Star Trek exists in the Hitchhiker’s Guide Universe

Space is big. You just won’t believe how hugely, vastly, mind-bogglingly big it is.
But space is just 3 dimensions, there is also time, and there is also X. In Star Trek, apart from the usual travels in space and the occasional travels in time, we also have twice seen travels in X: a few visits to the Mirror Universe, and the Kelvinverse. These are not alternate universes, they are dimensions, because an alternate universe is a branching point, and the more time passes after the branch, the greater the deviation will be. Despite several decades after the branching point in the Kelvinverse and several centuries in the Mirror, we still see that the same people are being born, having the same meta-relationships, the same destinies. That implies that these are not separate universes but still fundamentally tied to the Prime. There is a Platonic underlying universe and these are different projections in a lower dimensional space, perhaps.

Having established that there is a dimension X, consider that it is common to H2G2. The Guide Mark II is able to directly manipulate X, even outside the X-unstable ZZ Plural-Z Alpha zones (which contains the Earth, and presumably most of the core federation, which is not coincidentally where most of the X-traveling shenanigans in Star Trek lore occur). Denizens of Plural zones are explicitly warned not to travel by hyperspace because they can be catapulted unpredictably along X, so most of the early galactic civilizations favored warp drive instead of hyperspace jumps. Much of the Second Phase of H2G2 occurs in a different X than the Primary, and we get some exposition about different-X versions of Zaphod in the Tertiary and Arthur in the Quaternary Phases, and Zaphod even managed to make a business model out of it in Hexagonal Phase.

What we know of Galactic history is that about 5 million years ago, and the “about” will become very important in just a moment, there was a Galactic Empire, where “life was wild, rich, and on the whole, tax-free. In those days, spirits were brave; the stakes were high; men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. And all dared to brave unknown terrors to do mighty deeds to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before.” I can think of no better description of the Original Series than this. Of course, there is some distortion, as 5 million years have passed from Kirk’s “men were real men” years and the relatively depressed era of Zaphod and Ford. Magrathea allegedly got its start in this era, as a means for the fabulously ultra-wealthy to spend money on custom planets (implying at least a Kardashev Type II civilization). However, if we allow for the fact that the Golden Age of the former Galactic Empire could span a million years of its own, then Magrathea could well have existed a million years before Kirk and crew. Or much, much longer – because a Type II civilization is not a transient thing.

My theory is that the former Galactic Empire was founded about 4 million years prior to the Zaphod era, and about 3 million years prior to the Kirk era. Lets establish Kirk taking command of the Enterprise in TOS as our zero date: 0 KE (Kirk Era). Dates before this point are BK (Before Kirk). The Zaphod Era (ZE) begins approximately 1M years KE. A few important dates immediately can be established:

2M years BK: Magratheans build Mira’s Earth
2M years BK: Ford and Arthur stranded on prehistoric earth with the Golgafrinchans
1M years BK: Fall of the Galactic Empire.
300 BK: Arthur Dent rescued from the destruction of the Earth by Ford Prefect, who has accidentally traveled 5M years back in time without realizing it.
10,000 KE: the Last Temporal Cold War
1M KE: the Galactic Republic, administered by the Vogon bureacracy, at its peak. This is where most of the canonical story of H2G2 takes place.

There certainly are some problems here. But most of those can be resolved by the fact that the Galactic Republic was notoriously more irresponsible about time travel than even the Federation was during the Temporal Wars (plural). After all, the whole Cathedral of Chalesme fiasco, which led to Slartibartfast’s involvement in the Campaign for Real Time, is evidence aplenty of just how screwed up the timeline became. The vast Dark Age between the Kirk and Zaphod eras was irresistible to tinkering, profiting, and just general screwing around by the various Powers That Be.

Ultimately, a lot of the general wierdness, like Miri’s Earth, Apollo, and whatnot that happened during TOS, not to mention the strange discontinuities around the Enterprise NX-01, which could actually be another poster child for the Campaign for Real Time to protest, can be explained by understanding that Star Trek and H2G2 happened in the same Galaxy – adventures in space, time, and X. I am sure this is a field of potentially rewarding inquiry for other researchers with more procrastination time than myself to pursue.

(for the purposes of this essay, I am treating only the radio scripts of H2G2 as canon. Yes, I am a purist. The book versions, and the regrettable movies and TV shows, can be considered different-X.)

The Search for Spock in Season 2

Fundamentally, Spock is the central character of Star Trek. His presence connects space, time, and reality. He has appeared before TOS and after DS9; he has appeared as an infant and an adult; he has appeared in an alternate timeline (Prime) and an alternate Universe (Mirror); he has appeared on screen with himself, he has died, he has been reborn, he has suffered the loss of his mind, he has suffered the loss of his brain. There is no axis of star Trek that can omit Spock.

Consider also that even putting aside the visual retcon of Star Trek: Discovery, Spock as a character has been played by a total of eight actors, two of which played Spock in his prime (Nimoy and Quinto). Spock is akin to Superman – a character who is instantly iconic and recognized, even though the face changes.There was no angst about Zachary Quinto’s portrayal on par with the angst currently suffusing Star Wars fandom over casting Alden Ehrenreich as Solo. We, the Trek collective, did not even have any real issue with Quinto-Spock receiving personal effects of Nimoy-Spock including the iconic cast photograph in which the visual discrepancy between all of the bridge crew was simply presented on screen without explanation or fuss. It simply was. It simply is.

Spock must appear in Season 2. We can quibble over warp nacelle shapes and surface veneer when it comes to the Enterprise, but even the critics of that design choice still had at least one heart palpitation at seeing the original NCC-1701 grace a television screen again for the first time in decades. Spock, however, is beyond debate.

