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The Complete Star Trek Timeline Explained


Summary

  • Star Trek’s timeline is a complex tapestry that spans over a thousand years, filled with time travel and alternate realities.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise chronicles the pioneering voyages of Captain Jonathan Archer, setting the stage for the United Federation of Planets.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine continue the legacy of the original series, shaping the 24th century era.



Star Trek has been one of the premiere science fiction franchises in the world for nearly 60 years, spanning over a dozen TV series consisting of 900+ episodes, and 13 feature films with more on the way. Star Trek’s Prime Timeline now encompasses a thousand years of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet seeking out strange new worlds, and boldly going where no one has gone before in the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 32nd centuries.

Star Trek has rarely told its stories in a straight, chronological line; time travel tropes, alternate realities, and massive jumps into the future are all commonplace. Star Trek is a multiverse of myriad realities, including an alternate Mirror Universe. The Star Trek timeline is a rich tapestry of compelling characters and science fiction parables – and it’s still going strong. Here is a definitive guide to Star Trek’s timeline, primarily centering on the Prime Universe’s Star Trek TV series and feature films in chronological order, including the alternate Kelvin Timeline of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies where noted.


An
Untitled Star Trek Origin
movie reportedly set “decades before” J.J. Abrams’
Star Trek
(2009) is in development, and may end up preceding this entire chronology.

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28 Star Trek: Enterprise

(2151-2155)


Star Trek: Enterprise is, chronologically, the first Star Trek series in the timeline (although technically the 6th produced) chronicling the pioneering 22nd-century voyages of Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and the NX-01 Enterprise. Archer’s Enterprise is Starfleet’s first Warp 5-capable starship, which allowed the NX-01 to make pivotal First Contact missions and lay the groundwork for the creation of the United Federation of Planets. Star Trek: Enterprise‘s 4 seasons only depict the first few years of Archer’s 10-year saga that ends with the first Captain of the Enterprise helping to found the Federation in 2161.

27 Star Trek: The Original Series – “The Cage”

(2254)


“The Cage” is the original Star Trek pilot that was rejected by NBC. However, “The Cage” is a canonical story set 2 years before Star Trek: Discovery season 1 and 12 years before Star Trek: The Original Series. Set in 2254, “The Cage” sees Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) and the USS Enterprise lured to Talos IV, where Pike is held captive the planet’s illusion-casting inhabitants. Star Trek: The Original Series turned “The Cage” into a two-part episode titled “The Menagerie”, and “The Cage” also laid the foundation for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

26 Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1 and 2

(2256-2258)


Star Trek: Discovery begins with a disastrous meeting between Starfleet and the Klingon Empire in 2256, which leads to a long, bloody war that nearly cost the Federation its soul. Centering on Commander Micheal Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Discovery deals with the personal prices of war, as well as the themes of redemption and empathy.

Star Trek: Discovery season 1 depicted the Klingon War, while Discovery season 2 brought in USS Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). When faced with a genocidal artificial intelligence called Control, the crew of the USS Discovery realize the only way to save all organic life in the universe would be to jump to the 32nd century, permanently leaving Star Trek: Discovery’s original 23rd century era behind.

Star Trek: Discovery
season 1 also ventured to the 23rd century MIrror Universe for a multi-episode arc.


25 Star Trek

(Kelvin Timeline 2233/Kelvin Timeline 2258/2387)

Directed by J.J. Abrams, Star Trek is a reboot that spawns the alternate reality known as the Kelvin Timeline. Star Trek‘s main story is set in 2258 of the parallel reality, but the film’s branching timeline is made possible by the supernova of the Romulan sun in 2387 in the Prime Universe, which Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is unable to prevent.


The Romulan villain Nero (Eric Bana) time travels back to 2233, and his attack on the USS Kelvin ignites an all-new reality that changes the lives of Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the USS Enterprise. After Kirk and the Enterprise defeat Nero, they set forth into the great unknown of their new reality.

In the Kelvin Timeline, Kirk and his friends become the crew of the USS Enterprise roughly 7 years before Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew take command of the Enterprise in
Star Trek
‘s Prime Universe.

24 Star Trek Into Darkness

(Kelvin Timeline 2259)


Set a year after Star Trek‘s events, Star Trek Into Darkness sees the crew of the Starship Enterprise take on Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose life has also been massively altered in the Kelvin Timeline. Rather than being discovered by the Enterprise in 2267, Khan’s derelict ship was discovered much earlier by Starfleet’s Section 31, led by the corrupt Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller). Marcus attempts to use Khan to militarize Starfleet and wage war with the Klingons, but Captain Kirk and the Enterprise defeat both Marcus and Khan.

