Over the 55 years it’s been on the air, Star Trek has been a staple of the science fiction genre. Set in the far-flung future, Star Trek promised a better tomorrow for mankind, who have put aside their primitive and backwards prejudices and built a utopian society on Earth and the galaxy at large. This unified galactic government known as The Federation, made up of aliens and humanity, sends starships out into the galaxy to contact new life and explore the unknown.
Of course, being a franchise that’s been running for more than half a century on both the small and silver screen, it can be difficult for people to know where to start with Star Trek. Well, that’s where we come in: we’ve broken down the whole Star Trek timeline, all 100-plus years of it, to help you navigate your way through this pop culture behemoth.
So grab your comm badge, set your phaser to stun, and take off that red shirt because we’re going to be going through every TV show and movie at warp speed to bring you up to scratch with Gene Roddenberry’s iconic series
How do I watch Star Trek in order?
- Star Trek: Enterprise (Seasons 1-4)
- Star Trek: Discovery (Seasons 1-2)
- Star Trek: The Original Series (Seasons 1-3)
- Star Trek: The Animated Series (Seasons 1-2)
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
- Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock
- Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier
- Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (Seasons 1-5)
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Seasons 1-2)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (Seasons 6-7)
- Star Trek: Generations
- Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (Seasons 3-4)
- Star Trek: Voyager (Seasons 1-2)
- Star Trek: First Contact
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Seasons 5-6)
- Star Trek: Voyager (Seasons 3-4)
- Star Trek: Insurrection
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (season 7)
- Star Trek: Voyager (Seasons 5-7)
- Star Trek: Nemesis
- Star Trek: Lower Decks
- Star Trek (2008) (partly in the Prime timeline)
- Star Trek: Picard
- Star Trek: Discovery Season 3
Star Trek: Enterprise (Seasons 1-4)
Set in the 22nd century, the earliest point in the Star Trek timeline and a hundred years before The Original Series. Enterprise deals with the earliest days of humanity’s journey out into the stars, with the crew of the first starship to bear the name Enterprise, led by Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula). The show covered everything from the first contact with the Klingons to the foundation of The Federation and Starfleet, the Federation’s space force.
Star Trek: Discovery (Seasons 1-2)
Set ten years before the original series, this prequel show follows the adventures of the USS Discovery and her crew as they use their unique spore drive to zip around the Alpha Quadrant (our section of the galaxy). The first season deals with war breaking out between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingons.
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Meanwhile, in the second season, the crew investigates strange signals and a mysterious figure known as the Red Angel. Ultimately the ship and crew are thrown forward in time (don’t worry, you’ll see them again) and presumed dead.
Star Trek: The Original Series (Seasons 1-3)
The original series, the definitive article, if you will, and probably the most recognisable of the Trek series. Set in the 2260s, the show follows the crew of the USS Enterprise on a five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, and boldly go where no man has gone before.
This is the show that defined what Star Trek is in the public consciousness as a progressive force, introducing the world to Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Dr . Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy (DeForest Kelley), as well as several iconic Star Trek villains, including the Klingons (although they didn’t have the bumpy foreheads), Romulans, and a genetically altered super soldier called Khan (he’ll become important later).
Star Trek: The Animated Series (Seasons 1-2)
Following the cancellation of the original series, Star Trek was resurrected as an animated show, with most of the cast returning to voice their respective characters. While the series was popular in its day, there are some questions about its canonicity.
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Officially, the series isn’t canon, but over the years, writers have slipped in so many references to the events, characters, and aliens introduced during its two-season run that many fans presume it is canon.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
A direct continuation of the original series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, picks up after the events of Kirk’s five-year mission, in the 2270s. Now an admiral, Kirk and the gang assume command of the recently refitted Starship USS Enterprise to investigate and stop a mighty alien known as V’Ger, which is threatening to destroy the Earth.
A somewhat cynical attempt to cash in on the popularity of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars, The Motion Picture received mixed reviews from critics who didn’t enjoy the movie’s slow pace and lack of drama.
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
Finally, we get to the good stuff. One of the best science fiction movies ever, Wrath of Khan, is Moby Dick in space, and it’s brilliant. Set in 2285, an older Admiral Kirk gets the Enterprise crew back together once again to stop the ruthless tyrant Khan (told you he’d come back) from getting his hands on the Genesis device, a machine capable of both terrible destruction and creating new life.
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Wrath of Khan is perhaps best remembered for being ‘the one where Spock dies’, but it also introduces several other important plot beats, including the Genesis Device, Kirk’s previously unknown son David,
Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock
Picking up right where The Wrath of Khan ends, the film deals with the fall out of Khan’s attack and the death of Spock. When Kirk learns that Spock’s Katra (his soul basically) is held in the mind of Bones, he and the crew carjack the Enterprise and head off to return Spock’s body to his homeworld so they can bring him back to life.
