The Temporal Incursion Fallacy

I'm seeing a lot of people assuming that the USS Kelvin as seen in the Star Trek movie existed in the 23rd Century of TOS. That is dead wrong.

Shall we have ourselves a little gedankenexperiment please?

Let us assume linear time, and no universe-hopping or universe-creating potential from time travel. (Orci, this means you.) Let us further assume a rational universe without deific beings.

Now then . . .

Yesterday, I developed a time machine. Tomorrow, you will go back in time to January 1, 1939 to shoot Hitler.

Question: Is it reasonable to assume that all of the events prior to 1939 are unchanged?

Answer: No.

After all, I just sent you back to shoot Hitler. Who is to say what other time travel events might or might not have occurred till now, some of which might be altered when you kill Hitler?

As noted elsewhere,

"Go back in time and blow up Kirk's Enterprise as soon as it pulls out of Spacedock, for instance, and you not only change the 23rd Century but even the 20th ("Tomorrow is Yesterday", "The City on the Edge of Forever", "Assignment: Earth", and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). This would likely also alter the 24th Century, meaning Picard's Enterprise, meaning "Time's Arrow" . . . in which case the 19th Century is altered, not to mention the 21st and 22nd (First Contact and the related "Regeneration"[ENT]). But of course, at that point the 20th Century gets even more altered, thanks to "Past Tense"[DS9], "Little Green Men"[DS9], "Future's End"[VOY], and "Carpenter Street"[ENT].

While you could argue, per Orci, that each of those events created a different universe, it is clear from all those episodes that Trek lives in a universe where each of those events and changes occurred."

Thing is, though, the same is true even in the non-linear time concept. If you're going to a parallel universe when you 'time travel', how do you know it has the same content as the one you left, if you don't know what yours looked like at the time? For instance, if you had never seen Star Trek and all you saw was the "In A Mirror, Darkly" episodes, which were set in the evil "mirror" universe, you might be led to believe that's what Star Trek was all about.

At best, you can say "pending other knowledge, we will use this data" . . . but that's terribly silly, really. I mean, do you really think the data from another universe ought to be used just because you don't know about the universe you're interested in? Why not just use Battlestar Galactica data while you're at it? Sure, it's a different universe, but that hasn't stopped you before.

That's just silly.

A ship named Kelvin probably did exist in the TOS continuity at some point, but we have no reason to believe it looked like that, had the same captain, or anything else. To assume otherwise is to employ what I'm calling the Temporal Incursion Fallacy.


Anonymous said...

Alternatively, it's just a fun and enjoyable film that just used that as an explanation for its different continuity, stop fretting over it and just enjoy the fun action scenes and compelling characters. There's no need to obsess over whether it fits in with existing continuity or not. It quite clearly doesn't, but just move on, accept the fact and enjoy the bloody film.

Star Trek needed this reboot far more than many people wanted to admit. It's the first decent Trek film we've had since First Contact (or maybe Undiscovered Country) so why not just move on and put aside the nitpickery. I know we're meant to be nerds, but there's a rather large difference between being nerdy enough to enjoy Star Trek and being nerdy enough to nitpick about it in no less than three out of five of your latest blog posts.

Can't we just enjoy the film?

Author said...

Did you just come to ST-v-SW.Net, a website exploring the technology and physics of two science fiction universes, and suggest I turn my brain off when watching?

Just askin' ...

Anonymous said...

Let us assume linear time, and no universe-hopping or universe-creating potential from time travel. (Orci, this means you.) Let us further assume a rational universe without deific beingsThe problem is that Star Trek has both those things. We've seen universe hopping in episodes like "Mirror, Mirror". And there are beings like Q running around. Heck, Q could have sent the Narada and NimoySpock to an alternate dimension to prevent them from mucking about in the past of the people he loves to torment.

Anonymous said...

'Did you just come to ST-v-SW.Net, a website exploring the technology and physics of two science fiction universes, and suggest I turn my brain off when watching?'

I came suggesting that you should just accept that it's a newfound continuity, treat it as such and move on without going into long essays on the way it works. Of course, I find the versus debate a wee bit pointless in itself as it's *quite* clear that the sheer awesomeness of one side having Sir Alec Guinness would win the day. And yes, that's a tongue in cheek statement, but I generally find that it makes a *bit* more sense on a thematic level that Star Wars wins. A big and massive galactic civilisation which has been around for millennia versus a very tiny only-just-developing civilisation.

Sort of sounds a lot like Outside Context Problem to me.

Anthony said...

I won't judge Abrams' vision of Trek until I see a series. This is just a movie, and every Trek movie is relatively the same, a simple (but normally damn good) action movie (sans TMP and TVH).

GeekParallax said...

Yeah, but will they ever make a series? I certainly hope so, but I'm not counting on it.

After all, They can coast a few years on each movie, rather than risk sending a weekly-episode series down the crapper in <3 years.

Anthony said...

Ya never know. Given the new life Abrams gave it (no one can deny it), probably they will, and it just might work this time. What with the new expanded fan base.

Have faith.

Unknown said...

The Star Trek timeline seems pretty resilient, no matter what anyone does-- pretty much regardless of mathematical probability.

