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During the CBS All Access Television Critics Association presentation, executive producer Akiva Goldsman confirmed that Star Trek: Discovery is indeed set in the same universe as Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and all of the other Star Trek television series that followed.
Star Trek: Discovery takes place a decade before Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise in the Prime Timeline. Not the Kelvin Timeline. Though it hasn't been officially confirmed, most fans have taken this to mean it takes place 10 years prior to the Enterprise's five-year mission to explore strange new worlds. This would place the events of the show around 2255.
How does that fit into the Star Trek TV series timeline? Well, as we already established, it is 10 years before the events of The Original Series. It is set roughly 110 years before the events of The Next Generation, and roughly 100 years after the events of Enterprise.
At the time of Discovery, the Federation of Planets is almost a century old and, while not as powerful as we see it at the time of The Next Generationand Deep Space Nine, is still one of the dominant forces in the Alpha Quadrant.
At this point, the Federation has four main power players: humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites. The other two major forces in the quadrant are the Klingons and the Romulans, though, as we know from the events of The Original Series' "Balance of Terror," no one in the Federation knows what the Romulans actually look like, despite Earth having previously been at war with the Romulans.
At the time of Star Trek: Discovery, the Federation has been locked in a decades-long Cold War with the Klingon Empire. The escalation of that cold war into something else is the backdrop for much of Discovery's first season. The fact that the Federation and the Klingons went to war with each other more or less fits in with what we know of the history of their relationship. When Kirk and company run into Klingons in "The Trouble With Tribbles" in 2268, for example, their interactions are extremely tense.
"There's been no formal declaration of hostilities against between our two respective governments, so, naturally, our relationship will be a peaceful one," the Klingon captain tells Kirk, though the two are obviously very suspicious of one another to the point that, when the Klingons first show up, the Enterprise is worried that it will open fire.
The Klingons and Federation sorted out some of their drama in 2267 with the Treaty of Organia, which involved shore leave rights and the doling out of some disputed planets inside the Neutral Zone, and later the Khitomoer Accords in 2293, which consisted of two historic peace treaties between the two superpowers.
Star Trek is a behemoth of a franchise. Running over 50 years, it has had six live-action series, one animated series, several films, comics, novelizations, and an extremely obsessive fandom I’ve encounted myself a part of since childhood. I understand how Star Trek can seem labyrinthine, too dense for new fans to find their way in. But it’s very well worth it. This guide is a window into the Star Trek franchise, meant to introduce it those who have scant knowledge of its intricacies. At its best, Star Trek is a potently political, unabashedly philosophical, powerfully diverse, empathetic, and supremely well-crafted series that uses its hard science-fiction trappings to speak to our times. With Star Trek: Discovery bringing the franchise back to television after a 12-year absence, now is the best time to see why Star Trek has endured since The Original Series first aired in 1966.
There are a few major concepts to understand before venturing into the realm of Star Trek:
The alternate reality was a new reality created when a temporal incursion caused by time travel of the Narada, a Romulan mining vessel from the year 2387, disrupted the time continuum. Accidentally traveling back to the year 2233, Nero, the Narada's captain, attacked the USS Kelvin. The attack resulted in the deaths of several crew members of the Kelvin, including George Kirk and Richard Robau, and the destruction of the Kelvin itself. Spock arrived to the alternate reality in 2258 and was captured by Nero, who used red matter to destroy Vulcan. However, Nero's attacks united the crew of the USS Enterprise, who foiled his attempt to destroy Earth.
The writers of Star Trek, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, were asked about the implications of the new alternate reality that was introduced in the film in an interview. They explained the new reality runs parallel to the prime reality as a new quantum reality, as the concept was explained by Data in the episode TNG: "Parallels".
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