Is it just us or is figuring out how to watch Star Trek in order getting more and more complex with each passing year? The prospect of watching Star Trek in order would be daunting for even the most decorated of starship captains with multiple series being brought to life on both the big and small screens. But fear not Trekkies - we've got you covered!
If you've ever tried to watch the Marvel movies in order, you'd be forgiven for thinking that was the most complicated franchise on the planet, but we kid you not - it has nothing on Star Trek. The 55-year-old sci-fi franchise includes nine (soon to be 11) TV shows and 13 movies and it spans 1000 years, making for one super complicated and vast timeline.
So, what is the best way to watch Star Trek in order? Well, that depends. For you purists out there, you might like to opt for viewing this franchise by release date, just like all the original Trekkie fans did back in the day. This will allow you to follow along as they did and get a similar experience. While the timeline does jump around, (Star Trek: Discovery, for example, is set at the end of the 32nd century but was released before Star Trek: Picard, which is set in the 24th century), it gives you a more complete picture.
Because the Star Trek franchise involves movies and TV series that take place at different times, another option is to watch everything in chronological order. This means you get to start with something a little bit more modern, but the one problem with this is that references will often be made to films you've not yet seen, which could make certain elements difficult to follow.
To be honest, just like we recommend in our guide to how to watch the Star Wars movies in order, it really is a matter of personal preference. As long as you have one of the best TVs, you'll find you enjoy this franchise no matter what order you decide to watch it in.
So, without further ado, here's how to watch Star Trek in order - based on release date and in-universe continuity...
Star Trek TV shows and movies in chronological order
This is probably the list you're looking for if you're trying to figure out how to watch Star Trek in order. 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 – but don't worry, we'll explain all 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 Enterprise crew of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov to have new adventures without contradicting canon. To avoid confusion, we've defined the two timelines as separate entities below.
This list doesn't, however, include all of the brief Short Treks – short stories which are mostly set around the Star Trek: Discovery era – and adventures where Starfleet crews 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 upcoming Discovery spin-off Star Trek: Section 31, since it's not yet in production. (Also, we're not entirely sure exactly when it'll be set.)
Let's start with everything in one big list.
- Star Trek: Enterprise (seasons 1-4)
- ‘The Cage’
- Star Trek: Discovery (seasons 1-2)
- Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
- 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: Lower Decks
- Star Trek: Prodigy
- Star Trek (2009) – Prime timeline sequences
- Star Trek: Picard
- Star Trek: Discovery (season 3-)
- Short Treks: 'Calypso'
If you watch in the order given above, you'll get a continuous ‘history’ of the 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 32nd centuries according to the Star Trek timeline. That said, you will notice some odd discrepancies – 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 used in the Original Series.
Below, we'll explain how the different eras of the shows and movies break down for context.
Note that Gene Roddenberry's original pre-Kirk Star Trek pilot, 'The Cage', is counted as an instalment of the Original Series. You'll usually find it listed as a bonus episode as part of season one when you're watching it on streaming services.
Star Trek: Enterprise era (22nd century)
Begins and ends with: Star Trek Enterprise seasons 1-4
About a century before James T Kirk and his crew embark on their famous five-year mission in Star Trek: The Original Series, 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 this is the most familiar era of Star Trek, since it involves Kirk, Spock and the classic Enterprise crew.
This section of the Trek timeline kicks off with the original unaired Star Trek pilot, 'The Cage'. Next up in franchise chronology are the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery, which work as a prequel to the Original Series (they even feature a younger version of Spock), but it's all change in season 3 – the events of the season 2 finale send the crew into the distant future of the 32nd century. More on that later...
Upcoming spin-off Strange New Worlds will follow the adventures of Captain Pike, Number One and Spock on the Enterprise after the USS Discovery travelled to the future. And at some point after that, Captain James T Kirk will take command of Starfleet's most famous ship – a role he filled throughout The Original Series, The Animated Series and the first six Star Trek movies (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country).
The latest point we've seen (so far) in the 23rd century era is 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 when the Next Generation crew take on the mantle of headlining the big screen franchise.
Star Trek: The Next Generation era (24th century)
Begins with: Star Trek: The Next Generation
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 (TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager) and four movies (Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis) interweaving through the same timeline – Voyager's Captain Kathryn Janeway even shows up in Star Trek: Nemesis as a newly promoted admiral.
