The new Star Trek movie is not easy to classify. The film is not a traditional prequel like Star Wars Episode III, nor is it a traditional ‘canon reboot’ like Batman Begins. Some have wondered how the new film fits in with the Trek universe, and what affect it has on the extended universe. A new page and graphic on the Star Trek Online MMORPG official site gives a pretty good explanation. [movie spoilers obviously]
On Trek Timelines
For the purposes of the Star Trek canon, the new Star Trek movie could probably best be classified as a sequel to Star Trek Nemesis. The 10th Trek film takes place in the year 2379. Although the new Star Trek movie starts with the destruction of the USS Kelvin in 2233, the events described in the memories of both Spock and Nero are from 2387 or eight years after Star Trek Nemesis.
In the new Star Trek movie, Nero goes back in time from 2387 and creates an alternative timeline. Time travel and altering the past are nothing nothing new for Star Trek (“City on the Edge of Forever”, “Yesterdays Enterprise”, “Year of Hell”, etc), but what is different is that by the end of the film, the alternative timeline was not ‘reset.’ Some fans have thought this new timeline as writing over or erasing the original (or ‘prime’) timeline. However in interviews with TrekMovie (and others), as well as in multiple online discussions, writer Roberto Orci has made it clear that in their Star Trek universe, the incursions of Nero and Spock created an alternate timeline, which will coexist with the ‘prime’ timeline (not unlike the ‘Mirror Universe’).
This means that stories can still be told in the prime universe at any time, including after Spock and Nero leaving and the destruction of Romulus. The project this has the most immediate affect on is Star Trek Online, the massive multiplayer game set in the 25th century due to be released in 2010. In order to clarify things, the people at Cryptic have created a special section of their official site, which includes the following chart explaining it all.
That page notes:
So how can the movie and STO be in different realities? When working on Star Trek, screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman referenced the theory of quantum mechanics, which allows for the simultaneous existence of parallel timelines and universes. Parallel universes are self-contained, separate realities that exist as a consequence of different choices and outcomes. This concept was explored in the TNG episode "Parallels," in which there were thousands of alternate timelines (and thousands of Enterprises!). It also is seen in the Mirror Universe, which is a darker take on the world of the Federation.
There are many, many stories to tell in the prime universe. The fallout of the destruction of Romulus and the upheaval that causes in the Alpha and Beta quadrants creates storytelling opportunities that we at Cryptic didn’t even imagine when we first began working on STO. We’re excited by the possibilities, and fans should be as well. The best is yet to come.
Stories in both
Although the above post and graphic are related to the Star Trek Online MMORPG, they are applicable to all of the Trek franchise. That graphic may be on the STO site, but it is essentially the official CBS and Paramount position regarding the new movie and its affect on the original timeline.
This is especially important to both the comics from IDW and the books from Pocket Books. In fact the Star Trek comics have already dipped their toe into this territory. The entire Star Trek Countdown comic book series takes place in the prime timeline of 2387 telling the story of Spock and Nero and how they came together to fall into a black hole (sending them back in time). But the final two pages of Star Trek Countdown show Picard and Capt. Data on board the Enterprise E, making it clear that the Prime timeline continued on, even after Spock and Nero went back in time.
For their part, Pocket Books has been telling post-Nemesis stories for years now, but so far their most recent books have only gone as far as 2381, or six years prior to Spock and Nero falling into the black hole. Pocket has already announced plans to continue their 24th century with the upcoming ‘Typhon Pact’ stories and they will likely continue beyond that, but by the time they get to 2387 they will just have to deal with the destruction of Romulus (just like Crytpic has done for the STO backstory).
It should also be expected that both IDW and Pocket Books (and a potential future game licensee) will also be doing stories in the new timeline (which has no official name, although Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki, is now referring to it simply as ‘Alternate Reality‘ based on Uhura’s line in the film about how Nero’s incursion had created an alternate reality). This gets even more complicated in that some aspects of the new Star Trek movie could be told from the perspective of the prime timeline, most notably the USS Kelvin and its crew (Robau, George and Winona Kirk, etc). As for stories set before 2233 (the time Nero showed up), they would apply to both timelines (as does the entire Star Trek Enterprise series).
What happened to the Kelvin in the prime timeline?
So for the foreseeable future the world of Star Trek’s extended universe will just be a bit more complicated. Starting in 2010 and beyond we should expect books, comics and games from both timelines. And when the time comes for CBS to consider a new TV show, they will have a choice to make, which does not preclude them coming up with yet another universe/timeline.
We live in interesting times.