In the TOS episode Assignment: Earth, the Enterprise is sent back to 1968 to conduct some historical research. There's not much said about whether this is unusual, and judging by the lack of talking about this, it seems perhaps this may be regular. So, is there any evidence that shows us that time travel was commonplace for the Federation in the 23rd century, or was this an exceptional instance (and if so, why wasn't there mention of this being so special)?

  • 4
    Given time travel is still very rare in TNG and later I suspect this was a matter of technological limits still being worked out.
    – Liath
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:24
  • 2
    I had the impression that due to all the times the Enterprise broke the time barrier Spock had travel through time broken down and it was the Department of Temporal Investigation or some other branch of the Federation that put a limit on its use. Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 4:22
  • Out of universe: many authors simply cannot resist the story potential that time travel as a gimmick offers, yet almost none of them are willing and able to follow through on what it would mean if it were possible (let alone commonplace). Commented May 27, 2014 at 10:52
  • Out of context, your question is glorious! Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 5:15

1 Answer 1


On Memory Alpha, we learn that The Enterprise seemed to have a unique time-travel ability at the time the slingshot effect was used:

In the novel Forgotten History, it is revealed that, initially, the Enterprise was the only ship capable of performing a slingshot maneuver due to its engines being exposed to a unique set of conditions during their jump back in time after a cold start in "The Naked Time", resulting in the newly-formed Department of Temporal Investigations claiming the engines during the ship's refit to create a timeship.

It goes on, however, to say:

However, the knowledge of how to make any ship capable of performing a slingshot maneuver was revealed to Kirk by Agent Lucsly of the DTI when he was forced to work with Kirk during a malfunction of Timeship Two, which trapped them between 2273 and 2383.

Obviously something changes by the time of ST:IV, as they use the same slingshot effect (AFAIK) to time travel also.

So, in summary, it was not commonplace in the 23rd century - only The Enterprise could.

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