Star Trek Into Darkness
remakes and reverses key elements of
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
, which takes place 26 years later in the Prime Timeline.


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Every Star Trek Movie In Chronological Order

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23 Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

(2259-onward)

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds begins in 2259, months after Star Trek: Discovery season 2, with Captain Christopher Pike leading the Starship Enterprise on all-new missions of exploration. Strange New Worlds sets the stage for what will eventually become Star Trek: The Original Series, with young versions of Lieutenant Spock (Ethan Peck), Ensign Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush), Scotty (Martin Quinn), and even Lieutenant James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) serving on the Enterprise.


Although Pike’s tragic future of being horribly disfigured is inevitable, Strange New Worlds fills in the years before Kirk takes over as Captain of the Enterprise with optimism and an anything-goes attitude. Strange New Worlds‘ deftness in adapting to different genres, from comedy, to action, to Star Trek‘s first musical episode, makes the episodic series the purest Star Trek show in years.

22 Star Trek Beyond

(Kelvin Timeline 2263)


Back in the alternate Kelvin Timeline and 3 years into their five-year mission of exploration, the crew of the Starship Enterprise are attacked by the mysterious Krall (Idris Elba). Krall’s mechanized drone army destroys the Enterprise, stranding Captain Kirk and his captured crew on the planet Altamid. Kirk and his friends escape with the help of their new ally, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), and they defeat Krall before he destroys Starfleet’s USS Yorktown space station. At the end of Star Trek Beyond, Captain Kirk takes command of the new USS Enterprise-A.

Star Trek Beyond
is dedicated to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, who passed away in 2015 and 2016, respectively.


Star Trek Beyond Poster

21 Star Trek: The Original Series

(2266-2269)

The Star Trek show that started it all, Star Trek: The Original Serieschronicles the first three years of Captain James T. Kirk and the USS Enterprise’s five-year mission of exploration starting in 2266. The original Star Trek is an all-time classic, establishing the core tropes of the franchise, from starships, to beaming down to planets, to the unbreakable three-way friendship between Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley). Star Trek: The Original Series would not only be emulated by every other Star Trek that followed, but it would also become an enduring part of pop culture.


20 Star Trek: The Animated Series

(2269-2270)

While Star Trek: The Original Series was unceremoniously canceled after its third season, the show would go on to become a phenomenon in syndication. The first hint that Star Trek would outlive its somewhat humble beginnings was Star Trek: The Animated Series, an Emmy-winning cartoon that aimed for a family-friendly vibe without sacrificing what made the live-action original Star Trek work. Star Trek: The Animated Series is essentially the fourth season of Star Trek: The Original Series, and its status as canon has been made official by its numerous references in Star Trek on Paramount+’s shows.


Gene Roddenberry did not consider
Star Trek: The Animated Series
to be official canon, which made the cartoon apocryphal for decades.

19 Star Trek: The Motion Picture

(2270s)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the first feature film that launched Star Trek as a successful movie franchise. Set in the 2270s, years after the USS Enterprise’s five-year mission ended, Admiral James T. Kirk takes command of his starship once more and reunites his crew to intercept a threat to Earth. Star Trek: The Motion Picture reunited the entire cast of Star Trek: The Original Series for a ponderously-paced adventure that had the virtue of dazzling visual effects. But Star Trek: The Motion Picture proved the human adventure was, indeed, just beginning.


18 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

(2285)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, still widely considered the gold standard of Star Trek films, picks up Admiral Kirk’s saga in 2285. A sequel to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Space Seed”, Admiral Kirk faces a midlife crisis just as his old enemy, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricado Montalban) steals both the USS Reliant and the Genesis Device super weapon to seek revenge on Kirk. Star Trek II ends with the sacrifice and death of Spock, but opens the door for the Vulcan’s resurrection and much more.

17 Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

(2285)


Set immediately after the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock finds Admiral Kirk and friends stealing the USS Enterprise in an effort to save Spock’s katra – his soul – after the wily Vulcan transferred it to Dr. McCoy just before his death. The crew would eventually save Spock, but at great cost; Kirk would not only lose his son, David Marcus (Merritt Burrick), to a Klingon attack, but the Starship Enterprise is destroyed to prevent it from falling into Klingon hands. Thankfully, Kirk succeeds in bringing back Spock.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
is the first film directed by Leonard Nimoy.


