Published Jul 12, 2022
Strange New Worlds 101: Time Travel
A look back at the times Star Trek boldly went back and forward in time.
By Julian Gardner
Welcome back to Strange New Worlds 101! It’s been a blast covering this season with all of you, and we’re closing it out with a look at the way time travel has been used across the Star Trek franchise. As the season opened with Captain Pike reckoning with the tragic glimpse into his future, the finale continued that theme as Pike confronted another future in a tangible sense.
Time travel has been present in Star Trek from the very beginning of the series, and many shows have featured the crews traveling through time to prevent disaster. The original crew of the Enterprise went on several time travel adventures, most notably in the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. When Earth was threatened by a probe that only wanted to chat with some humpback whales, Kirk led his crew to a very strange world — San Francisco, 1996. There they contended with colorful language, punks on buses, and as McCoy put it, the barbarism of an '80s hospital. Luckily, with the help of two whales named George and Gracie, the crew was able to return to their present and save Earth.
The Next Generation also did a fair bit of time traveling (even meeting Mark Twain!). The most notable time that Picard explored time travel was during the series finale “All Good Things…”. Q, determined to test Picard and humanity one more time, showed Picard glimpses of his future, as well as glimpses of his first mission aboard the Enterprise. As Picard jumped through timelines, he once more managed to prove to Q that humanity was worth saving. Of course, this timeline changed with the series Star Trek: Picard. Though in the second season, Q created a darker timeline that required Picard and his allies to travel back to the present day in Los Angeles.
Captain Sisko and his crew engaged in some time traveling, thanks to a Bajoran orb, when they had to travel back to the events of the TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” to save Kirk — and the timeline — from destruction due to the actions of a vengeful Klingon operative. The Department of Temporal Investigations got involved afterwards, though Sisko assured them that his actions didn’t affect the timeline in any way. In Voyager, Captain Janeway concluded her adventures with some time travel in series finale “Endgame,” in an attempt to save her crew, Seven, and herself from the Borg Queen; they also emerged victorious and with the timeline secure.
Star Trek: Enterprise introduced the Temporal Cold War through the character Daniels, who was tasked with preventing temporal incursions on the NX-01. Daniels was especially focused on preserving Archer’s life, as Archer was key to the creation of the Federation. In one notable arc, he and the crew traveled to the 1940s, where the Nazis have allied with a 29th Century force called the Na’kuhl. Daniels died attempting to save Earth, but when Archer ultimately succeeded, Daniels’ death was reversed and was able to return to his own time. It was Archer’s actions that helped end the Temporal Cold War, and laws were created against time travel following the war’s conclusion as referenced by Cleveland “Book” Booker in the Discovery episode “That Hope is You, Part 1.”
Star Trek: Discovery famously used time travel to send the crew of the Discovery over 900 years into the future. There, Michael Burnham and her friends were able to save the Federation following the Burn. The crew remained in this time period and built their new home there, leaving behind their family in hopes of a better future. Discovery also marked the first time that Pike had a brush with time travel, all thanks to the Time Crystals that sealed his fate.
What are Time Crystals, you might ask? Time Crystals are a mineral that has a non-equilibrium matter state. Found on the planet Boreth, they are guarded by the Timekeepers. Harry Mudd used one to trap the crew of the Discovery in a time loop, and one was used to send the Discovery forward in time to stop the destruction of the universe. Pike, who retrieved that crystal in Season Two of Discovery, was able to see his future via that crystal.
In the Season One finale of Strange New Worlds, a future version of Pike who decided to avoid his fate appeared to the present Pike. After seeing the Federation begin a war with the Romulan Star Empire, one that would destroy Spock’s life, the Future Pike couldn’t let that happen. He traveled back in time to warn his younger self to continue on his path, and Pike — ever noble — agreed. The elder Pike showed him what the future would hold if he didn’t accept nor followed his destiny. He ultimately made the choice to follow his destiny, even if it leads to a future he never saw for himself.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Future Pike