Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The Beastie Boys Paradox

Part of the Star Trek Time Travel Series

  1. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The Permanency of the New Timeline
  2. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The First Contact Paradox
  3. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The Beastie Boys Paradox

The newest Star Trek movie is premised on the idea that a new, alternate timeline is created when Nero’s ship appears and destroys the USS Kelvin at the beginning of the film, killing Jim Kirk’s father and depriving the captain-to-be of the stable childhood he had in the original timeline. Everything before that point remains the same as the established canon; everything after then will develop differently. It’s a solid enough foundation with which to play with the original series’ characters without interfering with all the established stories of the past 40 years. But some extended thinking brings up several questions about and potential paradoxes within the events of this new alternate universe.

Please join me as I devote far too much mental energy to some of these issues.

The Beastie Boys Paradox

In an early scene of the new movie, a young Kirk steals a car and cranks up some Beastie Boys (Sabotage) for a little joy ride.

Now the Beastie Boys have a couple of songs where they make explicit references to Star Trek. Intergalactic features a line about a “pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock” and Brouhaha mentions “Bones McCoy” and “Sulu” by name. The song Ch-Check It Out shouts out Klingons and the video features the Boys dressed as Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

Since we now know that the Beastie Boys exist in the Trekverse, how might the observant future-aficionados and scholars of classic music react to the realization that the rap group are themselves potential time travellers, spinning tunes with oblique nods to events and people in the future?

Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The First Contact Paradox

Part of the Star Trek Time Travel Series

  1. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The Permanency of the New Timeline
  2. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The First Contact Paradox
  3. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The Beastie Boys Paradox

The newest Star Trek movie is premised on the idea that a new, alternate timeline is created when Nero’s ship appears and destroys the USS Kelvin at the beginning of the film, killing Jim Kirk’s father and depriving the captain-to-be of the stable childhood he had in the original timeline. Everything before that point remains the same as the established canon; everything after then will develop differently. It’s a solid enough foundation with which to play with the original series’ characters without interfering with all the established stories of the past 40 years. But some extended thinking brings up several questions about and potential paradoxes within the events of this new alternate universe.

Please join me as I devote far too much mental energy to some of these issues.

The First Contact Paradox

If we take the view that each container universe can have only a single timeline at once, which I argued that we must, then we must accept that the Star Trek universe–all the characters, stories and situations we all know, from “The Cage” to “Nemesis”–is gone, overwritten by the new timeline until a reset event occurs. The future has changed and nothing that we knew before is certain, including the very formation of the Federation. The entire chain of events that led to First Contact are now in doubt.

Divergences in the timeline are only likely to increase as time progresses in the alt-verse, especially considering the ripple effects caused by the destruction of Vulcan. Thus as history unfolds, it is increasingly unlikely that the Enterprise-D will be built and crewed by Picard and company. Which means:

  • no Encounter at Farpoint
  • no Q
  • no premature introduction of the Borg to the Federation
  • no attempts to assimilate Earth
  • no attempt by the Borg to time travel to destroy Zephram Cochrane’s warp ship
  • and no need for the non-existent Enterprise-E crew to protect and assist in the first warp flight.

Which of course creates a paradox. Because history does record a Borg attack on Cochrane and the Enterprise’s presence there at the time. But how can that be possible when the conditions that caused it do not occur?

And if the known events of First Contact did not occur, does the Federation necessarily come into being?

Sure, without Borg interference, Cochrane might have launched his flight himself and attracted the attention of the passing Vulcan scout ship. But it was his interactions with the Enterprise’s crew and the knowledge of humanity’s future greatness among the stars that steered him toward an enlightened path. Before meeting the crew, however, he was an alcoholic cynic looking to score an easy life of money from warp technology. If the Enterprise had not been there, then the motivation and will to create an interstellar fraternity with the Vulcans may never have materialized.

Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The Permanency of the New Timeline

Part of the Star Trek Time Travel Series

  1. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The Permanency of the New Timeline
  2. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The First Contact Paradox
  3. Star Trek 2009 and temporal paradoxes: The Beastie Boys Paradox

The newest Star Trek movie is premised on the idea that a new, alternate timeline is created when Nero’s ship appears and destroys the USS Kelvin at the beginning of the film, killing Jim Kirk’s father and depriving the captain-to-be of the stable childhood he had in the original timeline. Everything before that point remains the same as the established canon; everything after then will develop differently. It’s a solid enough foundation with which to play with the original series’ characters without interfering with all the established stories of the past 40 years. But some extended thinking brings up several questions about and potential paradoxes within the events of this new alternate universe.

