How common are five year missions?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Lance, Nov 10, 2013.

  1. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Really? :p

    The Okudas started the ball rolling that five year missions in TOS might have been the norm. A 'standard' mission statement. They theorized that Captain April did a five year mission, and that Captain Pike did two (with a refit in between).

    But I've always been keen on the notion that maybe the Enterprise under Kirk was on a peculiar assignment. Maybe certain ships were given 5y missions into deep space, but others (including maybe a few we actually see in TOS) are on more specialized, short-term missions.

    In TMP, when Kirk talks about "five years out there, dealing with unknowns like this" he makes it sound like not every Starfleet captain is as privileged as he.

    (Of course, he was justifying his retaking command of the Enterprise to the neophyte Decker, who probably hadn't been too far into deep space before.)

    Star Trek Into Darkness certainly seems to imply that a five year mission is a theoretical possibility where no crew has gone before. ;)

    (Yeah I know, altered timeline.)

    Certainly by TNG, deep space missions were assumed to be truly long term prospects (more than five years, some sources even suggest upwards of 20!). Hence why Enterprise-D was fitted to accomodate families. She was supposed to be away from regular Starfleet for extended periods. Of course, this was seldom paid lip service on screen apart from a few moments in seasons one and two.

    Thoughts? Anyone? :)
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That was a common idea in fan sources long before the Okudas published anything. It was used in the 1980 Spaceflight Chronology, for one thing. I'm pretty sure the conjectural chronology published in one of the Best of Trek volumes (which drew heavily on the SFC) broke down Pike's time on the E into two 5-year missions. I did the same in my own personal chronology long before the Okudas did, most likely following the BoT precedent, although I'm no longer attached to the idea (see below).


    Indeed. Canonically, we have evidence for exactly one 5-year mission, and that evidence doesn't even come from TOS itself, since the main-title narration doesn't really count as in-universe evidence. (If the series had been a big hit and gone on six or eight years, you can bet they would've just ignored the whole "5-year mission" thing -- much like Run for Your Life ignored its original "hero has 18 months to live" premise when it ran three years and M*A*S*H glossed over the Korean War's 3-year span when it ran 11 years.) The only proof we have that 5-year missions were a real thing at all comes from Kirk's line in TMP, Icheb's summary of Kirk's mission in VGR: "Q2," and Star Trek Into Darkness.

    So I've never understood why so many fans assume that every mission of every starship is five years long. Not only can you not assume a pattern based on a single example, but it makes no sense as an assumption. It should be self-evident that different types of mission for different types of ship would have different durations. A 5-year general-purpose exploration and patrol tour would logically be just one category of starship mission, reserved for large, multipurpose ship classes that are capable of sustaining the demands of such an assignment. And presumably a ship on such a tour could be recalled or reassigned, or the tour extended to last longer, depending on the needs of the situation.
     
  3. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    It has to depend on assignment. Some ships would have routine patrol duties along regular spacelanes between systems in Federation territory, say between Sol and Rigel. It seems unlikely a ship would be doing that constantly for five years before getting a new mission.

    And now I see Christopher has already covered that.
     
  4. Jonas Grumby

    Jonas Grumby Vice Admiral Admiral

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    When I was a kid, watching first run Star Trek (and reading everything anywhere I could find about it), the impression I got was that the Enterprise and her sister ships were the biggest and best in the fleet, Earth's first true deep-space explorers, and that her mission was exactly what was stated at the start of every episode, "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

    That belief worked well enough during those first episodes, when the Enterprise seemed to be constantly encountering new, unknown alien races, and encountering other humans only at distant frontier outposts like those of Robert Crater and Roger Korby.

    Somewhere along the line, I learned that the Enterprise was one of only twelve of those biggest and best deep-space explorers, and it wasn't hard to imagine they were all pretty much purpose-built to be provisioned for five years and sent out to explore "where no man has gone before," just like the Enterprise.

    Of course, that all changed once the scripts starting calling for frequent interactions with well-established colonies, Federation member worlds, various Federation bureaucrats, and the occasional traveling theater group. But I really liked the feel of those earlier "out on the frontier" episodes. ;)
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2013
  5. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Given how so often there were only a few ships, if only one, around Earth I always got the impression that during the 23rd century virtually all of Starfleet was out exploring.
     
