Stardates--from the horse's mouth

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Eileen Simpson

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Aug 30, 1992, 4:29:44 PM8/30/92
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I've seen a number of questions about the meaning of stardates. The Next
Generation Writers'/Directors' Guide, a Paramount publication for those
producing the show, contains the following explanation:

"A Stardate is a five-digit number followed by a decimal point and one more
digit. Example: "46254.7". The first two digits of the Stardate are
"46." The 4 stands for the 24th century, the 6 indicates the 6th season.
The following three digits will progress consecutively during the course of
the season from 000 to 999. The digit following the decimal point counts
_tenths of a day_. Stardate 45254.4, therefore, represents the noon hour
on the 254th "day" of the fifth season. Because Stardates in the 24th
Century are based on a complex mathematical formula, a precise correlation
to Earth-based dating systems is not possible." page 7.

Hope this helps clear things up.

Michael Rawdon

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Aug 31, 1992, 3:56:21 PM8/31/92
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In <1992Aug31....@nntp.uoregon.edu> eis...@cie.uoregon.edu (Eileen Simpson) writes:
>In article <1992Aug30.2...@cs.wisc.edu> raw...@colby.cs.wisc.edu writes:

>>In <1992Aug30.2...@nntp.uoregon.edu> eis...@cie.uoregon.edu (Eileen Simpson) writes:
>>>I've seen a number of questions about the meaning of stardates. The Next
>>>Generation Writers'/Directors' Guide, a Paramount publication for those
>>>producing the show, contains the following explanation:

>>Well, this doesn't clear things up since 1) It doesn't do a thing for Trek
>>Classic stardates, 2) Hasn't been mentioned on-screen to my knowledge (and
>>so could be wrong), and 3) doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

>I don't know how to make this any clearer, but the writers'/directors'
>guide is THE official word on what these things mean. It may not "make
>sense." It _is_ what the dang things mean! Anyone writing for the show
>must follow these rules of usage. You are debating Paramount, and since it
>is their pretend-reality, that doesn't seem to make sense to me...

No, it's only official until those rules change. Stuff that goes on behind-
the-scenes only has the impact on the series THAT ACTUALLY SHOWS UP IN THE
EPISODES. Everything else must, I feel, be considered as strict conjecture,
which could change at any time.

(Some people respond to this that it's unlikely that the people who decide
these things will be fired or replaced any time in the near future. My
response to them is: Look at Gene Roddenberry.)

>This is not the kind of information that would ever be mentioned on a
>show because no character is ever going to spout dialogue that says,
>"Stardate XXXXXXX. Well, as we cruise through season 5, it appears time to
>note that the little number after the decimal point means tenths of days..."
>If TNG ever _does_ get so desperate for dialogue that the characters make
>speeches about the meaning of Stardates, I will _probably_ stop watching!

But, until they DO say such a thing (or they slip something on a computer
screen in one episode and someone freezes the frame to read what it says),
any meaning which we see in the stardates beyond what actually appears in the
show is conjecture.

>As for Classic Trek, in The Making of Star Trek a producer noted that stardates
>jumped around wildly until fans complained. They concocted an
>explanation that the dates were different in different parts of the galaxy
>and tried to pay a bit more attention, but several sources have noted that
>there was little rhyme or reason in TOS' use of stardates.

True, with one exception: All Trek Classc stardates occur between 1000 and
6000, and, well, the Enterprise *was* on a "five year mission"...

>>What is a "day" in this context? If it's a standard Earth day, then a TNG
>>season has 1000 days (3 years!!) in it, so our heroes have aged FIFTEEN
>>EARTH YEARS during the course of the show. This seems patently impossible,
>>since it is hard to believe that Wesley is now about 30 years old. (It
>>would also mean that he's been at the academy for 5 Earth years now, having
>>entered at about age 25, and having spent TEN YEARS on the Enterprise as an
>>acting ensign.)

>Seems like pretty politically incorrect "Earthism" to insist that they have
>to use a 24 hour day, 365 day year out in space... ;->

True, but... what does a "day" mean then?

>>The "complex mathematical formula" stuff is obviously just handwaving...

>Well, I think the point is the whole dang thing is not intended to be
>"real". It's an internal guide for the show's continuity that tells you
>about what point in what season the episode was filmed. It has nothing to
>do with real science, it just sounds neat.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Well, that's debatable... it sounds like B-grade science fiction to me.

>Sorry if folks are disappointed about the Stardate thing, but that is what
>the darn things mean.

No, it's what the people at Paramount _claim_ they mean, and they'll mean
that only so long as the people at Paramount don't change their minds (or
actually break down and put it in an episode)...

--
Michael Rawdon raw...@colby.cs.wisc.edu [Note new address!]
University of Wisconsin Computer Sciences Department, Madison, WI

"It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak."
- Dream, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Iain Robert Asplin

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Sep 1, 1992, 10:47:24 AM9/1/92
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In article <1992Aug31....@nntp.uoregon.edu> eis...@cie.uoregon.edu (Eileen Simpson) writes:

If the 4 in the stardates stands for 24th century, tehn what happens
when ST:TNG gets to Season 10? (If that happens), and if not ST:TNG,
ST:Ds9 then.


Eileen Simpson

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Sep 2, 1992, 2:14:37 AM9/2/92
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In article <1992Sep1.1...@murdoch.acc.Virginia.EDU> ir...@faraday.clas.Virginia.EDU (Iain Robert Asplin) writes:
>If the 4 in the stardates stands for 24th century, tehn what happens
>when ST:TNG gets to Season 10? (If that happens), and if not ST:TNG,
>ST:Ds9 then.
>

What then?

