What was up with the Enterprise's "Five Year Mission"?

Other than the intro credits was the context and importance of the “five year mission” time line ever discussed in the context of the show?

As a primary defining characteristic of the rationale for the show you’d think it would be mentioned somewhere, but I don’t recall it ever popping up. Beyond this there really didn’t seem to be any exploratory “mission” except in little bits scattered here and there. It was basically the Navy in space carrying people around, responding to emergencies and putting out fires.

This explains it quite nicely. The show portrays them doing this, as well as other specific tasks for the Federation. What else is needed?

I just thought it was a bit odd that there is absolutely no discussion of “the 5 year mission” in any context whatsoever in the show while it is big dealed as the main rationale for the show in the intro.

FWIW in a comic released before the first movie it is made clear that it was essentially the time for their “tour of duty”, after the five years the ship was heading home to be upgraded and the crew eventually redeployed or reassigned. But before that it ran into an incident that involved the Klingons and the Talosians.

It would had been a better movie than the first one that we got.

“Five years” just means “a long time” - indicating to the audience right up front that this ship is effectively on its own, and won’t be stopping by home port every week.

I think the point of the intro is that the Enterprise’s general job is just to generally poke around and go exploring. Whatever particular job they’re doing for Starfleet, they’re standing mission is to go explore. Presumably other ships in Starfleet have less interesting missions, like go guard this chunk of space from the Klingons or haul freight from one group of planets to another.

But that’s kind of what it did. It was apparently a pretty small universe. For a ship that supposed to exploring the ass end of the unknown it was rarely more than a few days away from any port or well known planet. Star Fleet used it more like a taxi or a interstellar bicycle messenger/police car than a true ship of exploration out in some far flung realm.

I don’t know about that - a lot of the episodes deal with places that no humans had been to before, or no humans had been in decades or centuries. “Plato’s Stepchildren,” “Miri,” “A Piece of the Action,” “Shore Leave,” “City on the Edge of Forever,” “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “Return of the Archons,” “The Squire of Gothos” all fall into that category along with many others. There are some episodes in which they do go to areas that are part of the Federation, like “Amok Time,” “Trouble With Tribbles” (though Sherman’s Planet does seem to be out of the way), and “Journey to Babel” but I wouldn’t say that there or a lot of them.

I think it was just wishful thinking on the part of the producers: “We hope this show lasts for five seasons!” As we all know, it didn’t quite make it that long. Or it made it much longer, depending on how you look at it.

On a side note, that whole “five year mission” statement kind of bugged me because how exactly did they measure time in space? We measure a span of a year by the rotation of the Earth around the sun. With seconds, minutes, days, weeks & months all being sub-division measurements of that span of rotation of the planet around the sun. So how does a starship that’s not in a fixed rotation around a single star measure what a “year” is?

And does Vulcan quite coincidentally rotate around its sun exactly 365 and a quarter days like the Earth does? Otherwise, wouldn’t a “year” be a different span for Spock than for his Earth counterparts. Mars certainly doesn’t rotate around the Sun at the same rate as Earth does, so any Starfleet personnel who hailed from there (or any other Federation planet for that matter) wouldn’t necessarily consider 365 consecutive days (plus an extra day every fourth cycle) a year.

And even if we just take for granted that the Enterprise is measuring time spans according to an “Earth standard” year, and that the internal clocks are somehow all aligned with Earths’ rotation - wouldn’t all the faster than light traveling they do seriously play havoc with their “five years”? Someone who knows more about physics can enlighten me, but when the ship is flying faster than light, time should be slowing down considerably. Given the amount of times they go to warp speed, wouldn’t more like five hundred years have elapsed on Earth by the time they Kirk & crew’s ship clocks told them their mission was over?

Stardates. Problem solved.

No, we used to measure time that way, a couple thousand years ago. Nowadays, though, they have these things called “clocks”.

No description of Trek propulsion technology is possible with our current knowledge of physics, and so therefore no answer to that question is possible with current physics, either.

