A Beginner's Guide to Star Trek TV

Get an overview of all six Star Trek TV series

If you're new to the Star Trek franchise, the idea of catching up might be overwhelming. But there are only six shows that have aired on television, so you can catch up.Here's an overview of all the other Star Trek shows that have aired on television.

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Star Trek (Aired: 1966 - 1969)

Cast Photo of Original Series
Promotional photo from Star Trek: The Original Series. Paramount Television

More commonly known as "The Original Series," this is the TV series that started the entire franchise. Created by Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek told the story of the starship USS Enterprise exploring the Galaxy in the distant future. The cast featured William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as science officer Mister Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, James Doohan as engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, and Nichelle Nichols as communications officer Lt. Uhura. Its five-year mission took the show to worlds no one had ever seen before on television. The optimistic view of the future, and deep science fiction concepts made the show wildly popular among science fiction fans. Unfortunately, CBS cancelled the show after three seasons due to poor ratings. Anyone new to the franchise would be best served watching this series first.

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Star Trek: The Animated Series (Aired: 1973 - 1974)

Animated Crew of
Animated Crew of "Enterprise". NBC/Filmation

After the original series' cancellation, the Enterprise returned in this short-lived animated version. The cartoon used most of the original cast to voice the characters, and writers from the original series wrote many episodes. While the show could explore more exotic locations and alien creatures than the live-action version, it suffered from poor quality animation and a need to keep the show kid-friendly. Though the animated series ended up being disowned by Roddenberry as "non-canon," many fans have come to appreciate it, and have taken elements into the official Star Trek universe. Viewing this series is entirely optional, as it is only partially supported by the later series, but this would probably be the best start for younger viewers.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation (Aired: 1987 - 1994)

Cast of
Cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". Paramount Television

Set one hundred years after the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation centered on a new starship Enterprise in adventures that brought in another generation of fans. Led by Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the crew included Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker, Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi, Michael Dorn as Klingon security officer Lt. Worf, Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher, LeVar Burton as Engineer Geordi La Forge, and Brent Spiner as the android Commander Data. The show featuring epic adventures and introduced new alien races and worlds. It ran for seven years, and achieved a popularity the original series never enjoyed. Many fans consider this the second best Star Trek series, and some even prefer it over the original. It's definitely a must-watch after the original series. 

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Aired: 1993 – 1999)

Cast of
Cast of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Paramount Television

This show was the first to break away from the traditional model of Star Trek TV shows. Instead of exploring on a starship, Deep Space Nine focused on a space station. When a wormhole is discovered next to a decrepit space station, Deep Space Nine becomes the focus of an interstellar war. Instead of a group of heroic and friendly characters, DS9 featuring a flawed group who often fought against each other. Led by Avery Brooks as Commander Benjamin Sisko, the show also featured Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys, Rene Auberjonois as shapechanger Odo, Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir, and Terry Farrell as Jadzia Dax. The series also featured episodic storylines involving an alien war, and religious themes with Sisko seen as an alien prophet. While it was a controversial series for its time, many fans now consider it a much deeper and richer series than any of the others.

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Star Trek: Voyager (Aired: 1995 - 2001)

Cast of
Cast of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Paramount Television

The theme of exploration continued with this TV series with a new starship, the USS Voyager, being transported to the previously unexplored Delta Quadrant. The show featured the first female captain heading a series, Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway. The series also starred Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay, Robert Picardo as the holographic Doctor, and Roxann Dawson as the half-Klingon engineer B'Elanna Torres. The characters struggled with dwindling supplies and unfamiliar territory as they tried to make their way home. In later seasons, Jeri Ryan joined the crew as Seven of Nine, a sexy cyborg. Though the show struggled with declining ratings and fatigue over the franchise, it still managed to run for seven seasons. This series is definitely one to watch, but after TOS, TNG, and DS9.

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Star Trek: Enterprise (Aired: 2001–05)

Cast of
Cast of "Star Trek: Enterprise". Paramount Network Television

This series attempted to restore the sense of wonder to Star Trek by going to the past. The show goes to the beginning of Earth's first long-range exploration vessel, also known as the Enterprise. Scott Bakula played Captain Jonathan Archer, and Jolene Blalock played the Vulcan T'Pol. The show attempted to be a prequel to the original series, where they met aliens like the Andorians, and created new technology like the phasers for the first time. Enterprise struggled throughout its run, alienating fans who were unhappy with the uneven tone and conflicts with established Trek canon. When the show ended, it signaled the end of the Star Trek franchise until the movie reboot in 2009. While dismissed in its initial airing, some fans have come to appreciate this series, and it's prequel status foreshadowed the movie reboot, so it's worth seeing.

Final Thoughts

No matter which show you start with, you'll find Star Trek to be fun and exciting. Enjoy the voyage into history!