Literature: Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations
Part of the Star Trek Novelverse
. A Day in the Limelight
for the titular Department of Temporal Investigations
, which monitors the integrity of the timeline and protects the history of the Star Trek
universe from attempted Cosmic Retcons
. The first novel, Watching the Clock
, focuses on Lucsly and Dulmur, DTI field agents from the popular Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
episode "Trials and Tribble-ations". The second, Forgotten History
, details the founding of the department in the days of Captain Kirk. The third story, "The Collectors", is a shorter e-book exclusive novella, .
These books contain examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: Professor Vard refers to Dulmur as Agent Duller, Agent Dummer, and Agent Dombler, among others.
- Action Girl: Jenna Noi.
- Alien Geometries: Due to the properties of the finite pocket dimension which forms the Axis of Time, its Council Hub station touches its own opposite end, forming a Moebius Structure. Its public transport can be ridden in a straight line that ends up back where it started.
- The Alliance: The Colloquium of Progress, a multi-species civilization represented in the Axis of Time. Plus of course the United Federation of Planets (and, in Watching the Clock, its new rival, the Typhon Pact).
- Alternate History: One is explored to some degree in Forgotten History, almost in the tradition of the Star Trek: Myriad Universes series.
- Alternative Calendar: As well as multiple real-life calendars, including Christian, Islamic, Hindu and Mayan examples, the chapters of Watching the Clock offer dating systems from many Star Trek cultures, including Vulcan, Andorian, Cardassian, Klingon, Deltan, Tandaran and Risian. Most of these have been plotted out in full by the author, according to his annotations.
- Amplifier Artifact: The Selakar used crystals that amplified their psionic abilities, for use as power sources, weapons, etc. Their most powerful allows them to permanently enslave other minds to their service, augmenting their natural ability to influence people.
- And I Must Scream: Apparently, the Temporal Disruptor weapon causes its victims to "feel like it takes an age to die". This is largely why even those factions fighting against the Temporal Accords rarely use them.
- Arc Welding: Every single Time Travel episode gets at least a Shout-Out. The Arc Welding is particularly notable in Forgotten History, which links all of Captain Kirk's time-travel experiences (in the Original Series and the animated series) to create the story of the DTI's origins and early activities.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Agent George Faunt suffers a breakdown, attacks his colleagues, takes a researcher hostage and turns the DTI branch office into a seige zone. He also makes a lame time-related pun. Dulmur notes this last in a manner suggesting it's almost as serious as the other offenses.
- Batman Gambit: In Watching the Clock, it's revealed that the Tandarans, under attack by the Suliban Cabal, knew that a future agency was sponsoring the enemy. They believed the Cabal was attempting to prevent Tandar Prime's ascension as a leading authority in temporal science, when in fact it was the knowledge that they were under attack from the future that led Tandar to pursue temporal research so aggressively. The Tandarans kept their knowledge secret so that the enemy would continue inadvertently strengthening them by attacking them. However, it's then revealed that the Cabal's Sponsor, AKA Future Guy, knew what they were doing all along, and was encouraging it. Tandaran pursuit of temporal research led to his own creation, so he was manipulating them into ensuring that he would exist.
- Broken Pedestal: Lucsly faces this regarding Meijan Grey. Also inverted, as Lucsly gradually realizes that Kirk is not the reckless character he was expecting.
- Call Forward: In the Flashback sequence in Forgotten History, Spock is surprised that his human collegue thinks of the Onlies planet (a parallel Earth where most of humanity died) as "home". He then reflects that he doesn't know how he'd react if he encountered a timeline where Vulcan was destroyed.
- Charm Person: Lirahn and other Selakar have this ability.
- Continuity Nod: Many. Forgotten History is largely set in a similar timeframe to Star Trek The Motion Picture and the novel ''Ex Machina'', and there are references to both. Among other nods is a mention of relief efforts to Mestiko.
- Continuity Porn: Almost every time-travel story in Trek canon and the Star Trek Novelverse gets a mention. Other nods are more integral to the plot - the Null from Star Trek: Titan is referenced as the reason why the Axis of Time has only just made contact with the modern era. Only when galactic drift brought them past the Null was it felt acceptable for the Axis to send out scouts into our time, explaining why it's only now been discovered.
- Cosmic Retcon: A large part of the DTI's purpose is to protect the timeline from these, and much of the Temporal Cold War revolves around trying to cause them without actively being seen to violate the Temporal Accords. In Watching the Clock, a particularly disturbing Cosmic Retcon occurs, when Agent Shelan is maliciously deleted from history by the primary villain.
