“The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that Time Travel is impossible.”
Silly Vulcans. Even with all their logic, they refused to realize declaring something “impossible” is, in a very real sense, counter to what science is all about. Science is based on continual theorizing based upon data and logic, but it never assumes the data it has studied is exhaustive, or that one’s logic is unbiased and without fault. At least that’s the way it should be.
Star Trek: Enterprise, the series which aired on UPN (and in syndication) from 2001 to 2005, deals repeatedly with time travel, much to the chagrin of Sub-commander T’Pol, the shapely female Vulcan sent by the Vulcan High Command to keep watch over Enterprise and its crew of “volatile” humans. The Vulcans have been dragging their feet as advisers to Earth, not convinced our race is ready to spread its wings to the stars. Captain Jonathan Archer, whose father helped develop Star Fleet’s first Warp 5 engine, is determined that Enterprise’s mission of exploration, including first contact with new species, will succeed.
And it’s fortunate for the Vulcans that Earthlings are coming along at this point in history, the mid-twenty-second century, a hundred years before the USS Enterprise captained by James T. Kirk (and others) in the original Star Trek series. Archer’s Enterprise exists in an alternate timeline (not to be confused with an alternate universe – more on that later) which is being affected by a “temporal war.”* It seems doubtful that the Vulcans would have been able to handle the twists in the timeline by themselves. The unique ingenuity and compassion of humanity is needed to mend frayed alliances and build what would become the Federation of Planets.
In an interview Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) did for PBS’s Pioneers of Television series, she mentions how she went to creator Gene Roddenberry early during the first season, telling him she knew what he was doing. Star Trek was more than just a science fiction series. Nichols had figured out that Roddenberry was writing “morality plays.” (A video of this PBS episode in currently on YouTube, with the pertinent portion coming just past the 9:00 mark.) Enterprise continues in the tradition of examining ideas instead of just producing bazaar images of fantastic places.
Produced during a time when America was steeped in the backlash of 9/11, Enterprise was not afraid to tackle such issues as using technology to spy on the enemy, and torture. There is also a two-episode exploration (”In a Mirror, Darkly’) of an “alternate universe” where Earth has become the conqueror rather than the peacemaker. This is different than the alternate timelines being formed in “our” universe. The temporal war only affects our universe. There are, however, other universes. Confusing? Just wait.
Anyway, the USS Defiant from our universe has gotten stuck in a rift between universes, and the alternative universe Enterprise crew finds it and uses it to further the Terran Empire. You see, not only is the Defiant from our universe, it is from the future of both universes, so its technology can be used to defeat all enemies. I tell you all this so I can bring up another part of the story.
When the Enterprise crew boards the Defiant, they discover archives about our universe and their alter egos. Jonathan Archer discovers that our Archer was considered “the greatest explorer of the twenty-second century” and helped perpetuate peace throughout the galaxy. His response is telling of the difference between what humanity has become in the two universes.
Great men are not peacemakers; great men are conquerors.
Of course, there was a Man who lived about 2,000 years ago in this universe who disagreed with that assessment. From the way we act, which assessment do we appear to agree with? Then again, there is such a ting as a false peace. But it’s something worth thinking about.
All six Star Trek television serials, including the animated series, are currently available on Netlix streaming service.
*Convenient for scriptwriters who don’t have to be so concerned with continuity from other Star Trek series – just blame it on the alternate timeline. The Star Trek franchise has been doing this for years!