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So I was reading The Borg aren't scary anymore (and agreeing with it) and it occurred to me that the whole bit in Star Trek: First Contact about the Borg going back in time to change the past just highlights how ridiculously easy time travel is in the Star Trek Universe. How many time travel episodes/plots have there been? It's happened in every Star Trek series at least once, and in two of the movies. For starters, in the original series, there was that time gate in The City on the Edge of Forever, and then in Tomorrow is Yesterday, a "black star" sends the crew back to interfere with the space program of the 60s.

But by far the most egregious example of the ease of time travel is in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. All they do is "slingshot around the Sun" -- and sure there is some treknobabble mumbo-jumbo about how risky it is and how tricky the calculations are, but -- keeping our eye on the ball here -- they do this in a Klingon Bird of Prey. Well the Klingons have lots of those, don't they?

Seems like once word gets out that time travel is possible at all (and in Star Trek that is bound to happen, since it sure seems to come about even by accident an awful lot) everybody would be doing it for whatever strategic advantage it would be worth. All you need is a starship and, well, a star, and zip!! back you go, to a reasonably controllable point in the past. Seems like all of military maneuvering would be trying to get back in time farther than your opponents so you can mess 'em up before they do whatever it was they did!!

Note: It's been commented to me that this was also the basis of a season of the Star Trek: Enterprise series which featured a "Temporal Cold War." Confession is good for the soul, so here I tell you that as big a Trekkie as I am, I quit that series midway through the first season. But according to my research (which consists of reading the Wikipedia article on the thing and some blogs), it's exactly the kind of thing I was talking about in the last paragraph -- whoever can go into the past the farthest can make the rules by preventing the alternate future.

Note 2: The 2009 Star Trek movie? More time travel, though at least this time the Enterprise crew are on the receiving end of Romulans from the future....

I have often thought about this problem in the Trek universe myself. He's absolutely correct. It should never be easy to time travel, not in that science fiction franchise, or any other for that matter.

Slingshotting around the sun was the most ridiculous method, but if you can ignore that one all the other ways it was done were quite difficult and not something a standard starship could attempt every day. For example, in Star Trek: First Contact they rely on Borg technology that they did not possess (although they did gloss over quite a bit how they returned).

But the way I see it, there are really three solutions to this problem that maybe the writers in Trek can tackle after they pop the corks on the champagne as they celebrate the opening of the 2009 Star Trek movie:

  • An episode of a future Trek series or movie could depict a starship trying one of those methods on purpose and it goes horribly, horribly wrong, and everybody on the ship dies or it creates a massive rip in the space-time continuum. This would show that it's extremely risky and why people aren't trying to time travel willy nilly.
  • The writers slingshot around the sun, or borrow Matt Frewer's time machine or something, and go back into time and prevent themselves from ever writing those episodes or tell themselves to come up with a more plausible and risky time travel method
  • You realize that this is just fiction and you go try to solve some real world problem like Global Warming or whatever.

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