When the Enterprise set sail on the spaceways in 1966, it’s doubtful anyone involved imagined that over half a century later, Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) would spawn a media empire — including a growing number of live-action and animated Star Trek series and more than a dozen Star Trek movies.
As the Trek universe expands, so does its fictional timeline, and for fans who want to know exactly what happened and when, it’s getting a little difficult to navigate. So, we thought we’d lend a hand with a guide to enjoying all of Star Trek’s canonical films and series in chronological order.
Be warned — we’ll do our best to avoid spoilers, but for the sake of clarity, here and there, a tribble-sized reveal will have to make its way through the cracks.
While Star Trek: Enterprise proved to be the last of the Trek revival series (it ended in 2015 after four seasons) until Star Trek: Discovery‘s premiere 12 years later, ironically, it’s your first stop on any franchise-wide binge. Beginning in 2151 — a little over a century before the events of TOS — Enterprise has no United Federation of Planets, no Prime Directive, and no shields.
Considering how often time travel comes up in Star Trek, it shouldn’t be a surprise that while most of the events of Enterprise take place long before any other shows or films, there are a few exceptions. Some leftover Borg from 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact show up in season 2, a season 3 two-parter connects with TOS‘ The Tholian Web episode, and the series finale surprisingly crosses over with the Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) season 7 episode The Pegasus.
Star Trek: Discovery‘s premiere takes place a little over a century after the Enterprise finale and roughly a decade before TOS. The United Federation of Planets has been formed, and Discovery opens with its first destructive war with the Klingon Empire.
If you’re doing a franchise-wide binge, make sure to schedule TOS‘s pilot episode The Cage before season 2 of Discovery. It’s Captain Christopher Pike in the Enterprise’s captain’s chair in the pilot, played by the late Jeffrey Hunter. Anson Mount plays Pike in season 2 of Discovery, and the events of The Cage are critical to the plot.
At the end of season 2, Discovery jumps ahead over 900 years into the future, so you should probably wait a bit before getting back to it.
Finally, the series that started it all with its iconic trio: The always pensive and logical Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the always complaining Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and between them, the adventurous James T. Kirk (William Shatner).
It can be a little jarring to watch The Original Series after Discovery. Not only is it weird to see a spaceship run on dials, buttons, and paper printouts after witnessing a ship like Discovery — where every panel looks like it was designed personally by Tony Stark — but particularly in season 1, it’s clear TOS hadn’t yet worked out everything about the Federation and Starfleet. For example, in one early episode, McCoy makes a joke implying that rather than being Earth’s allies, the Vulcans were conquered by humans.
While the original crew’s live-action adventures went on hold after TOS‘ final season, in 1973, almost the entire regular cast — save for Walter Koenig, who played Pavel Chekov in TOS — returned to voice their characters in Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS). They were joined by a couple of new alien crew members who would’ve been nearly impossible to make work in a live-action series of the time.
Even though it originally aired as a Saturday morning cartoon, TAS is impressively faithful to the canon. We see the return of recurring characters like Harry Mudd and Spock’s father, Sarek, and even minor details from TOS — such as a brief mention of Spock’s childhood pet — are faithfully reproduced in TAS.
If you get this deep into the Trek-wide binge and are getting tired of TV episodes, this will be a nice break. Kirk, now an Admiral, muscles his way back into the Captain’s chair in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the timeline continues through Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and ending with 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
TNG‘s first five seasons enjoy the single longest chronology of all the franchise’s shows to go uninterrupted by other series or films. While there were plenty of naysayers who never thought the series would last or live up to the original, TNG outlives TOS by four seasons, and its success would help make even more spin-offs viable.
For its final two seasons, TNG shares time with the first two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9). Still traumatized by the death of his wife at the hands of the Borg, Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) takes command of a space station overlooking the newly liberated Bajor.
Make sure to not start DS9 until at least after watching TNG‘s Rascals episode — chronologically, it’s Chief Miles O’Brien’s (Colm Meaney) final episode of TNG as a member of the ship’s crew, after which he jumps ship to become the Chief of Operations on DS9.
Deep Space 9 enjoys precious little time at the end of its second season and the beginning of its third as the only Star Trek game in town. Early in its third season, it’s joined by the beginning of Star Trek: Voyager, and in fact, part of Voyager‘s premiere episode takes place on the DS9 space station guarding the Bajoran wormhole.
Originally tasked with capturing the rebellious Maquis, Voyager‘s Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) soon finds herself and her crew thrown across the galaxy, and both Starfleet and Maquis have to work together to begin the long journey home.
About midway through DS9‘s third season comes the first film to feature the TNG crew — 1994’s Star Trek: Generations, which features the first and only meeting between Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and TOS‘s Captain Kirk.
Season 4 of DS9 opens with the fan-favorite episode The Way of the Warrior, with Michael Dorn joining the show’s regular cast as Worf — but don’t worry, they keep sneaking him onto the Enterprise for the movies anyway. Seasons 4 and 5 of DS9 run fairly concurrently with seasons 2 and 3 of Voyager. Early in season 5 of DS9, the Starfleet uniforms change to gray, and that change is reflected on the Enterprise in TNG‘s first motion picture, 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact, pitting the TNG crew against fan-favorite villains the Borg, set toward the end of DS9‘s fifth season and Voyager‘s third.
With Voyager‘s fourth season comes the game-changing addition of Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, while back in the Alpha Quadrant on DS9, open war rages between the Federation and the tyrannical Dominion. The Dominion War lasts until the very end of the series, which unfolds around the same time as the end of Voyager‘s fifth season. In the meantime, the eighth Trek film, 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection, takes place fairly early in DS9‘s final season.
For its final two seasons, Voyager gets to fly all on its own. The lost ship’s journey culminates in the two-part Endgame, with the heroes confronting the Borg while making a desperate attempt to get back home.
And in the final Trek film before…