13. Two-Hundred Or Three-Hundred Years In The Future? Depends Who You Ask.
The original Star Trek television series was often hazy about when exactly it took place. Gene Roddenberry’s initial series format from March 11, 1964 didn’t nail down the date, stating, “It could be 1995 or maybe even 2995.” Most episodes tended to suggest it was about 200 years in the future, although there were others which suggested wildly different time frames. And when The Making of Star Trek (1968) was published, it contained over a dozen references to the 23rd century, which would have placed the series (at a minimum) 242 years in the future.
When Star Trek—The Motion Picture rolled around, dialogue placed the events more firmly in the 23rd century (Decker says the Voyager 6 probe launched over 300 years earlier), and some marketing materials even advertised that movie as “A 23rd Century Odyssey Now.” Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan doubled down on this date scheme, with an introductory title card that reads, “In The 23rd Century...”
Except—plenty of dialogue in Star Trek II doesn’t line up with this! In the movie, Khan says he and his followers left Earth in the year 1996, which matches “Space Seed.” Khan also says, twice, that he was a prince “two hundred years ago,” which would place the movie squarely in the 22nd century. This matches “Space Seed,” where Kirk told a newly revived Khan that he would have “two hundred years of catching up to do.”
Why the discrepancy? It turns out there was internal disagreement over when Star Trek took place. Nicholas Meyer’s script had Khan say he was a prince THREE hundred years ago, but when it was sent to de Forest Research for review, they noted “It has been firmly established in several episodes that Star Trek is about two hundred years from now.” (Joan Pearce, who worked at de Forest in 1982, had written much of the firm’s research for the original show, too.) Meyer was a Star Trek newbie, and on this point, he deferred to de Forest Research. Khan’s lines were changed. There’s no reference in the de Forest Research memo about the opening title card; presumably, this was not in Meyer’s script and was added later, escaping their scrutiny.