Star Trek: 10 Things You Need To Know About The Lost Era

In Star Trek, 'arrives on Tuesday' meant 'not for another 70 or so years'.

Star Trek Enterprise B
Paramount Pictures

Star Trek has not been shy of a euphemism or two over the years. Thousands dead? Oh, that was just the Tomed INCIDENT! Started an 18-year conflict between the Klingons and the Cardassians? Do you mean the Betreka Nebula INCIDENT? Within those briefest but boldest of understatements lies a period of Star Trek history largely untouched by canon. It's the 'Lost Era'! 

The Lost Era was defined in 2003 by editor Marco Palmieri. In Star Trek: Voyages of Imagination — The Star Trek Fiction Companion, Palmieri delimited its timeframe as follows:

The era is framed by two key historical moments: Kirk's presumed death aboard the Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generation [sic] (the latest filmed moment of the twenty-third century) and the beginning of TNG's 'Encounter at Farpoint' (the first filmed moment of the twenty-fourth century).

Each Lost Era novel comes with its own "Historian's Note" which establishes the year or years during which the book is set relative to the "presumed death of Captain James T. Kirk aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-B…" and the novel series Star Trek: Terok Nor extends it to include all of the Occupation of Bajor (which ended in 2369).

Ultimately, the Lost Era got its name because canon had lived up to it. Trek has only ever referenced or paid indirect visits to the period through some form of plot device that brought a character or characters there at intervals that were few and far between. The Lost Era has never been allowed to truly stand on its own, at least not until now, as it looks like the upcoming Star Trek: Section 31 movie will be set there.

10. … And The Rest Isn't History

Star Trek Enterprise B
Paramount Pictures

The moments after the Dom Perignon hit the Enterprise-B would be the last we would properly spend in what was then a very long gap in Star Trek history: 2293 to 2364. 

Finding and putting dates to Star Trek's future timeline has been complicated! The Original Series maintained ambiguity over the period in which it was set. In his original 1964 Star Trek is… pitch, Gene Roddenberry simply stated that, "The time is 'Somewhere in the future'. It could be 1995 or maybe even 2995." Later, in the book The Making of Star Trek, Roddenberry added,

In the beginning, I invented the term 'Star Date' simply to keep from typing ourselves down to 2265 A.D., or should it be 2312 A.D.? I wanted us well in the future but without arguing approximately which century this or that would have been invented or superseded.

In The Making of Star Trek, it is assumed that The Original Series took place "in the 23rd century." Early reference works, such as Star Trek Space Flight Chronology (1980) and Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise (1987), then tended to place Kirk's five-year mission at the start of the 2200s. 

Then, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Writer/Director's Guide indicated that,

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION is dated near the beginning of the 24th century. 78 years have passed since the time of Kirk and Spock.

Things were still a bit confusing at the beginning of TNG's first season. In Encounter At Farpoint, Data says that he graduated "Starfleet class of '78." In The Neutral Zone, Data gives us the first ever specific date in the timeline of Star Trek's future history:

Ralph Offenhouse: "What year is this?"
Data: "By your calendar, two thousand three hundred sixty-four."

It was this and a few other "basic assumptions" that allowed the (retro-)dating of Star Trek as we know it today, most notably by Denise Okuda and Michael Okuda in their 1993 work Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future

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Jack Kiely is a writer with a PhD in French and almost certainly an unhealthy obsession with Star Trek.