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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings
Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Enterprise

The on-going story arc in Enterprise is about a "temporal cold-war". What, exactly, do they mean by that?

The best of many SF novels on this theme is the Hugo Award winning The Big Time, by Fritz Leiber, a masterpiece in which the entire story takes place inside a single room. Poul Anderson's The Time Patrol series and H. Beam Piper's The Complete Paratime cover the same ground on a more epic scale. I think all three are available from SF Book Club. Tell 'em SF Site sent you.

So, how does Enterprise stack up against these classics? Hard to tell yet, since there have been only two episodes in this story arc so far: the pilot "Broken Bow" (dumb title) and the much better recent episode "Cold Front" by new writers Steve Beck and Tim Finch. "Cold Front" manages to capture some of the awe that a time war invokes.

In order to makes sense of this story arc, we need to have some idea of the Star Trek future history, and for that we naturally turn to The Star Trek Encyclopedia by Denise and Michael Okuda. Here are the essentials:
1969: Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon
1992: Eugenics Wars
2061: Zefram Cochrane invents the warp drive. First Contact.
2079: World War III
2151: Enterprise launched, Jonathan Archer commanding
2156: Romulan War
2161: United Federation of Planets
2218: First Contact with Klingons
2245: Starship Enterprise, NCC-1701 launched, Robert April commanding
2251: Christopher Pike assumes command of the Enterprise
2264: James T. Kirk assumes command of the Enterprise
2265: The Enterprise travels back in time
2267: Organian Peace Treaty
2268: Discovery of the Mirror Universe -- alternate time lines
2287: U.S.S. Enterprise-A launched, James T. Kirk commanding
2293: Khitomer peace accords between the Federation and the Klingon Empire
2293: U.S.S. Enterprise-B launched, John Harriman commanding.
2344: U.S.S. Enterprise-C, Rachel Garrett commanding, destroyed
2346: Khitomer massacre.
2363: U.S.S. Enterprise-D launched, Jean-Luc Picard commanding
2367: Battle of Wolf 359
2369: Deep Space Nine commissioned, Benjamin Sisko commanding
2371: Voyager enters the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn Janeway commanding
2372: U.S.S. Enterprise-E fights Borg to preserve the prime time line
2375: Dominion war
2378: Voyager returns from the Delta Quadrant, changing history
2500: Time travel is commonplace
2800: The Federation timeship Aeon battles to preserve the prime time line
3000: Time travelers sent back to 2151 to influence the outcome of the temporal cold war.

There are three main views of time travel. In the first view, there is only one real time line. Changing the past destroys the present and changes the future. Clearly, this is not Star Trek. A second view is that everything that can happen does, as in Larry Niven's "All the Myriad Ways". This is not Star Trek, either. In Star Trek, some time lines survive, others are destroyed. There are multiple universes, but not myriad universes.

How are we to make sense of a temporal cold-war? At some unknown point in Captain Archer's future, a Time Lord with the ability to communicate through time but not travel through time, is attempting to change his past. Is he safe in some alternate time line, that has already branched off from the prime time line? Or is he willing to cause his own non-existence by changing his own past? The Time Lord must be either one individual or a small secret society, because even the agents from the far future do not know when he is located.

It will be interesting to see if Enterprise can come up with a way to avoid the many plot pitfalls associated with time travel. One thing they need to establish is what causes time lines to branch. I, for one, would like to witness the moment when the Mirror Universe splits off from our own.

Copyright © 2001 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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