It's mentioned that time travel using the gravitational slingshot effect is highly dangerous, but typically reckless Kirk uses it successfully at least four times (including twice with a captured non-Federation ship). It also looks like Picard is likely to attempt time travel this way as well.

Do we know of any cases where the slingshot effect failed? By failed, I mean either that the ship at least failed to travel through time or was destroyed in the attempt. Clearly this never happened to Kirk, but did it happen to anyone else, human or not? For example, have Romulans lost a few warbirds trying to slingshot themselves back to the time of exodus from Vulcan? Have Klingons tried to slingshot back to the time of Kahless and ended up as a clump of mixed organic and non-organic debris?

To be clear, I'm looking for specific evidence of specific ships and/or people who attempted but failed to accomplish slingshot time travel. Names are not required but I am looking for specifically identifiable ships or people rather than general discussion of how dangerous this is. For example, the following would do:

Captain's log, stardate.... We are en route to Deep Space 3 to drop off the survivors of an Orion ship that crashed on an asteroid in Sector 843. Scans indicate that they tried to slingshot themselves back in time but their warp core exploded instead. Being so close to the Romulan Neutral Zone makes me nervous, let's hope everything goes as planned so I can get that vacation on Risa....

Answers from any timeline are acceptable (e.g. Prime universe, Abramsverse, Mirror universe, etc.). Canon answers are best but I will also accept extended universe sources (e.g. novels). Unauthorized stories, fanfics, or headcanons do not count.

Instances of failed time travel using means other than the slingshot effect (for example, wormholes, trying to bribe the Q, or drinking level 6 quantum unobtanium elixir) do not count.

1 Answer 1


Assuming you're happy with information from the Extended Universe, it's explained in Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations - Forgotten History that the slingshot manuever worked exclusively with the Enterprise' engines and the peculiar environment around the system Psi 2000.

When the phenomenon was studied, Kirk, Spock and Scotty were able to understand (and replicate) the effect with other ships and other stars, but the Federation, and other great powers in the region have been largely unable to replicate the slingshot, except with help from either the original Enterprise crew or external powers such as the Borg.

“Of course,” Kirk said, and it was startling to Lucsly to see how truthful, how natural, the promise was. Kirk had never had any intention of abusing the knowledge Lucsly had exposed him to. “And don’t worry,” Kirk went on. “Only Spock, Scotty, and I know the details of what we did to generate the time field. We’ll keep it to ourselves.”

Lucsly nodded. “Thank you.” He hastened down the ladder to join his partner.

“I heard what he said,” Dulmur told him softly. “So that explains it. That’s how Kirk and his people were able to slingshot in other ships. Because we showed them how.”

We see in the first book in the series what the typical outcome is of a slingshot attempt, theoretical success in time-traveling, but not in a survivable or controlled fashion.

One of the unacknowledged parts of the DTI’s job was to keep knowledge of temporal incidents from being any more widely disseminated than it had to be. The more rare and unlikely the public believed temporal displacement to be, the less chance there was of idiots trying to slingshot around their local suns to undo a bad relationship or win the Lissepian Lottery. Of course, normally they would just get their vaporized atoms scattered across decades, but you could never be too careful.

  • I would accept answers from the Extended Universe, but this doesn't really explain when and how other attempts failed. Who attempted these failed slingshot attempts? Section 31? The Orion Syndicate? Gul Dukat? Did they lose their ships or just waste fuel and go nowhere? May 14, 2022 at 11:35
  • @RobertColumbia - The implication is that all other attempts have failed. Other escaped but didn't travel in time or just destroyed.
    – Valorum
    May 14, 2022 at 11:36

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