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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reintroduces the universe's time police

La'an Noonien-Singh time travels to a blast in the past while she works for a familiar Federation division.

star trek snw -- la'an noonien-singh and captain kirk
Image credit: Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Although Star Trek is a science fiction franchise, it has incorporated many other different genres throughout its history. Just last week, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds delivered an excellent courtroom drama featuring Number One on trial for secretly being an augmented member of Starfleeet. In the most recent episode, the series tackles time travel.

This wouldn't be the first occurrence of characters from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds playing with time. Even before the spinoff, in Star Trek: Discovery, Captain Pike receives a vision of the future where he becomes disfigured and disabled after saving cadets from a baffle plate rupture on a training vessel. The storyline is revisited in the Season 1 finale when Pike tries to prevent the accident from happening and his future self arrives to show him the consequences. Now, in the third episode of Season 2 of Strange New Worlds, it is La'an Noonien-Singh who goes back in time. Because she's going into the past, it's probably a good time to take a look at the history of time travelling consequences in Star Trek.

o Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 episode 3, 'Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.'

In Strange New Worlds Season 2 episode 3, a severely injured mysterious stranger dressed in present-day fashion visits Noonien-Singh. With his dying breaths, he requests that she prevent an attack from the past while handing her a portable device. Since he is a time traveler, the visitor's presence offsets Noonien-Singh's timeline. So when she visits the bridge, she finds James Kirk in the captain's chair instead of Pike, and the Enterprise and crew represent the United Earth Fleet instead of Starfleet. Later, while Noonien-Singh and Kirk wrestle over the futuristic gadget, it sends both of them back in time to stop the previously mentioned attack. With all the time traveling, a familiar organization appears: the Department of Temporal Investigations.

When did the Department of Temporal Investigations first appear in Star Trek?

star trek ds9 -- department of temporal investigations
Image credit: Photo: StarTrek.com

In the episode 'Trials and Tribble-ations' from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9), Benjamin Sisko and his crew are on board the USS Defiant escorting the sacred Bajoran Orb of Time back to its people. On their way, they pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a Klingon agent from the Original Series (TOS) named Arne Darvin. Darvin activates the relic to send everyone 100 years in the past to Deep Space Station K-7 to assassinate Captain Kirk.

In the end, the DS9 gang are able to thwart Darvin's plan and save the past and their present. When Sisko arrives back at his space station, he is visited by a pair of agents, Dulmur and Lucsly, from the Department of Temporal Investigations. The organization is responsible for ensuring any time travel events that occur under the jurisdiction of the Federation do not lead to any contamination of the timeline. After the agents' debriefing with the captain, they determine that there was no major violation of any regulations regarding time travel.

The episode of DS9 has many ties to pop culture. It is an homage to the TOS episode 'The Trouble with Tribbles' to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek. DS9 cast members were digitally placed into the original footage using cutting edge technology at the time. The names of the Department of Temporal Investigations agents are a nod to the X-Files protagonists Fox Mulder and Dana Scully while their characterizations are based off of Detectives Joe Friday and Frank Gannon from the Dragnet revival that ran from 1967-70.

Who are the Department of Temporal Investigations in the Star Trek books?

department of temporal investigations -- watching the clock cover
Image credit: Photo: StarTrek.com

Considering the amount of time travel shenanigans that occurs in Star Trek across the various television series, it's surprising that the Department of Temporal Investigations doesn't appear more often. The division of Starfleet did feature in their own book series from writer Christopher L. Bennett published by Pocket Books. Agents Dulmur and Lucsly play a central role in the books, which also introduce other members of the organization.

The very first novel, Watching the Clock, sees the Department of Temporal Investigations tie up loose ends regarding the Temporal Cold War, a conflict of several time traveling factions that manipulated history for their own benefit from the series Star Trek: Enterprise. The second novel, Forgotten History, covers the department's origins in the 23rd century and ties into Captain Kirk, who has a record number of time infractions during his time on the Enterprise.

The final three e-novellas of the series focus on the Department of Temporal Investigations retrieving important artifacts and devices to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands. In The Collector, Dulmur and Lucsly accompany a powerful alien obelisk when they are drawn into another potential temporal war. Timelock sees Lucsly and his supervisor bring a space-time portal device back to their headquarters. Unknown to them is the crucial information that the device is a Trojan horse meant to grant access of all their relics to a raiding party. Then in the final book, Shield of the Gods, an agent from a rival group known as the Aegis, which uses time manipulation to prevent new societies from destroying themselves, steals technology from the Starfleet organization's own vault. They must team with the Aegis to stop this rogue officer.

Who are the Department of Temporal Investigations in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

star trek snw -- agent ymalay
Image credit: Photo: Paramount+

The Department of Temporal Investigations in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a division of the Federation in charge of inspecting and repairing damage done to the timeline. When one of their agents on assignment is mortally wounded, he visits the Enterprise to enlist Noonien-Singh to finish his mission. She, along with an alternate timeline James Kirk, are sent to mid-21st century Toronto to prevent a devastating attack. Little does the chief of security know that she will be forced to confront a part of her history that she despises when she is sent to the past to prevent a time travelling Romulan assassin from killing a young Khan Noonien-Singh, her ancestor who would grow up to be a notorious tyrant.

Unlike the crew of the DS9 who were expecting a visit from the Department of Temporal Investigations, the secretive organization is unknown in the Strange New Worlds era. The Department seems to like discretion, as the agent who visits Noonien-Singh, Agent Ymalay, asks her not to reveal to her colleagues their existence or the nature of her work for them. Ymalay is also protective of time travel technology, asking for the time traveling device back after La'an finished her mission.

What is the impact of the Department of Temporal Investigations on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds?

The Strange New Worlds version of the Department of Temporal Investigations seems colder and more calculating than the one that showed up on DS9. First, they task Noonien-Singh with confronting an ugly part of her history in protecting a defenseless Khan. Furthermore, Noonien-Singh character is by nature, a reserved person who is hesitant to open up to even her closest colleagues. Keeping all her emotions pent up inside takes a toll on her mental health. Now she has a big secret inside of her that she can't disclose-- not to mention the trauma of watching a Captain Kirk die and the unresolved issues with literally coming face to face with Khan. It's a large burden to bear. At least Noonien-Singh has the comfort that her timeline's James Kirk is still alive.


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Gary Catig

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