Remember That Paper on the Temporal Prime Directive I Was Going to Write?

I wrote it.  But it turned out a bit differently than expected.

I’m not posting the paper in its entirety; it’s a draft, and I harbor secret ambitions of actually presenting a later draft at a conference someday.

But I will post the one-page handout I made to accompany said paper.  The pdf is at the link; the text is after the jump.

Can We Colonize Time?: Star Trek, The Temporal Prime Directive, and the Anxieties of Imperialism: The Handout 

  1. The Temporal Prime Directive

Like the regular “Prime Directive,” the Temporal Prime Directive is primarily a doctrine of non-interference.  Its focus is non-interference in time, rather than in place or culture.

In Orientalism, Edward Said implies that we already do colonize time: the rhetoric of the colonizer “rewrites” the past of the colonized culture to portray it as essentially “backwards” and primitive, and to demonstrate that any advances the colonized culture has made to date existed only to prepare it for the glorious moment in which the colonizer would “deliver” it from its backwardness.  (34)

The Temporal Prime Directive deals with this problem in a universe where time travel makes it possible to change actual past events – not just the way those past events are discussed or portrayed in the present.

  1. From Words to Deeds: Time Travel

The Temporal Prime Directive exists in a universe where time travel is possible, if not always fully controllable.

  • Time travel paradoxes are acknowledged, but are not the primary concern.
    • Pogo paradox: Going back in time to stop an event causes it (VOY: “Relativity”, “Time and Again”; Star Trek: First Contact)
    • Grandfather paradox: Going back in time to cause an event stops it (VOY: “Eye of the Needle”)
    • Predestination paradox: You were “meant” to go back in time for some reason – possibly to trigger a Pogo or Grandfather paradox (DS9: “Trials and Tribble-ations”)
  • Time travel for the purposes of altering technological advancement is frowned upon…usually.
    • The Enterprise-D crew stops the “inventor” Rasmussen from taking 24th century technology back to the 22nd century (TNG: “A Matter of Time”)
    • The Voyager crew stops the 20th-century “inventor” Henry Starling from taking a 29th century timeship back to the 29th century…but doesn’t “undo” the 20th-century advances in computer technology that Starling has already set in motion by cannibalizing the timeship. They also keep a mobile holographic emitter from the 29th century for their own use in the 24th (VOY: “Future’s End, Parts I & II”)
  • Time travel for the purposes of altering the timeline to suit your own ends is verboten. This is the “non-intereference in other cultures” policy at the heart of all versions of the Prime Directive.
    • Thou shalt not wipe other cultures from existence in the “past,” even if doing so would save your own culture in the “future” (VOY: “Year of Hell, Parts I & II”)
    • Thou shalt not alter events in the “past” for political ends, no matter how well-intentioned (ENT: “Broken Bow,” “Shockwave, Parts I & II”)
    • Thou shalt not change the timeline in the “past,” even to save someone’s life, if it will have disastrous results in the “future” (TOS: “City on the Edge of Forever”)

Episodes/Films Cited

“A Matter of Time.”  Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5.  Writ. Rick Berman. Dir. Paul Lynch.  Paramount, 2013.  DVD.

“Broken Bow.”  Star Trek Enterprise – The Complete First Season.  Writ. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.  Dir. James L. Conway. Paramount, 2001.  DVD.

“City on the Edge of Forever.”  Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1.  Writ. Harlan Ellison.  Dir. Joseph Pevney.  Paramount, 2007.  DVD.

“Eye of the Needle.”  Star Trek Voyager: The Complete First Season.  Writ. Bill Dial, Jeri Taylor, and Hilary J. Bader.  Dir. Winrich Kolbe.  Paramount, 2004.  DVD.

“Future’s End, Parts I & II.”  Star Trek Voyager: The Complete Third Season.  Writ. Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky. Dir. David Livingston.  Paramount, 2004.  DVD.

“Parallax.”  Star Trek Voyager: The Complete First Season.  Writ. Brannon Braga and Jim Trombetta. Dir. Kim Friedman. Paramount, 2004.  DVD.

“Relativity.”  Star Trek Voyager: The Complete Fifth Season.  Writ. Bryan Fuller, Nick Sagan, and Michael Taylor.  Dir. Allan Eastman.  Paramount, 2004.  DVD.

“Shockwave, Parts I & II.”  Star Trek Enterprise – The Complete First Season.  Writ. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.  Dir. Allan Kroeker.  Paramount, 2001.  DVD.

Star Trek VIII: First Contact.  Dir. Jonathan Frakes.  Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, and Marina Sirtis.  Paramount, 2009. DVD.

“Trials and Tribble-ations.”  Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Complete Fifth Season.  Writ. Ronald D. Moore, Rene Echevarria, Ira Steven Behr, Hans Beimler, and Robert Hewitt Wolfe.  Dir. Jonathan West. Paramount, 2003.  DVD.

“Year of Hell, Parts I & II.”  Star Trek Voyager: The Complete Fourth Season.  Writ. Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky. Dir. Allan Kroeker.  Paramount, 2004.  DVD.

(A Note: on rewatch, I realize that “Year of Hell” is actually more complicated than summarized here.  Hence my description of this paper as a “draft.”)

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About Dani Alexis

Dani Alexis is the Legal Coordinator at Autonomous Press as well as a freelance writer. When she's not working, she coaches winterguard and waits on the whims of two spoiled cats. Check out her most recent work by subscribing to her Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/noncompliantspace.
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