Star Trek: Comparative Chronology

The new Star Trek movie is coming out in a couple of weeks, and it’s fair to say I’m excited. You may have noticed I’ve made a few posts about Star Trek here recently.

Part of the genius of the new Star Trek movies is that time was reset by the time traveling villain in the first movie, and the result is a new version of the Star Trek Universe that resembles the original version in all the ways we love, but isn’t a slave over 700 hours of television and 10 earlier films set in that universe.

Back in 2009, I was writing about Star Trek for half a second for a website called Pink Raygun. At the time I had a blog about Star Trek called Hi Trekkies. To help myself and my three-and-a-half readers keep track of the differences between the “Prime” Star Trek timeline (the original one that Spock Prime and Nero come from in the movie) and the movie’s new timeline, I wrote a post of comparative chronology, taking the time to do what all good Trekkies do — rationalize all of the inconsistencies and mistakes to explain why they actually make perfect sense. (What, it’s fun!)

I can tell already I’m going to need to do an updated version when the new movie comes out, but in the mean time, I’m reposting the original version.

EDIT 5/30/13: Now with 100% more Darkness.



PRIME TIMELINE: Voyage of Enterprise NX-01. (Star Trek: Enterprise)

MOVIE TIMELINE: NX-01 mission probably altered to some degree.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Many key events of the prequel series such as the Klingon first contact (“Broken Bow”), the Romulan first contact (“Minefield”) and the Xindi Expedition (season 3) are caused or altered by time travelers from a future that may no longer exist in the wake of Nero and Spock Prime’s incursions. Because the effects of Nero and Spock Prime’s actions on the distant future are impossible to predict and the motivations and identities of the temporal cold warriors were never revealed, guessing the results is a dizzying proposition. However, Scotty’s reference to Jonathan Archer suggests that, at the very least, Archer remains a prominent Starfleet officer in the movie timeline, still on active duty at age 146.


PRIME TIMELINE: The Federation is founded. (“The Outcast,” “These Are the Voyages”)






MOVIE TIMELINE: Kirk born. Nero arrives in the past and destroys the USS Kelvin, killing Kirk’s father.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Direct intervention by Nero.


PRIME TIMELINE: No known events.

MOVIE TIMELINE: Pavel Chekov is born (based on the fact that he says he’s 17 years old in 2258).

c. 2243

PRIME TIMELINE: Kirk survives Tarsus IV massacre by Kodos the Executioner (“Conscience of the King”). Spock fights bullies (“Yesteryear”).

MOVIE TIMELINE: Kirk destroys his stepdad’s car. Spock fights bullies.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Since George Kirk is dead Kirk grows up in Iowa and never lives on Tarsus IV.


PRIME TIMELINE: Pavel Chekov is born (he says he’s 23 in “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, which is set in 2268).

MOVIE TIMELINE: Pavel Chekov is four years old at this point.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Chekov is established to have been an only child in the prime timeline in “Day of the Dove.” If something about Nero’s changes in the timeline caused Chekov’s parents to conceive a child earlier and that child was male, Pavel Andreievich Chekov would probably be their first choice for a name. That would mean this Pavel Chekov is a brother to the prime timeline Chekov, rather than an alternate version like Kirk or Spock. That explains why this Chekov is a genius, while the prime Chekov was not, at least to the same extent. It is unknown whether an alternate version of the prime Chekov exists in this timeline. It’s worth pointing out that Sulu and Uhura were also conceived after Nero’s incursion into the timeline, meaning they could also be siblings rather than alternate version of their prime timeline counterparts.


PRIME TIMELINE: Spock enters Starfleet Academy.

MOVIE TIMELINE: Spock enters Starfleet Academy.


PRIME TIMELINE: Kirk enters Starfleet Academy. Spock graduates from Starfleet Academy (he says in “The Enterprise Incident,” which is set in 2269, that he has been a Starfleet officer for 18 years).

MOVIE TIMELINE: Spock graduates from Starfleet. Kirk graduates from high school with high aptitude but stays in Iowa.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Spock Prime says Kirk’s father was his inspiration for joining Starfleet in the prime timeline. Kirk never knew his father in the movie timeline.


PRIME TIMELINE: Spock, now a lieutenant, begins serving with Captain Pike (he said he served with Pike for 11 years in “The Menagerie”). Pike takes command of the Enterprise. “The Cage” occurs (based on the fact that it is said to have happened 13 years in the past in “The Menagerie.”)

MOVIE TIMELINE: Spock graduates from Starfleet Academy and serves as an instructor at Starfleet Academy. He begins a four-year stint programming the Kobayashi Maru test. The events of “The Cage” never occur. Spock falls in love with Uhura.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Construction of the Enterprise has not been completed in the movie timeline. While Spock’s romantic interest in a human seems out of character at first glance, “The Cage” demonstrates that he was less guarded about expressing his emotions in this era than during the original series, which was set in the following decade.


PRIME TIMELINE: Kirk graduates from Starfleet Academy. He is assigned to the USS Farragut.

MOVIE TIMELINE: Kirk is convinced to enter Starfleet Academy by Captain Pike. The Enterprise is under construction in Iowa.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Kirk lacked inspiration to join Starfleet Academy due to his father’s death. There is no clear reason for the delay in construction of the Enterprise. It is generally believed (though not canonical) that the Enterprise was constructed in spacedock in the prime timeline, like the Enterprise-D (“Booby Trap”), Columbia NX-02 (“The Expanse”) and all other starships we have seen under construction. Perhaps Nero’s mysterious attack necessitated greater security in the Federation, requiring the ship to be built on the ground and causing a delay. Perhaps the need to replace the USS Kelvin delayed starship development and construction. In any case, the fact that the Enterprise was completed at least five years later in the movie timeline than in the prime timeline explains the minor design differences.