New animated comedy spin-off Lower Decks is set a year after Picard and the Next Generation crew's final mission in Star Trek: Nemesis, while Nickelodeon kids' cartoon Star Trek: Prodigy will see Kate Mulgrew reprising her role as Voyager's captain, Kathryn Janeway. That suggests it will presumably be set at a similar point in the Star Trek timeline.
In JJ Abrams' first Star Trek movie (2009), the destruction of Romulus and Spock Prime's accidental trip back to the pre-Original Series era (in the Kelvin timeline) also take place after the events of Nemesis.
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 glimpses of 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.
Since we last saw Jean-Luc Picard, he's retired to his vineyard in France, an android uprising on Mars has led to a ban on all synthetic life, and a disabled Borg Cube (known simply as the 'Artifact') is being mined for technology.
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 – thanks to the mysterious 'Burn', most of the dilithium in the galaxy has been destroyed, making warp travel impossible. As a result, the Federation is a shadow of its former self – even Earth has decided to go it alone.
This isn't, however, the furthest Star Trek has ventured into the future – Short Trek 'Calypso' is set on the Discovery in a distant future where the ship's computer has become sentient.
Star Trek's alternate 'Kelvin' timeline explained
In 2009's Star Trek movie directed by JJ Abrams, Spock Prime 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-)
- Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020-)
- Star Trek: Prodigy (2021, TBC)
- Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (TBC)
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 the Original Series’ only 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 lasted only four seasons, however (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager all made it to seven), and was canceled in 2005.
These were also dark times for the movie branch of the Trek franchise, as the disappointing box office performance of Nemesis had put the film saga on hiatus – it wasn't until 2009 that Star Trek warped back onto the big screen.
Future Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams (already 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’s 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 Lower Decks followed in August 2020, and Discovery spin-off Strange New Worlds – featuring Anson Mount's Captain Pike, Rebecca Romijn's Number One and Ethan Peck's Spock on the pre-Kirk Enterprise – is now in production.
There's also another cartoon offering heading for the Alpha Quadrant, in the form of animated kids show Star Trek: Prodigy.
And there's potentially even more to come, as the much-talked about Michelle Yeoh vehicle Section 31 is still in development. But with Paramount Plus programming boss Julie McNamara telling Variety (opens in new tab) that the streaming service's current aim is to debut "a new Trek every quarter", we may have to wait for Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks and/or Strange New Worlds to stand aside before we get a new TV iteration of Trek.
To keep things simple, all the shows above are listed by the date their first episode aired. While the chronology does jump around if you watch Star Trek in order of release date, 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.
How to stream Star Trek TV shows and movies
If you just want to know how to stream the 13 Star Trek movies and eight TV shows in the US and the UK, we've laid it out below.
In the US, the newly rebranded Paramount Plus (formerly CBS All Access) is definitely the place to go, with every TV show available to watch. In the UK, Netflix hosts all the Star Trek series except for Picard and Lower Decks.
Watching the 13 Trek movies is a rather more complex affair, with the films spread across numerous streaming services in the US and UK – and some of them you'll have to pay to rent/buy.
The TV shows
- Star Trek: The Original Series (US: Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video UK: Netflix)
- Star Trek: The Animated Series (US: Paramount Plus UK: Netflix)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (US: Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video UK: Netflix)
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (US: Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video UK: Netflix)
- Star Trek: Voyager (US: Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video UK: Netflix)
- Star Trek: Enterprise (US: Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video UK: Netflix)
- Star Trek: Discovery (US: Paramount Plus UK: Netflix)
- Star Trek: Picard (US: Paramount Plus UK: Amazon Prime Video)
- Star Trek: Lower Decks (US: Paramount Plus US: Amazon Prime Video)
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture (US: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu UK: Only available to rent/buy)
- Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (US: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu UK: Sky Cinema/Now TV)
- Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock (US: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu UK: Sky Cinema/Now TV)
- Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home (US: Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video UK: Sky Cinema/Now TV)
- Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier (US: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu UK: Only available to rent/buy)
- Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country (US: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu UK: Only available to rent/buy)
- Star Trek: Generations (US: Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video UK: Sky Cinema/Now TV)
- Star Trek: First Contact (US: Paramount Plus UK: Only available to rent/buy)
- Star Trek: Insurrection (US: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu UK: Only available to rent/buy)
- Star Trek: Nemesis (US: Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video UK: Only available to rent/buy)
- Star Trek 2009 (US: DirectTV UK: Sky Cinema/Now TV)
- Star Trek Into Darkness (US: FX Now UK: Amazon Prime Video)
- Star Trek Beyond (US: Amazon Prime, Hulu UK: Amazon Prime Video)