  6. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Kirk's "five year mission" could have represented a change to the standard Starfleet policies when it came to ship deployments. In addition to normal starship activities, Kirk might have had a mandate to (when possible) engage in more exploration than was then normal. And to actively seek out first contact situations, which previous interpretations of the prime directive would have discouraged.

    If the federation had been basically static in term of size for years and decades, an increased emphasis on exploration could have reflected a political change within the federation council to be more expansionistic, seek out more members and more territory. Access to potential colony worlds and new resources.

    Rewriting and reinterpreting the prime directive could follow a perception that a earlier version was excessively restrictive. Kirk (and others) would be allowed to contact "primitive" cultures under some circumstances.

    The changes in policies might have come also from the federation becoming more curious as a coverall culture than they had been.

    Perhaps the "five year mission" was a pilot program.


    :)
     
  7. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    Personally, I tend to view Kirk's 5-year mission as being a general deep-space deployment, with exploration being its top objective, but not its only one. And even then, "exploration" could really just be the investigation of anything unknown and out of ordinary encountered during a long-range patrol, not just new worlds and civilizations, IMO.
     
  8. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It seems pretty clear in the initial instance that the Enterprise was conceived of as being on a fairly normal tour of duty, that five years was a pretty standard length for a "patrol" of that nature. The notion of its mission being somehow "special" came AFAICS with all the later inflations of the Enterprise into the Most Important of All Ships and Kirk into the Galactic Gary Stu instead of just one ship captain among many.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, it's just common sense. That tour may be one of the normal mission profiles for that particular class of starship, but that doesn't mean it's the only kind of mission Starfleet ever does. If anything, it's just the opposite of inflating the Enterprise into something special, because it's rejecting the impulse to treat the Enterprise's mission profile as the template for all other starship missions, treating it instead as just one type of mission profile out of many. It makes Kirk and the Enterprise less exceptional, not more. After all, nobody's saying it was the only ship that ever went on a 5YM, just that 5YMs aren't the only type of mission in existence. As with most things, the truth is probably between the extremes.

    I mean, even TOS gives evidence that not all Connies are on 5-year missions all the time. Look at "Where No Man Has Gone Before." A mission out to the edge of the galaxy and beyond is something that would take months as a round-trip journey, and thus is likely to be a dedicated mission of its own rather than just something inserted into a 5-year tour. The fact that the ship underwent a major refit between then and the first season further suggests it was part of a separate, shorter mission before the 5-year patrol began.
     
  10. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Not all Constitution class ships can be on a 5-year mission, as 5 (including the Enterprise) are drafted into wargame exercises in "The Ultimate Computer".
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I thought of making that point myself, but I wasn't sure. After all, the E was supposedly on its own 5YM when it was reassigned to the war games, so theoretically any of the other ships could have been as well.

    Still, given the immensity of space, it's highly unlikely that all five starships were simultaneously on deep-space exploration missions and yet somehow all in close enough proximity to be assembled for the war games. So yes, I agree it's probable that at least some of those ships were on different, more short-range assignments, or were between assignments.
     
  12. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    The Enterprise didn't seem to ever be too far from Federation space, IMO. At least not to the point where it couldn't routinely return to a starbase or undergo delivery missions to a colony or member world.
     
  13. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The makers of NuTrek seem to think otherwise. I would have no problem with its being just one of a variety of mission profiles, but I actually don't think that's been the major trend in depicting it after TOS went off the air.

    Hard to draw many conclusions from that. Something like that should be a special mission of its own, perhaps, since it constitutes taking a major warship out of rotation for (likely) months at a time. OTOH it could just as easily have comprised an early part of the mission.

    I don't think a group of ships converging at a certain time says anything in particular about the length of their respective missions. Modern militaries carry out wargaming exercises as part of their normal operations. Seems to me the likeliest analogy for the Connies occasionally congregating were military exercises like Operation Strikeback.
     
  14. RPJOB

    RPJOB Commander Red Shirt

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    Actually, since the narration talks about the ship and not the crew (Voyages of the starship Enterprise. HER 5 year mission), five years may simply be standard time between refits. Kirk had obviously been onboard long enough to get chummy with Spock, the long mission to the edge of the galaxy and all. It may have been closer to 6 years and Kirk just rounded down in TMP.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, they're saying that it's one of the first ships that will be assigned to such a mission. Remember, the new movies are set nearly a decade before TOS. They're prequels, in a sense, meant to look back and show the beginnings of the status quo we knew from TOS, even if it's an alternative version of that status quo. Just because it's doing something that's a novelty as of 2259-60, that doesn't mean it's the only ship that will ever do it.


