How to watch Star Trek in order
Here’s how you watch the Star Trek shows and movies in chronological order
If you want to watch Star Trek in order, it can be a daunting undertaking. After the Original Series, there are currently a total of 13 movies and seven TV shows, with more on the way. Watching them together without a break would you more than 24 days.
“Space: the final frontier…” When Captain James T Kirk first spoke those iconic words in September 1966, a legend was born. But the USS Enterprise’s original five-year mission was only the beginning of a franchise that’s now grown to galactic proportions.
With so much Star Trek content already out in the universe, any Trek newbie looking to explore strange new worlds, discover new life, and experience new civilizations is faces a mission of Kobayashi Maru-proportions to catch up.
With Star Trek: Picard behind us and Star Trek Discovery season 3 coming up (along with numerous other spin-offs), we’ve tackled half a century’s worth of captains’ logs to explain how the Star Trek timeline works. Here, then, is how you watch Star Trek in release and chronological order, across all TV shows and movies. Engage!
Star Trek TV shows and movies in chronological order
This is probably the Star Trek list you’re looking for. It’s where things get really interesting, as Star Trek movies and TV shows have a habit of jumping around the franchise’s chronology with sequels, prequels and bits in between. There are even two distinct timelines – don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
The original ‘Prime’ timeline was started by the Original Series, the Next Generation-era TV shows, and the first ten movies, The alternative ‘Kelvin’ timeline, meanwhile, was created in JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek (2009) to allow the familiar crew to have new adventures without contradicting canon. To avoid confusion, we’ve defined the two timelines as separate entities below.
Which is why we’ve also omitted Short Treks from this list, which are mostly set around the Star Trek: Discovery era, and time-travelled to the eras before any of the shows/movies are set (eg visits to 1986 in The Voyage Home and 2063 in First Contact). We’ve also left out newer spin-offs like Strange New Worlds and Section 31, since you can’t watch those yet.
Let’s start with everything in one big list. Note that ‘The Cage’ is technically an episode of the Original Series. You’ll usually find it listed as a bonus episode or the pilot under season one when you’re watching it on streaming services.
- Star Trek: Enterprise (seasons 1-4)
- ‘The Cage’
- Star Trek: Discovery (seasons 1-2)
- Star Trek: The Original Series (seasons 1-3)
- Star Trek: The Animated Series
- 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: Generations (opening sequence)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (seasons 1-5)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (seasons 6-7), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (seasons 1-2)
- Star Trek: Generations
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (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 (season 5)
- Star Trek: Voyager (seasons 6-7)
- Star Trek: Nemesis
- Star Trek (2009) – Prime timeline sequences
- Star Trek: Picard
- Star Trek: Discovery (season 3)
If you watch in the order above, you’ll get a continuous ‘history’ of Star Trek’s future – though it’s important to note that, thanks to the time in which respective shows were made, the technology in prequel show Star Trek: Discovery is significantly more advanced than what Kirk and Spock made use of in the Original Series.
Below, we’ll explain how the different eras of the shows and movies break down for context.
Star Trek: Enterprise era (22nd century)
Begins and ends with: Star Trek Enterprise seasons 1-4
About a century before the Original Series takes place, Captain Jonathan Archer leads Earth’s first steps into the wider universe.
Star Trek: The Original Series era (23rd century)
Begins with: ‘The Cage’
Ends with: Star Trek: Generations (opening sequence)
For many the most familiar era of Star Trek, featuring Kirk, Spock and the classic Enterprise crew.
The latest point we’ve seen (so far) in the 23rd century era was James T Kirk being taken away by the Nexus ribbon in the prologue of Star Trek: Generations. This is the event that allows Kirk to meet Picard as the Next Generation crew take on the mantle of headlining the movies.
The first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery work as a prequel to the Original Series (they even feature a younger version of Spock), but it’ll be all change in season 3, after the season 2 finale saw the crew traveling to the distant future to explore a new frontier…
Star Trek: The Next Generation era (24th century)
Begins with: Star Trek: The Next Generation (seasons 1-5)
Ends with: Star Trek (2009) – Prime timeline sequences
The richest, most complicated period in Star Trek chronology. During the Next Generation era, Star Trek was experimenting with the idea of a shared universe years before Marvel got in on the act, with three TV shows and four movies interweaving through the same timeline – Voyager’s Captain Kathryn Janeway even shows up in Star Trek: Nemesis as a newly promoted admiral.
In the list above, we’ve shown how the movies (roughly) fit into the chronology of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
Picard era (turn of the 25th century)
Begins with: Picard
Ends with: ???
Aside from the destruction of Romulus in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Picard gives us our first post-Star Trek: Nemesis look at what the United Federation of Planets has become.
Distant future (32nd century)
Begins with: Star Trek: Discovery season 2 (finale)
Ends with: ???
