Apple's Best Sci-Fi Show Just Dropped a Star Trek Twist With Wild Implications
Just how many Treks have there been?
By 2003, Star Trek had produced a grand total of six TV shows. But while For All Mankind’s alternate timeline is ahead of ours in many ways, it appears those poor saps only enjoyed three Trek shows. In the penultimate episode of For All Mankind Season 4, we get a scene where Danielle Poole talks about her Star Trek fandom. But the Trek series she talks about doesn’t match our own timeline. What does it mean? There’s a clue to this nerdy riddle in For All Mankind Season 2, and it involves the most famous Trek movie of all time: The Wrath of Khan.
In “Brazil” — named for the country Margo and Sergei hope to escape to — we get quite a few developments in the unfolding saga of the secret asteroid heist planned by Ed Baldwin and Dev Ayesa. But in the middle of all the chaos, Danielle Poole takes the time to record a video message for her son Isiah, congratulating him on “having a family of your own.”
Soon-to-be grandma Danielle has plans for her granddaughter. At the end of the message, Danielle says, “I know you hate Star Trek, but you better get used to it, because I’m gonna make sure my grandbaby is a full-blown Trekkie. That’s right, we’re gonna watch all the series, all three of them.”
Three? How are there only three Star Trek series by 2003? Well, For All Mankind’s pop culture timeline is as divergent as its political and spaceflight timelines. John Lennon survived 1980, and some TV shows and films came out at different times. Notably, The Wrath of Khan hit theaters in 1983. not 1982. And while that may seem like a trivial difference, that puts Wrath in theaters the same year as Return of the Jedi, which helps Danielle’s comments make sense.
An alternate Wrath of Khan
In Season 2 of For All Mankind, Ed Baldwin guiltily tells Karen that he saw The Wrath of Khan without her, and he even spoils the ending. This foreshadows the Season 2 finale, in which Gordo and Tracy give their lives to save everyone else on the Jamestown moonbase, much like Spock did. In 2021, For All Mankind co-creator Ronald D. Moore denied that Wrath Easter egg was meant to foreshadow Tracy and Gordo’s demise, but he did expound on the version of The Wrath of Khan Ed saw in Season 2. Moore told Inverse:
“Actually, I did spend some time thinking about that and in my head. None of this has been set down, I haven’t talked about this formally. But in my head, The Wrath of Khan is the first Star Trek movie [in the For All Mankind timeline]. They probably did the Star Trek: Phase II show that has always been talked about. The original Star Trek went off the air before the Apollo II landing. ... In my version of history, Paramount does make the Phase II show in the mid-seventies. And then they transitioned into Wrath of Khan and not Star Trek: The Motion Picture, because of the run of the lengthy and glorious, and critically acclaimed run of Phase II, it’s a year later that The Wrath of Khan comes out. But it’s still The Wrath of Khan that we know and it was essentially the same story. I love The Wrath of Khan and I couldn’t bear to change that. So it’s the same thing.”
So by 1983 there were already two Star Trek shows: the original series, which ran from 1966 to 1969, and Star Trek: Phase II, which ran from roughly 1975 to 1981. So what’s the third Star Trek series?
A different Next Generation?
Based on Moore’s explanation, Star Trek seems healthier in For All Mankind’s ’70s and ’80s than it was in our timeline, yet this also led to fewer iterations of the franchise. Does any version of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise exist in this alternate reality? Ron Moore worked on both Next Gen and DS9, so he may want to avoid references to versions of Trek he worked on.
That means the third series Danielle alludes to is, like Phase II, one we never saw in our timeline. At the very least, For All Mankind’s version of Next Gen is likely very different from ours, given that in our reality Next Gen was the return to Trek on TV after only existing as a movie franchise for nearly a decade.
On top of all of this, it’s likely another Ron Moore creation, the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, doesn’t exist in the 2003 of For All Mankind. 9/11 never happened in the show’s timeline, and no sci-fi show was more of a reaction to 9/11 than Moore’s Battlestar. Because For All Mankind’s timeline is a little more prosperous than our own, mainstream pop sci-fi doesn’t seem as prolific.
Do good times make for less sci-fi? For All Mankind may not have meant to raise this question, but it remains an intriguing one. And on a related note, if For All Mankind’s next season jumps into the 2010s, will Chris Pine even have a career if the 2009 Star Trek movie never happened? A nation demands answers.