If they were just going light speed, it would be an issue. They would be, effectively, in stasis for the duration of time that they are moving from one star to the next, which could take centuries by the standard of the people back home. But if you can make it to another planet in a few days by the standard of the people back home, it doesn’t really matter whether you experience that as an instant or a few days, because those are close enough to each other in the course of a human life. (And it seems like they experience time the same way as outside humans while warping.)

I imagine that the phrase “warping” is meant to indicate that they are warping the shape of the universe to make distances shorter, so that their propulsion can be sub-lightspeed, while their actual movement exceeds that of light.

However, given that they occasionally talk to people on planets while zipping around at warp we can see that there’s no noticeable difference in how fast time passes while traveling at warp.

I suspect the idea was to evoke something like the voyages of Captain Cook, who I have often seen described as a source for Captain Kirk and the Enterprise–Cook’s first voyage on HMS Endeavour lasted about three years and involved a circumnavigation of the Earth–and perhaps also the famous voyage of HMS Beagle (which also involved a circumnavigation of the Earth, and lasted nearly five years). Cook’s voyages especially were voyages of geographic exploration, scientific discovery, and involved making contact with unknown cultures. (“To explore strange new worlds…To seek out new life and new civilizations…To boldly go where no [English]man has gone before”)

They didn’t really follow through with that on the show, though. In the first seaon, you had episodes where they were attempting to penetrate the “Great Energy Barrier at the edge of the Galaxy” and episodes where they were on a mission to a pre-existing Federation colony on Omicron Ceti III (Omicron Ceti being a real star, but one that is only 200-400 light years away, much closer than the nearest “edge” of this galaxy). The ship was also depicted making routine supply runs to penal colonies, chasing stolen cargo ships, giving routine medical exams to archaelogists, investigating disturbances on Federation mining colonies, and occasionally getting involved in military skirmishes. At one point, they even wind up back on Earth–albeit in the year 1969.

Heck, Star Trek: Voyager did a better job of portraying a crew experiencing an overarching mission or plot (not that it did a very good job of it either).

I liken it to the scientific voyages undertaken in the 18th and 19th century, they were simply to send some scientists like naturalists to a specific place or just area and spend a set amount of time exploring and collecting specimens for further study at home.

They were often going to extremely remote areas where they were basically on their own without hope of help coming for years or decades.

Think Charles Darwin on the Beagle sailing to the Galapagos.

Military tours can be three-four years at one station before being transferred. Obviously there are some exceptions but in an era where America had a military draft for young men, many people would make a connection. While Roddenberry usually tried to say Starfleet was not a military organization, it is pretty close to one and he named the ship after the most famous and decorated U S Navy ship of W W II (The Big One).

Plus if you want to get the attention of people channel surfing in 1966 and just happen upon this show, you have an inkling that they are usually encountering new and different life forms. So if a new viewer would also know that each week probably involves new characters for Kirk to mate with.

When TNG came along, they dropped the 5 year business.

One of the better Username / Post combos I have seen in a while.

Yep, warp fields allow them to break the laws of real world physics - subjecting them to a whole other set of physics, of course, which have a very, very vague consistency (at least until the plot demands they break them), but relativistic physics are completely an artefact of real space, whereas warp speed takes place partially within subspace.

On DS9, the show takes place on a space station that uses a 26 hour day, because it belongs to a planet (Bajor) that has a 26 hour day.

But that always kind of bugged me, since it seems unlikely a Bajoran day would be exactly one-twelth longer then a Earth day. Maybe the Bajorans just defined an hour as one-26th of their day length, but then that means when characters talk about an “hour”, its a different length of time then we mean here on Earth. And then, when they talk about “minutes”, do they mean one-60th of an Earth hour or a Bajoran hour.

Anyhoo, I imagine the real answer is that the writers didn’t think it out in that level of detail. But it would always bug me when they mentioned the 26 hour day, especially since they had so many plots that relied on the characters racing against the clock (“Commander Worf only has six minutes to live unless you can do X, Y and Z”, “Agh, we’re too late, we thought you meant Earth minutes!!”)