Which Star Trek series should I watch, and in what order?

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the original series, and miscellaneous episodes of the Next Generation shows. And I’ve seen most of the movies, I think, including the most recent reboot with all the new kids. I actually like it a quite a bit.

I started losing interest in ST when I started reading a great deal of real science fiction and realized just how limited the franchise was compared to the universe of ideas that sci-fi writers are digging into.

But hey, I have Netflix streaming, and too much time on my hands, so… A search shows that Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, and an animated series are available in addition to the two earlier series. I don’t think I’ve seen so much as a single episode of any of them.

Does it matter what order I watch them in? What chron order are they in, not by the years the programs were produced, but by the time frame in the ST universe?

So, I await your advice.

The three 24th century series make determining a watch order based on when they happen very difficult, since they overlap.

But, generally it’d go - Enterprise -> TOS -> TAS -> TOS films -> TNG -> DS9/TNG films -> Voyager

The first couple seasons of DS9 overlap with the last couple seasons of TNG, and likewise the first couple seasons of Voyager overlap with the last couple seasons of DS9, but they’re generally removed enough that you don’t need to watch them interspersed - you can get away with finishing TNG before finishing DS9, and throw the TNG films in between seasons of DS9, then watch Voyager after finishing DS9.

This is all you need.

Of course the order doesn’t matter; it’s Q! Time means nothing to him.

As far as quality…
DS9 is, overall, the best, IMO. It finds its feet faster than TNG, and has more good/outstanding episodes. The second season on (basically), concerns the war with the Dominion, and is less episodic then TNG. There are several episodes that I would consider the best that Trek can be.
That said, TNG has a goodly number of good/outstanding episodes as well.
Enterprise is okay the first season, then picks up very well the second. Dunno about the third and fourth seasons (haven’t seen them yet), but I’m hopeful.
I haven’t seen the animated series in ages, but I remember, even as a child, being struck by how cheap they looked.
Voyager I’ve seen very little of; the first episode scared me off. Possibly unfair, as the first season or two of TNG was often rocky as well.

But do watch Deep Space Nine - there’s some great stories there.

I grew up watching TOS and still love it. But, by todays standards it’s pretty dated. Crew women in mini skirts, lower ranks for women, some of the stories probably seem very sexist by todays viewers. It was very much a product of the 1960’s tv industry.

I’d start with TNG. Watch all of it. Then DS9. Then TOS and finally Voyager. I’d skip Enterprise. I’d definitely skip the first Star Trek movie. I only watched it once myself and that was almost too much. Movies 2,3,4 are pretty good. 5, 6 not so much. I always said movie 4 (saving the whales) came closest to the quirky, semi-comedic feel of TOS. Episodes like Mudds women, Tribbles, and the Chicago Mafia episode etc. Love movie 4, “I’m from Iowa, I only work in Space”

I was a hardcore Trekkie for about ten years. In my opinion, the only two series worth watching are The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Voyager is just Gilligan’s Island in Space, and Enterprise, though good in three to four episode chunks there at the end, was just too vacuous.

I can’t and won’t comment on the original series as I have a low tolerance for the datedness of the aesthetic of the show, and that doesn’t allow me to fairly judge it. Its movies, on the other hand, are generally worth a watch. Of the six, only two are truly bad: The Motion Picture and The Final Frontier, and I think the latter is actually okay for camp.

That said, I would suggest skipping most of the TNG movies. The only worthwhile one is First Contact. Nemesis is worse than The Final Frontier, and not as good for a laugh.

Personally, I think DS-9 is the best of the best, but I recognize that that is a personal opinion, and predicated on my preference for darkness and conflict. It’s the *film noir *of the Star Trek universe. If that appeals to you, there’s your first stop.

If you like optimism and hope, *The Next Generation *is your ticket.

*Voyager *needs to be avoided at all costs. Waaaayyy too sweetness and light. Of course, it does have Jerry Ryan, so you might consider watching it with the sound on mute.

*Enterprise *was well done, but faced an insurmountable challenge: It had to look *more *advanced than present day technology, yet *less *advanced than *TOS *technology. Which really can’t be done, since modern day technology has largely surpassed TOS technology! If you can suspend disbelief well enough to defuse that little contradiction, you’ll find that it is a fine series.

As for the movies, I would skip them all. The movies were created for a mass audience, and as such, were highly dumbed down. Think of them only as guilty pleasures, but certainly not serious science fiction.

All just MHO, of course! YMMV.

While there are several Trek movies, the core of the franchise is unquestionably in the TV series. The movies are pretty much an adjunct to that, even at their best (I like II, III and VI).

