STARDATES IN STAR TREK FAQ -- Part IV
Last update: Feb 15 1997
by Andrew Main
1996-03-28, stardate [-31]7269.00
PART IV: CONSEQUENCES OF THE THEORY
Before the Federation was founded, everyone involved in space travel used
their own time system. Terrans used the Gregorian calendar and UTC; Vulcans
used their own calendar. Initially the Federation used the Terran calendar,
just as it used the Terran language and had its headquarters on Earth. This
system proved to be extremely unpopular, especially with the Vulcans, who
liked a calendar to have some logic about it. (Alternating 30-day months with
31 is fine, but sticking a 28 in the middle of that lot is just silly.)
Starfleet bureaucrats quickly devised a compromise system -- which didn't
match anyone's calendar. Midnight on 2162-01-04 (only a few months after the
incorporation of the Federation) was arbitrarily declared to be stardate zero,
and stardates increased at the arbitrary rate of five units per Terran day.
This recognised the importance of Terra to the Federation, but also allowed
anyone to convert stardates to their own calendar by simple mathematical
The system having been cobbled together in a rush, the numbers became
unmanageable fairly soon. What would have been stardate 10000 (midnight on
2167-06-27) was made stardate 0000 again. The first group of stardates could
be referred to, when necessary, as zeroth-issue stardates, such as 1234,
and the new issue as first-issue stardates, such as 1234. This reset to
zero continued to occur every five and a half years, until 2266, when the 19th
issue of stardates started. The Federation now having survived a little over
a century, referral to stardates several issues ago was becoming increasingly
common. That year, Starfleet put together a committee to investigate what
type of stardate system would be more acceptable.
The committee's report, in 2267, recommended that the stardate rate be slowed
to 0.1 units per day. This would make the same number of digits as had been
previously used, and had covered five and a half years, cover two and a half
centuries. It was decided that this system should be field-tested between
stardates 7340 and 7840 -- 500 units, 5000 days. So from 2270-01-26
to 2283-10-05 this system was used. It proved to be unpopular, because one
always had to specify an extra digit after the decimal point in order to get
the sort of precision one had had with the older stardates. Terrans who had
grown accustomed to the five-per-day rate found it difficult to adjust.
As a result, it was decided in 2280 that at the end of the test period (SD
7840) the new rate should not continue. Instead, a 0.5 units per day rate
would be used, which would solve the main problems of both earlier systems.
Four digits (before the decimal point) would last more than fifty years; it
would rarely be necessary to use extra digits; and the five-per-day rate would
be preserved. (Five of a different digit, but still five.) This system was
used from stardate 7840, and was intended to be a permanent change.
With the length of starships' missions continually increasing, it started to
look rather comic for starships to keep in time with the daily cycle of a
planet they would sometimes have no contact with for years at a time. Keeping
to its yearly cycle still had some logic, but keeping to a 24-hour day as well
-- which necessitated the use of leap days -- was just silly. In 2318, over
150 years after the incorporation of the Federation, it was decided that
starships should start to use a rationalised calendar, which would keep the
years the right length but make the day slightly longer.
In keeping with this longer-term view of time, the stardates would be
increased to five digits, and the rate changed to match this new rationalised
year. A rate of 1000 units per mean year would be convenient. This would
make it impossible to instantly work out the time of day from the stardate,
but Terrans tend to prefer the traditional hours, minutes and seconds for
specifying times anyway.
What would have been stardate 5006.0 -- midnight on 2323-01-01 -- became
stardate 00000. At the same time, all Earth ships switched to the
new-style calendar, and the stardate rate was changed to match it. This
system has remained in use up to the present (SD 51000, 2374*01*01).
Here's when the classic movies are set:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture 7411.4 2272-01-10
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn 8130.3 2285-05-07
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock 8210.3 2285-10-14
The Voyage Home: Star Trek IV 8390 2286-10-09
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier 8454.1 2287-02-14
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country 9521.6 2292-12-19
Helpfully, STV:TFF occurs in 2287, as the Chronology conjectures. These dates
make Vulcan months about four times as long as Terran ones. Kirk's birthday
(STII:TWOK) is the 7th of May. (The 22nd of March, conjectured in the
Chronology, is taken from William Shatner's birthday.) "The Deadly Years" (SD
3478.2) was 2267-12-15, and Kirk was 34 then, which means that his birthdate
must be 2233-05-07. The year is consistent with the Chronology.
