Could stardates make some sense?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Robert Comsol, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Subjective time out of spacedock is cool and handles any issues with relative time. That's a great and very plausible idea suitable for highbrow science fiction.

    However, from a production standpoint, it suffers from one of the main problems that using the calendar date on Earth would. The problem is that there would still be continuity issues involving questions of how long it takes the ship to get from point A to point B. If you say that it takes X days in one episode at warp W, then it has to be that way always, or you have to suggest reasons why not, such as headwinds and tailwinds in space. If the ship goes from star A to star B one week, star B to star C the next week, and then back to star A the week after that, then the triangle inequality must be obeyed, for starters, or reasons suggested for why it isn't. It just gets very complicated.

    In short, the ship can no longer as believably travel at the speed of plot, which it really needs to, because things get nailed down too specifically.

    The genius of stardates was that they didn't make sense. That was by design, to allow the illusion of continuity to be maintained without needing to be meticulous about it.
     
  2. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hm, I wonder if this could really be the reason -- because they certainly never shied away from creating such continuity issues regardless! There's one particular episode in which they have Spock tell us precisely how long it takes the Enterprise to travel about a thousand light-years, for instance; it's anybody's guess whether this squares with the month it takes them to reach the edge of the galaxy at WNMHGB or any number of other episodes....
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, it is a cool idea, but it wouldn't explain the stardates in consecutive episodes being out of order, since then they'd have to be going back into dock every week.


    Well, they don't have to, since only a tiny fraction of viewers are going to care enough to bother to remember the figures and do the math.

    But the idea has been around since at least 1980's Star Trek Maps that the relationship between warp factor and velocity is variable depending on the local conditions of space and/or subspace, such as mass distribution and the resulting spacetime curvature. That's actually stated outright in the TNG Technical Manual and ST Encyclopedia, though for some reason fandom seems to have mostly overlooked it.
     
  4. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    If you're thinking of "That Which Survives", and I think you are, the problem there was traceable to just that one episode. They shouldn't have quoted a light-year figure. They could have just named made up star system to indicate how far they'd been thrown, and that would have nipped that problem in the bud right there. Also, that was in the third season, and collectively they were, frankly, getting careless by then. (If there are other episodes that quote distance and time figures that straight-jacket later episodes, similar remarks apply to them as well.)

    However, that became a really big elephant in the room only when Voyager tried to strand the Voyager in the Delta Quadrant!

    Really, the point I was trying to express was that, if stardates are some mysterious function of space and time, and possibly other variables as well, then you (at least generally speaking) don't have to worry about keeping the stardates consecutive or even proportional between episodes, since you're only ticking off your tenths of a day within each episode individually. It's kinda like only needing to know that this week's episode of Ponderanza is set on Thursday. If next week's episode is set on Tuesday, that's not a contradiction.

    Yeah, I'd thought that was understood, but I guess it bears mention. I'd said right after, "That's a great and very plausible idea suitable for highbrow science fiction," intending to convey that I didn't think it would work to explain Star Trek's stardates. Star Trek strove to engage adults, but its science fiction elements themselves were never that highbrow.

    Were a show to use the subjective-time since launch idea, I'd expect them to try really hard to make sure that the episodes were aired in chronological order. That's an extra headache. The masses may not work out inconsistencies in minutia, but they tend to notice obvious blunders. In addition, with respect to the issue of maintaining a reasonable degree of proportionality, I'd expect that they'd at least strive to avoid this sort of thing:

    Dear NBC: Last week on Space Wagon they said it would take months to retrain the switchboard operator, after her mind was sucked out by the space hoover. This week she was back at work, but the ship clock had advanced only 100 hours. What's up? Yours, Confused in Colorado.​

    With stardates, it's an automatic non-issue. (Christopher, I know you understand this stuff, these are just general remarks.)

    Yeah, I think it's a cool idea, Star Trek Maps is what I was thinking of, by the way, though I've only heard tell about it and never read it. I'd say the idea also fits in well with ion storms, magnetic space storms, and their ilk.
     
  5. Boris Skrbic

    Boris Skrbic Commander Red Shirt

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    If stardates are arbitrary out-of-universe, they should at least be extremely complex in-universe, since those human(oid)s see what we see; they must need the ship's computer to help them out.

    Also, the fact is that they aren't being confused by any time issues on a regular basis. Five days on the ship is five days on a starbase; calendar years in space aren't different from those on Earth. The writers need that simplicity. The humans are probably using our Gregorian calendar to determine that an event occurred "two months ago", whereas stardates are recorded in logs and official files. Other Federation members might be employing their own planetary calendars, with the universal translator taking care of conversions.
     
  6. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    I know that I seriously neglected this thread I started, but would just like to remind everyone that I posted it in the TOS section to specifically discuss stardates of the TOS series and TOS movies because I feel that for this particular era of Star Trek we can still get a good approximation how stardates worked (or were supposed to work).

    Again, here is an excerpt what I wrote on page 6 of this thread:

    The original episodes were broadcasted out of production order (and out of the modest chronological stardate order these had). Asked about the discrepancies Roddenberry referred to the manipulation of space and time (by the warp engines) and concluded “I’d just as soon forget the whole thing before I’m asked any further questions about it.” (The Making of Star Trek)

    The creator didn’t know yet and the correct answer would have probably been “I’ll tell you when I’m finished telling my 5-year-story" (because only then can I calculate the elapsed time between the first and last stardate mentioned and give you an approximation).
    But at the time of the Whitfield interview Gene Roddenberry couldn’t foresee, yet, when he was actually and terminally done telling his 5-year-story.