- Cultural Posturing: A little of this from T'Viss in Forgotten History (though she probably sees it as quashing Kirk's own "posturing"). She acknowledges that Jonathan Archer provided some assistance to T'Pau in rediscovering Surak's original writings and reforming Vulcan society. Some.
- Double Meaning Title: Watching the Clock refers both to the DTI's role in protecting and monitoring the timeline, and to the mundane nature of its agents, who are most certainly not Starfleet-style adventurers. The DTI know that if they're having an adventure, they've already screwed up, and it's going to pay hell with the paperwork. No, they're 9-to-5 government employees, and like to keep things as unchaotic and, ideally, dull as possible.
- And the 'Department of Temporal Investigation' is itself a double meaning in-story. During the creation of the department, it's set up to both investigate temporal incursions and lawbreaking, and to investigate (research) time itself. The research aspect gets massively curtailed due to the problems that happened in Forgotten History, and now is almost entirely restricted to purely theoretical work along with observation of known temporal anomalies.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Cyral Nine, after quitting the Aegis. Lucsly, for a short time.
- Embarrassing First Name: Marion Dulmur.
- Emotions vs. Stoicism: Actually somewhat avoided with the Deltans. As a large part of their characterization revolves around their emotional maturity, they embrace their passions fully yet also demonstrate a calm and reserved demeanour much of the time. However, their conflict with the Carreon is partly this trope, though more on the Carreon side. Deltans are a flexible Ethical Slut culture, free with their emotions and desires (albeit also strongly disciplined), while Carreon are stoic and reserved, and rather intolerant of such openness. The Carreon also have a tendency to hypocritically show great interest in the Deltans' sexual nature while loudly condemning it.
- Enemy Mine: Discussed in the alternate timeline from Forgotten History, where the Andorians, their homeworld under Vulcan occupation, have formed a strong alliance with the Klingons. A Klingon representative cheerfully acknowledges that had they not found a common foe in the Vulcans, the Klingons would likely consider Andorians their enemy too.
- Expecting Someone Taller: Dulmur thinks this about Kirk after finally coming face-to-face with him. As for Lucsly, he was expecting someone far more reckless.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: Quite a bit, to the point that the DTI has a Temporal Displacement Division to deal with people who suddenly find themselves in the 24th century. In "The Collectors", Dulmer, Lucsly and Jena Noi get flung to a point 20 million years into the future.
- A God Am I: During the Great Psionic War, millennia before the rise of the Federation, many of the advanced telepathic races ended up calling themselves divine and insisting that "lesser" races worship them as deities. Their psionic gifts were offered as proof of divinity.
- Gotta Catch 'Em All: One of Lucsly and Dulmur's assignments involved tracking down 13 Ky'rha artifacts (time travel devices) scattered across the quadrant and being sold on the black market.
- Gut Feeling: Shortly into his partnership with Lucsly, Dulmur has one of these regarding a connection between the Manheim effect of the previous year and the vortex phenomenon they're currently investigating. Lucsly advises against "gut feelings", saying that everything the DTI deals with is counter-intuitive anyway. Nonetheless, Lucsly doesn't entirely dismiss Dulmur's insight, but insists on waiting until he has supporting evidence.
- Heinz Hybrid: By the 31st Century, these are more common than single-species Humanoids. Jenna Noi, for example, is part Vulcan, Ocampa, Cygnian, and Tandaran, among others. Races as disparate as Bolians and Cardassians can eventually, with medical assistance, produce children together.
- Heroic Willpower: An important part of the Deltans' characterization in Watching the Clock.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lucsly and Dulmur, despite their opposing personalities.
- Higher-Tech Species: The Vedala.
- I Say What I Say: When President Bacco is temporarily duplicated (long story), the two presidents respond to a compliment with a simultaneous (somewhat sarcastic) "oh, please!" Amusingly, they also snark at each other for making the exact sort of grumpy, sarcastic comments that Bacco always makes.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: One of the two Baccos makes the "beside myself" joke, to the great pain of her duplicate.
- Insufferable Genius: Vard.
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: The Deltan armed forces draw from those Deltans who have a...more combative...element to their sexuality. This being Deltans, it's usually well-controlled and healthy, but, put simply, the Deltan armed forces equate controlled force with sexuality. As a Deltan character says, if their rivals the Carreon insist on wanting conflict, who are the Deltans to deny it, particularly if some of their own can find a healthy outlet for their desires in the process?
