A Private Little Federation

This is another one of my little Star Trek articles. In some ways this is a development of my Star Trek-ly ideas that I’ve wanted to use in my own ‘verse. In other ways it’s almost an exorcism of sorts. There are ideas I consider specific to Star Trek or that I have trouble expressing outside of the language of Star Trek that I’d like to get out of my head and onto the page. If this doesn’t clear my head so I can get on to other things, perhaps it will help me to express them outside the context of Trek.

If the previous paragraph didn’t make it clear, I have been and still am to a great degree an obsessive Trekkie(or Trekker… or whatever). I could be considered to be in recovery at this point, but hardly recovered. I’ll always have a well-worn place in my heart shaped like a science-fiction series that had its last first-run episode while men were still walking on the Moon. That may be a part of the show’s enduring appeal to me and possibly others. It was the last optimistic gasp of a time when the Space Age still felt futuristic and not nostalgic. Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica(new or old), even Firefly all seemed consciously set in some sort of mythological past. As much as I hope that the eyes of man may once again turn skyward, that feels about as remote as Buck Rogers might have looked to someone early in 1957. Let this then be a rather long introduction to A Private Little Federation.

I’ll start with a bit of background on what would evolve into my own non-canonical Star Trek universe. As a kid I spent many a happy afternoon like a monk copying stuff out of Bjo Trimble’s Star Trek Concordance. Biography, planetary information, stuff on ships. That sort of thing. The internet is a wonderful thing. Later I acquired a copy of the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology by Stan and Fred Goldstein. For some reason I preferred a late 23rd century date for Star Trek as evidenced by the 2287 vintage given for Dr. McCoy’s gift of Romulan Ale to Captain Kirk in Wrath of Khan. The dates given in the Goldstein book like 2188 for construction of the Enterprise or 2215 for the events in Star Trek the Motion Picture. I would have been more receptive to what would be the canonical Okuda-verse. After the Goldstein chronology was adopted by the creators of the FASA Star Trek role-playing game it started to grow on me. STRPG added a lot of detail and depth to the Star Trek world and is one of the reasons that all those five-digit NCC numbers on Next Generation starships made me squirm a bit…

I possess several Okuda-verse book, but for the most part I’ve never been all that impressed by the Next Generation Star Trek canon. I have no problem adopting elements from STTNG and later series, but I’m really selective about that stuff. Even original series material might get ret-conned a bit. One path to my own fictional universe I guess…

As much as I enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie, I just can’t see it as exactly Star Trek. In spite of the name… and Kirk, Spock, McCoy… Not to say some premises and tropes from his movies won’t make their way into my own ideas about Star Trek. If nothing else, I figure Abrams’ wholesale “re-envisioning” of the whole Star Trek franchise kind of freed me up to do the same. Though I rather doubt I’ll get the same kind of funding…

I like the idea of the alternate Star Trek universe, but for one thing I’d like to see Kirk’s career develop in a more natural manner. Following in the tradition of Horatio Hornblower we could have titles like, “Ensign Kirk, ” “Kirk of the Farragut,” and “The Axanar Crisis.” Makes me want to write some fan-fic. Quick! To the library for some C.S. Forester! If I had my druthers Nero(with a less lame-O name) would have grown into a better and more gradually developed villain with his own multi-story arc. Think of it… He killed the parents of one of the heroes, destroyed the homeworld of another, wiped out a fair part of Starfleet and brought Old Spock back from the future. This guy could have been bigger than Voldemort(a better name that, too). I could see a character like that developing over several stories from a minor background threat, widely believed dead, to an increasingly personal and menacing threat, culminating in a climactic struggle for survival. There’s something unfulfilling about an antagonist who has twisted up the entire universe as much as Nero had, being a flash-in-the-pan gone in two hours. I figure a villain like that should have been good for at least a movie trilogy like Darth Vader(apparently a prequel trilogy was pushing it “a bit”). Depending on what they do with Cumberbatch, maybe they can do that with the next villain, but it doesn’t seem as natural.

One aspect of  the re-boot movies that I’m not even sure was intentional was that new Federation smell. The organization felt smaller, younger, rawer and a lot more ad hoc, like they were still creating their traditions. It felt like the frontier was wide open and a whole lot more close at hand. I’d really like to incorporate that vibe into my own fictional world and it gives a really nice feel to Star Trek.

