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YouTube / Salazarxable

How Do Star Trek Stardates Work?

YouTube / Salazarxable
YouTube / Salazarxable

On Star Trek, we hear a lot of "stardates," meant to mark some futuristic date. An example is stardate 47457.1, which is Captain Picard's birthday. The weird thing is that stardate 47457.1 is either the equivalent June 16th, November 4th, January 8th, or January 10th, depending on how you count. Let's go deep-nerd on this.

The Original Series

In the original Trek TV series, stardates were, in a word, bogus. In the series bible, the Star Trek Guide, writers were basically told to wing it. Here's a snippet (emphasis added):

Pick any combination of four numbers plus a percentage point [ed. note: tenths digit], 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.

This obviously wasn't thought through very well, as it boils down to "Pick a number and stay near it." Show creator Gene Roddenberry later said:

When we began making episodes, we would use a stardate such as 2317 one week, and then a week later when we made the next episode we would move the star date up to 2942, and so on. Unfortunately, however, the episodes are not aired in the same order in which we filmed them. So we began to get complaints from the viewers, asking, "How come one week the star date is 2891, the next week it's 2337, and then the week after it's 3414?"

He then went on to explain that the whole "location in the galaxy, velocity of travel, and other factors" thing was a hedge to cover up the fact that the dates simply weren't consistent to begin with, even if the episodes had aired in order.

The Next Generation

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, things got a bit more consistent. In the original TNG Writer's/Director's Guide, the show-runners devised a sensible formula with a reasonable level of continuity. Here it is:

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.

It's interesting to note, then, that the duration of a TNG season is 1,000 days. Good thing they were on a continuing mission rather than a five-year one.

Both Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and Star Trek: Voyager continued using the TNG style of Stardates, and the movie Star Trek Nemesis followed suit.

As you might expect, early on in TNG, the writers sometimes goofed. A prime example is Tasha Yar's death, which occurred circa Stardate 41601.3, but she was alive in a previous episode with the (later) Stardate 41997.7. Oops. By 1992, the writers had revised their guidelines to be iron-clad:

A Stardate is a five-digit number followed by a decimal point and one more digit. Example: "46254.7". The first two digits of the Stardate are "46." The 4 stands for the 24th Century, the 6 indicates sixth season. The following three digits will progress consecutively during the course of the season from 000 to 999. The digit following the decimal point counts tenths of a day. Stardate 45254.4, therefore, represents the noon hour on the 254th "day" of the fifth season. Because Stardates in the 24th Century are based on a complex mathematical formula, a precise correlation to Earth-based dating systems is not possible.

Despite explicitly stating that correlation to Earth-based dates is not possible, that hasn't stopped people from trying.

The Reboot

Just when things were basically making sense, they changed again. From an exhaustive and brilliant article on Memory Alpha, here's an explanation of the reboot (J.J. Abrams-directed) movies' treatment of stardates (emphasis added):

The stardate format from the latest film series is credited to screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. According to Orci, they "used the system where, for example, 2233.45 or whatever means 23rd century, 33rd year of that century, and the .45 indicates the day of the year out of 365 days." During a Q&A session, Orci restated that a stardate is "the year, as in 2233, with the month and day expressed as a decimal point from .1 to .365 (as in the 365 days of the year)." He posted a similar reply on Twitter: "star date=standard year, with decimal representing day of year from 1-365."

The new stardates are similar to the ordinal dates of ISO 8601, which express the first day of 2260 as 2260-001, and the last as 2260-366. Orci hasn't clarified whether leap days increase the count to .366, which would be expected if the years are Gregorian. When asked about 2230.06 and 2233.04 from the Star Trek screenplay, with only one leading zero instead of two or none, he replied that it could have been an error. IDW's Star Trek: Timelines show the latter number as 2233.4.

Long Story Short

There is no one answer to how stardates work, aside from saying that they don't. They're inconsistent series-to-series, and even within a given series, the writers often mixed things up. With Roddenberry trying to retcon the system's continuity even in TOS, perhaps it's appropriate that the system continues to be more than a little mixed up. Time-tracking throughout the galaxy is a hard problem; give 'em some slack.

