In the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Comander Sisko makes first contact with an alien species which communicates with him through his memories in what is one of the coolest sequences I’ve ever seen in any science fiction story. As part of that conversation, if becomes clear that the aliens do not experience linear time the way humans do and here are some selections from the script written by Rick Berman and Michael Piller…
SISKO: You and I are very different species, it will take time for us to understand one another.
ALIENS: What is this “time”?
SISKO: It can be argued that a human is ultimately the sum of his experiences.
ALIENS: “Experiences”? What is this?
SISKO: Memories. Events from my past.
SISKO: Things that happened before now… You have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.
ALIENS: What comes before now is no different than what is now, or what is to come – it is one’s existence.
SISKO: Then for you, there is no linear time.
ALIENS: “Linear time”? What is this?
SISKO: My species lives in one point in time. And once we move beyond that point, it becomes the past. The future, all that is yet to come, does not exist yet for us.
ALIENS: "Does not exist yet"?
SISKO: That is the nature of linear existence.
The aliens later appear to Sisko in one of his memories of a day he spent with his late wife at the park…
SISKO: Yes. That was her name.
ALIENS: She is part of your existence.
SISKO: She is part of my past. She is no longer alive.
ALIENS: But she is part of your existence.
SISKO: She was a most important part of my existence. But I lost her some time ago.
ALIENS: “Lost”? What is this?
SISKO: In a linear existence, we can’t go back to the past to get something we left behind. So it’s lost.
ALIENS: It is inconceivable that any species could exist in such a manner… You are deceiving us.
SISKO: No. This is the truth. This day, this park… it was almost fifteen years ago. Far in the past. It was a day that was very important to me. A day that shaped every day that followed. That is the essence of a linear existence. Each day affects the next.
There’s much more to this exchange, including how our actions have consequences, how our past affects our future, and how Commander Sisko personally remains emotionally trapped in one particular moment from his past.
I recommend everyone watch it. It’s some awesome stuff!