Just in case you wanted to rewatch all 12 movies and 5 TV shows a little differently this time.
Before Marvel did the whole interconnected on screen continuity, there was Star Trek in the 90s. Within a decade, Star Trek managed to have four films and three TV shows going that all had interconnected continuity… and no one realized it was the future of entertainment. Yes, Star Trek was twenty years ahead of its time, but most of it has aged so well there’s no reason not to go back and enjoy it.
So, after scouring the internet we couldn’t find a chronological viewing order we agreed with. There are a few out there, but all of them at one point or another just don’t line up correctly with how events flow on the screen. Sometimes a movie is in the spot that makes no narrative sense and it throws off the viewing experience.
So, we decided to make our own. We’ve done our research, disregarded the occasional stardate hiccup (blame the show writers), and put together an order that feels right from a storytelling perspective. So, just in case you were thinking about delving back into the Star Trek cinematic universe, give this order a try.
Note: We’ve accounted for every episode except one, because it should never be watched. That episode is Enterprise’s series finale, “These Are The Voyages.” If technically takes place in the Next Generation season 7 episode “The Pegasus,” but it is so bad we decided to let it be buried in time. It may not be the worst episode of Star Trek, but it is the most insulting. Watch it at your own risk.
[Updated 12/18/2015] We’ve added Star Trek Beyond into the timeline, now that we know where it lies in relation to Into Darkness.
Star Trek: Enterprise (Seasons 1-4)
Sure, this series gets plenty of flak. The first two seasons are rough around the edges, but the series starts to find itself in season 3 and the final season becomes the show we always wanted. Unfortunately, it was cut short, but there are still some solid (even great) episodes of Star Trek here despite some slogs.
Star Trek: The Original Series (Seasons 1-3)
Where it all began. This takes place 115 years after Star Trek: Enterprise. Seasons 1 and 2 laid the fundamental foundations for what Star Trek would become and gave us classic science fiction starring iconic characters. You might wanna skip season 3, though. It doesn’t contribute much to the mythology and it suffers from budget cuts and worse writing.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
An ambitious misfire, this film is the closest to Gene Roddenberry’s vision but also one of the more boring entries in the series. The film desperately wants to be the Star Trek version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but ends up feeling lost and ponderous. Skipping it wouldn’t hurt your viewing experience, but if you like ambitious and existential sci-fi you might find some enjoyment here.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
By far the best of the films, Wrath of Khan is not just a great Star Trek movie but also a great film in general. The script is poignant yet tense, the action is thoughtful yet jaw dropping, and the actors are at the top of their game. A must see.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Picking up a few weeks after the end of Khan, The Search For Spock may not reach its predecessor’s heights but it’s a good enough movie that continues the story in interesting ways.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
A longtime favorite of fans and casual viewers alike, The Voyage Home concludes the unofficial film trilogy that began with Khan. It’s a fun time that had a very charming sense of humor – something Star Trek often struggles with in other films and series.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
This movie just sucks. We understand there were good intentions behind it, but it’s just a failure. There’s some camping scenes that are okay, but aside from that it’s mostly a total disaster. If you don’t believe us, here’s the pitch: “It’s a William Shatner directed Star Trek film where the Enterprise gets hijacked by space terrorists in order to find God at the center of the galaxy.”
So, yeah. Move along.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
A fantastic swan song for the original crew from the same writer/director as Wrath of Khan. One half murder mystery, one half Cold War political thriller, this is an often overlooked but really strong film that closes out The Original Series era in style.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Seasons 1-5
Alright, the first two seasons suck, but seasons 3-5 are classic Trek with a great team of writers behind them. Great characters, great world building, and great stories that earned the franchise a ton of popularity that earned them not one but two spin offs…
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 (Episodes “Time’s Arrow: Part 2” – “Chain of Command: Part 2”)
It’s not the best TNG has to offer, but the “Chain of Command” two-parter is spectacular.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 (Episodes “Ship In A Bottle” – “Descent: Part 1”) / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 1
Here begins the simultaneous series that we’ll see a lot of for the rest of this guide. Deep Space Nine season 1 is shorter, airing at the same time as the rest of TNG season 6. Watch them in whatever order you want (all of one series’ season then the other or alternative episodes), but know this is where they fall in the chronology.
