John’s Semi-Chronological Star Trek Viewing Order
Last Updated: 16 Mar 2020 - Picard S1 added
This suggested Star Trek viewing order is probably best for someone already somewhat familiar with the basics of Star Trek, who wants to watch the entire franchise in roughly the order the episodes are intended to take place. The goal is not to be rigid about this - some episodes are moved around the timeline to enhance the story-watching experience - but generally this guide will take you from the 21st Century right through to the 32nd.
Star Trek - The Original Series (1964, 1966-1969)
Star Trek - The Animated Series (1973-1974)
Star Trek - The Next Generation (1987-1994)
Star Trek - Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
Star Trek - Voyager (1995-2001)
Star Trek - Enterprise (2001-2005)
Theatrical Movies (1979-1991, 1994-2002, 2005-2016)
Star Trek - Discovery (2017-)
Star Trek - Short Treks (2018-)
Star Trek - Picard (2020-)
Star Trek - Lower Decks (2020-)
Star Trek - Section 31 (2021?-)
Star Trek - Prodigy (2022?-)
Announced Untitled Star Trek Series 13 (?)
Announced Untitled Star Trek Series 14 (?)
April 5th, 2063:
Star Trek essentially begins on this date, when Zefram Cochrane tests warp drive and humans meet our first aliens: the Vulcans. We will eventually come back around to this event much later in the viewing order, but for now it’s just useful backstory.
We begin our viewing order with Star Trek: Enterprise (technically just titled Enterprise for the first two seasons). While the earliest series chronologically, chronicling the events leading up to the formation of the United Federation of Planets, this show was actually the sixth Star Trek series made. We will be watching the series essentially in release order, but will be skipping some episodes in Seasons two and four to watch later in the viewing order.
We are skipping episode 23 for now, and will be watching it later.
In its final season, the show really goes nuts with tying things into chronologically later stories. Watch the episode numbers, as we skip episodes 18, 19, and 22 to watch later on.
For now we are finished with Enterprise, and are about to move forward about a century. We’ll loop back eventually to the episodes that we skipped, including the “official” series finale, but the above two-parter is arguably a better story to go out on in the meantime.
The Earth-Romulan War, first mentioned in the Original ‘60s series, occurs here. It was intended to be covered starting in Enterprise’s fifth season, but unfortunately it was cancelled after Season four. By the end of the war, Earth, Vulcan, Andorians, Tellarites, and several other species form a loosely structured Coalition of Planets which manages to push back the Romulans. This leads directly to the events of 2161.
The United Federation of Planets, the dominant political organization of the Star Trek franchise, is officially formed. We will see the signing ceremony in a future episode.
An adaptation of an (actual) ancient African legend, told to a young girl we will be meeting as an adult shortly, this is our first “Short Treks” episode. These are short mini-episodes that are not pinned down to any specific time or place in the franchise and will pop up now and then in this list.
A sidenote about universes:
Due to time-travel events originating more than a century after this point, the Star Trek timeline splits into two universes - the “Prime” universe, and the “Kelvin” universe, depending on what happens to the USS Kelvin in 2233. Neither universe replaces the other, they merely diverge and continue on independently. We will be following the Prime universe at this point, as the vast vast majority of Star Trek takes place there, and will not be visiting the Kelvin universe until much later in this viewing order.
Do note there is a third universe, the “Mirror” universe, which we’ll be getting to know shortly, but this is a separate thing and for simplicity our visits there are not separated from the Prime episodes.
The USS Kelvin flies through space, exploring strange new worlds. Nothing in particular happens. All is well.
