While the COVID-19 pandemic keeping so many people at home, some are turning to their favorite forms of entertainment for comfort. Current and former Star Trek cast members have stepped up to provide some distractions. Patrick Stewart is live-streaming his readings of Shakespeare's sonnets daily. LeVar Burton is bringing his LeVar Burton Reads podcast to live-streams three times a week. Star Trek: Picard producer Akiva Goldsman penned an inspiring Amiral's Log from Jean-Luc Picard's point of view during a shipwide quarantine.Stars from the current lineup of CBS All Access Star Trek shows, Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery, shared an inspiring message with fans via the internet.
But there's no substitute for actual Star Trek. The series has spanned more than 50 years, eight television series, and 13 movies. Every episode of every Star Trek television series is available on CBS All Access. Since CBS All Access is offering free sign up for a limited time, now is the ideal moment to get your Star Trek binge on.
To help you out, we're here to run down every season of Star Trek and every movie, telling you where you can find them, what you should expect, and where you should start.
Star Trek: The Original Series
The one that started it all. The 1966 sci-fi series struggling to survive on television, but wound up birthing a franchise spanning television and film across more than 50 years. Star Trek: The Original Series shows its age a bit like a series made in the 1960s but is still a sci-fi classic.
Star Trek: The Original Series is made up entirely of single-episode stories with no real continuity carrying over between them. We recommend checking out the episode "Balance of Terror," the first to feature the Romulans, as it is one of the best and a sterling example of the storytelling Star Trek would become famous for. After that, you can watch straight through or jump around based on which plot synopsis interests you. Some other classics include "The Doomsday Machine" and "The City on the Edge of Forever." Things get rough in the show's third and final season with such infamous stories as "Spock's Brain," but it more than balances out on the side of good.
Star Trek: The Animated Series
Where to Stream: CBS All Access
Where to Start: "Yesteryear"
A few years after Star Trek was canceled, it was revived in animation to continue the five-year mission. Most of the original cast returned to voice their characters.
Star Trek: The Animated Series is a product of the 1970s and its shows, with dated animation and simplistic plots. It's also the only Star Trek show to be removed from canon for a time before newer series began to reference it again. It has its moment though, so consider it for a chaser once you're out of live-action Star Trek to watch.
Star Trek TOS Movies
Star Trek was canceled after its third season, but fans continued to campaign to bring it back. There were plans for a new television series, but the popularity of Star Wars convinced those in charge of the series to turn Star Trek into a film franchise instead. The entire original cast returned and appeared in six feature films.
The common wisdom concerning these films is that the even-numbered ones are good, and the odd-numbered ones are bad. The first film is a visual marvel, but pretty stale from a story perspective. It can be easily skipped.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is where the franchise finds its footing again and where newcomers should start with the films. It's a direct sequel to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed," so be sure to check out that episode first.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock tries to recreate the same magic as Wrath of Khan using a similar formula, but it's a shadow of its predecessor. It does serve as the middle chapter of a makeshift trilogy with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a more light-hearted entry in the canon. You should watch all three.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is often considered the worst in the series. It's kind of goofy, but also kind of charming? It's skippable, but maybe hold it reserve for a fun time later on.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a standalone film that also serves as a perfect sendoff to the crew. It caps off themes both from the films and The Original Series and is the ideal way to say goodbye to the original Star Trek crew.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
In 1987, Star Trek returned to television with Star Trek: The Next Generation, a brand new series featuring a brand new ship with a brand new crew. The series is set approximately a century after Star Trek: The Original Series, with new technology, new aliens, and new worlds to explore.
While you should watch the two-part pilot "Encounter at Farpoint" to familiarize yourself with the show's cast and basic premise, the first season is widely regarded as disappointing. It tries too hard to recreate the specific magic of Star Trek: The Original Series instead of finding its own voice.
The season two episode "The Measure of a Man" is where you can first see the show's potential. That potential is fully realized in the season three episode "Yesterday's Enterprise," and then the series hits full steam with its first two-part cliffhanger finale "The Best of Both Worlds."
From there, the show is mostly episodic, but there are some serialized subplots and developments. It's worth watching in order, but feel free to skip episodes that don't grab your attention.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has long been thought of as the black sheep of the 1990s Star Trek franchise and for a number of reasons. It takes place on a space station instead of on a spaceship. It toned down the optimism associated with Gene Roddenberry's vision to take a look at the dark spots in utopia. It also broke new ground with serialized storytelling where Star Trek had always been episodic.
The streaming era of television has been good to Deep Space Nine. Free of the constraints of appointment viewing, fans can dive deep into its rich storylines and fascinating characters on their own terms and at their own pace. That's why we recommend starting from the very beginning with the pilot episode "Emissary" and watching straight through. We won't pretend there aren't a few bad episodes in the series, but they are anomalies. This series is meant to be watched start to finish, and that's what you should do.
Oh, and try to watch the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Best of Both Worlds" first. It factors into "Emissary" in some important ways.