Please join me as I devote far too much mental energy to some of these issues.

The Permanency of the New Timeline

There’s nothing new to manipulations of time within Star Trek. Indeed, the first instance of time travel occurs in the sixth episode of the original series and the concept makes regular appearances in every iteration of the franchise. Heck, there are a couple episodes of Deep Space Nine that made time travel seem pretty much routine, so much so that Starfleet maintains a Temporal Investigations agency to police matters surrounding the Temporal Prime Directive. There’s one thing we’ve seen time and again in Trekdom: whenever alternate timelines are created, they are eventually erased and “the order of things” is returned to the way “they’ve always been.”

At the same time, there seems to be a distinct separation between the idea of a “universe” and a “timeline” within the franchise. Witness the “mirror universe” where Spock wears a goatee, Ben Sisko is a privateer and Jon Archer is presumably murdered by Hoshi. Events from the past in this universe have no effect on the future of the “normal” universe. Both story lines have independent origins and appear to run in parallel without intersecting with one another. This apparent separating between the container universe and its timeline would seem to suggest that within each distinct universe, the “branching” theory of time flow is not in effect. Infinite universes are not created with each passing second and with every decision made; instead there is but one definitive sequence of events.

Given this premise, the events of the 2009 Star Trek film definitely take place in the “normal” universe but within a new timeline that erases everything we know about the future, much like when Edith Keeler doesn’t die in the early 20th century or when the Enterprise-C isn’t destroyed defending Narendra III.

And speaking of “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” where’s Guinan in this new timeline? We know that she is a long-lived character, having traveled to Earth as early as the 1890s. If she was around then, she’s around in the new timeline. And from that episode we know that she can sense disruptions in the timeline. Does she think this alt-verse feels “wrong” the same way she felt the timeline was wrong in that episode? Guinan’s actions would seem to suggest that there is only one valid timeline for the “normal” Star Trek universe and that alternate timelines invariably work their way toward collapse, reset or at least “merging” with the Prime timeline so that altered events become incorporated into the normal timeline (see DS9’s “Trials and Tibblations”, TNG’s “Time’s Arrow” or VOY’s “Year of Hell”).

And therein lies the potential weakness of this new rebooted franchises universe. As with any other time travel story, there’s always a way to undo events and reset the timeline to its proper course. Indeed, what’s to stop additional time travel from preventing the Narada from destroying the Kelvin?

One could make the argument that in the Prime timeline, that’s exactly what happened. In the regular timeline we’ve always known, the Kelvin picked up some unusual sensor scans only to discover nothing of consequence, much like in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” where the Enterprise picks up some readings only to have those readings disappear. Thus, without having met Nero, the Kelvin carries on without incident, the Prime timeline continues normally and the alt-verse collapses without ever being formed.

Just how might that happen? Well, having met prime-Spock and the mindmeld, young alt-Kirk knows about the Prime timeline. Maybe he decides he’d rather have grown up knowing his father and devises a plan to prevent Nero from going back in time, thus restoring the original timeline. That’s just one speculation, but however events unfold, it is my belief that the new alt-verse is destined for erasure. So lets have some fun in it while we can.

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Having said all that, one could also make the argument that the film does not actually take place in an alternate timeline, but has instead jumped to another mirror universe. We know it’s possible to jump between universes and simultaneously travel through time (as the Tholians did with the USS Defiant in Enterprise’s “In a Mirror Darkly”), so a similar thing could have happened here. The events of TNG’s “Parallels” lend support to this theory as well and Star Trek (2009) co-writer Roberto Orci cites that episode and the Many World’s aspect of quantum theory as rationale for the time travel story of the movie.

Still, if every timeline/universe is valid, how can any of them be “wrong” and need to be set “right”, as is the case in so many Star Trek stories?

Star Trek (2009): Good Movie, so-so Trek

***SPOILERS BELOW***

***this post assumes you’ve seen the movie***

Star Trek Boldly Going

Star Trek has officially been “rebooted” in the form of a new feature motion picture. It’s like a new operating system and everything. I saw it last week and must say that I am duly impressed. I walked out of the theater having enjoyed two hours of solid film making. To be sure, it’s no Wrath of Khan. But the dialogue is well written with plenty of good lines scattered throughout. The acting is believable and the character portrayals aren’t so bad. The production value is sky high, with lots of little touches (especially sound) that bring a nice immersive feel to the universe presented. And the film’s opening sequence is among the most emotionally forceful of anything with the “Star Trek” name on it.

