Trek’s version of time traveling is more realistic than other sci-fi
Star Trek Beyond has not received the best response. However, it and the two previous films in the franchise have handled the philosophy of time traveling much better than other works of sci-fi.
The rebooted Star Trek is set in a parallel universe with a similar past, up to a certain point. In the first episode of the rebooted Star Trek series, Star Trek(2009), Spock and a Romulan villain Nero, as well as his henchmen, fall into a dark hole in 2387. In the parallel universe, the Romulans appear in 2233 and Spock in 25 years.
The Romulans kill Kirk’s father as they destroy the Federation’s starship, USS Kelvin. Spock observes that “Nero has changed the course of history…creating an entirely new series of incidents.” From this point forward, the parallel universe and the original universe diverge significantly. The parallel universe is a universe where the fatherless Kirk becomes bitter and aimless. Kirk and Spock also meet Spock in the original universe. Vulcan’s destruction occurs.
In the second episode of the rebooted Star Trek series, Star Trek Into Darkness 2013, the divergences are further explored. Here, the crew of the Enterprise goes up against the genetically-engineered villain Khan, as had the original team in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). The two teams have different approaches to the genetically engineered villain Khan.
It is quite impressive how time travel has been used to reboot Star Trek. It is a markedly different experience from other time-travel movies that usually involve characters traveling back in time along a single timeline to change the past. It is the same model as in the Terminator movies and in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, an earlier Star Trek film, in which the crew of the Enterprise traveled back to the 20th Century to retrieve two whales that were needed to solve a crisis in their time.
Bones and Spock in Star Trek Beyond. (c) Paramount Pictures
The grandfather paradox
This model of time travel leads to absurd logic. The Grandfather Paradox shows this. Imagine you traveled back in time and killed your biological grandparent before he ever met your grandmother. You would have never been born, and therefore, you wouldn’t have existed in order to travel back in history. This scenario is a contradiction (you existed and did not exist; time travel took place but didn’t), which makes it impossible.
A paradox arises when time travelers seek to alter the past, regardless of whether they are trying to kill their grandparents. Imagine that someone goes back to the past today in an attempt to change it modestly, such as carving her name on a tree at midday of January 1, 1900. The logic shows that she will not succeed. If she does, it would both be true and false to say that her name had been carved into the tree in midday of January 1, 1900. It is impossible because it contradicts itself.
Time travel? Parallel universes are the answer. (c) Paramount Pictures
The grandfather paradox is sometimes thought to show that time travel is impossible. In fact, it only indicates that changing the past is impossible. The grandfather paradox doesn’t rule out time travel, but only the possibility that time travelers could change the past. Even if time travel is possible, it is impossible to alter the past in a single timeline. Even if multiple timelines are played out in parallel worlds, it is impossible to change the history of any one of them.
Science fiction is not the only genre that uses this idea. Many scientists and philosophers of today take it seriously. Some theories state that parallel universes cannot interact and are completely separate. Other theories claim that parallel universes interact. It is possible to test them one day. Some physicists even suggest it may be possible to travel into a parallel world.
Suppose there are parallel worlds, and it’s possible to travel between a certain date in one universe to a completely different date in another. In that case, travelers can change the events in the timeline that they are visiting. The past is not changed in this case, but only the future. The writers of the rebooted Star Trek series understood this and have handled time travel with deftness without slipping into the paradoxes of other science fiction works.