In the original timeline, Kirk:

1. Was named "James Tiberius,"
2. Joined Starfleet Academy and graduated in 3 years
3. Became the first person to beat the "Kobiyashi Maru" test
4. Met. Dr. McCoy and became good friends,
5. Kirk became captain of the Enterprise, over a crew containing First Officer Spock, Chief Ship Surgeon McCoy, Chief Officer Montgomey Scott, Helmsman Sulu, Communications Officer Uhura, Ensign Chekov etc.

All these details occurred in 2 quite separate timelines, with such entirely separate causations, as to exceed impossibility: in Timline 1, Kirk was given the name "Tiberius" by his grandfather after the legendary Roman (TMP:N); in Timeline 2 by his father after a relative while sacrificing himself to save the crew of the Kelvin.
In timeline 1 Kirk had a supportive father who encouraged Kirk to join Starfleet, and this gave him the support and confidence that allowed him to excel; in Timeline 2 Kirk had an abusive step-father who made him into a delinquent hoodlum who gets beaten up in a bar by Sulu and some other Starfleet cadets.
In Timeline 1, Spock doesn't know Uhura other than as a highly-qualified communications-officer, while is likewise betrothed/married to a Vulcan-woman named T'pring, whom Uhura doesn't even know about until seeing her in "Amok Time--" and Uhura asks who she is, and Spock responds "my wife;" clearly there is only a professional relationship between Spock and Uhura; likewise, Spock is a stoic/aesthetic who either has no interest or desire for a romantic/personal relationship with any woman; in Timeline 2, Spock has a personal relationship with Uhura.

Likewise, all the incidents from the destruction of the Kelvin, would have had a profound effect on Starfleet operations, since the surviving crew-members would have reported the alien invasion, and at the very least this would have put Starfleet on alert; this would definitely change Starfleet Adademy enrollment, eventual ship-assignments, missions etc-- particularly since newbie cadets wouldn't even be assigned to a ship in an emergency-mission, but would be transported ashore immediately so they wouldn't be in the way.

But still, things end up generally the same in both Timelines; Kirk ends up beating the Kobiyashi Maru test by cheating, graduating in 3 years, becoming captain of the Enterprise with the exact same crew etc.

The point is that there's something else controlling the Star Trek timeline than simple cause-and-effect, but rather there seems to be some sort of "whirlpool-eddy" effect which Spock mentions in "City on the Edge of Forever," which draws events together after a disturbance in the timeline-- just as Kirk and Spock were drawn to the same place and time where McCoy changed the timeline in "City/Forever."

However here, we also saw of course that good ol' "Godwin's Law of Time Travel" is at work: i.e. Kirk saves one woman, and this cause Hitler to take over the world-- which happens if you do ANYTHING to change the history of WW2-era, implying that Hitler and the Nazis were not defeated by combined world sentiment and forces, but by the most impossible freak-occurrence that the slightest change would end up with the going from complete and utter defeat, to complete global domination-- another outriht mathematical impossbility.

So we see that the Star Trek timeline is not controlled by practical causation, but by some hidden force of temporal adhesion-- preserving both the main points of the original series, and Godwin's Law of Time Travel etc.

So there we have it: the Star Trek timeline is generally pre-determined; minor points might change, but major ones end up the same no matter what.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

"I came suggesting that you should just accept that it's a newfound continuity, treat it as such and move on without going into long essays on the way it works."

In other words, "shut up, watch it and like it-- no matter how implausible or inconsistent."
Spoken like a true Star Wars fan.

But we're a little more discriminating than that.

This also explains And yet you argue that Star Wars would beat Star Trek, just because it's an older and larger civilization; however that's like saying that the Cherokee could beat the Western pioneers by being an older and larger civilization, when in reality a single pioneer with a Winchester rifle, successfully defeated about 1000 attacking Cherokee, by killing 1/4 of their warriors. Likewise, Cortez defeated a million Aztecs with just some 2000 men and some canons etc; higher technology CAN create a 1000:1 advantage-- which is about the size-difference between the Federation and the Empire.

So Federation ships could do likewise, being virtually immune to Imperial weapons and sensors; likewise, "The Force" wouldn't even avail for long, since one Federation ship has defeated much more power powerful telekinesis and mind-control, and collective parasite-organisms-- in "Plato's Stepchildren" and "Operation: Annhilate!"

The Empire doesn't even have any doctors: just medical-droids; so the Empire can't study midichlorians or resist The Force, like the Federation could. Once the Federation did this, they'd be invisible and immune to any Jedi or Sith-powers, by shielding against bio-energy.

However, while Star Trek fan are analytical and discuss the practical necessities of the plot-- and respect people who don't want to- don't go "Misery" on people, trying to force, bully and terrorize others into agreeing with us. Unlike them, we possess both the intellectual faculties of civility, as well as the logical ability to argue based on the FACTS.

For example, if we see a scene with a car flying off a cliff with the hero visibly still in it, and then in the next scene it shows escapes-- and the audience cheers-- we will say that it's impossible, and explain it-- but we WON'T kidnap George Lucas and break his legs in order to make him bring back Boba Fett, like the Mike "Cathy Bates" Wong Church of Science-ology.

But we also don't say "just watch it and like it."