After a quick short in which we meet young Ensign Spock, reporting to his new ship for the first time, we reach the very first bit of Star Trek ever produced, the first pilot, dating from 1964-65. Rejected by NBC for being "too cerebral," studio owner Lucille Ball convinced the network to give them another shot. But it’ll be a few years before we come back to that. Historical sidenote: This episode was re-edited into a later original Star Trek episode, and was not actually seen in its entirety until the late 80s, but don’t skip it - the character of Captain Pike becomes very important shortly
A sidenote about Discovery and design:
While it is only the second series we will be viewing in earnest, Discovery is the seventh Star Trek series produced, and the first to significantly revamp the visual designs. While every previous show assumed the 23rd century appeared as it did in the original 1960s series , Discovery updates these designs and trusts us to accept that they “always” looked this way. This affects uniforms, ships, alien makeup and more, but worth particular mention are the Klingons, who were dramatically redesigned. This rather unpopular redesign is backtracked significantly, though not entirely, in season 2. (Though don’t ask me why they aren’t looking human after the events portrayed late in Star Trek - Enterprise, as they will when we get to The Original Series). Anyway, some people find these changes blasphemous, others don’t see any problem with it at all, but you should know it before starting Discovery to avoid confusion.
One of the quirks in watching the franchise this way pops up here, as episode 10 establishes the USS Defiant being somewhere it shouldn’t be, and though our heroes don’t know why, the show assumes that we do. Don’t worry about it for now - we’ll see the backstory when we get to 2268, and in the meantime, it’s not really important to how the story in Discovery plays out.
Calypso should almost certainly be somewhere else, as it seems to hook into the (unaired as of this writing) Disco Season 3, but as I don’t know exactly where, I am simply slotting it into the order where it originally aired. For now.
Late 2250s-Early 2260s:
I will attempt to avoid spoilers here, but the so-far unaired Disco Season 3 involves a time jump, and its placement in the order will rely very much on how that plays out and how/when/if the series returns to the late 2250s. Also, Star Trek - Section 31, due to begin airing in 2021, will likely go here when it airs, but this is just speculation.
Here’s that second Original Series pilot Lucille Ball fought for, now with (most) of the classic Star Trek crew. Still no Bones, Uhura, or Chekov, Kirk has a different middle initial, the uniforms and sets still aren’t quite right, etc. But we are now recognizably in the world of the show that started it all.
The episode order will jump around significantly for a while, as they are listed here by production order instead of by airdate. TOS has very little inter-episode continuity anyway, but production order seems to make the most sense. In general, don’t get too hung up on continuity in these early days - they take quite a while to pin some stuff down. For example, there’s like five different contradictory names given for who they work for before someone finally says “Starfleet”.
The Menagerie is largely reedited from The Cage, which we watched a while back, but don’t skip it - after spending so much time with Pike on Discovery, this episode is essential.
With the arrival of Chekov, the classic cast is finally complete.
Mirror, Mirror was Star Trek’s very first visit to the Mirror universe, even though we’ve already been there in our viewing order. Star Trek - Enterprise visited there too, actually, but that’s one of the ones we skipped. We’ll be coming back to it pretty soon, though,
In one of the more fun examples of the shows tying together, these next three episodes loop in two of the Enterprise episodes we skipped to explain why the USS Defiant was over in in Discovery’s Mirror Universe.
Is the cartoon in continuity? Debatable. Roddenberry liked to say it was not. But much that first appears here is used later, with Enterprise’s Vulcan arc borrowing heavily from Yesteryear, Robert April being namedropped in later Trek, Lower Decks having a character from a race previously only seen here, etc. And yes, some parts are cheesy, like, you know, giant Spock… but remember when his brain was stolen in the original show? So… sure, why not. Death of the author means we don’t have to listen to Gene.
Movie time! Some background here. Paramount was planning on making a new network, and thought a new Star Trek series, to be entitled Star Trek Phase II, was just the thing to anchor it. Many scripts were written, new characters created and cast… and the network plans fell through. And so did the show at first, but when Star Wars was such a hit, they decided to take one of those scripts and streeeeeeeeeetch it out into a movie.
So…. Is it way too long with not much plot? Yes. And isn’t it just a retread of Nomad from the episode The Changeling anyway? It is. And hey, isn’t that the pedophile Dad from 7th Heaven? Yes, yes it is. Anyway, I recommend the Director’s Cut, in which some particularly flawed effects are redone, and the pacing is…. LESS terrible… but storywise it doesn’t matter which cut you watch.