16 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

(2286/1986)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home takes place in 2286, months after Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Or, at least, the 23rd century bookends of the movie do. The bulk of Star Trek IV is set in 1986 San Francisco, where Admiral Kirk and the former crew of the USS Enterprise time travel in order to find two humpback whales to bring back to the future in order to save Earth. A delightful, fish-out-of-water, time travel romp, Star Trek IV proved a Star Trek movie doesn’t need action, violence, and death to be a mainstream success.

Kirk is demoted to Captain and given command of the USS Enterprise-A at the conclusion of
Star Trek IV.


15 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

(2287)

Directed by William Shatner, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier begins with the malfunctioning USS Enterprise-A less than a year out of space dock. But Captain Kirk and crew are still called into action when a mysterious Vulcan named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) takes a group of diplomats hostage, demanding a starship in exchange for their release. Sybok would be revealed as Spock’s half-brother who seeks God on the fabled planet Sha Ka Ree. When “God” (George Murdock) turns out to be a malevolent alien, Sybok sacrifices himself so that Kirk and Spock can destroy the false Almighty.


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14 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

(2293)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is set in 2293 when the Klingon moon Praxis’ explosion leaves the Klingon Empire in dire financial straits. But a conspiracy within the Federation, the Romulans, and Klingons seek to prevent peace, and Captain Kirk is framed for the assassination of Klingon High Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner). Star Trek VI is the final voyage of Captain Kirk’s USS Enterprise crew, and its Klingon-centric story sets the stage for the future friendship between the Klingons and the Federation in Star Trek: The Next Generation.


13 Star Trek: Section 31

(2300s)

Michelle Yeoh's Georgiou talks to a mysterious figure with a metal mohawk

Star Trek: Section 31, which stars Academy Award-winner Michelle Yeoh, is Star Trek‘s first movie made for streaming on Paramount+. While the story of Section 31 is top-secret, the movie is a spinoff of Star Trek: Discovery, taking place after Yeoh’s Emperor Philippa Georgiou exited the 32nd century. Georgiou reappears in the “lost era” of Star Trek‘s early 24th century, although there could be more time travel involved in Star Trek: Section 31 as Philippa confronts the sins of her own past.


12 Star Trek: The Next Generation

(2364-2370)

Star Trek: The Next Generation is the pillar and foundation of Star Trek‘s popular 24th-century era. TNG follows the voyages of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the Galaxy Class USS Enterprise-D. TNG is Star Trek to an entire generation of fans, and the series produced some of the greatest Star Trek episodes of all-time. Expanding the universe and canon in myriad ways, and nominated for a Best Dramatic Series Emmy, Star Trek: The Next Generation was a massive hit in first-run syndication and solidified Star Trek as an A-list franchise for most of the 1990s.


11 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

(2369-2375)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would break new ground for the Star Trek franchise in more ways than one. DS9 starred Avery Brooks as Commander (later Captain) Benjamin Sisko, the first Black actor to lead a Star Trek series. Taking command of a former Cardassian space station Starfleet renamed Deep Space Nine, Sisko would interact with a vast cavalcade of characters that would deepen the Star Trek universe in countless ways. Culminating with the epic Dominion War saga that reshaped the galaxy, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a fundamentally important part of the Star Trek universe.


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
began as a spinoff of
Star Trek: The Next Generation
and carried on in syndication after TNG jumped to feature films.

10 Star Trek: Voyager

(2371-2378)


Star Trek: Voyager was the flagship series of the United Paramount Network (UPN), and continues the 24th-century era of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but with a twist: Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and the USS Voyager were stranded in the uncharted Delta Quadrant. Voyager’s seven-year journey home created a new generation of fans (girls and women, especially) and saw the introduction of numerous new alien species and characters, as well as the return of the Borg. Voyager ended with Janeway, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), the Doctor (Robert Picardo), and its other characters as bona fide Star Trek icons.

9 Star Trek Generations

(2371/2293)


Star Trek Generations‘ main story takes place in 2371, months after the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, Star Trek Generations begins with a prologue set in 2293 where Captain James T. Kirk is believed to be killed during the maiden voyage of the USS Enterprise-B. Kirk survives within the interdimensional Nexus, where he meets Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who is out to stop a madman named Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell) from destroying the Veridian star system.

Kirk and Picard’s team-up defeats Soran but results in Kirk’s tragic death. Meanwhile, a Klingon plot leads to the destruction of the USS Enterprise-D. Star Trek Generations was a successful transition by TNG to feature films so that the 24th century era of Star Trek continued on television and in movie theaters.

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