In ST:TNG, date calculations are much easier, because of the 1000 units per
year rate and the quad-cent calendar. The year can be obtained from the first
two digits, and the day from the rest -- there is no need to consider leap
years. Here are a few significant dates:
Enterprise-D commissioned 40759.5 2363*10*05
Encounter at Farpoint 41153.7 2364*02*26
Datalore 41242.4 2364*03*30
Skin of Evil 41601.3 2364*08*08
Future Imperfect 44286.5 2367*04*15
Emissary (ST:DS9) 46379.1 2369*05*19
Descent, Part II 47025.4 2370*01*10
Parallels 47391.2 2370*05*23
Caretaker (ST:VOY) 48315.6 2371*04*26
Star Trek: Generations 48632.4 2371*08*19
Enterprise-D destroyed 48650.1 2371*08*26
The Way of the Warrior (ST:DS9) 49011.4 2372*01*05
Enterprise-E launched 49027.5 2372*01*11
Star Trek: First Contact 50893.5 2373*11*23
The commissioning date of the Enterprise bears a suspicious resemblance to the
launch date of Sputnik I (1957-10-04). This is designed; in fact the
Enterprise date was supposed to be 2363*10*04, but a mistake was made. There
is a trap when calculating these dates that would make any stardate appear to
represent a date one day earlier than it should. It would appear that
Sternbach and Okuda fell right in it.
The "Future Imperfect" date is Riker's birthday; his 32nd according to the
Chronology (the Chronology lists a birth year of 2335, but no date).
"Parallels" is Worf's birthday. Using the "Datalore" and "Descent, Part II"
stardates, Lore's lifespan can be calculated at 5 years, 286 days.
The Organian peace treaty between the UFP and the Klingon Empire lasted from
SD 3198.4 ("Errand of Mercy", ST:TOS) to 49011.4 ("The Way of the
Warrior", ST:DS9). This is a little over 104 years, from October 2267 to
There is a slight problem with some of the ST:TNG first season stardates.
"The Battle" (SD 41723.9), "The Big Goodbye" (SD 41997.7), "Angel One" (SD
41636.9) and "The Arsenal of Freedom" (SD 41798.2) all have stardates after
"Skin of Evil" (SD 41601.3), but show Tasha Yar alive. It seems that the
production crew learnt from this, because they have kept stardates in order
ever since. To make these stardates make sense, we must assume them to be
slips of the captain's tongue. (More obvious verbal errors were made in "The
Deadly Years", "Datalore" and "Birthright, Part II".)
Data stated in ST:FC that he had not used his "multiple techniques" for "8
years, 7 months, 16 days, 4 minutes, 22 [seconds]". That would be a date of
approximately 2365*04*07, or a stardate of approximately 42263.4. This is
early second season, between episodes, well after Yar's death and well before
"In Theory" -- an as-yet unrevealed lover.
It has been calculated that stardates begin on 2162-01-04. It is quite
possible, of course, to continue stardates back in time from that point, using
negative issue numbers. Within each issue the stardates will still increase
in the direction of advancing time; only the issue numbers will be unusual.
To start with, midnight on 2162-01-04 is stardate 0000. This means that
midnight on 2162-01-03 can be referred to as stardate [-1]9995. SD [-1]0000,
consequently, was 2156-07-14. The fact that stardates were not actually in
official use at that time is irrelevant.
It seems possible that negative-issue stardates are used in the 23rd century
to refer to events prior to 2162. When going as far back as the 20th century,
though, the old-style Gregorian calendar has always been used by the crew of
the Enterprise. In fact, they have never been canonically observed to use
stardates to refer to any time earlier than 2260. Of particular interest is
the final log entry in ST:FC: "Captain's log, April 5th, 2063...", indicating
that in official contexts stardates are not used for dates that early, or at
least are not universally used.
It is possible to continue stardates back to the 20th century, but the issue
numbers get sufficiently large (in the negative direction) to be awkward.
This table shows the issue origins for the next few years:
[-36]0000 1964-11-18 [-24]0000 2030-08-04 [-12]0000 2096-04-19
[-35]0000 1970-05-11 [-23]0000 2036-01-25 [-11]0000 2101-10-11
[-34]0000 1975-11-01 [-22]0000 2041-07-17 [-10]0000 2107-04-03
[-33]0000 1981-04-23 [-21]0000 2047-01-07 [-9]0000 2112-09-23
[-32]0000 1986-10-14 [-20]0000 2052-06-29 [-8]0000 2118-03-16
[-31]0000 1992-04-05 [-19]0000 2057-12-20 [-7]0000 2123-09-06
[-30]0000 1997-09-26 [-18]0000 2063-06-12 [-6]0000 2129-02-26
[-29]0000 2003-03-19 [-17]0000 2068-12-02 [-5]0000 2134-08-19
[-28]0000 2008-09-08 [-16]0000 2074-05-25 [-4]0000 2140-02-09
[-27]0000 2014-03-01 [-15]0000 2079-11-15 [-3]0000 2145-08-01
[-26]0000 2019-08-22 [-14]0000 2085-05-07 [-2]0000 2151-01-22
[-25]0000 2025-02-11 [-13]0000 2090-10-28 [-1]0000 2156-07-14
Looking at today's date, 1994-05-23 is SD [-31]3890. Right now, 12:43pm UTC,
is SD [-31]3892.64. The first episode of Star Trek aired on stardate
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D. Joseph Creighton