Stardate: Wikis

  
  

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A stardate is a means of specifying absolute[1] dates in the fictional Star Trek universe. They are decimal numbers, usually rounded to a single decimal place,[2] which replace absolute Gregorian calendar dates. The in-universe behavior of stardates is much less transparent than that of any known calendar,[3] because the writers chose the numbers more or less arbitrarily,[4] depending on the era of Star Trek in question.[5] One of the stated reasons for stardates was the need to establish the events in the series as taking place far into the future without tying the episodes down to a specific date,[6] though Star Trek: The Next Generation mention that the events of that show take place in the 24th century.

Contents

Stardate properties

Examples of stardate decrease with time

Lwaxana Troi's diary entries in "Dark Page," recorded in the 2330s, refer to events of stardate 30620.1. The date of the Khitomer Massacre as observed onscreen in "Sins of the Father," however, is 23859.7. The Khitomer Massacre took place in 2346.

In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Spock's death occurs on stardate 8128, yet the previous movie begins on stardate 8130. (See external link following.)

Stardate numbers generally increase with time,[7] although locally they increase with time at different rates, both within particular episodes as well as between. Some future stardates are lower than past stardates. The occasional decrease with time was more prevalent during the original series than during Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which stardates increased with time more consistently. Stardates are rarely specified to more than a single decimal, which happened for instance in TNG episode #104 "Code of Honor". The decimal following a stardate is usually omitted in conversation.[8] Stardates do not replace clock time, which is still commonly used and often shown next to stardates on displays.[9]

Relationship to the Gregorian calendar

Stardates are almost always used instead of explicit Gregorian dates such as July 6, 2367.[10] They are used in the same fashion as Gregorian dates to identify a unique point in time. There is no evidence of special stardate units to replace the Gregorian units such as days, months or years; these are always used for expressing timespans. Even the explicit Gregorian dates are still used, as evidenced in the TNG episode "Conundrum" where crew biographies are given in Gregorian years. Stardates are not being retroactively applied to the past: the Gregorian calendar is used to describe centuries in general (e.g., "a time traveler from the 29th century") and always used for references to time before the 23rd century.

Backstage information

In many episodes of all series, in order to avoid inconsistency, a stardate is referenced only in the first log entry of the episode, with subsequent entries tagged as "supplemental."

Star Trek: The Original Series

Stardates were created as an abstract idea without much thought to actual implementation. They are described as follows[11] in the writer's bible for the original series:

We invented "Stardate" to avoid continually mentioning Star Trek's century (actually about two hundred years from now), and getting into arguments about whether this or that would have developed by then. Pick any combination of four numbers plus a percentage point, use it as your story's stardate. For example, 1313.5 is twelve o'clock noon of one day and 1314.5 would be noon the next day. Each percentage point is roughly equivalent to one-tenth of a day. The progression of stardates in your script should remain constant but don't worry about whether or not there is a progression from other scripts. Stardates are a mathematical formula which varies depending on location in the galaxy, velocity of travel, and other factors, can vary widely from episode to episode. [sic]

Furthermore, when pressed for an explanation, Roddenberry said the following for Stephen Whitfield's book The Making of Star Trek:

This time system adjusts for shifts in relative time which occur due to the vessel's speed and space warp capability. It has little relationship to Earth's time as we know it. One hour aboard the USS Enterprise at different times may equal as little as three Earth hours. The stardates specified in the log entry must be computed against the speed of the vessel, the space warp, and its position within our galaxy, in order to give a meaningful reading.

Roddenberry admitted that he did not really understand this, and would rather forget about the whole thing (from Whitfield's book):

I'm not quite sure what I meant by that explanation, but a lot of people have indicated it makes sense. If so, I've been lucky again, and I'd just as soon forget the whole thing before I'm asked any further questions about it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation and beyond

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, a slightly more systematic implementation of stardates was used. They were 5-digit numbers, initially starting with four (symbolically to represent the 24th century), and followed by the season number. Within these thousand-unit ranges, subranges were allocated to writers of episodes to use. After the first season, these increased monotonically between episodes. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager the same system was kept, incrementing to 48xxx in what would have been TNG season 8 (or actually the first season of Voyager), and wrapping round to 50xxx and beyond in season 10. The last season of Voyager takes place in stardates 54xxx.x.