Things are complicated, though, by Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), a Klingon who wants to get his hands on the Genesis device to use as a weapon. Search for Spock is famous for three things, destroying the original Enterprise, bringing back Spock, and killing off kirk’s son David, which gives Kirk a serious dislike of the Klingons which will get him in trouble three movies from now.
Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home
Following the events of The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home sees the crew of the Enterprise return to Earth to face their punishment for stealing (and destroying) the Enterprise. Before they can get back home, though, a colossal alien probe arrives in Earth’s atmosphere and starts wreaking havoc.
Realising that the probe is trying to communicate with the now-extinct humpback whales, the crew travels back in time to the ‘80s to try and find some whales to save Earth from the probe.
Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier
Probably the worst of the original film series, The Final Frontier sees the crew of the USS Enterprise as they confront Spock’s evil half brother Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill). The villainous Vulkan wants to travel to the mythical planet Sha Ka Ree which lies behind the Great Barrier, a seemingly impenetrable energy field near the galaxy’s centre.
Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country
The Undiscovered Country has the Enterprise crew working to figure out who’s trying to sabotage a potential peace treaty with The Federation’s longtime enemy, the Klingon Empire. Along the way, Kirk (who hates Klingons after the events of Search for Spock) is framed for killing the Klingon chancellor and must escape a frozen penal colony. Notable for being e final film to feature the entire original crew, the film ends with Kirk musing about a new generation crew continuing their legacy in an apparent reference to…
Star Trek: The Next Generation (Seasons 1-5)
The Next Generation, the best Star Trek series (in this writer’s opinion), focuses on the crew of the Enterprise-D. Led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his senior staff William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), and Worf (Michael Dorn), the show was far more of an ensemble than the original series but all the better for it.
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During the first five seasons, the crew of this new Enterprise would encounter new species like the Bajorans, Cardassians, Ferengi, and more. It also introduced two of Star Trek’s best-known villains, the mischievous trickster Q, who became a series staple and the terrifying Borg, a race of cybernetic zombies obsessed with assimilating other societies and cultures into their own who took an unhealthy interest in the technical might of The Federation.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Seasons 1-2)
The first series not set on a starship, Deep Space Nine took place on a space station, the titular Deep Space Nine. Drawing upon the conflict between the Bajorans and the Cardassians introduced in The Next Generation, the series opens with the Bajorans inviting The Federation to run the station in the hopes they’ll protect them from the ruthless Cardassians who previously enslaved their people.
Led by Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), the station’s crew discovers a stable wormhole close to Bajor that offers a way between the Alpha Quadrant and the unexplored Gamma Quadrant. The first two seasons dealt with the tensions between the Bajorans, Cardassians and Federation, while also teasing a greater threat lurking in the Gamma Quadrant known as The Dominion.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (Seasons 6-7)
The last two seasons of TNG run parallel with season one and two, Deep Space Nine. The writers used this in season seven to further explore the tensions between the Cardassians and Federation when the Bajoran Ensign Ro joins a group of resistance fighters known as the Maquis, a terrorist group who opposed the Cardassian Union and were first introduced in DS9’s second season.
Star Trek: Generations
The crossover Star Trek fans were waiting for, and the original crew meet the next generation gang. Opening in the year 2293, way before the events of TNG, the film begins with the death of Captain Kirk, except not really he actually transported to the Nexus, an interdimensional realm that exists outside of normal space-time where all your dreams come true.
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Fast forward to the 24th Century, and Picard is trying to deal with the villainous Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell), who plans on destroying a planetary system to get into The Nexus. Shockingly he succeeds, and Picard is trapped in the Nexus with Soran, forcing him to team up with Kirk to save the day. In a dreadfully dull film, the movie’s biggest claim to fame is Kirk’s anti-climactic death (he falls off a bridge) and the destruction of the beloved Enterprise-D.
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (Seasons 3-4)
Continuing the plot beats introduced in seasons one and two, DS9’s third season introduces the USS Defiant, Starfleet’s first warship, designed to fight the growing threat of the Borg. The Marquis become more of a threat, with more and more Starfleet officers leaving to join their cause.
Meanwhile, The Dominion makes themselves known to The Federation, a tyrannical race of shapeshifters that seek to impose order across the galaxy by subjugating species they see as lesser. It’s here we learn they’ve already infiltrated all the major governments in the Alpha Quadrant. The series ends with war breaking out between the Klingon Empire and The Federation once again thanks to their machinations.
Star Trek: Voyager (Seasons 1-2)
Star Trek: Voyager was a bit of a different show – the series opened with the USS Voyager and her crew being transported to the Delta Quadrant (a remote, unexplored region of the galaxy) while chasing a Marquis ship.
Trapped and with no other options, the crew of Voyager led by Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and their Marquis enemies are forced to unite to survive and begin the long journey home (77 years at maximum warp). Along the way, they encounter new threats like the Kazon and Vidiians while a few familiar faces, like Q, make an appearance.
