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RB_Kandy September 6 2012 05:35 AM

How do star dates work
Often an episode of trek will open with the captain giving a star date. But then never seem to make sense, they sound like "Star date 2341.4"
So it's the year 2341, and it's the fourth month? or would that be the day?
I'm just confused as to how it works.

Methos September 6 2012 05:38 AM

Re: How do star dates work
think this explains it and gives a calculator to work out dates pretty well...

it's one i've used before and comes out pretty accurate :)


Lord Garth September 6 2012 05:45 AM

Re: How do star dates work
1,000 stardates make up a year on TNG, DS9, and VOY. TNG starts with the 41000s, so the second digit always stood for the season.

In TOS, the stardates are four-digits and progressed unevenly and out of order from the 1000s at the beginning of the series to the 5000s at the end. If you leave out TAS, and pretend all five years were covered over three seasons, then the first digit could stand for the year of the mission; but only if you interpret it that way.

In the TOS movies, stardates seem to move much slower. They're still four digits but the first digit seems to represent the decade while the last three digits don't seem to mean much of anything. So TMP has a stardate in the 7000s, TWOK-TFF have stardates in the 8000s, and TUC has a stardate in the 9000s. Don't try to make too much sense out of it passed that.

King Daniel Beyond September 6 2012 06:04 PM

Re: How do star dates work

RB_Kandy wrote: (Post 6917855)
Often an episode of trek will open with the captain giving a star date. But then never seem to make sense, they sound like "Star date 2341.4"
So it's the year 2341, and it's the fourth month? or would that be the day?
I'm just confused as to how it works.

Word of God says, in the last film, Stardates were the Earth year-point-day (.1 - .365)

In the Original Series, stardates were random numbers. No order, no nothing.

Next Gen, DS9 and Voyager all used a complicated system based on the season and thousandths of a year.

LOTS more info here:
and even more here:

Christopher September 6 2012 07:20 PM

Re: How do star dates work
Stardates aren't supposed to work. The makers of the original series didn't want to pin down exactly how far in the future the show took place, perhaps because they knew how unwise it was to try to predict how quickly technology will advance. While the majority of references seemed to put TOS 2-300 years in the future, at least one episode ("The Squire of Gothos") had references putting it more like 700 years ahead. So stardates were just placeholder numbers, something put in to make it sound like a date had been mentioned, without conveying any actual chronological information of any kind. There was a general trend for the numbers to increase over the course of the series, albeit inconsistently so, and in The Making of Star Trek, Roddenberry offered a handwave explanation about how stardates are calculated differently depending on where you are in space, how fast you're moving, and so on, to explain why a later episode could have a lower stardate.

Even in a single story, the stardates can be wildly inconsistent. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, you can work out roughly how much time passes between the different stardate references, and they range from under 4 hours per stardate unit to about 32 hours per unit.

When TNG came along, they adopted a practice of treating each season as 1000 stardate units long -- the first season was 41xxx, the second was 42xxx, etc., so if you assume that each season is exactly one year long and begins on January 1, simple arithmetic gives you the stardate scheme used at this site and favored by Pocket Books in its ST novels. Yet the scheme used in the 24th-century shows was never entirely consistent. TNG's first season started off increasing the numbers after "41" steadily, but then, perhaps due to all the staff upheavals, they stopped keeping track and the order became random for most of the season. After that they appointed the script supervisor to make sure the stardates went consistently upward from episode to episode, but there was no attempt to work out any consistent intervals; one episode might increase the numbers by roughly one per day, while another might increase them by six or ten in the course of a day. I don't think they ever really made any effort to stick with the 1000-units-per-year thing, which would make each day about 2.7 units, when it came to the last few digits.

("Pen Pals" is an interesting case. It's meant to span nearly eight weeks and the stardates go up by about 45 units, suggesting it might be around 1 unit per day. And every one of the log entries in the episode ends in ".3," suggesting that Picard always records his log at the same time every day. But that was only in that episode, not afterward.)

And there are episodes whose calendar dates are given or at least suggested, and their stardates don't fit the scheme I linked to above. So despite being slightly more orderly than TOS stardates, TNG/DS9/VGR stardates were still meant to give only the impression of the passage of time rather than containing any real date or time information. And DS9 and VGR (especially DS9) used them less and less as time went on.

The 2009 movie tried to simplify things by making the stardate just the year followed by the number of days into the year, but that has its own problems, like being Earth-centric (as if the "starts on January 1" scheme isn't) when the original suggested something more universal, and also lacking in detail if the smallest interval it measures is a whole day. But I've learned that it's best not to try to divine any real meaning from onscreen stardates. They're not meant to mean anything -- just to sound like they do.

Deckerd September 6 2012 07:32 PM

Re: How do star dates work
It would have been better to keep it always nonsensical to give them the freedom to never pin anything down to a particular century. The sensible approach would apply this maxim to all 'future Earth' science fiction, to get rid of the obvious problems it throws up.

alpha_leonis September 6 2012 09:29 PM

Re: How do star dates work
Sometimes Stardate references might solve continuity problems -- sometimes they create continuity problems.

