I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble here, but weren't they just cranked out arbitrarily as a means of preventing viewers from being able to place episodes in any chronological order?
Umm, no. The stardates proceed almost exactly in the production order of the episodes - the arbitrary part about them is that nobody sat down to agree on what they meant
, in terms of Earth years, months, weeks or hours.
Possibly the writers of the final script versions found it quite practical to use stardates as a marker of sorts for the production order, even...
Also, don't you find that rather helped with creating the (forgive the pun) timelessness of the series?
In the sense of distancing it from external or absolute time references, yes, certainly. But for whatever reason, they still ended up as milestones on a supposed five-year journey through stardates 1300-5900.
(Of course, the 1000 sd/yr thing can't have been the actual intent, or else they wouldn't have hurried up to SD 5900 in just three seasons - or at least there would have been a mad jump from SD 3900 to SD 5900 at the very end of the third season. But fate conspired to give us a five-year mission in the 1000 sd/yr terms nevertheless.)