But it has its shortcomings as well. Oh, it’s good, and by any other title it may have been great. But as Star Trek goes, it leaves much to be desired. For one, there’s very little intellectual meat to be digested. After some really enjoyable character development (young Jim Kirk listens to the Beastie Boys* [Sabotage]) in the first act, the movie essentially becomes big-dumb-action flick, with one-dimensional villains that lack the nuance and human tragedy that embodies the adversaries in the Star Trek universe. There is no take-home parable or allegory or examination of the human condition, things that are at the very heart of the Star Trek experience. On top of that, parts of the premise really do strain even the considerable suspension of disbelief that Star Trek is afforded.

In true Trek fashion, here are some of my criticisms. I’ll try to avoid nitpicking and stick to the major ones:

  • While the opening scenes are great cinema, why the hell was Lt. Kirk’s 9-month pregnant wife aboard the Kelvin? There are rules about being on planes when pregnant as I assume there would be for space-faring *military* vessels.
  • I’m not sure how old anyone is supposed to be. Kirk is in his early twenties. Spock is already an officer and so is Scotty, so they’re both older. McCoy is also older, having had another life before Starfleet. Checkov is 17 (does that mean he was accepted into the academy at a younger age?).
  • The Narada, Nero’s ship, is a mining vessel. How it was able to outmatch the Federation fleet while orbiting Vulcan is a mystery to me. I would not expect a mining ship, whose primary purpose is to extract and transport ore to be well armed at all. Yes, it’s from 180ish years in the future, but it was also wandering the galaxy for 23 years without a homebase. To me this seems to equivalent of a modern supertanker and it’s crew of roustabouts with deck guns taking out Admiral Nelson’s Royal Navy.
  • As a side thought to that, why didn’t Nero just present his ship and its tech-from-the-future to the Romulan Empire, which could use the advances to conquer the galaxy? The Federation having to overcome that advantage actually seems like a decent platform to base this new alt-Trek around.
  • The whole last scene, ie the cadet-to-captain thing. Throughout the movie, Kirk isn’t even a commissioned officer. Yet upon graduation he’s given the flagship of the Federation? I don’t care how many planets he saved, there would certainly be dozens or hundreds of older, experienced superior officers more qualified for such a distinguished post, many of whom would probably resign in protest. Assign him to the Enterprise with a bump to full lieutenant until he gets some field experience, sure. But captain? Hardly.
  • Finally: Too much lens flare.

Overall, an enjoyable flick, if you’re not hoping to have your mind challenged and you don’t think too hard about what you just saw. This movie was a foundation however and I’m looking forward to seeing what the sequels will bring. Maybe our characters might actually “boldly go” somewhere. Also, everyone has been going on about how good the new cast seems to work, but for my money, the most compelling character in the film is Captain Pike. I wouldn’t mind seeing more adventures with him at the helm.

And oh yeah, I could probably write an entire paper on Abrams’ apparent disdain for Vulcans and their suppressed emotions and logical approaches to life: destroying the planet and “unvulcanizing” Spock by the end of the film while rewarding Kirk’s recklessness. But that’s a subject for another post.

*The Beastie Boys are huge Star Trek fans, so I’m sure they’re thrilled that young Kirk listens to their music.

Diversion: SRSLY, 1000 SONGS

I enjoy reading Captain Future’s Soul of Star Trek blog for its insightful reflections on the franchise and the role Star Trek has played in changing and shaping attitudes, cultures around the world. I couldn’t help but be inspired by a line in a recent post, and I was off to the LOLbuilder:

SRSLY, 1000 songs in your pocket

We’ll return to your regularly scheduled programming shortly.

iTunes Store is schizophrenic about Star Trek

star trek on itunes

One can only wonder what’s up between CBS/Viacom/Paramount and Apple these days.

The first season of the original Star Trek appeared for sale at the iTunes store, only to be removed a short time later. Then, about a month after that, the first season of Enterprise showed up, only to suffer the same fate. Both those shows eventually returned to the domain of the $2 digital download and remain available.

The old adage though is that events happen in sets of three.