If you're curious about examples of various Stardates (and even more discussion of this issue), check out Memory Alpha's stardate page. Trust me, once you've read that, you'll never want to speak of this subject again. If you do, read this page for a deeply unofficial (but supremely logical) system of decimal time. Oh, and don't forget the time the French made a 10-hour day—another attempt to create decimal time that led to total confusion.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Star Trek Theme Song Has Lyrics
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Star Trek theme song is familiar to pretty much anyone who lived in the free world (and probably elsewhere, too) in the late 20th century. The tune is played during the show's opening credits; a slightly longer version is played, accompanied by stills from various episodes, during the closing credits. The opening song is preceded by William Shatner (as Captain Kirk) doing his now-legendary monologue recitation, which begins: "Space, the final frontier ..."

The show's familiar melody was written by respected film and TV composer Alexander Courage, who said the Star Trek theme's main inspiration was the Richard Whiting song "Beyond the Blue Horizon." In Courage's contract it was stipulated that, as the composer, he would receive royalties every time the show was aired and the theme song played. If, somehow, Star Trek made it into syndication—which, of course, it ultimately did—Courage stood to make a lot of money. And so did the person who wrote the lyrics.

WAIT... THERE WERE LYRICS?

Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator, wrote lyrics to the theme song.

"Beyond the rim of the star-light,
my love is wand'ring in star-flight!"

Why would Roddenberry even bother?

The lyrics were never even meant to be heard on the show, but not because the network (NBC) nixed them. Roddenberry nixed them himself. Roddenberry wanted a piece of the composing profits, so he wrote the hokey lyrics solely to receive a "co-writer" credit.

"I know he'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love, strange love a star woman teaches."

As one of the composers, Roddenberry received 50 percent of the royalties ... cutting Alexander Courage's share in half. Not surprisingly, Courage was furious about the deal. Though it was legal, he admitted, it was unethical because Roddenberry had contributed nothing to why the music was successful.

Roddenberry was unapologetic. According to Snopes, he once declared, "I have to get some money somewhere. I'm sure not gonna get it out of the profits of Star Trek."

In 1969, after Star Trek officially got the ax, no one (Courage and Roddenberry included) could possibly have imagined the show's great popularity and staying power.

Courage, who only worked on two shows in Star Trek's opening season because he was busy working on the 1967 Dr. Doolittle movie, vowed he would never return to Star Trek.

He never did.

THE WORDS

If you're looking for an offbeat karaoke number, here are Roddenberry's lyrics, as provided by Snopes:

Beyond
The rim of the star-light
My love
Is wand'ring in star-flight
I know
He'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love,
Strange love a star woman teaches.
I know
His journey ends never
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.

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BBC
10 Actors Who Regretted Leaving Hit TV Shows
BBC
BBC

Actors leave TV shows at the height of their popularity all the time, but sometimes their exits come back to haunt them. Here are 10 famous actors who regretted departing their hit TV shows.

1. CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON // DOCTOR WHO

In 2005, after years of lobbying the BBC, lifelong Doctor Who fan Russell T. Davies was given the opportunity to reboot the classic sci-fi series for a new generation, and there was a lot of excitement around the announcement that Christopher Eccleston had been cast as the Ninth Doctor. Although the show was an immediate hit, Eccleston left after just one season due to creative differences with the show's producers; he was replaced by David Tennant.

"It was kind of tragic for me, that I didn’t play him for longer," Eccleston admitted in 2016, during an interview with an Australian radio show. “He’s a beautiful character and I have a great deal of professional pride and had I done a second season, there would have been a marked improvement in my performance. I was learning new skills, in terms of playing light comedy. I was not known for light comedy and, again, production did not allow for that.”

Eccleston's relationship with the series has remained strained over the years, and he's recently revealed more about why. In March, he told The Guardian that, “What happened around Doctor Who almost destroyed my career. I gave them a hit show and I left with dignity and then they put me on a blacklist. I was carrying my own insecurities as it was something I had never done before and then I was abandoned, vilified in the tabloid press, and blacklisted." Right around the same time, he told Radio Times that, “My relationship with my three immediate superiors—the showrunner, the producer and co-producer—broke down irreparably during the first block of filming and it never recovered. They lost trust in me, and I lost faith and trust and belief in them.”

Despite all that, Eccleston is scheduled to make his first convention appearance later this year, when he appears at the London Film and Comic Con in July (where an autograph will reportedly cost you more than $100).

