special effects, larger-than-life reprisals of iconic characters, and familiar story lines regurgitated with refreshing originality characterize this second wind to the too-long-dormant franchise.
Naturally, being geared towards a more cerebral audience, Star Trek invites a degree of geek nit-pickiness. Discrepancies, contradictions, and inaccuracies must be explained. There’s a complete online database of every person, place, thing, and event in the canonical Star Trek universe. There’s a second complete online database of every person, place, thing, and event in the non-canonical Star Trek universe. There are technical manuals and detailed specifications for pieces of fictional technology like warp engines and tricorders. And there is no end to the critical web sites of ardent fans, dedicated to tearing apart the thing they love. Every bit of minutia gets examined, and as new stories are written, writers invent clever “corrections” to smooth over mistakes made in previous stories.
So, when the new Abrams Star Trek reboot depicts a radically newer, sleeker, hipper vision of the future — even in the opening moments of the film, before any history has been altered — someone has to explain how it fits into existing Trek canon.
Enter Lynn Stowell, local science-fictionologist, and “science officer” of a Meetup.com group that refers to itself as “the U.S.S. Robert April.”
“OK, this is gonna blow your mind. But when Spock and Nero go back in time, it doesn’t just affect the future,” she explains with an infectious excitement. “The changes in the timeline affect the past, too. You see, most people misunderstand temporal mechanics, thinking that time travel means taking a three-dimensional object and skipping it across a fourth dimension to some other point, but that completely ignores the reality of…”
“…and so, at the moment Nero emerges in the late 22nd century, an entirely new spacetime sum-of-histories pops into existence,” she finishes minutes later, gesturing at the equations on the chalkboard. “A new and identical universe, diverging from the original universe — and as you can see, Nero’s entry causes temporal fluctuations that make the new universe different even before he changes history. That’s because the new universe isn’t truly identical — the way that random events occur, like quantum-level phenomenon, doesn’t have to be the same. And over billions of years, from what we would call the ‘beginning’ of this universe on up until the opening scene of Star Trek (2009) — well, that’s a lot of random chaos building up, influencing subtle changes, rippling throughout the tapestry of time. So we can have cooler ships, sexier actors, and more expensive sets. Science offers us room to explain that.”
In fact, Stowell says the new Trek fits into the existing canon nicely, despite the mealy-mouthed criticism of armchair skeptics. “Sure, they get to Kronos [The Klingon homeworld, obviously. — Ed.] in a matter of a few minutes, and everybody freaks out, because they think that violates canon, because the Klingon homeworld isn’t that close. Well, look at how much bigger the warp coils are on the new Enterprise, compared to the old one. I mean, the ship is twice as big to begin with, and the nacelles on this baby are just huge. In Star Trek: Enterprise, they established — I’m talking about episode 18, season 4, “In a Mirror, Darkly, part 1,” of course — that a starship like the original original series Enterprise could go as fast as warp 7, based on the size of the warp coils. So you figure, this bigger J.J. Abrams new original series Enterprise isn’t just larger — it’s faster, much faster.”
“Other purists,” she continues, “have gone off on rants about how Abrams changed the spelling of the Klingon homeworld. It used to be spelled ‘Q-o-‘-n-o-S.’ Now it’s spelled ‘K-r-o-n-o-s.'”
“Apparently, some sophomoric philosophers thought that just because this planet’s name sounds like ‘Chronos,’ that this is somehow a reference to Greek mythology, and therefore, we need to use a classical transliteration. Well, duh, Greece is on Earth, not Kronos. It’s pretty dumb to think that the Klingons would name their homeworld after a character from Greek mythology in the first place.”
Indeed, a Vulcan might scoff at the mere suggestion.
“If you want to know what you should really be pissed off about, I’ll tell you,” She says. “The movie should have never gone to Kronos in the first place. I mean, Khan — who’s British now, because of quantum mechanics — has a handheld transporter that beams him from Earth, all the way across the galaxy to the Klingon homeworld. Just like that. That’s absurd. That’s Iconian technology, not 23rd-century Starfleet. Why even bother with starships anymore?”
This suggests that, despite Stowell’s preference for the new Trek, accepting it is still somewhat of a bitter pill to swallow for science fiction fans. And, indeed, she explains that it’s worse than we think. “OK, I realize I just explained how the new Trek history can co-exist with the original Trek history. We do still have the Star Trek ‘classic’ timeline, but that’s in a whole different universe right now. The only thing still going on with that is the online video game, and that’s set in the 25th century anyway.”
“On a practical, pragmatic level, fans need to accept that, for all intents and purposes, the Star Trek that we know and love has been nullified. In the real-life universe that we live in, the original Star Trek saga now only exists on your DVDs and MP4s.”
“But I haven’t told you the bad news yet.” She leans back, with a sardonic grin, and delivers the blow. “Star Trek: Enterprise. Captain Archer. That was the twenty-second century. The NX-01 sailed its last voyage long before Nero smashed Kirk’s father to smithereens. In fact, if you watch the latest movie closely, you can see a model of the NX-01 sitting on Admiral Marcus’ desk. So that means that Star Trek: Enterprise is the only thing that’s still canon — the only story that still ‘happened,’ aside from the two new movies.”
“Star Trek: Enterprise,” she sighs, shaking her head. “The garbage that even Voyager fans wouldn’t watch.”
Portland, OR is home to the “Trek in the Park” live performances of the original series of Star Trek that concluded this summer, as well as the Klingon death metal band “Stovokor,” named after the Klingon afterlife.