We know that the aliens living inside the wormhole adjacent to DS9 and Bajor (also known as "Prophets" by the Bajoran clergy) have no concept of linear time as we know it. That is, their conciousness doesn't travel through time in the way that ours does; Concepts like the past, and the future are completely alien to them.

However, we see them interact with humanoids like Sisko on several occasions. In the trailer he explains to them the concept of linear time which was unknown to them. They later remember this when interacting with others.

How is this even possible if they don't witness events successively but rather exist at all times simultaneously? Even if we assume they are capable of serial communication (i.e. language carries a stream of thought and requires the passage of time to work), how could Sisko possibly inform them about something? If there will be a point in time (from Sisko's view) where he provides them with an information, that information should be known to them at all times (again, from Sisko's view), hence making the actual conversation redundant.

Further paradoxes arise; When they changed the mindset of the Grand Nagus, they should already know the threat that Quark is going to make in the future. Hence, they wouldn't change him back, but never change him in the first place.

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    I think the question is canonically unanswerable. The Trek universe has inconsistent models of time-travel. Both forking multiverses and future-destroying past alterations are on offer in different episodes. Take your pick and weave your own narrative solution to the paradoxes.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 20:52
  • @KyleJones: Well, they don't actually travel through time. You are correct that most time-travel rulesets have been shown at some points, but the wormhole aliens are a distinct species and their rules are fixed. That means a canonical answer could very well exist. The question mainly asks what their non-linear time actually means, noting that the interpretation I have derived from the show is self-contradictory. Maybe there is a consistent way to explain their existence.
    – bitmask
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 22:38
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    Because they created "The Sisco" they were able to encounter "The Sisco" who would teach them about linear time thought their mind to mind connection because he is part prophet. Upon discovering this they interact with the Bajorans creating the Prophet mythos and eventually create "The Sisco". This creates a self perpetuating paradox that requires the paradox to trigger the initiating event. That is the best I can do without a full re-watch of every Prophets related episode and putting more work in than the writers ;P Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 23:33
  • @TysonoftheNorthwest you should post that as an answer, as it is correct. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 10:43
  • @bitmask Imagine time is the floor of a petri dish. In that dish you have an insect that can only move in one direction in the dish. You can see the insect at every location within that dish. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


The wormhole aliens existed outside of time, but were not by any means omniscient.

Particularly, the whole idea of linear time, cause and effect, confused them - this comes up in several episodes, but particularly in the pilot and again later when a second emissary appears.

This means that they probably would not already know the effect of changing the Nagus' personality, since that would need for them to understand cause and effect in a linear existence.

As for remembering things after they have been told about them in previous encounters, this is a bit harder to explain or rationalise. But, again, they are not omniscient - so probably don't have immediate access to all the knowledge they have available. Yes, this implies some kind of linearity, but it's hard to describe a non-linear existence when all you've experienced is linearity. Actually, I think that might be the simplest answer - they do have some kind of time flow, but it is not contiguous with the time flow in our existence.

  • So they have personal linear time (similar to "Back to the Future*) but can effortlessly travel between arbitrary times in our universe. However, since they very seldom interact with the rest of the universe, personal linear-time would be next to identical to global linear-time as their experiences are close to isolated. However; Change requires monotonic (which is what the writers expressed as "linear") time, doesn't it?
    – bitmask
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 5:00
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    it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 6:28
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    +1 | Being outside of the standard flow of time does not make them omniscient only able to see any particular moment if focused or directed to do so. Being able to see everything and actually looking at any particular moment are two different things. Nicely done. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 6:43
  • I don't know if they had personal linear time until they encountered the Sisko in the first episode. It seems they lack the concept of past experience informing current behavior. In effect he gives them the concept of cause and effect that they lacked until that moment. It is the understanding of cause and effect that allows them to create the Sisko. Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 20:24

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