STARDATES IN STAR TREK FAQ -- Part V

Last update: Feb 15 1997 Version 1.5
by Andrew Main <zefram@fysh.org>
1996-03-28, stardate [-31]7269.00

PART V: OBJECTIONS TO THE THEORY


V.1. THE KLINGONS WOULDN'T USE A HUMAN-BASED SYSTEM

Objection: this stardate system makes stardates round numbers of Terran days, but the Klingons and Romulans and so on wouldn't use such a system.

We've never seen Romulans use a stardate. In fact, the only occasion when a non-Federation person used a stardate was in the seventh season ST:TNG episode "Liaisons". In that episode, an alien was trying to imitate a Federation civilian. He had obtained logs from a crashed Federation ship, and had also had some official contact with the Federation. So it seems clear that stardates are a Federation invention, but their use is not limited to Starfleet.

V.2. THERE AREN'T REALLY ANY STARDATES BELOW 1000

Objection: this system has stardates starting at zero, but there hasn't been any canonical stardate below 1000.

This is a valid objection. There is really no evidence either way, so it was decided that stardates would do what it looks like they ought to. The rationale is that stardates will be handled primarily by computers, and computers like to start counting at zero. Zero-based counting actually makes a lot more sense than one-based counting, so now that we have the concept it makes sense that a new time standard will use it.

V.3. THE 4 AT THE BEGINNING OF TNG STARDATES MEANS 24TH CENTURY

Objection: the 4 at the beginning of TNG stardates is supposed to represent the 24th century. This means that one year has to be 100 units, not 1000.

Or: the digit after the first 4 is the season number, so what happens when they get to season 10?frames/ Does the stardate become 410xxx?frames/

The 4 at the beginning of TNG stardates was originally (in real life) decided on for two reasons. First, it showed that TNG was a lot later than the films and the original series. Second, 4 was chosen specifically because TNG supposedly took place in the 24th century. This does *not* mean that that is the Star Trek universe's reason for the 4. 4 just happened to come up shortly before the Enterprise-D was launched.

The second digit was originally chosen to correspond to season numbers, but that doesn't mean that it will always be like that. It was merely a convenience, which still works (albeit in a modified form) for ST:DS9 and ST:VOY. We have now reached what would have been ST:TNG's tenth season, and the stardates are of the form 50xxx. This does not mean that they have reached the 25th century. (2401*01*01 will be SD [21]78000. And no, the 25th century will *not* start in 2400. And 2400 *will* be a leap year in the Gregorian calendar.)

V.4. IT WASN'T WINTER ON STARDATE 44012.3

Objection: in the fourth season ST:TNG episode "Family", Picard visits his family in Labarre, France, Terra. This being stardate [21]44012.3, this theory makes the date 2367*01*05, which should be winter in that part of the world. In the episode it was very clearly not winter.

This is a strong objection. In fact, it seems likely that the writers simply made a mistake -- the production team worked on the basis of stardates divisible by 1000 being the beginning of the year, though they never got that information onto the screen. This system assumed that that was the case primarily for simplicity. Other things being equal, this consideration would be overridden by the on-screen evidence. However, in this case other things are not equal.

In TVH:STIV (stardate [19]8390, 2286-10-09), the `Whalesong' probe visited Terra. It was observed to cause severe atmospheric disturbance at the time. It has been conjectured that it had more severe climatic effects than were readily apparent. The novel "Probe" (entirely non-canonical, of course) sets out some of these ideas. (It's also a good novel.) It is conceivable that the effects of the probe included a shift in Terra's orbit, or permanent climatic change, such that in January 2367 the atmospheric conditions in France resembled a 20th century summer.

This does seem a little far-fetched, and requires justification. The only other way to avoid this problem is to have stardate issue 21 start in the middle of 2322, instead of at the beginning of 2323. This would mean that the change to the new system would occur sometime around SD [20]4930. That is no neater than SD [20]5006.0, so there would be no reason at the time to use it. (The use of SD [20]5006.0 is justified only by the fact that it is the beginning of a year.)

Another suggested explanation is that the Earth's weather modification system -- mentioned in the TNG epiode "True Q", and hinted at in TVH:STIV -- was used to change the climate in France deliberately. The ST:TNG episode "Sub Rosa" supports this hypothesis, by confirming that Federation technology would be sufficiently powerful to do this. It seems unlikely, though, that the UFP would want to make such a major change to the climate. This must also be taken into consideration when evaluating the "Probe" explanation above -- why wasn't the weather modification system used to repair the climate after the probe changed it?frames/ It is possible that the weather modification system is not capable of making such major changes.