Star: Trek The Next Generation Season 7 / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Seasons 2
These two seasons also air simultaneously, though it’s worth noting that Next Generation season 7 ends just before the last few episodes of Deep Space Nine season 2, so all in all just make sure you watch the DS9 episode “The Jem’Hadar” last and you’ll be fine.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 3 (Episodes “The Search: Part 1” – “Distant Voices”) / Star Trek: Voyager Season 1 (Episodes “Caretaker” – “Prime Factors”)
Watch Deep Space Nine‘s “The Search” two-parter, then integrate Star Trek Voyager into your watching.
Star Trek: Generations
The movie has some major problems, but its heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, the narrative may be too messy for some and it has a “TV movie” feel to it. You can skip it to be sure, but some may find themselves pleasantly surprised by this deeply flawed but very emotional film.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 3 (Episodes “Through The Looking Glass” – “The Adversary”) / Star Trek: Voyager Season 1 (Episodes “State of Flux” – “Learning Curve”)
A solid last half of Deep Space Nine‘s third season and… well… whatever the heck Voyager season 1 is.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 4 / Star Trek: Voyager Season 2
The Klingon-Cardassian war heats up for a strong season of Deep Space Nine that also introduces Worf to the cast. Star Trek: Voyager Season 2, on the other hand, isn’t too good.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 5 (Episodes “Apocalypse Rising” – “For The Uniform”) / Star Trek: Voyager Season 3 (“Basics: Part 2” – “Blood Fever”)
Deep Space Nine season 5 is when the show started firing on all cylinders creatively. Tensions are rising, characters are growing richer, and the show’s plot threads are coming together. Voyager also went through a creative revamp, with season 3 containing some of its best episodes.
Star Trek: First Contact
A great Star Trek film that manages to also work as really strong action movie. Highly recommended.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 5 (Episodes “In Purgatory’s Shadow” – “A Call To Arms”) / Star Trek: Voyager Season 3 (“Unity” – “Scorpion: Part 1”)
Some of the best material from both these shows is right here. A joy to watch.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 6 / Star Trek: Voyager Season 4
The Dominion War arc is in full swing in Deep Space Nine, while Voyager brings in Seven of Nine and has its best season. Great stuff all around.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 7 (“Image In The Sand” – “Covenant”) / Star Trek: Voyager Season 5 (“Night” – “Infinite Regress”)
Deep Space Nine‘s seventh season is a little uneven in the first half but still has some great stuff. The rest of Voyager will never be as good as its fourth season, but season 5 still has some great episodes.
Star Trek: Insurrection
This movie is, well, not very good at all. It’s a complete mess of a film that’s actually horrifying if you give the plot any thought whatsoever. We recommend you skip it, but if you want the full experience we think this is the best place to put it in the timeline.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 7 (“It’s Only A Paper Moon” – “What You Leave Behind”) / Star Trek: Voyager Season 5 (“Nothing Human” – “Equinox: Part 1”)
The Dominion War (and the series) comes to a close with an ambitious arc, while Voyager hangs around the Delta Quadrant some more with pretty decent episodes.
Star Trek: Voyager Season 6
This season has some good episodes here and there, most notably the episode “Pathfinder,” but overall it’s just a whole lot of treading water.
Star Trek: Voyager Season 7
Not bad. Not good. Just kind of there. Vintage Voyager.
Star Trek: Nemesis
Just no. Not even a young Tom Hardy could save this one. Stay away from this movie at all costs. It’s crass, shallow, and ineptly plotted. If it weren’t for the fact it has a kind of cool space battle, it would be almost as insulting as “These Are The Voyages.” End your Next Generation experience with First Contact.
Technically, the events of this film are in an alternate timeline that splintered off from events that take place after Star Trek: Nemesis. While there’s a ton of debate over the film, we think it’s a solid adventure film that was helped tremendously by J.J. Abrams’ talent as a director.
Star Trek Into Darkness
The follow up to the 2009 reboot has the great acting and direction of the first film… but is weighed down by a messy script. You can skip it if you want.
Star Trek Beyond
Taking place two and a half years after Into Darkness and halfway through the crew’s five year mission. The crew of the Enterprise must contend with the dangers of the final frontier.
Bonus: Star Trek Online
While technically not a film, it’s worth noting that Star Trek Online takes place in the original timeline and continues the story past the events of Star Trek: Nemesis and the reboot.