Spock must appear in season 2.

Star Trek rediscovery: a real score

FINALLY!!

Whether or not I buy into CBS All Access, I will probably be buying this soundtrack. The music of Trek – except for the abomination of Enterprise – has always been hand in hand with it’s basic message of boundless optimism and grand adventure, about journeys rather than destinations.

For no other reason than I love it, here is my favorite musical segment of all Trek: the Battle in the Mutara Nebula.

Star Trek: Discovery – first trailer

Here’s our first look –

OK, I understand the idea behind the visual redesign. It’s 2017, not 1967. And the showrunners opted for Prime universe rather than Kelvin to preserve creative independence from whatever the movie franchise is doing. They do, however, want to appeal to the audience that the new movies in the Kelvinverse have recruited. Therefore: lens flares and Apple Stores.

Klingonbar640

But really, hairless Klingons? With a H.R. Geiger armor aesthetic?

It’s not like we haven’t seen the 60’s aesthetic embraced by modern television. Deep Space Nine went there and did it brilliantly – they arguably made the TOS USS Enterprise look even more gorgeous than any of her successors, and they didn’t change anything about her at all – just lighting and texture. Enterprise itself managed to authentically portray a pre-Kirk technology chic that had a more industrial feel, which was utterly believable as the ancestor to the softened look of the Kirk era. I do not accept that the Kelvinization of the Prime timeline was necessary to modernize the production. After all, the aesthetic of The Expanse and Dark Matter is thoroughly modern but doesn’t have the same Kelvin fascination with chrome and glass. Not that I want any Trek to go the grunge-fi look, but I do at least want Trek to honor it’s own identity. This feels like a rejection – purely a Han shot first decision.

Unless directly contradicted on screen, I think that my own headcanon about First Contact creating Enterprise can be amended here to argue that Discovery is in a Beta timeline. The Prime timeline was TOS/TNH/VOY/DS9, but the events of First Contact created the Beta timeline, and the Kelvinverse is an alternate reality branching from the Beta timeline.

Some may dismiss all this timeline canon angst as pointless, but since time travel and timelines are literally a backbone plot of the Star Trek universe, this is a legitimate area of fan analysis.

Related – great discussion threads at /r/DaystromInstitute that disagree with my headcanon First Contact created the alternate (Beta) timeline and a discussion of whether Enterprise is in Prime or not.

A Muslim crew member on Star Trek: Discovery?

khaaan-startrekii

As this essay at MoviePilot.com puts it, having a Muslim crew member aboard is fulfilling Gene Roddenberry’s mission:

There are many people facing discrimination in the current fraught social climate, and positive representation in the media can go a long way to helping ease these tensions. There’s no denying that Islamophobia has risen in recent years. Without delving into a political discussion of the specifics, suffice it to say that introducing a Muslim character to Star Trek might be the most revolutionary thing that Discovery could do — and this would be the best way to parallel Chekov’s role in The Original Series.

… including a Muslim character in Discovery would go a long way to fulfilling Roddenberry’s aim of easing social tensions between different human cultures and peoples. Admittedly, to do so the Discovery writers would have to flout another one of Roddenberry’s beliefs, but there’s already ample evidence for religion existing within the Federation.

Personally, I would love to see a woman sporting a hijab on the bridge of the Discovery — and not just because it would be neat to see how the scarf is incorporated into the uniform. If the Discovery writers do want to combat Islamophobia with representation, the character in question must be a practicing Muslim, as this isn’t just a racial prejudice, but one against the religion and culture.

I have two reasons for why I dislike this idea. First, I don’t like the analogy of Islam being the modern era’s Soviet Union. I don’t like talking politics here so I won’t belabor this, it’s a topic for City of Brass. Second, I think that social engineering on this sort works better with ethnicity than religion. Pavel Chekov was not a Soviet Russian. He was simply Russian, ethnically, in a way that was unambiguously obvious (ie, his accent). Worf was as Klingon as you could get – an explicit racial presence, also obvious. For Roddenberry’s strategy of de-Otherizing to work in the context of Islam, a similarly obvious approach needs to be taken.

I think including an explicit Muslim would be jarring since tehre is no other “real world” religion represented in Star Trek, at least for the Human society. It was Roddenberry’s world and he chose to eliminate religion from it. Adding a character who is explicitly Muslim complicates canon and introduces tension that undermines Star Trek’s appeal to all of humanity. Then you also need canon explanations for the status of Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. This mess is exactly why religion was introduced to DS9 using the alien Bajoran society rather than picking one from our own.

The solution is to recognize that Islamophobia is not an intellectual reaction to a religion’s precepts, but rooted in racial and ethnic fears. Having a stand-in on the crew for a “Muslim-y” ethnic type would be great because that way when someone sees a Muslim on the street, they should be able to counter their knee-jerk stereotype by relating that person to this crewmember. Therefore, the ethnic choice of the actor is relevant to maximize that stereotype-defeating analogy. Which ethnicity works best for this purpose?

Arabs seem an obvious choice, because of the long ethnic association with Islam, but are not as visually distinguishable as Muslim due to high in-group diversity. A better choice would be bearded, brown-skinned, and male, ideally played by a Indian or Pakistani actor. But not Faran Tahir, who looks so badass in real-life that he isn’t connectable as a Muslim stereotype. I think Muslim American women are on the receiving end of more Islamophobia than men are, but for a different reason, and one that isn’t as addressable by casting in this way.

Overall, a bearded brown dude on the bridge would be a great nod to Roddenberry’s Bridge tradition, and avoid needless complication of the Trek universe’s canon or real-world appeal.