Science Fiction Round 55: Wibbley-Wobbley
I read a Star Trek novel focused on time travel lately, and it was a blast. The book is titled “Watching The Clock,” with the heading of Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations.
All The References
This book is going to be a hard slog for anyone who isn’t a fairly serious Trekkie.
There are references to every single Star Trek series — most of the time-travel episodes, naturally. I knew about them all, since I’m, well, a fairly serious Trekkie. Much of the context is explained along the way, but I think it would be less fun for someone who wasn’t a fan of the series.
As such, much of the rest of my commentary will make limited sense to someone who hasn’t watched way too much Star Trek. (Did I say too much? I meant almost enough…)
One of the big references in particular was to the end of Voyager, which involves Captain Janeway going back in time to give herself and her crew the technology needed to wipe the Borg out with a single bio-computer-virus… thing.
Now, previously in that series and others, when something THAT big changes the timeline that seriously, somebody from the future shows up to complain and try to fix it.
In this case, there was nothing. One of the Starfleet police officers is put out by this whole incident, and wants to arrest Janeway for her future actions… but gets a visit from future, time-traveling time-cops from multiple groups and timelines, telling them not to.
This happens sometimes with the Department of Temporal Investigations, apparently — there’s a lot of “we’re from the future, we can’t break the Temporal Prime Directive, but we need you to do something for us anyway.” In this case, it was everyone, friend and foe, telling them not to fix it.
Why? Because if the Borg were not destroyed early, in the 23rd century, then they would eventually expand and grow and consume the entire galaxy, causing the future Federation and other groups to cease to exist.
Three cheers for self-reinforcing temporal loops! Speaking of which…
I’m… not even going to comment here on the physics.
It’s a Star Trek time travel episode filled with handwavium and quantum nonsense. Just take a deep breath, and go with it.
That Was Awful
Even without the Star Trek, there’s something involving two characters that is incredibly skeevy.
First of all, one of the temporal investigators is a Deltan (which, if you know Star Trek or follow that link, you will realize is not a good sign). The Deltans have such amazing, empathic sex that most other “less sexually advanced” species who have relations with them go insane. Oh, and the Deltans are also super-attractive.
Thus, we end up with a male Deltan working with a female human (who is his junior in the department) who develops the galaxy’s most gigantic crush on him, comes on to him, and so forth.
And, after being alerted to the uncomfortable situation… their superiors do nothing about this. No resorting of partners or anything.
It’s just… arg. Textbook workplace harrassment (even if the Deltan says he can handle turning her down… often…) and it just gets worse when both characters are mind-whammied near the end of their investigation.
Saved by the Bureaucracy
On the flip side, I think the best part of the novel was the offered explanation for why there’s all this time-travel nonsense happening now, rather than further in the future or the past.
Specifically, a group of people who did a very good job of covering their tracks, in the future, develop a satellite system to prevent any unauthorized time-travel. See a temporal anomaly blip into existence? Zap, and the door is closed and nobody is allowed to time-travel without authorization.
But! There are people in the future who wish they could still meddle in other groups’ history. They want to know who developed the anti-time-travel network, so they can put some holes in it or take it down.
It’s developed in the near future, and much of the story is eventually revealed to be different groups trying to either figure out where and when it happened and stop it, or stop the people trying to stop it.
Quite the mess.
Regardless, all groups eventually decide that they’re at the wrong time and place, get talked into finally explaining why they were all so worried, and then go back to whenever they came from.
Now that the lead characters know that this is going to happen in the future… one of them decides to make it happen.
But how to cover it up? His plan: get together all the middle managers of the different present-day time-watching departments from different federations and empires together, so that they can cover up everything with the appropriate paperwork and destroy any records that need to go. He’s also fairly sure that he can talk them into it, since they share his fundamental desire to maintain an orderly universe.
I was amused.