STARDATES IN STAR TREK FAQ -- Part V
Last update: Feb 15 1997
by Andrew Main
1996-03-28, stardate [-31]7269.00
PART V: OBJECTIONS TO THE THEORY
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
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.
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? Does the stardate become 410xxx?
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 78000. And no, the 25th
century will *not* start in 2400. And 2400 *will* be a leap year in the
Objection: in the fourth season ST:TNG episode "Family", Picard visits his
family in Labarre, France, Terra. This being stardate 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 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 4930. That is no
neater than SD 5006.0, so there would be no reason at the time to use it.
(The use of SD 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? 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.
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.
Objection: in the ST:TOS episode "Journey to Babel", SD 3842.3
(2268-02-26), Sarek states that he is 102.437 years old. In "Sarek", SD
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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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Part II |
Part III |
Part IV |
Part V |
D. Joseph Creighton