Star Trek: Voyager
Where to Stream: CBS All Access, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime
Where to Start: "Deadlock"
When Star Trek: The Next Generation went off the air, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was still in its pride. As discussed, Deep Space Nine is something of the black sheep in the family, and there was the desire to keep classic, episodic Star Trek on the air. Plus, UPN was about to launch and it needed a big franchise series to draw in viewers.
Enter Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager combines the premise of Star Trek with that of Lost in Space, sending the USS Voyager and its crew into the unexplored territory of the Delta Quadrant. They're decades away from home and out of contact with the Federation. Voyager is a little campier than other '90s Star Trek shows, which works for some fans and turns off others.
You should watch the pilot episode, "Caretaker," to get the show's premise, but then we'd recommend checking out the episode "Deadlock" to see where you fall on that spectrum. This is an episode where one of the main characters dies and is replaced by an alternate universe doppelganger and Captain Janeway shrugs it off as business as usual for Starfleet. After that, jump to the Season Three finale "Scorpion," where the show really starts to hit its stride.
Star Trek TNG Movies
- Star Trek Generations - Amazon
- Star Trek: First Contact - Amazon
- Star Trek: Insurrection - Amazon, Hulu
- Star Trek: Nemesis - CBS All Access
Where to Start: Star Trek: First Contact
After Star Trek: The Next Generation wrapped its seven-season run, the cast went on to star in four films of varying quality. Star Trek Generations should have been the crossover event of a generation, bringing Captains Kirk and Picard together for the first time, but the film didn't live up to the hype the way fans hoped.
We'd recommend starting with Star Trek: First Contact instead, which is the best of the bunch and concluded the Borg storyline from The Next Generation. Star Trek: Insurrection is a decent movie, if not all that memorable. Star Trek: Nemesis is not good, but it is required viewing if you plan to keep going and watch Star Trek: Picard.
It's also worth noting that these movies came out while Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager were both still on the air. Worf became a series regular on Deep Space Nine after Generations, and a couple of Voyager cameos pop in the movies after that. As far as continuity goes, there's no crossover in Generations. First Contact takes place during the fifth season of Deep Space Nine, releasing between that season's eight and ninth episodes. Insurrection takes place during Deep Space Nine's final season, releasing between episodes nine and ten. Nemesis takes place after both Deep Space Nine and Voyager concluded their runs.
Star Trek: Enterprise
After the '90s shows went off the air, Star Trek got a case of prequel obsession, focusing on pre-TOS or rebooted TOS era stories for the next almost 20 years. It began with Star Trek: Enterprise, originally called Enterprise without the Star Trek. The series focuses on the crew of the Enterprise NX-01, the first Starfleet ship to venture out from Earth in search of new worlds and new civilizations.
Enterprise takes place before the Federation is formed, and fans were frustrated at times that it chose to tell adventure of the week style stories rather than diving into the story of how the Federation came to be. It finally began telling that story in its final season before being canceled. The final season is its best, and so we'd recommend starting there and then going back to watch more episodes if you're into it.
Watch the pilot, "Broken Bow," for an introduction. Then jump to the episode "Borderland," which features TNG's Brent Spiner as a guest star, and keep watching from there.
The Kelvin Timeline
In 2009, Star Trek got a reboot that isn't really a reboot. These three films take place in an alternate universe created when an angry Romulan took an advanced spaceship back through time to the pre-TOS era.
The films present a new, younger cast as the crew of the USS Enterprise and have a good time playing with fan expectations and established relationships. They're not as thought-provoking as most other Star Trek stories, but they're fun and the charismatic cast is immediately endearing.
Star Trek: Discovery
After more than 10 years off the air, Star Trek returned with a brand new television show to help build the CBS All Access streaming service. The streaming takes Star Trek into a bold new era with fully-serialized storytelling.
The first season of Star Trek: Discovery deals with the war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The second season brings in Spock and Captain Pike fo the Enterprise to help solve a mystery written across the galaxy. Star at the beginning and keep going.
Star Trek: Short Treks
Star Trek: Short Treks isn't a series so much as a collection of interstitial short films tied to other Star Trek shows. They run in length from 10 to 15 minutes longs and are great quick shots of Star Trek.
For the best viewing experience, here's when you should watch each episode:
- Between Star Trek: Discovery Season One and Season Two:
- "The Brightest Star"
- "The Escape Artist"
- After Star Trek: Discovery Season Two:
- "The Trouble With Edward"
- "Ask Not"
- "The Girl Who Made the Stars"
- Before Star Trek: Picard
- "Children of Mars"
- Pretty much whenever:
- "Ephraim and Dot"
Star Trek: Picard
Almost 20 years after he last played the character, Patrick Stewart returns to the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard. The series continues Picard's arc from where it left off in Star Trek: Nemesis, while also picking up threads from Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the Kelvin Timeline movies.
The series is described by its creators as a 10-hour movie and it lives up to that idea. Start at the beginning and keep going. It is perfect for a day of binging at home.
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