    It's never been depicted one way or the other in any canonical source; all we actually know is that the Enterprise had at least one 5-year mission, and beyond that it's a mystery. As for tie-in books, if anything, the tendency has been to portray 5-year missions as the default. For instance, many novels and comics have assumed that the E went on another 5YM after ST:TMP.

    It's only in the past decade that I've seen the "one of many mission profiles" idea emerge, and not so much in formal tie-in literature as in discussions on this bulletin board. And if you're claiming that the trend is to portray the Enterprise as the only ship that ever went on a 5-year mission, then you're going to have to cite some sources, because I have never heard any such claim anywhere that I'm aware of. Really, the issue rarely comes up at all, which is why there are so many ambiguities about it.
     
  16. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    The Voyager episode "Q2" opens with...

    ICHEB: Though it was a blatant violation of the Prime Directive, Kirk saved the Pelosians from extinction, just as he had the Baezians and the Chenari many years earlier. Finally, in the year 2270, Kirk completed his historic five year mission and one of the greatest chapters in Starfleet history came to a close. A new chapter began when Kirk regained command of the Enterprise.

    JANEWAY: How many more chapters are there?

    ICHEB: Thirty four.

    JANEWAY: This was supposed to be a twenty minute presentation.

    http://www.chakoteya.net/voyager/716.htm

    Seems to me that whatever the original intent (and THIS alternate into to "Where No Man Has Gone Before" seems to indicate a big change in the Enterprise's mission right before the series began from "space law regulation" to exploring the unknown), the 5-year-mission has become a special Enterprise-only thing.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't see how you can possibly extrapolate that from Icheb's line "his historic five-year mission." If I refer to "Neil Armstrong's historic Moon landing," I'm not saying he's the only person who ever landed on the Moon (although there aren't that many more). Many commentators in 2008 referred to Barack Obama's "historic election," but he certainly wasn't the first person to be elected President of the US -- it's just that that particular election was especially noteworthy because it marked a historic step forward in racial equality. By the same token, Icheb was simply saying that Kirk's 5-year mission was of particular historical significance as 5-year missions went. It was historic for its events, not for its duration.
     
  18. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    I agree. A term like historic doesn't imply unique or even highly unusual. What it means is that Kirk did something noteworthy that's well-remembered by scientists, historians, and others who would have an interest previous deep-space explorers. Saying that Kirk's mission was historic is no different than saying the American Civil War was historic. It's not the only war that's ever been fought, but it has its own place in our history just as Kirk has his place in the history of his universe.

    Now, if one were to pour over the reasons why it was historic, there are several from which to choose. Kirk's crew discovered the Guardian of Forever. They made the first face-to-face contact with the Romulans. They traveled through time (as you know perfectly well). They charted several sectors of previously unexplored space. Any of these things could distinguish their mission from that of another ship, but it doesn't preclude the possibility of there being other ships on similar missions.

    One aspect of the series dedicated to the twenty fourth century that I like is the incorporation of other ships into the Trek universe, including the idea that other ships can be assigned difficult missions. Seeing officers like Walker Keel or Edward Jelico achieve notoriety in the Federation paints a much more realistic picture of Starfleet actually works. Rather than making it seem as though series regulars are so much more important than everyone else, it's made clear they're merely part of a large fleet in which thousands of officers serve.

    --Sran
     
  19. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    However unique the five year mission may have been, the mission itself seems to be mostly "do whatever Starfleet Command needs you to do." There is exploring and policing, but also diplomatic work, medical relief, transporting VIPs, participating in ceremonies and so on, and much of it apparently within the Federation or known space.
     
  20. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    What does a five year mission mean anyway?

    I would have thought that it would mean that a ship would be sent out (from Earth) and then not treturn until 5 years later. And it would go out with a crew signedon for 5 years.

    This didn't happen in TOS as she returned to Earth at least once and had crew replacements presumably as the redshirts died off and was involved in patrolling sectors and quite a few one-off missions.

    Same with the ENT=D. Although she had an 'ongoing mission'