In the words of George Herbert Walker John Cougar Mellincamp Bush, "We are
in deep doo-doo city."

Actually, the staff writers from Paramount cut off questions about
Stardates at the seminar. They expressly told us not to worry about the
technical stuff and to spend our time on plot and dialogue. They seemed
quite bored by the questions even though the audience was curious.

Michael Rawdon

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Sep 2, 1992, 11:13:36 AM9/2/92
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In <1992Sep2.0...@nntp.uoregon.edu> eis...@cie.uoregon.edu (Eileen Simpson) writes:
>Actually, the staff writers from Paramount cut off questions about
>Stardates at the seminar. They expressly told us not to worry about the
>technical stuff and to spend our time on plot and dialogue. They seemed
>quite bored by the questions even though the audience was curious.

This is pretty funny since the show certainly hasn't seemed to have focused
much on plot and dialogue in the *last* five years... :-)

--
Michael Rawdon raw...@colby.cs.wisc.edu [Note new address!]
University of Wisconsin Computer Sciences Department, Madison, WI

"What about you, Captain?" Krill asked. "Do you seek death, or do you
run away from it?
"Neither," Kiroth answered. "Death seeks me. It will find me in time.
To run is simply a waste of energy. To embrace death is sheer madness. I
await death. When it comes, I will be ready."
"To fight, or to flee?"
Kiroth looked at his XO with barely contained horror. "To die."
- "Escape From The Holdfast", by Jim Hart; Captain's Log #8

gary l. schroeder

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Sep 4, 1992, 9:17:16 AM9/4/92
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In article <1992Sep2.0...@nntp.uoregon.edu> eis...@cie.uoregon.edu (Eileen Simpson) writes:
>In article <1992Sep1.1...@murdoch.acc.Virginia.EDU> ir...@faraday.clas.Virginia.EDU (Iain Robert Asplin) writes:

>>If the 4 in the stardates stands for 24th century, tehn what happens
>>when ST:TNG gets to Season 10? (If that happens), and if not ST:TNG,
>>ST:Ds9 then.

>Actually, the staff writers from Paramount cut off questions about
>Stardates at the seminar. They expressly told us not to worry about the
>technical stuff and to spend our time on plot and dialogue. They seemed
>quite bored by the questions even though the audience was curious.

Of course they were bored. I would've been bored by this kind of
extraneous nonsense as well. Who gives a flying Denebian Slime Devil?
It's like asking "why did Geordi punch the key sequence
yellow-yellow-green-blue at Engineering One in episode X, instead of the
more technically consistant yellow-yellow-green-_red_? Why? Why?
Huh? I can't sleep at night until I find out!"

When you're in a position to avail yourself of the opportunities that
are presented by being in a Q and A forum with the show's producers, why
would you focus on such trivialities? Why not ask about the characters,
the plots, new ideas? Stardates and warp coil wrapping designs are mere
window dressing. They don't enhance the watchability of the show. They
don't contribute to the dramatic content. They don't enhance the
characters.

I'm starting to think that it's meetings like this that give the
production staff the idea that the audience actually wants to hear
LaForge and Data go on and on and on about the hyperdynamic
superheterodyne megaplastic field inverter inducer amplifier field
strength modulator. Now it all begins to make sense. If they think the
Trek audience demands explanations of stardate consistancy, then it's no
wonder.
--
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gary Schroeder | Warning: prolonged exposure to this
schr...@bnlux1.bnl.gov | .sig may cause retinal damage and
Brookhaven National Laboratory | blistering skin rashes.

Philip W. Hurley

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Sep 15, 1992, 11:15:03 AM9/15/92
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In article <1992Sep4.1...@bnlux1.bnl.gov> schr...@bnlux1.bnl.gov (gary l. schroeder) writes:

>>Actually, the staff writers from Paramount cut off questions about
>>Stardates at the seminar. They expressly told us not to worry about the
>>technical stuff and to spend our time on plot and dialogue. They seemed
>>quite bored by the questions even though the audience was curious.

It's a shame they were bored. I think Roddenberry would not have become
bored, he would have come up with an answer! One of the hallmarks of ST is
the fact that it *is* so technologically credible. The best science fiction
is that which is credible. That's what TNG has over TOS, the special effects
are so much more believeable. [Although, my nine year old asked me just last
week, "How can it make noise if there is no air in space?"] I'm not saying
that the explanation has to be one we understand, just one that we can
believe.

>Of course they were bored. I would've been bored by this kind of
>extraneous nonsense as well. Who gives a flying Denebian Slime Devil?

>When you're in a position to avail yourself of the opportunities that
>are presented by being in a Q and A forum with the show's producers, why
>would you focus on such trivialities? Why not ask about the characters,
>the plots, new ideas? Stardates and warp coil wrapping designs are mere
>window dressing. They don't enhance the watchability of the show. They
>don't contribute to the dramatic content. They don't enhance the
>characters.

>I'm starting to think that it's meetings like this that give the
>production staff the idea that the audience actually wants to hear
>LaForge and Data go on and on and on about the hyperdynamic
>superheterodyne megaplastic field inverter inducer amplifier field
>strength modulator. Now it all begins to make sense. If they think the
>Trek audience demands explanations of stardate consistancy, then it's no
>wonder.

I disagree. It is true that few will enjoy great gouts of technical jargon
but fewer still would enjoy ho hum technical effects and explanations. Such
things don't necessarily have to be complicated, as evidenced by TOS. But it
is, after all, *science* fiction. The audience is not asking for a discourse
in particle physics, just a believeable explanation. I don't think its too
much to ask, especially from the creators and manipulators of the reality.

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