In order to save the galaxy, the brave crew of the USS Discovery set off on a one-way mission 900 years into the future in Star Trek: Discovery’s season 2 finale. Their 32nd century destination is new territory for Star Trek – Michael Burnham and her crew really are going where no one has gone before in the upcoming season 3.
Star Trek’s alternate ‘Kelvin’ timeline explained
In 2009’s Star Trek movie directed by JJ Abrams, Old Spock tries to save Romulus from a supernova, inadvertently creates a black hole while doing so, and gets pulled into the past, along with Romulan mining vessel the Narada. Once there, the Narada attacks the USS Kelvin on the day James T Kirk is born. The ship is destroyed as Kirk’s father, George, sacrifices himself to save the rest of the crew.
When all that happens, the alternative ‘Kelvin’ timeline is created, with events unfolding in parallel (but with remarkable similarity) to the original Prime timeline.
Got all that? There are just three movies set in the Kelvin timeline:
- Star Trek (2009)
- Star Trek into Darkness
- Star Trek Beyond
Star Trek TV shows and movies in release date order
- Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969)
- Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1974)
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
- Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
- Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock (1984)
- Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home (1986)
- ‘The Cage’ (previously unavailable Star Trek pilot from 1965, given VHS release in 1986)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
- Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier (1989)
- Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
- Star Trek: Generations (1994)
- Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001)
- Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
- Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
- Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005)
- Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
- Star Trek (2009)
- Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
- Star Trek Beyond (2016)
- Star Trek: Discovery (2017-)
- Short Treks (2018-2020)
- Star Trek: Picard (2020-)
Considering the Original Series was cancelled after just three seasons in 1969, it’s remarkable that Star Trek is still around half a century later. But as the show’s popularity grew in syndication on US TV, Trek fandom became a big enough force for the five-year mission to resume via Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1973. Most of the original cast – with the notable exception of Walter Koenig (Chekov) – were enticed back to voice their characters.
Then, helped by Star Wars turning sci-fi into the hottest genre in Hollywood, Star Trek beamed onto the big screen with 1979’s The Motion Picture. The original crew headed up five more movies (The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country) before bowing out in 1991. The ’80s also gave the world a hint of the Star Trek that never was when ‘The Cage’, the original unaired pilot, was released on VHS in 1986 (it appeared on TV two years later). Of the pilot crew, only Leonard Nimoy’s Spock went on to reprise his role in the TV show, though footage from ‘The Cage’ was used extensively in Original Series two-parter ‘The Menagerie’.
While the Enterprise was making it big in cinemas, the franchise returned to its TV roots in 1987 with The Next Generation. Set over 70 years after Kirk and Spock’s final mission, it featured a new crew – led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard – on board a new starship Enterprise. The Next Generation was arguably even more successful than the Original series, spawning two spin-off series: Deep Space Nine (which began in 1993) played with the Trek format by focusing on a space station, while Voyager (1995) dumped its crew on the other side of the galaxy, hundreds of light years from home. The Next Generation crew also fronted four movies of their own (Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis) between 1995 and 2002.
After Voyager came to an end in 2001, Star Trek left the Next Generation era behind, and went in a completely different direction – Star Trek: Enterprise was a prequel set a century before Kirk and Spock’s adventures. Enterprise only lasted four seasons, however (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager all made it to seven), and was canceled in 2005.
Meanwhile, the disappointing box office performance of Nemesis had put the movie saga on hiatus, and it wasn’t until 2009 that Star Trek warped back onto the big screen. JJ Abrams (then hot property as director of Mission: Impossible 3 and co-creator of Lost) gave the franchise an action blockbuster makeover, recasting Kirk, Spock and the rest of the original crew as rookies on their first mission. The reboot, simply titled Star Trek, made more than twice as much at the box office as any of its predecessors, and two sequels (Star Trek into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond) followed.
Star Trek belatedly returned to TV in 2017 with Star Trek: Discovery. Set a decade before the Original Series, it was a darker, more serialized Trek than we’d seen before – more in tune with the prestige shows of the so-called Golden Age of TV. As it turned out, it was just the beginning of Star Trek’s renewed assault on TV.
A series of brief Short Treks appeared online ahead of Discovery’s second season, while The Next Generation follow-up Star Trek: Picard left spacedock in January 2020. Animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks will follow later this year, and an espionage-focused show, based around the Federation’s shadowy intelligence agency Section 31, is also in development. The ultimate aim is to have new Trek shows year-round.
To keep things simple, we’ve listed the TV shows by the date of their first episodes above. While the chronology does jump around if you watch Star Trek in release date order, there are some benefits. For example, the prequel shows assume a fair bit of knowledge of earlier series, like the Borg’s appearance in Star Trek: Enterprise episode ‘Regeneration’, or Star Trek: Discovery’s revelations about the ultimate fate of Christopher Pike (the Enterprise captain in ‘The Cage’, who later shows up in ‘The Menagerie’). Moments like that undoubtedly make more sense in the context of later events in the Star Trek timeline.