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When we speak about alien encounters, we mostly have one of these two scenarios in mind: Either the aliens know nothing about us, or they know everything.

Let's explore a third option. The idea comes from the great sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest:

Imagine an alien race which knows about us only the things displayed in the Star Trek franchise. And let's be generous with this one: Once it had the name "Star Trek" in it, these aliens know it. But they do not know anything else about us than the Star Trek franchise.

One awful hand-wave here is answering the question "How come?" But for the time being, just accept it as a fact.

The alien race spends an awful lot of time and energy to be just as the characters in Star Trek. And after finally getting the dilithium to work, they approach us.

A perfect working copy of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D is in Earth standard orbit right now. Open a communication channel, Mr. Sulu, we want to apply to the Federation.

But we all know the problem. There is no Federation. There are no Klingons or Romulans. But we can somehow fake it, because we at least have Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

The question is: How long can we hide the fact that the Star Trek world is non-existent?

Because, let's face it. Most of you would gladly sacrifice your left hand just for a possibility to have a ride in the real thing. So we want to fake it and get the technology from them.

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    $\begingroup$ Too bad, aliens, looks like when you came out of warp you fell into a wormhole, and now you're in the past! But if we combine our efforts, and you share some of our future technology, I'm sure we can get you back home in one piece. $\endgroup$ Aug 28 '15 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry to say it, but I see the real handwave being that star-trek could exist. Any aliens would know how astronomically miniscule the odds of a humanoid alien existing is, much less dozen of them within an astrological stones-throw of each other. There is so much made up science in it that it's impossible to fake that anything within Star Trek could have occurred in the real world to any species advanced enough to have mastered space travel. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Aug 28 '15 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh post it as an answer, it's a good one. $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '15 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ Questions about established franchises are off topic for wb.se. This probably belongs on scifi.SE $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 12 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki This is not a question about the Star Trek universe, though. So it does not fall under the established franchises prohibition. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Oct 12 at 17:26
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It's important to note that the events depicted in the Star Trek franchise haven't happened yet in-universe.

We (or Sir Patrick) should say that we received the same "historical footage" as a warning/message of hope from the future. Because of them, we managed to avoid the Eugenics Wars, but an unforeseen consequence was that we are now behind schedule technologically. We then beseech them for their help in "repairing the timeline".

So to answer the question: indefinitely.

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    $\begingroup$ How would we explain the absence of the other humanoid aliens in Star Trek? $\endgroup$
    – BMF
    Oct 12 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think these aliens are so naive to actually believe us. Why are there no traces elsewhere, the Star-Trek universe ? They only have recordings of Star-Trek episodes, but the planets and federation quadrants in Star-Trek are nowhere to be found. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Oct 13 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ @BMF The actions of malicious time-travelling individuals or organizations, and/or the capriciousness of the Q. As a planetary-bound species, we currently have no ability to verify either hypothesis. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Oct 14 at 10:21
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The aliens are obviously technically advanced to a point where we cannot hide anything substantial to them. Already when approaching, they will have noticed the absence of warp signatures in space, let alone star sips. They will have monitored our communications during approach, and thus learned about our actual state of technology (we're still communicating with electromagnetic waves, instead of the much better subspace communications, for example). They will have superior sensors which which they can simply scan the earth and find out practically everything important about us.

Basically watch any Star Trek episode where they approach an unknown inhabited planet, and see what they learn about it from space. The aliens will learn exactly the same about us, by the premise.

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Not at all?

The Utopia Planitia shipyards are unfortunately missing. So is Starbase 1/Spacedock. We can't even beam up to talk with them.

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There are good suggestions from @Josh and the comment from DaaaahWhoosh about faking temporal discontinuities. However, let's run this thought experiment a little further.

The big problem is that present day human society on Earth is nowhere close to the standards of the Federation. We're a fractured set of nations that are jockeying for dominance, and have not yet made contact with other species nor discovered warp technology.

Present day Earth is in fact fairly similar to some of the planets visited by the Enterprise in StarTrek. Talking to the people on Earth almost certainly violates the prime directive (though violating the prime directive is one of the grand traditions of Star Trek). There is also precedent that Earth in current state would not be admitted into the Federation (TNG Spoiler):

Kesprytt in the TNG episode Attached.

So if the aliens show up and are looking to join the federation, but instead find a primitive version of Earth, what you end up in is a reverse Star Trek episode, where the humans (playing the part of the encountered planet) are now trying to convince the Aliens (playing the part of the Enterprise) that they are worthy of help from the Enterprise.

While not totally analogous, Earth trying to scam advanced technology from the aliens has the feeling of another TNG episode, where the person in question almost pulls it off but is foiled at the last moment (TNG spoiler):

Berlinghoff Rasmussen in A Matter of Time

So, it's likely that the humans would be able to bluff the aliens into believing that some time-travel shenanigans happened. They can keep this ruse going long enough to have a grand welcome party and to get humans on board the Enterprise. Along the way, the aliens marvel at how primitive human technology is and at us still using money (in keeping with any Star Trek episode where people visit modern day Earth). The Aliens then have a long deliberation about the prime directive, at the end of which they decide to violate it because repairing the timeline is for the good of the universe. Then, in keeping with Star Trek's narrative style, the aliens discover the ruse just before transmitting the Enterprise schematics to humanity. The aliens go back home with Earth "unaltered" (other than the massive societal changes brought about by contact with aliens; i.e. the whole reason the prime directive exists).

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Played along

It's not cheap. Even at warp 9, a voyage to earth from the nearest star system takes months.

These aliens have a certain plan, a purpose with flying to Earth in an Earth-model spaceship, the shape originating from Earth culture. They put effort in mimicking the Earth "federation" because they assumed, their Enterprise model would yield a most peaceful and civilized reception. The aliens assumed, we would welcome them, because of the good and peaceful reputation of Jean-Luc Picard.

Of course.. they already knew we made it all up. They just pretend they don't know that.

So.. we are not successfully mimicking Star Trek, but they don't mind. In fact, they are mimicking Star Trek, for diplomatic reasons. Because they dress up as known Earth culture figures, a lot of goodwill is generated. Earthlings will even pose as Star-Trek characters (this question), because we expect we'll please them and impress them with our glorious "past" and trade technology with the aliens. See Josh' answer how that close encounter would work out..

They would pretend they believe us.

Everything is a fata morgana (mirage) in my scenario, but only for us.. Star-Trek does not exist, we know that, the aliens know that.. but they won't tell us they know.

The only thing the aliens are interested in is stealing all our Californium stock and leave, without need for warfare.. or payment.. They'll just beam it up overnight, to their fake Enterprise. Every gram in stock. Everything else is a distraction. They won't give us anything back. No technology, no precious metals, the Enterprise will disappear in the night, the crew having a good laugh about these naive humans on planet Earth in their funny space suits.

(end of episode)

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