- Jumped at the Call: Subverted. We meet an eager young recruit who can't wait to have "adventures" as a Temporal Agent, but is told very quickly that the whole point of the DTI is to avoid adventure. In fact, if time travel happens the mission's already a failure. The recruit drops out the next day.
- Kicked Upstairs: Kirk, in Forgotten History.
- Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: Most of the races represented in the Axis of Time have to deal with this. In the time periods they consider to be "the present", they're often thriving cultures, indeed the leading races of their interstellar communities. But thanks to the Axis they know that a few thousand years later and they'll have been forgotten, being at best archaeological curiosities to the next group of spacefaring cultures and at worst lost to history.
- Manipulative Bastard: Lirahn. And Future Guy.
- Ms. Exposition: T'Viss, crotchety temporal physics lecturer extraordinaire. Word of God confirms it:
T'Viss was where I poured all my tendencies to lecture in extreme technical detail, while keeping the viewpoint characters at a remove that's more relatable to the audience as they struggle to make sense of what she's saying.
- Mysterious Employer: "Future Guy", of Star Trek: Enterprise fame. The mystery is finally resolved at the climax of Watching the Clock.
- Mysterious Past: We get no real information on Lucsly's backstory, in contrast to almost every other major character within the DTI. Of course, this being Lucsly, his backstory is probably very, very dull.
- Nerves of Steel: An absolute necessity in the Department of Temporal Investigations, if you're to handle the existential uncertainties of it all. It's noted that humans are a minority in the department - other Federation species more renowned for mental discipline, like Vulcans, Zakdorn, Deltans, Benzites and Rhaandarites, are much more common.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Borg Tyrannosaurus.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Admiral Delgado places one aboard the Enterprise, knowing that Kirk will earn her ire through his disregard for the letter of the law.
- Parental Favoritism: Paul Manheim insists that his brother was the favorite, explaining his subconscious resentment of said brother.
- Place Beyond Time: The Axis of Time, a pocket dimension that allows travel between various eras while itself existing outside normal space-time.
- Precursors: Among others, the Arret Empire. Two species in partnership - one standard Humanoid, the other Vulcanoid - spread themselves across the stars and founded countless colonies. Many of the Federation's member races, including Deltans and Vulcans, are strongly implied to be descendants of these colonies.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Dulmer is Red while Lucsly is Blue. Both are actually quite stoic and intellectual (something of a job requirement at the DTI), but Dulmer is far more relaxed, whereas Lucsly would probably be mistaken for a Vulcan if not for his ears.
- Retcon: A subtle one; Kirk being Kicked Upstairs at the end of his five-year mission, with Enterprise given a major refit, was established in Star Trek The Motion Picture and explored further in the novel Ex Machina. In Forgotten History, this is now shown to happen in part due to influence from Admiral Delgado, to further his well-meaning, if overzealous, ambitions for time travel experiments. Specifically, with the Enterprise undergoing a major refit, its old engines are his for the taking, along with their unique properties allowing artificial time travel.
- Ret Gone: Shelan.
- Revenge Before Reason: The Sponsor has a little of this:
"If that revenge backfired and led to my arrest, then all the more need for the revenge itself to stand".
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: The Department of Temporal Investigations keeps records protected by phase discriminators, shielding the data from alterations in the timeline. Although the agents themselves will have no knowledge of the previous history, they can research their own files to determine if changes have been made.
- Secret Government Warehouse: The Vault on Eris is where the DTI stores all its confiscated time travel tech, including among other things, a large blue box and an antique temporal carriage.
- Sequel Hook: Sort of. Before he is captured at the end of Watching the Clock, "Future Guy" is said to have been hiding in the 22nd Century during the Romulan War. In other words, the time frame of the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Averted. The crew of the Verity, shot forward in time to find their planet in ruins following the Borg Invasion, want to try and return to their original time to give warning. They're prevented from doing so, and it's explained why their decision was the wrong one, no matter how subjectively understandable the desire.
- Agent Faunt was tempted to do the same thing while exploring a time portal on a world devastated by the Borg. When he found out the portal also led to an alternate dimension and wouldn't fix things, he suffered the psychotic break that kicks off Watching The Clock.
