As we welcome a whole new generation into the fanbase of Star Trek with new ideas and new leases on old ships and Captains, there has been a lot of talk about what the correct order is to watch all the Star Trek series in. If you’re new to the franchise, it’s overwhelming, and honestly, even many of the current fans haven’t seen all the movies and series out there.
That said, any order is technically fine because they each have pretty much their own stand alone series. That said, however, if you want to actually follow the Federation timeline instead of the release date, the order isn’t as straight forward as you think. If you want to start in historical Star Trek timeline order, here’s a guide to help you find your way.
First, some reference dates to remember. The Eugenics Wars (aka war of human bioengineering) occured in Star Trek from 1992-1996. In 2024, both Capt. Picard and Capt. Sisko went back in time (separately). World War III occured on the Star Trek timeline 2049-2053. There was the Post-atomic horror from 2054-2079. The Burn (mass Federation ship detonation due to dilithium going inert in active warp engines) occurs in the year 3069, forcing the Federation into hiding and causing a collapse of the United Federation of Planets. Now that that’s out of the way. Let’s begin:
1. Enterprise – It may surprise you that Star Trek actually went further back on the timeline than Captain James T. Kirk. The series Enterprise follows the crew of Captain Archer, Earth’s very first starship. Archer commanded Enterprise (NX-01) from 2151-2161. Just after this series, the United Federation of planets was founded.
Star Trek: Discovery (Season 1-2) – Considering how new and shiny this series looks, it may surprise you that it’s first and second season took place again before Capt. James T. Kirk. The USS Discovery (NCC-1031) existed from 2256-2259. Not surprisingly, due to their heavily classified spore drive which allowed them to space hop, they were heavily involved with Section 31 (essential a dark ops/spy organization within the Federation) on several occasions, and have since had their entire crew’s existence during this timeline erased in perhaps the biggest Starfleet coverup in history. It is also said that a Section 31 series will be arriving around this point of the timeline sometime in the near future. That said, if you want to be super accurate to the timeline, leave season three for later because the finale of season 2 sends Discovery far into the future, justifying it’s glossy production value.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – While this series is still in it’s beginning few episodes, Captain Christopher Pike’s initial appearance as a guest Captain on the USS Discovery places their timeline at the very end of Discovery’s second season. It’s also interesting to note that George Samuel Kirk seems to serve on Capt. Chris Pike’s ship. At this point we’re in the year 2259. Though, Capt. Kirk does make his first appearance as a young Captain during the finale of the series.
Where things go a bit awry is when we split off into the new movies. Khan, ST: Into the Darkness, and ST: Beyond are seen by fans as alternate universe stories since they take place from 2259-2262, and Pike is heavily involved in the plotline. It conflicts with Pike Captaining a ship during that time as he’s supposed to continue serving as a Starfleet Captain for the next 10 years.
Star Trek, the original series with James T. Kirk and his beloved crew, takes place on the primary timeline starting in the year 2265, six years after the disappearance of the USS Discovery. The series continues through 2269 (Stardate 5999).
From there we have a series of original movies of the Enterprise, Spock, and other important players like Khan. Also, we have Star Trek: The Animated Series which takes place from 2269-2270.
Star Trek: The Next Generation surfaces in the year 2364, which is just under a hundred years after James T. Kirk. Captain Jean-Luc Picard is in command of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) for the series until 2370.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – During the year 2367 (at the same time as TNG season 4), the Battle of Wolf 359 occurs, killing Commander Benjamin Sisko’s wife, Jennifer. This causes a permanent rift between Benjamin Sisko and Jean-Luc Picard. In 2369 (TNG season 6), Sisko takes a posting as the commanding officer of an abandoned Cardassian space station (DS9) just outside of Bajoran space. In 2371 (DS9 season 3), the USS Voyager (NCC-74656) disembarks from DS9 space station, goes through a space anomaly and is promptly thought to have been lost. This same year, the Dominion is introduced as an enemy to the Federation and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant. Shortly after, the USS Defiant (NX-74205) is introduced as an escort class (aka the first warship) ever produced by the Federation. The Dominion Wars last from 2373-2375 (DS9 season 5-7).
Star Trek: Voyager – Captained by Kathryn Janeway having been seemingly lost to the Federation, continued their journey in the Delta Quadrant, returning home in 2378, three years after the end of the Dominion War. It is sometimes asked why they didn’t go through the Bajoran wormhole, however, the Dominion was located in the Gamma Quadrant, rather than the Delta Quadrant, meaning the USS Voyager was in completely uncharted, unconnected space.
Star Trek: Lower Decks – this more comedic animated series of Star Trek began in 2380. So far, it spans to the year 2381 on the USS Cerritos. It’s commanding officer is Captain Carol Freeman.
Star Trek: Prodigy – a series aimed more towards younger audiences begins the timeline on 2383.
Picard – This series begins with former Admiral Picard having quit Starfleet and continues in a flurry of action. Season 1-2 go from 2399-2401. It also dips into a past timeline from the year 2024. That same year was when the crew of DS9 accidentally managed to get in the middle of the Bell Riots. And it goes back again from 2379-2386. Like many Star Trek series, Picard likes to time travel.
Star Trek: Discovery (season 3 – current) – Michael Burnham reappears in the year 3186, and the USS Discovery follows into the future, arriving in the year 3188. Almost a hundred years after the collapse of the United Federation of Planets, the USS Discovery arrives, beginning the long task of distributing dilithium and helping rebuild the Federation. The USS Discovery goes through several Captains during the series including Gabriel Lorca, Saru, Christopher Pike, Michael Burnham, and other acting commanding parties.
Discovery is still a continuing series, so where Star Trek goes from here in the timeline is still uncharted. Still, as there is a several hundred year gap between Picard and the 3rd season of Discovery, I think a good portion of fans would be interested to know what happened during the gap.
Obviously, to watch Star Trek in this order would be borderline maddening, which just goes to show, the only correct way to watch the franchise is in any order you choose. Live long and prosper, friends.