PRIME TIMELINE: The majority of the Farragut crew, including the captain, are killed by an attacking cloud creature at Tycho IV. Kirk blames himself for not firing on the creature, though it’s later proven the ship’s phasers would have had no effect. (“Obsession”)

MOVIE TIMELINE: It is unknown whether these events occurred. If they did, Kirk was not present.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Other than Kirk’s absence there may be no discrepancy. The death of such a large portion of the crew may explain why the Farragut is one of the ships at the Earth spacedock in 2258 when Nero attacks Vulcan.


PRIME TIMELINE: No known events. Kirk may be serving on the USS Republic at this time, per “Court Martial.”


REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Direct intervention by Nero and Spock Prime. While the destruction of the Kelvin was a relatively minor event that would have only subtle changes in the time line, the destruction of Vulcan is far more significant. From this point on, the two timelines become increasingly divergent, rather than running parallel with slight variations.


PRIME TIMELINE: No known events.

MOVIE TIMELINE: Khan begins to strike back against Admiral Marcus, allowing the Enterprise crew to uncover and stop Marcus’s plans for a war with the Klingons. Marcus badly damages the Enterprise before being killed by Khan. Khan destroys Starfleet headquarters, then is apprehended. Kirk meets Carol Marcus.


PRIME TIMELINE: Kirk meets Carol Marcus (approximate). In “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Gary Mitchell mentions that while Kirk was his instructor at the Academy he set him up with a “little blonde lab technician,” whom Kirk almost married. If this was Carol Marcus, it means that Kirk is teaching at the Academy at this time.

MOVIE TIMELINE: The Enterprise is rechristened after a complete refit. The five-year mission begins. Carol Marcus joins the Enterprise crew as a science officer.


PRIME TIMELINE: David Marcus, son of Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus, is born. Carol ends her relationship with Kirk and makes him promise to stay away from their son. Spock, though still serving with Pike, spends part of this year on Earth (Leila Kalomi says she knew Spock on Earth six years ago in “This Side of Paradise”).

MOVIE TIMELINE: Second year of the five-year mission. We don’t know yet whether David Marcus is ever conceived.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Kirk Prime avoided romantic relationships with people under his command, and Carol Marcus is part of the crew of the Enterprise in the movie timeline.


PRIME TIMELINE: No known events. McCoy may have joined the Enterprise crew under Captain Pike this year (he says he has been chief medical officer of the Enterprise for 27 years in Star Trek VI, which is set in 2291, but Dr. Piper seems to have that job in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which is set in 2265).

MOVIE TIMELINE: The five-year mission of the Enterprise ends (presumably).


PRIME TIMELINE: Kirk takes command of the Enterprise. The five-year mission begins. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” presumably happens this year.

REASON FOR DISCREPANCY: Kirk takes command of the Enterprise later because Nero’s attack hasn’t killed a large number of Starfleet officers, disabled Captain Pike and given Kirk a chance to distinguish himself in the Prime Timeline. These events allowed him to advance to command rank more quickly in the movie timeline.


PRIME TIMELINE: Second year of the five-year mission. Some early episodes of TOS season 1 may occur this year.


PRIME TIMELINE: Third year of the five-year mission. The second half of TOS season 1, including “The Menagerie,” happen this year. In “Space Seed,” Khan is discovered by the Enterprise and marooned on Ceti Alpha V with his crew of supermen.


PRIME TIMELINE: Fourth year of the five-year mission. TOS season 2 happens this year. The destruction of a neighboring planet renders Ceti Alpha V almost uninhabitable for Khan and his crew, a fact that goes unnoticed by the Federation.


PRIME TIMELINE: Final year of the five-year mission. TOS season 3 and Star Trek: The Animated Series happen this year.


PRIME TIMELINE: Star Trek: The Motion Picture.


PRIME TIMELINE: Star Trek II, Star Trek III and Star Trek IV occur within a six-month period. Events include the escape of Khan from Ceti Alpha V, his death, Kirk’s reunion with Carol and David Marcus, the death and resurrection of Spock, the death of David Marcus, the destruction of the Enterprise, and the commissioning of the Enterprise-A.


PRIME TIMELINE: Star Trek V. (This movie is set in 2287 according to the Star Trek Chronology, but it seems to take place shortly after Star Trek IV.)


PRIME TIMELINE: Star Trek VI. Enterprise-A decommissioned. Kirk, Spock and McCoy retire from Starfleet (although McCoy later returns).


PRIME TIMELINE: Kirk apparently killed during the launch of the Enterprise-B.


PRIME TIMELINE: TNG (2364-2370), DS9 (2369-2375), Voyager (2371-2377) and TNG movies (2371, 2373, 2375 and 2379).

MOVIE TIMELINE: Most of these events probably still occur but they would be altered by the destruction of Vulcan and any subsequent changes.


PRIME TIMELINE: Spock moves to Romulus to pursue reunification. (“Unification”)

MOVIE TIMELINE: Since Spock’s life has been radically different and since Vulcan no longer exists to be reunified with Romulus, Spock likely doesn’t go to Romulus.


PRIME TIMELINE: Kirk, who has time traveled to his era from 2293, is killed saving the Veridian star system.


PRIME TIMELINE: Romulus destroyed by a supernova. Spock and Nero travel back in time. (Based on Spock Prime’s statement that he comes from 129 years in the future.)

MOVIE TIMELINE: If the supernova does occur in this timeline (and one hopes the Federation would use its foreknowledge to prevent it), Spock probably doesn’t live on Romulus so it’s unlikely he promises to save the planet.