If you’re reading this, it’s because you want to give Star Trek a try. That’s great, because Star Trek is great, and you should watch it. But there’s a lot of Star Trek out there. Where do you start?
I have some suggestions, of course, below. But before I get there, some notes about my viewing habits. With the exception of the original series (“TOS”), the subsequent animated series (“TAS”) and the two new movies, I’ve seen just about every episode and movie. I watched The Next Generation (TNG) when they came out, tried Deep Space 9 (“DS9”) when it came out — and then gave up. That was fifteen years or so, though. In recent years, I’ve binge-watched my way though TNG again, then through most of DS9, and eventually every episode of Voyager (“VOY”) and Enterprise (“ENT”). Along the way, I’ve watched a handful of TOS episodes — probably about a dozen, maybe twice that.
My recommendations are based on two things: (1) my own experience and (2) an assumed preference for modern-day production values. Combined, that means I’m not going to focus on TOS episodes. That said, you should have a basic understanding of Kirk, Spock, Vulcans and Klingons. It doesn’t have to be very much, though — basic means basic.
Phase 1: The Khan Collection
- Space Seed, TOS, Season 1 Episode 24
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (movie)
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (movie)
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (movie)
I selected this path for one big reason: I think most of my generation of Trek fans began this way — or, more accurately, with the second movie. Everything we know about the original cast (and Vulcans and Klingons) starts with The Wrath of Khan. I grew up pre-Netflix etc., so watching “Space Seed” wasn’t an option until years later, but Khan is introduced to us in that episode so I included it. “Space Seed” isn’t the best TOS episode but it sets up Star Trek II. (I didn’t get around to watching Space Seed until years after watching The Wrath of Khan, but it makes the already great movie much better.)
If you really like Space Seed, you may want to add more TOS episodes to your early mix, but you can always come back to those.
Phase II: Klingons
- Optional: Errand of Mercy, TOS, Season 1, Episode 26
- The Trouble with Tribbles, TOS, Season 2, Episode 15
- Optional: More Tribbles, More Trouble, TAS, Season 1, Episode 5
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (movie)
The Khan group should give you a good picture of who the Klingons are but if you’re still looking for more, add in Errand of Mercy. It’s the first time Klingons enter the storyline — they’re only in seven episodes in TOS — so you’re starting from scratch there.
The Trouble with Tribbles episode isn’t really necessary here but it’s important later on, and this is also one of the more well-known TOS episodes. Because of the role Klingons play in the story, I think it’s good to have under your belt before you get to Star Trek VI. The TAS episode just helps flesh out the Tribble storyline a bit more, but has nothing to do with the movie.
You’ll note I skipped the first TOS movie and the Star Trek V. That was intentional.
At this point, you should know the TOS storyline well enough. If you’re interested in testing your knowledge, though, here’s a quiz. You should be able to get at least 12 of 27 right, although the 2 minute time limit may be rough.
After that, it’s pretty straight-forward: watch everything, in order it was made. It’s not all awesome, of course. The first season of TNG isn’t great. DS9 starts slowly, too. A lot of people really don’t like the VOY captain (especially after the Tuvix episode), and ENT is hit-or-miss throughout (and the last season is kind of a let down).
- All the TNG episodes
- The first four seasons of DS9 and the first nine episodes of Season 5 of DS9
- Star Trek: First Contact (the TNG movie)
- The rest of the DS9 episodes
- All of the VOY episodes
- All of the ENT episodes
The reason for shoving First Contact in there is because the uniforms on DS9 change over to match the ones in the TNG movie, so I guess I’m just keeping the timeline intact. There’s a character who is in both DS9 and TNG so there’s a bit of value in doing it this way, too.
For bonus points, you can line up TNG, DS9, and VOY so that episodes which occur in roughly the same time period are being watched contemporaneously. The shows don’t really interact, though, so that’s really not necessary. If you want to do that, though:
- Start watching Season 1 of DS9 so that it coincides with Season 6 of TNG
- Start watching Season 1 of VOY so it coincides with Season 3 of DS9.
If You Want to Do More
I’ve skipped over five movies — the two TOS ones as mentioned above and three TNG ones. The TNG ones are Generations, Insurrection, and Nemesis and all have pretty mixed reviews. But who are we kidding: if you’ve made it this far, you’ll probably end up watching all five.
Also, I’m told that the ENT novel “The Good That Men Do” is very good, and makes the last episode of ENT more palatable.
Originally published on November 2, 2015