The time line paradoxes created by every Star Trek (film that did time travel)

05 March 2023
Star Trek has made significant use of time travel as a plot device in both its television shows and movies. However, as with any story that involves time travel, the franchise has had to deal with various time travel paradoxes.

One common paradox is the grandfather paradox. This paradox arises when a time traveler goes back in time and inadvertently changes something that prevents their own existence in the future. For example, if a time traveler goes back in time and kills their grandfather before he can have children, the time traveler would never have been born in the first place, leading to a paradox.

In Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise crew travels back in time to the mid-21st century to prevent the Borg from altering history. However, they inadvertently end up helping a scientist, Zefram Cochrane, successfully launch Earth's first warp-capable spacecraft, an event that ultimately leads to the formation of the United Federation of Planets. 

This creates a grandfather paradox because if the Enterprise crew had not gone back in time, Cochrane would not have succeeded in his mission, and the Federation would not exist. However, the paradox is resolved when Captain Picard realizes that the events they are experiencing are already part of history and must happen for their own future to exist.

Another paradox that arises in time travel stories is the bootstrap paradox. This paradox occurs when a time traveler goes back in time and introduces an object or piece of information that has no clear origin, leading to a paradoxical loop. For example, if a time traveler goes back in time and gives Shakespeare a copy of his own plays, and Shakespeare then publishes them under his own name, the plays would have no clear origin.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the episode "Yesterday's Enterprise," the Enterprise encounters a rift in space-time that sends them back in time to a point where the Federation is at war with the Klingons. The crew realizes that they must send the Enterprise-C back in time to ensure a peaceful future for the Federation. However, when the Enterprise-C disappears from the timeline, the war with the Klingons never occurs, leading to a bootstrap paradox where the Enterprise-C is sent back in time to prevent a war that never happened in the first place.

Star Trek has used time travel plot points to explore complex philosophical and ethical questions. For example, in the episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" from the original series, Kirk and Spock must travel back in time to the 1930s to prevent a well-meaning but misguided social worker from inadvertently changing history and preventing the formation of the Federation. The episode raises questions about the nature of sacrifice, the consequences of altering history, and the role of individuals in shaping the course of history.

Here's some more examples of time travel in Star Trek

  • "The Visitor" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine): In this episode, Captain Sisko is presumed dead after an accident aboard the Defiant. However, his son Jake discovers that Sisko is trapped in subspace and periodically reappears in different points in time. Eventually, an older Jake sacrifices his own life to send his father back to the moment of the accident and prevent it from happening, erasing the timeline where Sisko was trapped.
  • "Cause and Effect" (Star Trek: The Next Generation): The Enterprise is caught in a temporal loop that causes the ship to explode at the end of every iteration. The crew eventually discovers that the loop is caused by a collision with another starship, the USS Bozeman, that had been trapped in a similar loop for 90 years. By communicating with the Bozeman and coordinating their actions, the crews of both ships manage to break the loop and prevent the destruction of the Enterprise.
  • "Time's Arrow" (Star Trek: The Next Generation): The Enterprise crew discovers that Data's head has been buried in a cave in San Francisco in the 19th century. They travel back in time to investigate and discover that an alien race is using humans from that era as a source of energy. The paradox in this case is that Data's head had to be buried in the past for the crew to discover it in the future. However, the paradox is resolved when the crew prevents the aliens from carrying out their plan and returns to their own time.

Our favorite Star Trek movie is a certain one which features whales. 

Humpback whales to be precise:

In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the crew of the Enterprise travel back in time to the 1980s to retrieve humpback whales and bring them back to the future to prevent an alien probe from destroying Earth. 

star trek IV voyage home

The paradox, in this case, is that the whales were extinct in the future, so the crew had to go back in time to retrieve them. This raises the question of how the whales were saved in the first place, since they were extinct in the future timeline that the Enterprise crew came from.

This paradox has been the subject of much discussion among Star Trek fans and scholars. One possible explanation is that the events of the movie created a new timeline, where the whales were saved and the future was changed. This would mean that the original timeline, where the whales were extinct and Earth was destroyed, no longer exists. Another possibility is that the events of the movie were always part of the original timeline, and that the crew's actions in the past were always meant to save the future.

Regardless of the resolution to the paradox, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is notable for its science fiction exploration of the importance of ecological conservation and the relationship between humans and animals. The movie portrays the whales as intelligent creatures with their own language and culture, and suggests that their extinction would have dire consequences for the planet. By bringing the whales back to the future, the Enterprise crew is able to prevent a catastrophic event and restore the balance of nature.

The science fiction of the whales in Star Trek IV also draws on real-world environmental concerns of the time, such as the threat of whaling and the impact of human activities on the planet. By using science fiction to explore these issues, the movie is able to engage audiences in a way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Overall, the time travel paradox in Star Trek IV and its use of science fiction to explore ecological and ethical themes make it a classic example of the franchise's use of time travel as a storytelling device.

In conclusion, Star Trek has made excellent use of time travel as a plot device, creating complex and thought-provoking stories that explore the paradoxes and philosophical implications of time travel. While the franchise has not always been able to fully resolve the paradoxes it introduces, it has used them to create compelling narratives that have become a hallmark of the Star Trek franchise.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
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Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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