Viewing Guide Methodology

Star Trek Viewing

Guide Methodology

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The purpose of this list is to provide a mostly chronological viewing order of the entire Star Trek franchise while also prioritizing a better storytelling experience. We make some adjustments to the order to achieve this goal. For example, to minimize or avoid viewing episodes that require foreknowledge of later events to make sense, we may delay watching those specific episodes until after the required event. However, since this can be subjective, I try to provide a detailed explanation for some of our choices on this page.

Some of the information on this page will spoil episodes and events: If you want to follow the list WITHOUT being spoiled, you may wish to avoid this page as well.

Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact starts in 2373, but largely takes place in 2063. You really can’t watch it first though, as so much of it will make no sense, so I DO NOT recommend watching it here. Even so, though the purpose of this list is to be a watching order and not a chronology, I mention the basic events of Cochrane’s warp drive test and the meeting of the Vulcans as it is good background for….

Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT)

Enterprise doesn’t require any reordering, though we do skip a few to watch later.

Time-travel episodes are kept in the main viewing order because their stories usually begin and end in the same year, regardless of other parts of the story taking place in different time periods. Moving these episodes solely because of their temporary temporal settings would only confuse viewers who lack context for the characters and plot. We will apply this guideline throughout the rest of the franchise, which is why we are not relocating DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations" to the middle of  the TOS run.

In Season Two we skip “Regeneration” until much later in the sequence, placing it after First Contact as by then you’ll be familiar with both the Borg and the reason they are found in the ice.

From Season Four, “In a Mirror Darkly,” parts 1 and 2 take place in the Mirror Universe, which we have yet to learn about, and for multiple reasons these episodes TRULY would make ZERO sense to any viewer at this point. They are moved after the TOS episode “The Tholian Web” as it provides the backstory for this story, and by which time the reader will have already learned abut the Mirror Universe from Disco and TOS.

And, of course, that brings us to “These are the Voyages,” the much-maligned finale which uses the framing of a TNG episode to tell an ENT story. I’ve moved this to appear after the TNG episode it is supposed to take place during, as that makes the most sense, even though that does rather emphasize some ways they don’t QUITE line up as well as you might think if you don’t watch them back-to-back. This also has the advantage of making the Demons-Terra Prime two-parter into the de facto season finale, which I think is a much stronger way to end Enterprise (for now).

Lastly, I break my not-a-chronology rule again here to mention the events of the Romulan War and the founding of the Federation, as Enterprise was clearly building to those events and it is a notable “gap” in on-screen history.

Star Trek: Discovery (DSC)

Discovery Seasons One and Two can be run straight through without much issue, though I do think it is important to first explain that the visual differences are merely a visual updating, so that a new viewer isn’t confused into overthinking how the different look “fits in”.

I sent some time trying to work around the mention of the USS Defiant from TOS being in the Mirror Universe, as they sort of make too much of a big deal out of it to completely ignore, but ultimately it isn’t important to Discovery so we can sort of get away with just telling the reader to keep it in mind but don’t worry about it for now.

Season Two ends with them disappearing into a wormhole to travel forward to the future, and, in one of the more fun things here, I actually do recommend the viewer consider Discovery as ended at this point and move on to TOS, only to pick up Disco again at the very end of the viewing order with Season Three, which begins in 3188 and runs smoothly from that point on.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (SNW)

Strange New Worlds Seasons 1 and 2 work smoothly in aired order, with one major exception.

“Those Old Scientists” is a crossover with Lower Decks, a show we will not get to for over a hundred years. I struggled with this one, as I do believe you COULD watch it with the other SNW shows, as it has some character progress for both Spock and Uhura, and see it as a “preview” of Starfleet to come, but I eventually came down on placing it amongst  Lower Decks as I think it is stronger there. Plus, I do love the “surprise” visit to earlier in the timeline for people working through this chronology. As I say in the list though, if you are disappointed by this and want to watch it at this point, I’m not going to try to talk you out of it - it still mostly works.

Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)

“The Cage” takes place, and is watched, prior to Discovery, with the remainder of the series taking place after Season Two of Disco. TOS is really the only show (with the exception of a bit of Voyager), where the production order differs radically from the aired order, and I would suggest that at least the first season be watched in production order, as it can be quite illuminating to watch them figuring the series out in real time. This adds a lot of inconsistencies in stardates, but on TOS those were pretty inconsistent from week to week no matter what you do, so… shrug.

Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS)

TAS is basically treated as years four and five of the TOS “Five year Mission” and is to be watched in order of original air date. In the list I am a bit flippant about canonicity, but to elaborate: there are corners of the web that consider it non-canon, based on comments from Gene Roddenberry years after the fact, but Gene had a tendency to declare things non-canon all the time as the mood struck him. I see no reason not to consider the series canon, as it is an officially created Star Trek television series, and one that has been referenced directly and indirectly in many subsequent Trek productions.

Star Trek: TOS Movies

These are simple, with movies 1-6 coming after TAS and before TNG. No real notes here.