If you do the calculation, you will find that allowing the 20th issue of stardates to continue to its natural end before starting the 21st issue would put "Family" in mid-May. Unfortunately, it would be May of 2394, so that idea must be discarded.

Intriguingly, a correspondent notes other time evidence in the episode. At the end of the episode, we see Rene outside, and observe a shooting star passing the constellation of Orion. Orion is, of course, only visible in the northern hemisphere during winter, further substantiating the January date. This seems to support the deliberate weather modification theory.

V.5. RIKER'S BEARD WAS FOUR YEARS OLD, BUT THIS SYSTEM MAKES IT FIVE

Objection: in a seventh season ST:TNG episode "The Pegasus", stardate 47457.1, Riker stated that he had had his beard for four years. If 1000 units is one year then he'd had it for at least five years.

During season one, he was clean shaven. The beard first appeared in season two (earliest known stardate 42073.1), but was not fully grown. (It had to be kept slightly short for the entire season for continuity purposes.) From the beginning of season three, stardate 43125.8, the beard has been fully grown.

It is possible that Riker was referring to the fully grown beard, which he had had less than five years.

V.6. THIS SYSTEM GETS SAREK'S AGE WRONG

Objection: in the ST:TOS episode "Journey to Babel", SD [19]3842.3 (2268-02-26), Sarek states that he is 102.437 years old. In "Sarek", SD [21]43917.400000 (2366-12-01), he is said to be 202 years old. That is an age difference of 100 years, but the episodes took place 98 years apart.

It is possible -- in fact, very likely -- that these are references to Vulcan, not Terran, years. As it is entirely possible that only one (most likely the second) age reference is in Vulcan years, it is not possible to reliably determine the length of the Vulcan year from these data.

There is another possibility. As the discrepancy is only two years in a hundred, it is conceivable that one or both references were to Sarek's subjective age, with the discrepancy accounted for by relativistic effects.

V.7. SISKO SAID HIS WIFE DIED FOUR YEARS BEFORE STARDATE 47329.4

Objection: in the second season ST:DS9 episode "Second Sight" (stardate 47329.4), Sisko states that it is the fourth anniversary of his wife's death. From "Emissary" it is known that Jennifer Sisko died in the battle of Wolf 359. That was sometime between the fourth season ST:TNG episodes "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" (SD 44001.4) and "Family" (SD 44012.3). This dating information makes four years something between 3328 and 3339 units, and one year something in the range 832 to 834.75 units. This is incompatible with the notion that 1000 units is a year.

The real reason is (probably) that the writers made a mistake. An isolated case like this might normally be ignored, but in this case there is an explanation.

It has been established that Deep Space Nine works to Bajoran time, with 26 hours per day. It seems logical to extend this to years, in which case Sisko may have been referring to Bajoran, not Terran, years. This explanation has the helpful consequence that we now know a Bajoran year to be about 304 Terran days long. One might also conclude that a Bajoran year is also (usually) 281 Bajoran days long, but that conclusion relies upon Bajoran hours being the same length as Terran hours.

V.8. STARDATE 49263.8 WAS AN ANNIVERSARY OF THE ARRIVAL OF THE EMISSARY

Objection: in the fourth season ST:DS9 episode "Starship Down" (stardate 49263.8), Major Kira states that it is an anniversary of the arrival of the Emissary (Sisko). Sisko arrived in "Emissary", stardate 46379.1. The difference, 2884.7 units, is incompatible with the Bajoran year length calculated in section V.6, around 833 units.

Once again, the writers simply ignored precedent when adding this minor subplot to the episode. There is no way to reconcile the problem, as stated above, with the other known data concerning Bajoran time. The best explanation available is that the anniversary was not of Sisko's actual arrival on DS9, but of some event that took place shortly after that.

Given the Bajoran year length of between 832 and 834.75 units, calculated in section V.7, the date in question must include some stardate between 46759.5 and 46767.8. This is approximately in the middle of the first season of DS9. There is no known event at that point in the first season that might be given this kind of significance, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one.

V.9. STARDATES IN THE 30000S WERE 35 YEARS BEFORE STARDATE 47254.1

Objection: in the seventh season ST:TNG episode "Dark Page" (SD 47254.1), Lwaxana Troi's personal log entries for stardates in the 30000s were seen. These were described without hesitation as being from 35 years previous. This makes each year about 500 units. Of course, these could have been Betazoid years.

The Revised Chronology explains that the correct stardates -- around 05000 for the dates 42 years ago -- would have risked confusion with ST:TOS stardates. They therefore ignored the logical system, and caused even more confusion.


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