That’s opening phrase – “Captain’s Log” remains an iconic and wonderful way to introduce one of the most simplistic – yet frustrating dating systems ever invented. There are a number of essays and blog posts about Stardates in general – what they mean – how to convert them to a more “human” calendar, why they never seemed to go in order during ST:TOS, etc.
This particular blog post is actually about FASA’s stardate system – an even MORE efficient yet muddied system than that used by Paramount. I’ll try not to rehash stuff from a lot of other web sites, however – we do need to define a few things.
Lets start with the FASA definition of stardated. Sadly, it’s partially flawed, but was the best they could do at the time:
Stardating is the standard Federation terminology for measuring date and time. It is sequential only while a person remains in one place. Keeping track of the date is harder than one might think on a faster-than-light ship because of Einsteinian time compression, and the method for computing Stardates is complex. Thus the time between Stardate 2244.0 and Stardate 2245.0 will be one day only if the ship remains at one location in the STAR TREK universe, but it may be entirely different if the ship travels at warp speed between two points.
Stardates are given in the form XXXX.XX, with either one or two digits given after the decimal point. Stardates begin at 0000.00 and go to 9999.99; then they start over. Stardate 3305.6 would be read as “Stardate thirty-three oh five point six” not “Stardate three thousand, three hundred five point six”.
We now know that stardates didn’t “restart” at 9999.9 but continued on. Wikepedia has a nice piece on Stardates that was given to the show writers:
We invented “Stardate” to avoid continually mentioning Star Trek’s century (actually, about two hundred years from now), and getting into arguments about whether this or that would have developed by then. Pick any combination of four numbers plus a percentage point, use it as your story’s stardate. For example, 1313.5 is twelve o’clock noon of one day and 1314.5 would be noon of the next day. Each percentage point is roughly equivalent to one-tenth of one day. The progression of stardates in your script should remain constant but don’t worry about whether or not there is a progression from other scripts. Stardates are a mathematical formula which varies depending on location in the galaxy, velocity of travel, and other factors, can vary widely from episode to episode.
The Next Generation revamped the system:
A stardate is a five-digit number followed by a decimal point and one more digit. Example: “41254.7.” The first two digits of the stardate are always “41.” The 4 stands for 24th century, the 1 indicates first season. The additional three leading digits will progress unevenly during the course of the season from 000 to 999. The digit following the decimal point is generally regarded as a day counter.
While this is the easy part – FASA got complicated when it decided to use a “reference” stardate – most likely because there was little hard information about stardates as a whole. (There was no Wikepedia or internet at the time.) The system they developed was surprisingly easy to understand.
A number followed by a slash will always precede the standard Stardate to show the century. The Reference Stardating system will begin with 0/0001.01, meaning January 1, 2000. Thus, 1/0001.01 is exactly 100 years later (January 1, 2100) and -1/0001.01 is exactly 100 years earlier (January 1, 1900). The Reference Stardate for July 4, 1776 is -3/7607.04 and so on.
While simple to use, the dates don’t correspond to canon dates. Mind you, there was no Encylopedia of the Future, or Timeline printed, so there was little to indicate what the actual dates should be. But the inaccuracy and errors, while understandable and quite forgivable, get pretty big pretty quick.
Lets start with the basics…the Launch of the Constitution class of ships. According to paramount – that occurred in 2245. Using FASA’s system – this would correspond to 2/45…however – FASA lists that date as 1/88 – 57 years earlier. To make matters worse, the refit Enterprise class is launched in 2271. This would be 2/71, but FASA put it at 2/17. And to add a little fuel to the fire – the Wrath of Kahn takes place in 2284 – which of course would be 2/84, but is listed by FASA as 2/22.
So the question becomes, how do you deal with the issues…since PARAMOUNT, FASA and even the Trek community seem to all have various time keeping strategies. The easiest is of course to simply “scrap” the FASA system and arbitrarily pick dates. However – this is, to be honest, just being lazy. What’s not lazy? Well – if your gona do it – DO IT!
A VERY LONG METHOD:
First – You need to calculate ALL of the FASA dates – From 1/0001.01 all the way through 4/0001.01. To quickly(ish) do this – you first begin with your century – and then your “year” in the fasa term. This mean you start with a spreadsheet that has 1/00, 1/01, 1/02, 1/03 – on and on until you get to 3/99. (With a bit of excel trickery – this takes a few seconds.)