    In this recent thread I presented the theory that Christmas always happened around Stardate X700.X

    This would suggest that 1,000 stardate digits equal one year, but whether that was intentional or accidental is unknown.

    Anyway, assuming that Roddenberry sat down during pre-production of TMP and considered giving us a better approximation of stardate values, he inevitably would have noticed that the difference between the earliest (1277.1 or 1312.4) and latest (5930.3) TOS stardate is rather close to 5,000 units (= 5 solar years).

    The novelization states the launch stardate from drydock as Stardate 7412.3 and (novel only!) 2.7 hours later it's Stardate 7412.6 while the Enterprise is still cruising at sublight and doesn't warp/alter the fabric of space and time.

    This perfectly matches the assumption that 1,000 stardate digits equal one solar year, 2.736 digits one day and 0.114 digits one hour, but - of course - only reflects in the novel and not the actual film's dialogue and figures.

    The one thing that doesn't work is the TMP stardate in relation to the last known TOS stardate.

    Assuming the last TOS stardate is around Stardate 6000.0 the difference to 7412.3 comes very close to 1,500 units or "eighteen months redesigning and refitting the Enterprise" but - unfortunately - fails to acknowledge that the actual time difference between TOS and TMP is closer to three years. :(

    TMP summary: While Gene Roddenberry's novelization hints a stardate system where 1,000 digits equal one year, it doesn't reflect in the final film.

    Next we have TWOK which takes place 15 years after events in "Space Seed" at Stardate 8130.4.

    Before we jump to the premature conclusion that the system doesn't work, we should first answer the question what actually happened in the TOS era when a stardate reached 9999.9. Would the system have restarted with Stardate 10000.0 or simply [1]0000.0 ?!?

    In the latter case the difference between "Space Seed" (Stardate 3143.3) and TWOK (Stardate [1]8130.4) is 14,987.1 digits which would be so close to 15 solar years (15,000) that it's actually too perfect to be written off as a mere coincidence :eek:

    TWOK summary: Assuming events took actually place on Stardate 18130.4 emphasizes the 15 year difference mentioned both by Khan and Kirk and supports the theory that 1,000 digits should usually equal one year.

    The next two films follow shortly after events in TWOK. At the beginning of TVH (ST IV) Kirk records Stardate 8390 "in the third month" of Vulcan exile. He stole the Enterprise after Stardate 8210.3, so the difference is 179.7 digits or 65.68 days. 61 or 62 days would equal two months, so indeed at the beginning of TVH the third (solar) month was just several days old.

    TVH summary: Further evidence that 1,000 digits should usually equal one year.

    Sulu's remark in TUC (ST VI) that he has been Captain of the Excelsior for at least three years at Stardate 9521.6 makes it clear that this is no longer the stardate cycle during which events of TWOK, TSFS and TVH took place but a new one and therefore and accordingly it would be Stardate [2]9521.6.

    The time difference between TWOK (1982) and TUC (1991) would be approximately 11 years in the Star Trek universe, which doesn't seem too unrealistic considering that the time difference between both films in real life is 9 years and 6 months (and because humans in the 23rd Century have a longer lifespan it stands to reason that they may have aged 11 years but still look as if they had only aged 9). ;)

    Bob
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except they don't always see what we see. They didn't see Saavik's face change between Spock's funeral and her assignment to the Grissom. They didn't see the visible wires manipulating the Sylvia and Korob puppets. The crews on the Enterprise-D and Deep Space 9 don't see the flat forced-perspective backdrops in the corridors and Jefferies tubes that are often obvious to us. And they probably don't see visible phaser beams or fiery, roiling explosions in the vacuum of space. And presumably they don't see aliens' mouths move in perfect lip sync with the English dialogue that's supposedly produced by the universal translator.

    There's a ton of stuff we see and hear that isn't a perfectly accurate representation of what's supposed to be seen and heard in-universe. It is a dramatization, after all. So when they mention stardates, we can't know for sure that the numbers we hear are the ones they'd "actually" be saying if any of this were real.
     
  8. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hm, I don't think so. Episodes were never meant to be in chronological order, the different dates would just reflect different points in the mission. (Perhaps "time on current mission" is a better way to put it than "time out of space dock.")

    Yep, that's the one. (It is true that TOS was generally freer of such inconsistencies than, say, TNG was.)
     
  9. Push The Button

    Push The Button Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This sealed document portfolio makes another appearance in A Taste of Armageddon as the "book" that Ambassador Fox is carrying when he beams down to Eminiar Seven.
     
  10. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    The direction of the vernal equinox is used to define some celestial coordinate systems used in astronomy, so I'd suggest that the term "vernal galaxy" (which, incidentally, is in lower case in a tersely-written passage) is just gobbledygook intended represent the Milky Way galaxy viewed under some celestial coordinate system that they use in the 23rd century. (Pay no attention to the fact that that suggests an Earth or Sol-centric coordinate system. It still sounds really technical and astronomical. ;)) The third quadrant is just the third of four parts indicated in that system. (Recall that in TOS, "quadrant" hadn't yet taken on the meaning that it did in later incarnations, as in Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta.)
     
  11. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    Good reminder! A quadrant was a part of a sector.

    From "The Squire of Gothos": "Moving on schedule into Quadrant 904. Beta Six is eight days distant." Spock

    From "The Immunity Syndrome": "You will divert immediately to Sector 39-J." "Sir, the Enterprise just completed an exhausting mission. We're on our way in for R and R. There must be another starship in that sector." Kirk

    From TWOK: "Reliant in our section, this quadrant, sir, and slowing." Sulu

    Bob
     

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