Example of the former: "Catspaw" (first episode of TOS second season, and therefore the first episode to feature Chekov as a character) has a lower stardate number than "Space Seed" from season 1, which implies that "Catspaw" takes place earlier chronologically in "shipboard time". And that provides an obvious answer to the common TWOK complaint that "Khan shouldn't recognize Chekov because he wasn't there yet".

But then, there were several episodes during season 1 of TNG that were filmed when Denise Crosby was still a member of the cast, but with stardates that occur "after" Yar's death in "Skin of Evil".

In short, they're inconsistent enough to be entirely meaningless.

ToddPence September 6 2012 09:37 PM

Re: How do star dates work
On Voyager, the Kazon traitor Jonas is exposed and killed in the epsiode "Investigations" (star date 49485). But in the next episode by stardate, "Life Signs" (49504) he is once again alive and still unsuspected.

Christopher September 6 2012 09:37 PM

Re: How do star dates work

alpha_leonis wrote: (Post 6920807)
And that provides an obvious answer to the common TWOK complaint that "Khan shouldn't recognize Chekov because he wasn't there yet".

Although the more obvious answer is that there were 430 people on the ship and we didn't actually see every one of them. Just because Chekov wasn't a day-shift bridge officer in season 1, that doesn't mean he wasn't aboard.

alpha_leonis September 6 2012 10:56 PM

Re: How do star dates work
I even remember one episode of DS9 when a stardate reference was thrown in delibarately for continuity reasons.

This was about the same time that "Generations" came out in theatres, in which Enterprise-D was destroyed. Very soon after that, Jonathan Frakes appeared as a guest star on Deep Space Nine, playing Thomas Riker (William's transporter clone from "Second Chances"). Thomas was posing as William in the storyline of that episode, in which he makes reference to Dr. Crusher letting him "away from the Enterprise" for a while.

I remember a lot of Trek talk boards being really confused by that -- the episode aired after Generations, but made reference to Enterprise-D still being around. The stardates solved it: the episode actually took place "earlier" in Trek-time than the movie, even though it was filmed later.

RB_Kandy September 7 2012 12:05 AM

Re: How do star dates work
So it would appear that star dates are random numbers in TOS, and are so convoluted and inconsistent in other series, that it might as well be random.

So in my fan fiction that I am writing, I am just going to put down stuff like 1340.4, 1341.3, and 1345.4 and just have the captains log say things like, "one week into the mission, and tensions on the ship are increasing..." and "The tensions of yesterday are decreasing after my pep talk to the crew..." and "A weak after the plot, our ship is nearly at one hundred percent efficiency" and that sort of jazz.
Or if need be I'll just put down "1344.4 (2 days later)" so the reader can get a feel for the passage of time.

I remember as a kid seeing the episode where Kirk was going to be thrown into a grave, and it gave his birth and death date, and I noticed that the dates could not be based on our calender. But was never sure if there was a pattern to this new calender.

And I agree there is a certain wisdom to fictitious dates in a futuristic sci fi, so that no one calls you out on this or that technology being improbable, or this new discovery would have been made a thousand years ago. And if your show is fond of the reset button, and may air out of sequence sometimes, having a non existent date would help with continuity issues a little. No one would call out a time travel episode because they go to a planet that was destroyed a hundred years ago. "You went back in time 50 years, but that planet was destroyed a 100 years ago".

Lord Garth September 7 2012 04:30 AM

Re: How do star dates work
^ If you're writing a story in the TOS era, just use whatever as long as it's four digits and one passed the decimal point.

If you're setting your story in the TNG era, you have to get the first two digits right. A story set during TNG season 1 (in 2364) should be stardate 41xxx.x. If it's set during TNG season 7 (in 2370) it should be 47xxx.x.

Herkimer Jitty September 7 2012 04:38 AM

Re: How do star dates work
They work pretty good.

NrobbieC September 7 2012 04:42 AM

Re: How do star dates work
For TNG era just use this and try not to think about it.

Christopher September 7 2012 04:51 AM

Re: How do star dates work

Lord Garth wrote: (Post 6922775)
^ If you're writing a story in the TOS era, just use whatever as long as it's four digits and one passed the decimal point.

Although it's worth keeping in mind that the stardates did follow a broadly upward pattern from season to season -- the first season went from the 1000s to the 3000s, the second was mostly the lower 3000s to the upper 4000s, and the third was almost entirely in the 5000s, with the animated series more inconsistent but still largely in the 5000s to 6000s. Then TMP was in the 7000s, the next four films were in the 8000s, and TUC was in the 9000s. Quite an inconsistent rate increase, but if you want to capture the feel of a certain season or era, it might help to pick a number in its range.

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