Star Trek: First Contact
The best Next Generation movie, First Contact picks up soon after the events of Generations with Picard and the crew in a brand-new ship, the Enterprise-E. Their new ship is put to the test almost immediately, though when the Borg launch an attack on Earth. While Starfleet manages to repel the attack, the Borg go back in time and assimilate Earth before they can ever achieve warp speed, effectively wiping out The Federation before it even began.
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Thankfully the Enterprise-E manages to go back in time as well and put right what once went wrong. First Contact has the dubious honour of introducing the Borg Queen, who’d go on to become a recurring villain in Star Trek: Voyager.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Seasons 5-6)
Season five of DS9 picks up where the fourth left off with the Klingon’s declaring war on The Federation. Thankfully Sisko and the crew manage to expose the shapeshifter who started the whole thing and broker peace over the course of the season, but it’s all for nought.
The Cardassians join the Dominion and give the tyrannical despots a foothold in our part of the galaxy. The Dominion then wipe out the Marquis, and the cold war spills out into open conflict. The Dominion War has begun…
Star Trek: Voyager (Seasons 3-4)
Voyager’s third and fourth seasons are notable for revealing that the Delta Quadrant is actually the home of the Borg, and from this point on, they become something of a recurring foe for the Voyager crew. Although season three and four do briefly see the two enemies team up to fight off an even worse threat, the multidimensional beings known as Species 8472.
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Inevitably though, the Borg betray our heroes, and in the scuffle, Voyager ends up with a new crewmember 7 of 9, a former Borg drone. We also get the interesting if slightly pointless Year of Hell during season four.
Star Trek: Insurrection
Set during the Dominion War, the Enterprise-E is being kept away from the front lines to perform diplomatic duties. This changes when the crew become aware of a plot to steal a planet with rejuvenating properties from its peaceful inhabitants, the Ba’ku. The gang go rogue and manage to save the Ba’ku while also dispatching the evil admiral and his alien allies.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (season 7)
The final season of Deep Space Nine sees all the Alpha Quadrant powers, The Federation, Klingons, and Romulans, unite to finally win the war against The Dominion. All involved suffer catastrophic losses, and it’s only thanks to the Cardassian’s rebelling against their masters that the day is saved.
Star Trek: Voyager (Seasons 5-7)
Voyager continues their long journey home, meeting various antagonistic alien species along the way. Finally, in season seven, the crew make it back to Earth thanks to an alternate version of Captain Janeway, and they cripple the Borg at the same time.
Star Trek: Nemesis
The last Next Generation movie, Nemesis, sees a clone of Picard, named Shinzon (Tom Hardy), overthrow the Romulan Empire and declare war on The Federation. A box office bomb, the film’s only noteworthy contributions to Trek lore is the death of Data, who sacrifices himself to save Picard, and Riker and Troi finally tying the knot before leaving the Enterprise-E to command the USS Titan.
Star Trek: Lower Decks
An animated comedy set on the least important starship in Starfleet, the U.S.S. Cerritos in the year 2380. While most Trek series centres around a captain and their senior staff as they go on daring adventures, Lower Decks flips the usual formula on its head and instead focuses on low-ranking officers doing the grunt work. While the nature of the show is incredibly funny (the ship’s unimportant in the grand scheme of things), it has little bearing on the series continuity.
Star Trek (2008)
J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot mostly takes place in an alternate timeline called the Kelvin Universe. That said, it does actually let us know what happened to the galaxy after the events of Nemesis.
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Apparently, the Romulan sun went supernova, and the best efforts of The Federation and Starfleet weren’t enough to save them, resulting in the destruction of their homeworld. This is what causes Nero, the film’s main bad guy, to go back in time in the first place and alter the timeline.
Star Trek: Picard (Season 1)
Set 20 years after the events of Nemesis, Picard deals with both the fallout from the destruction of Romulus and The Federation’s ban on building androids. While the two events might not seem linked, Picard reveals that The Federation was using an army of Data like robots to build the rescue fleet that would be used to save the Romulans.
Unfortunately, before the armada could be completed, the drones mysteriously rebelled and destroyed the shipyards on Mars. The series sees Picard as he tries to solve the mystery of why the robots rebelled and if he can help save Data’s newly revealed daughter.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3
The crew of USS Discovery arrive in the far-flung future (32nd Century) and find a galaxy in ruins with The Federation on its knees. The cause of this chaos? An event known as The Burn, during which most of the galaxy’s dilithium exploded, destroying almost every starship in use and making warp travel nearly impossible.
With The Federation reduced to just a handful of planets, the crew of The Discovery use their unique warp drive, the spore drive, to spread hope, rebuild The federation, and work out what caused The Burn.
And that’s everywhere Star Trek has boldly gone so far. With a second season of Picard on the way, and Discovery and Lower Decks, we’ll be keeping this updated as more events shape Roddenberry’s ever-expanding universe.
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