Another aspect I would demand of my own fictional world and would like to be able to incorporate into my re-envisioning of Star Trek is the sense that it could actually happen in our own future. This would require some changes that will even butterfly some of the original series. For one thing, there just isn’t a reasonable way to handwave around a big Eugenic War that happened between 1992 and 1996, or Khan ruling half the world in that time or, for that matter, anything remotely resembling the DY-100. Since I think Star Trek really needs Khan and I really liked the Winchell Chung’s modern NASA Botany Bay, I’m just going to push that part of the timeline forward about eighty years. A Eugenics War that starts around 2072 gives us about seventeen years to genetically engineer the young Noonian Singh if he was about 46 when he left Earth as Ricardo Montalban was when the episode aired. One assumes a genetic superman would age at least as gracefully as the actor who played him, but maybe he could have been younger. Maybe the genetic engineers missed a genetic sequence that caused him to age poorly and he’s in his thirties or maybe he got a bit of freezer burn after two centuries on ice…

Looking at the Dawn of the Federation period when Star Trek: Enterprise was set, I’d make things a bit more primitive than the producers of that show chose to. The tech base would look more like a cross between new Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5 with just a touch of Space Odyssey in there. No magic laser beams or photon torpedoes, artificial gravity means centrifuges or just deal with floating around in free-fall. As far as I’m concerned, the Transporter was brand new when they bolted it into Chris Pike’s Enterprise, and phase guns and whatever weren’t much older.

If there was a Jonathan Archer in my Star Trek ‘verse, his ship would look a whole lot more like Okuda’s Horizon-class than a modified Next Generation Akira. It would also be a decade or so further into the future. I’m aiming for a young Federation after all.

I think a 23rd century date for Original Series Star Trek is pretty well locked in, but I’d like to move the founding of the Federation a little further along, maybe 2180-90. I’ll also set the Original Series as early in the 23rd century as I can get away with. As a purist on such things, I guess that’ll have to be 2201… The Cage would be somewhere around 2195 maybe. For various reasons Where No Man Has Gone Before is one of those bits from the original series that I’d like to fudge. Edge of the Galaxy? Are you kidding me? And the Valiant got there 200 years before! The existence of that barrier stretches my disbelief suspenders to the breaking point. So I’ll have to recast it as some other sort of astrophysical phenomenon that might be a bit believable and closer at hand. A black hole? A close binary pair of neutron stars. There’s no reason in the real world to believe that such things might cause godlike psychic powers in human beings, but how much observational evidence do we really have of the effects of close exposure to such things to a human being?

One of the ideas that I found floating around the internets was that the big bad played by Benedict Cumberbatch was, in fact, Gary Mitchell from Where No Man Has Gone Before. This got the little gray cells moving around in my head. Apparently, in a “canonical” comic book series associated with the production of the films, Gary Mitchell had his moment of godhood, died in some fashion and his body was shot out in a photon torpedo casing. Frankly, he does seem to be just the kind of guy to return from the dead and start getting all apocalyptic. In fact he seems like a really good candidate for the kind of story arc antagonist I’ve been talking about. He’s a shoe-in for the Voldemort/Darth Vader position. In fact, I had to agree with a comment by Barbara Barett here that for what he was Gary Mitchell was removed as a threat far too easily. That’s understandable, TV series at the time really didn’t do multi-episode arcs and the quality science fiction genre for one didn’t do multiple episodes with the same setting and characters all that often. Look at the Twilight Zone. Also its really hard to figure out how you could push a genie that big back into the bottle once its released. If you can’t kill a godlike Gary Mitchell while it’s still getting a hang of its powers, how do you handle the problem? This is a fanfic, or series of fanfics I could really enjoy writing, but it’s still hard to see how you’d reach a resolution. At least a good one.

First episode with Captain Kirk and I’m already ret-conning things in a way that’s likely to send butterflies all through the rest of the ‘verse. Don’t have to worry about The Next Generation, that’s still in the future, and at this rate may never happen. I should read back over the alternate Star Trek from Brainbin’s thread over on AH.com for story ideas ;). Even TOS-era may be really different

The Astrographer

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