Of the series, the more discerning science fiction fans usually put Voyager and Enterprise beneath the Original,* Next Generation, and DS9 series (with the exact ordering varying according to individual tastes), but don’t pay too much attention to that. All the series have great episodes. All the series have crap episodes. So unless you want to just watch everything, the important thing to look at it is the quality of individual episodes. The best Trek reviews site that gives shorthand (star or number) ratings is this one. There are a couple other reviewers that I like as much, and I don’t necessarily agree with Jammer in every case, but his is the easiest one to look at if you’re largely unfamiliar with the shows and don’t want to spoil plots for yourself. You could get by, and enjoy Star Trek very much, watching only the episodes rated three stars and up.**

To watch in in-universe chronological order, start with Enterprise, Seasons 1-4; then original pilot “The Cage,” if you want; then Original Series, Seasons 1-3; then the original cast movies (I through VI); then Next Generation Season 1-5.

Then you get into the period where the chronologies of different productions overlap. Go here to get episodes from this point on (including the later movies) in “stardate” order. Again, you’ll probably want to cross-reference with the episode ratings and skip the dogs. Once DS9 is over and you’ve got just Voyager ahead of you, there’s a lot that’s skippable, but the few gems are still worth plucking out.

  • The Animated Series can be considered a small coda to the Original Series. While several of its episodes are enjoyable, only one, “Yesteryear,” is really essential.
    ** For some of the two-part episodes, the second part is rated lower, but you still gotta watch those to get the conclusions.

I loved Enterprise, and can easily sit down to watch Voyager if it’s playing on TV. But I too will echo the chorus of people saying you should watch DS9 first. It has the best story arcs with the feel of being a proper space serial. Voyager was too damn episodic, IMO.

TOS is campy sixties crap; great if your nerd friends come over for a pizza, but alone on the Netflix, there’s not a chance in hell I’d sit through a full episode…

In many ways I like DS9 best too, but I would absolutely recommend against watching it first. For one thing, if you end up liking it best as well, then the rest would be downhill, right?

But there’s also the fact that several elements of DS9 were built on concepts that started in Next Generation, and the whole narrative gains richness from the context of the larger Trek universe. Even if you knew that DS9 was all you were really interested in, I’d still recommend several selected Next Generation episodes as a prequel (for example, you’ll appreciate Kira Nerys and her world more if you’ve already met Ro Laren).
Also, if you aren’t distracted by the '60s production of the Original Series (improved by the remastered effects), a handful of the best SF concept episodes and philosophical questions are to be found there. While it has comedy episodes, the serious ones are really much farther from “camp” than many of Voyager’s.

A good point - and it brings up another thought. Many of the best DS9 episodes are the better for the contrast with the (unrealistically, IMO) utopian view of the Federation presented in TNG.

I would say the only ones worth watching are TOS, TNG and DS9. The other two should never have been made.

Those are the ones I like too, as whole series. But have you ever seen “Distant Origin,” “Blink of an Eye” or “Counterpoint” from Voyager? “Dead Stop,” “Cogenitor” or “Twilight” from Enterprise? Any of these beats the hell out of the worst episodes of the better series.

Totally agree. Enterprise and Voyager aren’t worth anything. The rare competent episode is buried under the tons of shit that is the rest of the show. Don’t bother.

DS9 is tops, but I’d encourage you watch at least some of TOS and TNG to get the context (all of the shows are available on Netflix Instant Watch).

I mean, it’s certainly possible to go into DS9 cold and get the full effect, but it might take some effort to “catch up” with the lore while simultaneously watching the series. The Star Trek universe was already fairly complex by the time DS9 was conceived. And although DS9 goes on to carve out its own distinct niche within the universe, centered around the Bajoran wormhole and the galaxy’s unexplored Gamma Quadrant, it does draw significantly upon what is established on the prior series, particular TNG.

It helps, for example, to have a clear sense of who the Klingons and Romulans are, as those particular civilizations tend to wander in and out of the DS9 story without much setup. I don’t actually think it’s strictly necessary to watch any of the TNG episodes focused on the Bajorans, Cardassians, or Ferengi, though. Although those races play huge roles in DS9, they are also introduced more carefully for the benefit of new viewers. In addition, all three races are noticeably different in their DS9 incarnations versus their original depictions on TNG.

All in all, I’d say that the episodes you’d probably want to watch before starting DS9 would be:

TOS:
“Balance of Terror” - Submarine warfare in space, and a brilliant introduction to the Romulans.
“The Trouble with Tribbles” - Just trust me on this one.