Next is almost as easy – each “date” need the addition of the twelve months – in other words 1/0001, 1/0002, 1/0003, on and on up to 3/9912. The spreadsheet is of course MUCH larger – but it’s gona get bigger still…because you now need to add in the “days” after the decimal.
Due to “leap” years – this becomes more of an issue. For our method, we created another spreadsheet and basically created an ongoing list from January 1, 2100. We added a single day each cell and continued on until December 30, 2400. This gave us a HUGE range of dates, but we were only interested in the actual “days” not the years, etc. There is a formula that allow you to simply choose the “day” from each cell in the list. This meant that we had cells that started 1, 2, 3, on and on. Some months had 28 days, some 30, and some 31. Again – to display correctly took a few formulas, but in the end, you get a VERY long list of days…365 for most years, then 366 for a year, then 365…on and on and on – all set up one day after the next.
Now comes a bit of real work – we matched up our first list with our second. The meant we were now adding our first set of numbers (1/0001, 1/0002 etc) to a decimal version of our second for the results we needed: (1/0001.01, 1/0001.02, 1/0001.03 etc.) By this point you’re spreadsheet is UNBELIVABLY huge and your poor computer processor is on fire!
BUT! Once the fire is out – you’ve got a list of EVERY FASA STARDATE and then some! Sadly, we weren’t even close to being done. While this FASA list is very “complete” it isn’t matched up in any real sense of the word.
The next step is to identify canon dates to those that FASA lists. There are of course only a handful that you can really use. And if you’ve read THIS far – you want to know what they are:
- Launch of the Constitution Class: FASA Date: 1/8801 – Real date: 2245.
- TOS Episode – Space Seed: FASA Date: 2/0712 – Real date: 2267
- TOS Episode – Errand of Mercy: FASA Date: 2/0801.06 – Read date: 2267
- TOS Episode – The Doomsday Machine: FASA Date: 2/0802.01 – Real date: 2267
- TOS Episode – The Enterprise Incident: FASA Date: 2/1002 – Real date: 2268
- TOS Episode – The Tholian Web: FASA Date: 2/1003 – Real Date: 2268
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture: FASA date: 2/1702.26 – Real Date – 2271
- Launch of the Enterprise Class: FASA date: 2/1704 – real date: 2271.
- Star Trek II: FASA date: 2/2206 – real date – 2285
- Star Trek III: FASA date: 2/2206 – Real date 2285
- Launch of the Excelsior: FASA date: 2/2210 – real date: 2285.
- Star Trek IV – FASA date: 2/2209 – real date: 2286
At this point – you officially stop with the 80-early 90’s timeline for FASA. However – they did publish some Next Generation material…which allows a HUGE leap to the later part of the timeline. Sadly, the only REAL usable date is the launch of the Enterprise D: 3/03.
A few notes: To choose full “dates” for the various episodes we used the episode air date when possible. This meant that we had to ignore some episode dates as they were just too far out of sync. There is a bit of wiggle room on this – but in the end – the final list is so huge that the wiggle amounts to a very minor change.
Once you’d added in real dates to correspond with your known FASA dates – the REAL math begins – and this was an 8 month process. You then go through your list – item by item and figure out how may “days” are between two entries. In some cases, this was a few days – in others there were thousands of days. However, rounding down, you then get the number of days to add per “FASA” date. For example – we picked a date of June 4, 2285 for Star Trek II, while we picked July 3, 2285 for Star Trek III. This is a total of 29 days difference. To show a difference of time scale – we chose 2/2206.16 for the former and 2/2206.21 for the later. This means that between the two, you get 2/2206.17, 2/2206.18, 2/2206.19 and 2/2206.20. SOOO! You have 7 FASA stardates across 29 days…each would be approximately 4.14 days from the former.
Essentially, this is the method used for our entire timeline…
“So why is the timeline over 800,000 line long?!?”
Well – if you’re gona do the FASA Timeline – you might as well add in the REAL Stardates. OH NOW IT”S UUUGGGGLY!!
I won’t bore you too much with the minutia – it was pretty much that same as above – but needless to say – you NOW have a single FASA and a single Julian date representing multiple PARAMOUNT Stardates. My head hurts just trying to remember all the details – but if you’re a glutton for punishment – click this link and feel free to download this monster of a spreadsheet for your self. BE ADVISED: This is a 16+ meg file…and you’ll need the latest version of Excel to open it. Once open – you can turn on the sorting feature to help narrow down things if needed.