And thus, the third Star Trek series to find a home at the iTunes Store, Voyager, also seems to have beamed in, only to beam right back out. Voyager became available a couple weeks ago, receiving top billing on the main iTunes Store front, as well as promotion at Apple’s Livepage. However, at the moment, if you do a casual search for it, you’ll find not a single episode or mention of the series.

Whatever is going on between the two companies needs to be ironed out; this kind of teasing just isn’t healthy.

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UPDATE 6/5: A quick glance at the store shows that Voyager’s first season is once again available via $2 digital download. Curious though, if you search for it, the store says it’s a “partial season” even though all fifteen episodes are there. Anyway, check it out.

Star Trek back at iTunes Store. Features original first season and remastered episodes

remastered trek on itunes

Yes, after nearly two months offline, Star Trek is back on the iTunes Store. The store has separated the newly remastered episodes from the original broadcast versions. Still, only episodes from the first season are available.

iTunes remains the only source to buy and download the original series remastered in the uncut versions.

The first season of Enterprise has also returned.

City on the Edge of Forever (remastered)
City on the Edge of Forever (original)

Star Trek sold out at iTunes Store?

UPDATE March 26: After nearly a two month stint of being offline at the iTunes Store, the Star Trek TOS is back. The complete first season is available in its original broadcast form. Additionally, newly remastered episodes from the first season are available in their own section. iTunes is still the only source for them in their uncut form.

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star trek on itunes

Star Trek tv shows are suddenly missing from the iTunes Store. Both the Original Series and Enterprise are completely gone. The movies are still there though. I wonder what’s up with that.

A quick scouring of the internet doesn’t turn up any information, so who knows.. Maybe the store is just out of stock… 🙂

Seriously though, this is surprising. I don’t have any figures, but I bet the shows were selling well. Especially the new remastered episodes that were available. The iTunes Store was the only place to download uncut versions of select remastered episodes.

According to the boards at startrek.com, the eps were pulled for a “technical reason.” We’re left to speculate what that actual reason was, but it would be pretty swell if CBS and Apple were building a Star Trek portal/store-within-a-store/wormhole inside iTunes.

Star Trek on iTunes update: Enhanced or no?

UPDATE March 26: After nearly a two month stint of being offline at the iTunes Store, the Star Trek TOS is back. The complete first season is available in its original broadcast form. Additionally, newly remastered episodes from the first season are available in their own section. At this time, iTunes is still the only source for them in their uncut form.

Remastered First Season Episodes on iTunes

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Since the first season of the original Star Trek was unleashed unto iTunes a couple weeks ago, there’s been some controversy as to whether the episodes are the original cuts or the new “remastered” versions that started broadcasting last year. Having not purchased any episodes, my original supposition was that the iTunes version were the same as the DVDs, since the new ones haven’t even finished broadcasting.

In fact, as of Jan 19, only 16 new versions have been aired, and of those only 11 have been from the first season (of the total 29 episodes).

But after partaking in this conversation at OneDigitalLife, I reexamined my assumptions and did some research and it looks like some of the episodes are indeed remastered. Space Seed for example.


iTunes Store preview. Click for full-size image.

If Paramount/CBS/Apple are adding enhanced episodes after they air, that’s an interesting strategy. The iTunes Store is currently the only way, if you don’t record them on a DVR, to get a copies of the remastered episodes. It’s much like being able to download the recently broadcast episodes of Lost or CSI. Plus, iTunes is the only place to get full-length (not cut for commercials) versions of the enhanced episodes (for now)

There are some pitfalls to this approach however.

The store doesn’t indicate which episodes are new and which are not. Can we assume that every remastered episode that has aired can be found on iTunes after the airdate? Nope, some of the new broadcast episodes are on the store, some are not. Space Seed on iTunes is enhanced, as is Balance of Terror, while reviews say City of the Edge of Forever is not, even though all three broadcast months ago and all three broadcast before the show debuted on iTunes.

Also, if I were to buy Where No Man Has Gone Before today (the 19th) and a remastered version airs tomorrow (it’s on the schedule), would I then have to buy it again to get the new one? Probably yes. Same goes for any future remastered versions. My guess is that if I bought the whole season now, and the episodes were refreshed, I’d have to buy the remastered ones again.

Then there’s always the possibility that someone doesn’t want the remastered versions. That person would be stuck shelling out for the DVDs and just have to encode them themselves.

Update: CBS announced today that episodes of Trek remastered will be released on HD-DVD some time during the fourth quarter of 2007. Until then, iTunes is the only way to go.