TNG:
“Best of Both Worlds, Parts 1 and 2” - Will be crucial to understanding DS9’s lead, Benjamin Sisko, and also the single best two-parter from TNG’s run.
“Sins of the Father,” “Reunion,” “Redemption, Parts 1 and 2” - This is the main “Klingon Arc” on TNG, and establishes numerous plot points and characters who return on DS9
“The Defector” - One of the best Romulan episodes, and should catch you up sufficiently on the state of the cold war between the Romulans and the good guys.
“The Wounded” - Introduces the Cardassians and gives some important backstory on O’Brien, a minor TNG character who becomes a full cast member on DS9.

It helps that all of the episodes I’ve mentioned above are great (and there are plenty more, but I’m trying to keep the list reasonably brief). You should be fully prepped for DS9 once you’ve seen them!

Absolutely do not watch Enterprise first. It’s chronologically earlier, but it’s the last-produced series, and it mostly sucks. (The last season and one or two earlier episodes are quite good, but the bulk of S1-2 are just boring, with S3 only somewhat better.)

TOS is obviously the original. It’s great, but it’s certainly not paced like a modern TV show, and it’s tough to swallow more than one in a single sitting.

The animated series was a kids’ cartoon version of TOS, made about a decade later. It’s fun, but a trifle.

TNG takes place not quite a century later and is probably the best series for someone to get hooked on. It and DS9 can credibly claim to be the best series, although for different reasons. It has the best single episodes, and it’s pretty much an unbroken string of good ones from S3 through S6. So I’d say start there, and it’ll make you a Trekkie. Then you can go back and watch the first two seasons (which were dire and trivial, respectively) and S7, which ain’t bad, but isn’t nearly as good as it was.

DS9 comes next (it started during the middle of TNG’s 6th season), and it’s fantastic. It’s still a little shaky at the beginning, but takes much less time to find its footing than TNG, and it’s much more sophisticated in using characters and building stories over years. But it’s certainly less friendly to the casual viewer, and, with few exceptions, I wouldn’t say it’s episodes taken as themselves are as good as the best single TNG episodes. (Even if the effect can be greater to someone who knows all the backstory.)

Voyager came next, showing up about halfway through DS9’s third season. It is well done sci-fi action/adventure, but it’s not really the fiction of ideas. It’s very supportive of the casual viewer – to the detriment of the regular viewer, in fact, because they never even reference stuff from past episodes that people in these situations would talk about, their use of resources makes no sense given the situation (trapped alone, far from any ability to resupply), and characterization is spotty. But pretty much every episode is an enjoyable yarn. Lots of people whose first Trek show was Voyager love it for its consistent effervescence, but those of us who were around before it rarely do. But for what it is, it’s extremely digestible.

Enterprise came last, the final series, premiering a few months after Voyager’s bow. It was meant to be a prequel, but the people in charge for the first three seasons didn’t actually know that much about Star Trek, so it mostly made the Trek faithful’s heads explode with how often it got shit wrong. And Futurama jokes aside, it really did [almost] kill the franchise. The first few series are lame, and there’s a time-traveling metaplot that makes no sense, clearly wasn’t thought through ahead of time, and in fact, never really gets resolved. (But that’s OK, it blew.) As I mentioned, the third season picked up some steam with a heavy-handed War on Terror parallel, and S4 is excellent. It (finally!) plumbs Trek history deeply, however, so it’s better if you’re a Trek nerd.

So anyway, to rbeak it down – watch TNG’s seasons 3 through 6. You don’t need to know anything beforehand to appreciate it. Then move on to DS9 from the beginning and give it a little patience. It’s certainly the most intellectually ambitious of the group. Voyager and TOS are both fun to watch and don’t require a ton of investment, but neither is the best introduction for a modern audience. Enterprise save for completism’s sake, although prepared to be pleasantly surprised by S4. (The last episode’s awfully rough, though.)

–Cliffy

Rick Berman and Brannon Braga didn’t know much about Star Trek?

Berman was chosen by Roddenberry in 1986 to work on Next Generation, and became executive producer for the best period of that series. He co-created DS9 with Michael Piller. He was in charge of much of the Trek canon that you praise that preceded (in production) Enterprise.

Braga started working on Next Generation in 1990, and wrote the great mind-bending episodes “Cause and Effect,” “Frame of Mind,” and “Parallels.” (Granted, he wrote a bunch of crap for Voyager too.)

If they violated Original Series canon, or fan expectations, in Enterprise, it was from having different priorities, or from having exhausted their talents–not from being unfamiliar with what Trek was about.

DS9 is my favorite also, but I would not recommend watching it first. Much of the back story is set up in TNG. There’s a lot of nuance to DS9 that you won’t get if you aren’t already familiar with the Borg, Bajorans, Maquis, Cardassians, and so on.

I am familiar with their resumes. They knew a hell of a lot less about Star Trek than I did.

–Cliffy

Well, what kind of things are you talking about? Bullshit about exactly how many ships have been named Enterprise?