- Shout-Out: Felbog the Choblik is a reference to Nebogipfel, the Morlock from Baxter's The Time Ships. Tigellan Chronic Hysteresis, meanwhile, is a nod to Doctor Who.
- The temporal researcher Agent Faunt takes hostage at the beginning of Watching The Clock is named Rani Mohindra.
- The three Bozeman security guards who help Lt. Whitcomb break into the The Vault are named for the actors who played Biff's "gang" in Back to the Future.
- Shown Their Work: The author, Christopher L. Bennett, has a degree in Physics and it shows.
- Space Elves: The Deltans are fleshed out in Watching the Clock, and have aspects of this trope.
- The Vedala in Forgotten History fit the bill. They're generally benevolent, older than other spacefaring races, very advanced and isolationist, and seem ever-so-slightly smug about their status in relation to younger "child" races. Behind their reasonable manner is the clear belief that Vedala are better than you.
- Stable Time Loop:
- Kirk, Spock and Scotty only know how to slingshot with warp engines other than Enterprise's because Lucsly shows Kirk how. Luscly is not happy.
- There is a short one during the firefight in the Vault, during which Dulmer uses one of the time gizmos lying around to travel back in time a few minutes to help himself neutralize the renegade Bozeman crew. Lucsly is predictably upset, since they're not supposed to do that, but Dulmer points out that he already saw his future self during the fight, so he had to travel back in order to preserve the timeline. Lucsly grudgingly concedes that he's right. (Perhaps this is why Lucsly hates time loops.)
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
- Despite its claim to unity, the Typhon Pact is still riddled with rivalries and the various member states' government agencies have yet to form a shared bureau for dealing with temporal integrity.
- The DTI and their 29th-century, 31st-century, etc. equivalents.
- 10-Minute Retirement: Lucsly, after his faith that the DTI will protect the timeline's integrity is shattered when, on advice from a future agency, he is refused permission to prosecute Janeway for her actions in Endgame. Dulmur talks him into returning.
- Time Crash: The climax of Watching the Clock, caused by a Gambit Pileup involving at least a dozen temporal factions and Insufferable Genius Vard.
- Another type occurs in Forgotten History, where a time travel experiment Goes Horribly Wrong creating a "confluence" where the past and present of two separate timelines overlap, with the potential that people could stumble between universes and / or times and accidentally rewrite each others' histories.
- Time Police: The DTI is one, while there's also the Temporal Integrity Commission and the Federation Temporal Agency further "uptime".
- Time Travel Tense Trouble: The books deal heavily with the logic and philosophy behind this trope. Its concluded that the simplest solution is to look at things from the perspective of someone outside time and pretend everything is happening at once, and as such simply use present tense for everything.
- It helps that there is no such thing as meta-time, despite reality appearing to change from certain people's POV. So no one has to use convoluted ways of having to describe things 'before' and 'after' something changed history, which is the really confusing part of talking about time travel. Instead, they describe it as there were two timelines, one with the change and one without, and when those timelines hit the point the time traveler went back, the original got merged into the one with the change. (It couldn't merge before, because that would cause a paradox by erasing the origin of the change.) And everything 'always' happened like that.
- Time Travel: The books feature this, of course, but it's important to note that the DTI wants to avoid it wherever possible. The department exists to protect against time travel and clean up the mess that results, not travel in time themselves.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Averted. The books aim for consistancy regarding how time travel works in the Trek universe. Given that the onscreen source material is often guilty of the Timey-Wimey Ball approach, that's a tall order, but the author was able to tie most of the existing examples of time travel into a coherent theory on Trek temporal physics.
- Tyrannosaurus rex: Borgified, of all things.
- Unusual Chapter Numbers: Each chapter of Watching the Clock has a subtitle with an Alternative Calendar date:
Chapter XI - Décade II Quartidi Frimaire, Année DXC de la République, French Republican Calendar - A Fridaynote
- Vestigial Empire: A willingly vestigial one in the case of the Deltans. They turned inwards centuries ago and now control only a few star systems, considering space travel and colonization a “noble savage” sort of concept. They still get annoyed when the Carreon try to settle their old holdings, though.
- Weirdness Magnet: Establishes that temporal anomalies turn you into one of these, explaining a great deal about Star Trek as a whole. Once you're exposed to one, probability is altered such that it becomes inevitable that you end up exposed to a whole lot more.
- Wham Line: At the end of Watching the Clock, courtesy of Shiiem of the Zcham, a species from 800,000 years into the future: "We're only human, after all."