2. JASON PRIESTLEY // BEVERLY HILLS, 90210

In 1998, Jason Priestley left Beverly Hills, 90210 during the show's ninth season. Although he earned two Golden Globe nominations for his role as Brandon Walsh, and got the chance to direct a handful of episodes, Priestley believed he had explored every aspect of his character and could no longer play the role. However, he was disappointed with how the show ended in season 10 and felt that if he stayed on for one more season, it would’ve had a much more satisfying final year.

"In retrospect, I do regret leaving," Priestley told CNN in 2014. “Understanding what I do now about story and character, I believe that [Aaron Spelling] was pushing the story in a direction that would have had Brandon and Kelly end up together at the end of the show and I think I probably should have stuck around to its fruition."

Priestley was also upset that his leaving the show in some ways turned the series into something very different than what it was when it first aired in 1990. Beverly Hills, 90210 was originally about the Walsh family adjusting to life after moving from Minnesota to Beverly Hills, but quickly turned into a teen soap opera.

"I think there was no more moral center to the show," Priestley said. "There was no more linchpin. There were no more Walshes in the Walsh house. It kind of didn't make sense anymore. So, I regret leaving the show for all those reasons."

3. KATHERINE HEIGL // GREY’S ANATOMY

Actress Katherine Heigl accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series award for 'Grey's Anatomy' onstage during the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on September 16, 2007
Vince Bucci, Getty Images

After gaining commercial and critical success as Dr. Isobel "Izzie" Stevens, Katherine Heigl left Grey’s Anatomy in 2010, after a very public feud with ABC and showrunner Shonda Rhimes. Despite winning an Emmy Award for the part in 2007, Heigl wasn't happy with her work on the medical drama. In 2008, she withdrew her name for Emmy consideration, saying that, “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention. In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials."

Though her movie career was beginning to take off with plum roles in box office hits, another public feud—this time with her Knocked Up director Judd Apatow and co-star Seth Rogen—led to her being branded as "difficult" to work with. “There’s certainly things I regret about it,” Heigl told The Wall Street Journal of the episode in 2014.

In 2016, Heigl told Howard Stern that she had apologized to Rhimes. "I went in to Shonda and said, 'I'm so sorry. That wasn't cool. I should not have said that,'" she said. "I shouldn't have said anything publicly, but at the time, I didn't think anybody would notice.”

4. CHEVY CHASE // SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE

Chevy Chase was one of the original cast members on Saturday Night Live in 1975. While he was one of the show's first breakout stars, Chase left the now-iconic series after only one season to marry his second wife, Jacqueline Carlin.

“I tried to pretend that everything was great,” Chase told the Los Angeles Times in 2011 of leaving New York for Los Angeles. “I was leaving really because there was a girl I wanted to marry that I was infatuated with out here. The whole thing was crazy because I was a young fellow who was infatuated with the wrong person. Everybody there knew it except me. [A woman] who would not move to New York and insisted that I come there. It was all nuts, looking back on it. But I did regret it.”

5. WIL WHEATON // STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

During the first four seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Wil Wheaton played Wesley Crusher, the only son of Beverly Crusher, the chief medical officer aboard the USS Enterprise. He left the show in 1991 to pursue more acting opportunities in movies and TV.

“I left Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was 18 years old, and initially I thought it was a really smart business career move," Wheaton said during a Star Trek reunion at the Calgary Expo in 2012. "In some ways it was, and in more ways it wasn’t. What I was unprepared for was how much I was going to miss the people on this stage. After that ended, I just felt really ashamed of myself. I felt like I just couldn’t go to the set, and I felt like I couldn’t look them in the eye. I felt like I didn't have the right to invite them to my wedding. Years after that, I sort of saw them at a few conventions and I just, you know, I just tried to sort of say, 'I apologize for being a kid.'"

6. SUZANNE SOMERS // THREE’S COMPANY

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter (1948 - 2003) and Suzanne Somers in a full-length promotional portrait for the television series, 'Three's Company', 1979
ABC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

In 1977, Suzanne Somers was cast to play Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company and immediately became a major celebrity. Before the beginning of season five, Somers requested a pay raise and a percentage of the show’s profits, but the producers denied her request and reduced her role to merely 60 seconds of screen time, which she shot separately from co-stars John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt.

