Viewing Guide Methodology

Star Trek Viewing

Guide Methodology


As alluded to on the main page, the goal of this list was to create a MOSTLY chronological watching order of the entire Star Trek franchise, while still being willing to move some things around to ensure a better story experience. Also, we’d obviously want to to minimize/avoid situations where an episode simply would not make sense, as it relies on fore-knowledge of episodes which take place later in the timeline. This can be subjective though, so I wanted to give a more detailed rationale for some of those choices. 

Some of the information on this page originally appeared on the list itself, but has been moved here to minimize spoilers for those who want to do so. In other words: If you want to follow the list WITHOUT being spoiled, you may want 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 stay in the main viewing order as the stories generally start and end in the given year, and moving them just because parts of the story technically take place in 2003 or the 26th century or  whatever would only be confusing as the viewer would have no context for who any of these people are or what is going on. This general guideline remains in play for the rest of the franchise, which is why we’re not moving, say, 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 was cheated out of portraying them. 

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 every end of the viewing order with Season Three, which begins in 3188 and runs smoothly from that point on. 

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 strongly suggest that at least the first season be watched in production order, as it can be quite fun to watch them figure 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 anyway, 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 first TNG and later VOY. I tend to list 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 settings means that adjusting slightly won’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 where actually filmed as Season One eps and held over for… some reason.)

The interesting one to discuss is “Living Witness.”  Chronologically, its telling a story ABOUT 2374, but is actually set “700 years later”, so let’s say 3074, and then at the end we pull back to another framing device taking place some unknown amount of time (50 yrs? 1000 yrs?) after THAT. What makes it easier is that, as it is confined to the Delta quadrant, its self-contained enough that it truly has no storyline continuity repercussions wherever you put it, so… 

I originally had it in its airdate order in 2374 because, frankly, it DIDN’T tie into anything outside itself so there was no overarching storyline benefit to watching it later, and while I like the episode, it doesn’t really feel appropriate as a coda to the entire franchise. Now that we have Disco S3 taking place even further though, I decided to move it to circa 3074 as it works well as a nice re-visit to our friends on Voyager after Picard and before Disco S3. (Plus, its story about the passing of time strengthens Discovery by reinforcing just how much time has passed)

(Sidenote: overthinking this specific episode is why I made a methodology page at all.)

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.

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.

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.

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

“Calypso” is an unknown time presumably after Disco Season Three… except that it doesn’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 staring 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.

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!