Charting The FutureBy Caillan Davenport
Posted at May 14, 2001 - 11:46 PM GMT
The latest installment in the Star Trek saga, Enterprise, is set to take us boldly back to where no one has gone before: the 22nd century. Although there has never been a series set in that time period, the other Trek incarnations have provided us with a glimpse of mankind's future past.
It was clearly an age of true exploration - humanity reaching out to the stars. Of course, not everything always conformed to the romantic vision of exploration: the time-period was fraught with tension, particularly between Earth and Romulus, which escalated into a full-scale conflict.
Unfortunately, very few exact details are known about this time, save what we are about to glean from the Star Trek Encyclopedia, from which much of this information comes. Although an excellent resource, it is not a canon document, and makes some inferences that may be contradicted by the new series. This means that the producers of Enterprise will have the flexibility to develop their own timeline within the existing framework of events.
Rumours suggest that the series will be set a few years before the inception of the Federation, in order to allow a build up to the actual foundation. Not only will this enable the writers to feature the struggles with the Romulans as part of mankind's emergence as a space-faring power, but also to showcase first contact with other races, such as the Klingons.
Although the Star Trek Encyclopedia lists first contact between Earth and the Klingons as taking place in 2218, this is in fact a highly speculative assumption, based on comments made in 'The Day of the Dove.' The botched first contact between the two races is said to have lead to "nearly a century of hostilities." Details mentioned in both 'The Day of the Dove' and TNG's 'First Contact' are quite vague, and thus a meeting between humans and Klingons before this date would not constitute a major continuity error.
A dramatic event at the beginning of the century was the disappearance of Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive, in 2117 at age 87. Cochrane had performed the first warp flight in the Phoenix, which lead to first contact with the Vulcans on April 4th, 2063. This was the beginning of what was to be a tense, but ultimately productive relationship for both races that would culminate in the foundation of the United Federation of Planets.
By the middle of the 22nd century, humans had begun to explore the galaxy. However, the idealism of space exploration was shattered when a war between Earth forces and the Romulan Star Empire broke out in 2156. The conflict was a bitter one, fought using primitive atomic weapons. Despite the fact that humans were relative newcomers to inter-galactic warfare, the Romulans were defeated at the Battle of Cheron in 2160, which they viewed as a humiliation.
A peace treaty was negotiated by subspace radio, and in 2160 the Neutral Zone was formed. As part of the agreement, encroachment on this territory by either side would constitute an act of war. Neither party dared test this out until 2266 when a Romulan warbird entered the zone to test Federation defences as depicted in The Original Series episode, 'Balance of Terror.'
The victory in the Romulan War not only strengthened Earth's resolve, but also enhanced its standing amongst other races. Consequently, in 2161, the United Federation of Planets was conceived, with Earth as a founding member. One hundred and fifty member races joined the Federation, including Earth's old ally, the Vulcans. It was created as an interstellar alliance to present a united defensive front, allow cross-species scientific research and cultural exchanges, and perhaps most importantly, to allow races to join together to explore the universe.
In order to precipitate this, Starfleet, the Federation's scientific, exploratory and defensive agency, was founded in the same year. These early missions pre-dated the adoption of the Prime Directive, the Federation's non-interference policy, and thus had long-reaching effects.
Many of the first exploratory vessels were Daedalus-class, based on designs extrapolated from Cochrane's Phoenix. These ships were the first to feature the primary and secondary hull designs common on later vessels, and also the prototype warp nacelles.
The U.S.S. Archon, one of the earliest vessels, disappeared near the planet Beta III in 2167, having being pulled from orbit by the planet's computer system. Some of the crew were assimilated into the planet's society, where they were known as the "Archons." The U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, reached the planet in 2267, and resisted attempts by the computer to destroy them in order to protect the "perfect society" it had created. Eventually, Kirk and his first officer, Spock, tricked the computer into shutting itself down.
The Enterprise encountered another legacy of the early explorers in 2268. The U.S.S. Horizon had been destroyed in 2168 after visiting the planet Sigma Iotia II, and had transmitted a distress call using only conventional radio, which failed to reach the Federation until 2268. A book called 'Chicago Mobs of the Twenties' had been left on the planet by members of the crew, which polluted the planet's culture. When the Enterprise reached the planet, they found that the denizens had modelled themselves on the gangsters of the 1920s. Of course, the later establishment of the Prime Directive would help to reduce such instances of contamination.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D encountered the remnants of another mission in 2368. The U.S.S. Essex, under the command of Captain Bryce Shumar, was destroyed in an electromagnetic storm in the atmosphere of an M-Class moon orbiting the planet Mab-Bu VI in 2167. The storm was not a naturally occurring phenomenon, however, as it had been caused by non-corporeal life-forms from the Ux-Mal system. These refugee criminals had hoped to use the Essex to escape, but their actions resulted in the destruction of the ship and the deaths of all 229 crew-members. When the criminals encountered the Enterprise over two hundred years later, they posed as members of the Essex crew, and commandeered the bodies of Lieutenant Commander Data, Counsellor Troi and Chief O'Brien in order to attempt to steal the Enterprise.
Man's initial forays into the galaxy were fraught with danger, yet these explorers were drawn by the insatiable curiosity that has characterised the human race. The foundation of the Federation would create a legacy that would stand the test of time, and none of the advances of the 23rd and 24th century would have been possible without the sacrifices of these pioneers. Hopefully, the new series will succeed in capturing this intrepid spirit.
So, it's time to fasten our seatbelts and set course for Enterprise - let's see what's really out there.
Caillan Davenport is one of the three editors of TrekToday as well as of Andromeda site SlipstreamWeb. His thoughts on Voyager can be found in the A Briefing With Caillan column.