Somers eventually quit Three’s Company, which divided the cast and escalated into a very public feud with producers. In addition, Ritter and DeWitt felt betrayed because of her request and completely shunned her for decades afterwards.

“To this day, I feel a sadness for not being able to finish out Three’s Company,” Somers told the Television Academy Foundation in 2012. “I still have a heartache that it ended so badly, this wonderful thing. Joyce DeWitt, to this day, doesn’t talk to me. John Ritter and I made up right before he died, which I was so glad.”

There's a happy ending to this story, though: In 2012, DeWitt and Somers reunited on Somers's talk show after 30 years of not speaking to each other.

7. DAVE CHAPPELLE // CHAPPELLE’S SHOW

During the massive success of Chappelle’s Show in the early 2000s, co-creator Dave Chappelle walked away from Comedy Central because he didn’t like where the show was heading and hated that his work was reduced to a series of catchphrases. He also believed that working 20 hours a day took away from his family and stand-up comedy career. 

In 2005, Chappelle left the show and a new $50 million contract, and for the next eight years, he stayed out of the spotlight until he restarted his stand-up career. In 2014, he went on the Late Show With David Letterman to talk about life after Chappelle’s Show, as Letterman asked if he ever regretted turning down Comedy Central’s money.

“It’s very hard to go through something like this because no one’s really done it before. So there’s not too many people that don’t think I’m crazy, right?” said Chappelle. “Okay, fine, I don’t have $50 million or whatever it was. But say I have $10 million in the bank. The difference in lifestyle is minuscule. The only difference between having $10 million and $50 million is an astounding $40 million. Of course … of course, I would have liked to have that money.”

But what tens of millions he may be lacking in his bank account, Chappelle has more than made up for with perspective on his life and career. He spent more time with his family and produced a 2005 documentary with director Michel Gondry called Dave Chappelle's Block Party. In 2016, he signed a $60 million deal with Netflix for three comedy specials.

8. MCLEAN STEVENSON // M*A*S*H

Although M*A*S*H is one of the most beloved shows in TV history, its massive appeal made actor McLean Stevenson, who played Lt. Colonel Henry Blake, very uneasy because he was part of an extremely talented cast instead of being the sole superstar.

While he received critical acclaim and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, Stevenson left the show after his contract expired at the end of the third season in 1975—then had trouble finding work that matched the caliber of what M*A*S*H was producing.

"I've never been able to work with a group that's as talented or scripts that are as good,” Stevenson told The Baltimore Sun in 1990. “I made the mistake of believing that people were enamored of McLean Stevenson when the person they were enamored of was Henry Blake.”

9. BRIAN DUNKLEMAN // AMERICAN IDOL

Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman at FOX-TV's 'American Idol' finale at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on September 4, 2002
Kevin Winter, ImageDirect/Getty Images

In 2002, during the first season of American Idol, there were actually two hosts: Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman, who left the reality TV competition at the very beginning of its success. Dunkleman quit American Idol to pursue a career in stand-up comedy and acting, but his ambitions didn’t pan out as he planned.

“[T]he undeniable truth is, I just didn’t have the wisdom at the time to handle what was happening,” Dunkleman wrote in Variety in 2016. “Do I regret not remaining on the show now that it’s coming to an end? Yes. Especially when I open my bank statements.”

10. MICHAEL LEARNED // THE WALTONS

From 1972 to 1979, Michael Learned played Olivia Walton on The Waltons. After seven seasons as the family’s matriarch, Learned left the hit TV show because she didn’t feel the role was challenging enough as an actress, despite winning three Emmy Awards and earning four Golden Globe nominations for her performance.  

“There’s been times when I’ve regretted it only in that it probably would have been better to complete the whole show,” Learned told Fox News in 2017. “But frankly, when John-Boy came back with a new face and a new voice, it was like something happened. I just couldn’t do it anymore … and also, I felt a lot of the times I was sitting around for 14 hours saying, 'More coffee John.'"

Olivia Walton was written out of The Waltons with the character developing severe tuberculosis and being sent to a sanatorium in Arizona. Learned returned to make a few special guest appearances, while she also reprised the role in four made-for-TV reunion movies.

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