After TMP didn’t do so well, Star Trek II, a sequel to the episode Space Seed, was being made as a TV movie. Halfway through filming, though, they decided to release it to theaters. And, in my and many others’ opinion, it’s the best Star Trek movie of all.
Ephraim and Dot ’s continuity really makes no sense anywhere, but it’s cute so who cares. Anyway, this seemed the BEST place to put it.
A criminally underrated film
The opening sequence of Star Trek: Generations takes place here. Optional: If you want to, you can watch that movie up until the “78 years later” caption. Or you can just wait until 2371 and watch it then with the rest of the film.
We jump forward 70-odd years to see a far more established Federation, and perhaps the most popular Star Trek series of all, rivaling the original: Star Trek - The Next Generation. That said, it is QUITE rough at the outset. For more info on how close it came to failure in seasons 1 and 2, you can watch the surprisingly entertaining documentary Chaos on the Bridge, but rest assured, it gets a lot better later on.
Enter: Riker’s Beard. Fun fact: The writers strike this year means several episodes here are repurposed from ones written for the Phase II series that was never made and eventually became The Motion Picture. Riker and Troi were ALWAYS a revamp of the original plans for Decker and Ilia, but The Child, for instance, was literally written in the 70s to happen to Ilia.
We now reach my personal favorite Trek: Star Trek - Deep Space Nine, which will eventually feature Star Trek’s first real foray into plot serialization. Typical for nearly every one of these shows, it starts out quite rough and uneven, but once it finally gets going it’s a real joy. We’ll be essentially bouncing between series to stay in the order they are supposed to take place, though with occasional tweaks to keep from breaking up story arcs TOO much.
In this year we’ll be watching the fantastic Next Generation series finale, and also finally going back to watch the controversial and disappointing series finale of Enterprise. (Leaving just one more episode before we finish it once and for all.)
Like Phase II was intended to before it, and Discovery actually does after it, Star Trek - Voyager is launched at this point as the centerpiece of a new network: the short-lived UPN, home of Shasta McNasty and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfieffer. Note that Voyager episode orders jump around a bit due to some production weirdness.
Only took 222 years, but after this next episode, we’ve watched all of Star Trek Enterprise.
Voyager gets a much needed shot in the arm with the intro of Seven of Nine, and Deep Space Nine delivers a great season as the Dominion War arc reaches full swing.
Farewell, DS9. I’ll always love you best.
There’s no place to put Insurrection so its references to the war and the presence of Worf really make perfect sense, but this is probably the closest to working. I’m not going to go too nuts about it.
The upcoming Star Trek - Lower Decks series will take place around here. Somewhere.
The events of this Short Trek set the events of Star Trek - Picard, which we’ll be coming to shortly, in motion.
▫ Star Trek - Short Treks Season 2, episode 6 Children of Mars
The Romulan sun goes supernova, devastating the Romulan empire. A failed attempt to stop this sends the Romulan vessel Narada back to 2233, creating an alternate universe known as the “Kelvin Universe” or “Kelvinverse.” Three movies take place in the Kelvin universe, and we will be viewing them now. It is important to remember that this new timeline does not replace the original timeline, which exists as it always has and which we will be returning to shortly. It exists alongside it.
The USS Kelvin is destroyed by the Narada, newly arrived from the Prime Universe 2387.
Too action-oriented for some, and plot-holes galore, but it is a quite fun take on the original series. You can use the butterfly effect of the appearance of the Narada in 2233 as a reason the 2258 Kelvinverse looks and feels quite different than the Prime Universe. Or you can just hand-wave it Discovery-style as if it “always” looked like that. Don’t overthink this batch of movies though, or you’ll start seeing all kinds of things that make no sense.
This film, while a solid improvement on Into Darkness, did not do very well, meaning that Beyond may end up being our last visit to the Kelvinverse. I wouldn’t want all Trek to be like it, but it was a fun corner of the franchise while it lasted.
We now return to the Prime timeline, already in progress.
Presumably, Discovery Season 3 will be taking place here.