Star Trek: Generations

Star Trek: Generations has an opening sequence that takes place in 2293 before jumping ahead to 2371. I don’t like the idea of expecting people to watch part of a movie and then save the rest for god knows how much later, but as there IS a clearly marked divider in this film, I decided to mention that if someone DID want to watch the opening sequence here, but not continue on, that can be a fun thing to do. Really though, it’s probably easiest just to watch it all at once in  2371, where I have placed it based on theatrical release date.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG)

Like in TOS, production order can vary from aired order, but it seems that they had a much better idea of the intended airing orders than TOS did, so basically watching in airdate order is just fine and avoids some glitches.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9)

DS9 likewise pretty much works just fine in aired order without any need to be creative. This series ran, and took place concurrently, with both TNG and VOY. I tend to switch back and forth between them in the viewing guide based on airdates, but I do occasionally bend or break that to avoid interrupting a two-parter or a cohesive arc, especially as the physical distance between the two story settings means that adjusting slightly doesn’t cause continuity issues.

Star Trek: Voyager (VOY)

Voyager is ALMOST able to be watched in airdate order, but there are a few spots where production was out of wack in the 2nd season, so I rearrange those to be in the intended air dates. (Some of Season Two’s episodes were actually filmed as Season One eps and held over for… some reason.)

The placement of "Living Witness" is an interesting topic for discussion.  Chronologically, it’s telling a story ABOUT events in 2374, but is actually set “700 years later”, placing it around approximately 3074. In addition, at the end we pull back to another framing device taking place some unknown amount of time (50 yrs? 1000 yrs?) after THAT. Since the episode is self-contained in the Delta quadrant, it does not have any storyline continuity repercussions, making it pretty easily moved around in the viewing order.


Initially, I placed "Living Witness" in its airdate order in 2374 for those reasons, but with  Disco S3 taking place even further in the future, I decided to move it to circa 3074 as it works well as a nice re-visit to our friends on Voyager after watching Picard and before watching Disco S3. (I also felt that its themes laid nice groundwork for the themes of Discovery S3.)

Sidenote: overthinking this specific episode is what prompted me to create this methodology page in the first place.

Star Trek: TNG Movies

Generations and First Contact have both been discussed above, and have been placed amongst the TNG/DS9/VOY episodes by theatrical release date.

Insurrection truly makes no sense ANYWHERE when it comes to fitting it in with Deep Space Nine…. So I punted on this one and yielded to Memory-Alpha’s chronology, putting it after DS9’s “Only a Paper Moon.”

Nemesis is an easy placement, as it follows the finale of Voyager.

Star Trek: Lower Decks (LDS)

Lower Decks is easy to place as the show runner has specified its 2380 timeframe, and the episodes work smoothly in aired order. Internal evidence seems to indicate that S2 and S3 take place within the same year, so unless evidence appears otherwise, I see no reason to quibble with that.

Kelvinverse movies

While the Kelvin films largely take place between 2258 and 2263, they exist in an alternate timeline that is created due to the Romulan supernova that takes place in the normal “Prime” timeline in 2387. That event continues to have repercussions in the prime timeline after 2387, so the placement that made most sense to me was to watch them at that point in the viewing order, before Star Trek: Picard.

Star Trek: Picard (PIC)

Another series that works smoothly in aired order, starting in 2399. I STRONGLY feel that Season 2 makes more sense if you decide it takes place 2-3 years after Season 1, and Season 3 should take place at least that long after Season 2. However, internal evidence says they are intended to occur much closer together, with seasons 2 and 3 both taking place in 2401 with Season 2 being complete before April. I don’t like it, but it’s not my place to change it.

Star Trek: Short Treks (SHO)

Short Treks is a fun one in that its stories can take place at any time or place in the Star Trek timeline, though so far they’ve mostly stuck to the Discovery/Strange New Worlds era, and it is unclear if we will ever get any more.

Most of these can be pretty roughly placed based on content, with two notable exceptions:

“Calypso” is an unknown time presumably after Disco Season Four… except that elements of it don’t seem to line up with that either. We’ll have to see where it ends up finally - we seem to not yet have enough pieces to say for sure.

“Ephraim and Dot” spans a long period of time starting in the TOS era and ending during Star Trek III, but to avoid spoilers and ensure the references make sense to the viewer, I placed it after Star Trek III.

Star Trek: Prodigy (PRO)

Prodigy’s official date of 2383 was initially confusing, but by the end of season 1 the time-travel shenanigans that had gotten us to that point had pretty much been clarified, and 2383 indeed made sense. It appears that the yet-unaired (and in serious behind-the-scenes flux) second season may take place largely in a different time, but I am guessing I will end up keeping it in the same place in the list as the framing device will continue to be 2383/2384-ish. Obviously this will be re-evaluated if necessary once we actually see what they have in mind.

Origins and Credits

This list began as a Word document created for my friend Aubrey Chizhik to use to watch all of Star Trek after watching much of TNG and Voyager over the years. Over time I tweaked it and expanded it to the point that it seemed worth posting online.

Memory-Alpha was an invaluable resource while creating this page, to confirm references and airdates. It is an essential resource for any Trek fan.

While my list was created independently, I should give credit and thanks to the similar Star Trek Chronology Project, which predates it on the internet, and, once I found it, was useful to sanity-check some of my own choices against. We don’t always agree, but we do more times than not, which I think validates the methodologies of both sites.

Looking for a similar list for Star WARS? The best I’ve found so far is here. Check it out!

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