International Law

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Digression o' the Day for February 11, 1999

I mentioned in class that one will never know whether an international legal rule affected history, because one can't go back in time and run history over again without the rule -- except, maybe, in one of those Star Trek episodes where suddenly everyone is wearing a beard even though they usually don't ....

Going back to alter the past is a popular theme in science fiction generally, as well as in the Star Trek universe specifically.  Such themes almost invariably involve the possiblity that the past will be altered, thereby altering the future.  In the original Star Trek series alone (which is the version of Star Trek with which I'm most familiar, owing to my ever-advancing age), there were go-back-to-the-past-to-alter-it-or-be-sure-not-to-alter-it episodes entitled "City on the Edge of Forever" (guest-starring a way-young Joan Collins),  "Assignment: Earth", and "Tomorrow Is Yesterday". Alternative-history or parallel-universe episodes, which involve a subtly different theme, included both parallel pasts {"A Piece of the Action" (bootleg-era Chicago) and "Bread and Circuses" (ancient Rome), two shows that aired barely two months apart, as well as "Patterns of Force" (Nazi-ism)}, and a parallel future {"Mirror, Mirror"}.  Much more recently, the all-Next Generation movie Star Trek VIII: First Contact included a go-back-to-the-past-to-alter it theme--indeed, that theme was "squared" in the sense that the Enterprise's plucky crew must go back to alter the past that the ever-rebarbative Borg had themselves altered in order to conquer Earth.  (See a synopsis of that movie here.)

{Let me also meta-digress and note that some people believe that the even-numbered Star Trek movies are the good ones, just as many people believe that the odd-numbered Beethoven symphonies are the best ones.  Intriguingly for those of you with a numerological bent, the sixth in each series seems to violate the general rule:

  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is hackneyed even for a Star Trek movie, while
  • Beethoven's Sixth ("Pastoral") Symphony may lack the extraordinary dramas of the Fifth or Ninth Symphonies, but is still a magnificent effort. 

I'll also take this opportunity to opine that, in the unlikely event that you are ever presented with the opportunity to engage in time travel, you should consider December 22, 1808, when Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth Symphonies both d╚buted at the Theater-an-der-Wien in Vienna.  See the premire dates of his nine completed symphonies from this Beethoven site.}

To return to Star Trek and time travel, I'm willing to guess that there are lots of other episodes or movie plots involving time travel that unfold on the real-world Trek time-line somewhere between the Original Series and the eighth movie.  The only one I'm actually sure of, however, is an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine called "Trials and Tribble-ations", in which some of the crew of the then-new DS9 series went back in time--to the Original Series!  (Feel free to view this on-line multi-media essay analyzing the technical wizardry behind this Forrest-Gump-esque feat.)

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This page was last updated on 04/24/99.