I recently re-watched “Star Trek” (2009) with my kids. As many others have noted, one of the more clever plot devices in that film was having it begin with a futuristic Romulan vessel coming back through time to destroy an early Federation ship. This not only provided for a solid story but also created an alternate Trek reality, giving the new franchise a chance to build on old characters and plots without being bound by them.

The Federation ship that was destroyed turned out to be the USS Kelvin, of course, and one of its victims was First Officer George Kirk, who was about to become James Kirk’s father. So we see the effects that the timeline shift had on young Jim, who is now growing up fatherless. This may make him angrier, a bit less disciplined, maybe even more of a womanizer (if that’s possible), but he still has his aptitude for command, and he still becomes the Enterprise’s captain — earlier than he would have in the original timeline.

Here’s another interesting twist: We learn that Christopher Pike (above), the Enterprise’s captain prior to Kirk, wrote his dissertation at Starfleet Academy on the destruction of the Kelvin. I have no idea what his dissertation was about in the old timeline, but it was most assuredly on a different topic. And yet we still see him growing up to command Starfleet’s flagship. All of which means that your dissertation topic doesn’t matter. So don’t worry about it.

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

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Seth Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.