Within a single episode, TNG writers have most commonly increased stardates at the rate of one unit per Earth day, contradicting the 1000 units per year used on the larger scale. Although closer to a usable system than they were in the original series, stardates remain inconsistent and often arbitrary. For example, Ron Moore has said flatly that stardates do not make sense and shouldn't be examined closely.

The following sections show the various writer's guide entries concerning stardates.

TNG Season 2

A Stardate is a five digit number followed by a decimal point and one more digit. The first 2 digits are '42'. The 4 stands for the 24th century, the 2 indicates second season. The additional three digits will progress unevenly during the course of the season from 000 to 999. The digit preceding the decimal point counts days, and the digit after the decimal point counts one tenth of a day.[12]

TNG Season 5

A Stardate is a five-digit number followed by a decimal point and one more digit. Example: "45254.7". The first two digits of the Stardate are "45." The 4 stands for the 24th century, the 5 indicates the 5th season. The following three digits will progress consecutively during the course of the season from 000 to 999. The digit following the decimal point counts _tenths of a day_. Stardate 45254.5, therefore, represents the noon hour on the 254th "day" of the fifth season. Because Stardates in the 24th Century are based on a complex mathematical formula, a precise correlation to Earth-based dating systems is not possible.[13]

Interestingly, all of the starship commissioning plaques shown use stardates as the commissioning date, rather than Earth time.

Star Trek: Enterprise

In Star Trek: Enterprise, log entries use standard Gregorian dating conventions instead of stardates. Stardates had been invented and in use as early as the 22nd century, but had not yet been adopted by humans. In the episode "Damage", set in 2154, Xindi scientist Degra hid a coded message in an escape pod that covertly transported Captain Archer back to the Enterprise. The message was a sequence of numbers, which, upon analysis, T'Pol identified as a stardate.

Star Trek XI

In J. J. Abrams' 2009 film, Star Trek, stardates are copied directly from the Gregorian dating conventions, meaning that "Stardate 2258.42" refers to the 42nd day of the year 2258. This is made evident by the fact that Spock Prime mentions having traveled back in time from 129 years in the future, which he refers to as Stardate 2387.

In an interview with Bob Orci at TrekMovie.com, Orci reveals that the decimal points start from .1 and continue up to .365. However, there is a discrepancy—Captain Robau, commander of the U.S.S. Kelvin in the film's opening, refers to the stardate as "Twenty-two thirty-three zero-four" (adding a zero before the single decimal digit and not pronouncing the decimal point itself) when he is interrogated by Nero. It is possible that this is a mistake or oversight.

References

  1. ^ Relative dates, such as "five months ago", are still expressed using days, months, and years, as can be observed in any average episode, but there have been only a handful of references to current years.
  2. ^ The writer's guide entries, one of which is quoted in this article, confirm that they are decimal numbers.
  3. ^ If it were NOT, then by this time, a conversion formula would have been determined,
  4. ^ See the quote from the writer's guide.
  5. ^ Stardates became less arbitrary during the TNG era.
  6. ^ The Making of Star Trek, by Stephen E. Whitfield.
  7. ^ The range changed from 1xxx to 5xxx during the original series, to 7xxx in TMP, to 8xxx and 9xxx in the other movies, only to jump to 4xxxx and 5xxxx in the TNG era, confirming a general increase with time.
  8. ^ Examples: "All Good Things...", where the show's stardate is stated in coversation as 47988, "New Ground", where Alexander gives his birthdate as stardate 43205, and many others.
  9. ^ Examples: "Remember Me", where the computer tells Crusher that she arrived on the Enterprise on stardate 41154, followed by clock time, "Contagion", where we see clock time on a display showing Donald Varley's log.
  10. ^ References to "current" Gregorian dates are extremely rare in TNG and nonexistent in TOS. Lieutenant Commander Data gives the current year as 2364 in "The Neutral Zone", and it is not mentioned in TNG after that. Cpmmander Chakotay gives the year as 2371 in the Voyager episode "Eye of the Needle".
  11. ^ Susan Brown (1985-09-03). "More on Stardates". net.startrek. (Web link). Retrieved on 2009-08-06.
  12. ^ Chris DeYoung (1990-07-25). "more writers guide stuff". rec.arts.startrek. (Web link). Retrieved on 2009-08-06.
  13. ^ Eileen Simpson (1992-08-30). "Stardates--from the horse's mouth". rec.arts.startrek. (Web link). Retrieved on 2009-08-06.

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