Paramount+ is all in on Star Trek, as indicated by the five shows premiering or releasing new seasons in the next six months. It’s wisely making earlier Trek series widely available – the five live-action shows produced before 2004 can be found on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu among others – as driver for the new content on their pay site. That makes a lot of Star Trek easily accessible, but not all of it, and with at least a dozen series – plus 13 movies – in the franchise, it’s a lot to sort out.
Paramount+ has the entirety of the various TV series on its service — though the three Kelvinverse movies are still missing — which simplifies the equation for subscribers. It’s an impressive list, comprising 50-plus years of pop culture in the same fictional universe and all of the vast social changes reflected along with it. A list of them is presented here in chronological order.
Star Trek (The Original Series), 1967-1969
Creator Gene Roddenberry described the concept as “Wagon Train to the stars;” a ship in the far future, exploring space and coming to the aid of distant planets. It was a new idea in that it endeavored to tell intelligent science fiction stories aimed at adults rather than the derivative children’s fare that comprised sci-fi television in the 1950s.
It took a colossal effort – with an unprecedented two pilots – and it was cancelled after only three seasons and 79 episodes. But the concept came through. The shows were great, bolstered by a cast of characters who felt more like a family than a ship’s crew, and as reruns played in syndication, viewers discovered its quality.
Star Trek: The Animated Series, 1973-1974
The initial burst of fan interest from The Original Series induced NBC and Gene Roddenberry to develop a Saturday morning follow-up: 30-minute animated shorts that continued the adventures of the Enterprise. Most of the original cast came back to voice their roles, as did the writing staff with Original Series stalwart DC Fontana overseeing the scripts.
The series suffered from cheap animation and often silly storylines, but it included a few gems; notably the Fontana-penned Season 1, Episode 2, “Yesteryear” which established a great deal of the canon surrounding Spock’s childhood.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1987-1994
A second Star Trek live-action series, tentatively titled Star Trek: Phase II, had been in the works since the late 1970s. The live-action Star Trek films of the 1980s necessitated changes which eventually resulted in Star Trek: The Next Generation. It featured an entirely new crew and was set 100 years after the events of The Original Series and the movies.
In the process, it firmly established that Star Trek was more than just Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, and though it struggled in its early years, it soon found its footing and today is often ranked above The Original Series as far as fan favorites go.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1993-1999
“The middle child” between The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager was poised to take advantage of the Trek Renaissance of the late ’80s and early ’90s. It made some bold choices and earned its share of controversy from fans who felt it detracted from Roddenberry’s vision.
It was set on a space station rather than a starship, for starters, and its stories often involved moral compromise and realpolitik, as well as an interstellar war against a new enemy. Its darker tone helped distinguish it from the other Trek series it ran concurrently with, and with Avery Brooks’ Captain Sisko and his family, the show broke new ground for representation on television.
Star Trek: Voyager, 1995-2001
Billed as a return to “classic” Trek themes of exploration and alien life, Voyager served to launch a nascent TV network for Paramount: UPN. Its title spaceship was thrown across the galaxy, stranded thousands of light years from the nearest outpost, and forced to rely on a mixed crew of Starfleet officers and Maquis fugitives to get home.
It featured an array of high-concept standalone stories, as well as a host of new villains. It was topped by a series of extended storylines about the Borg, fleshing out Trek’s sinister space zombies in surprising ways as well as introducing fans to the beloved Seven of Nine.
Star Trek: Enterprise, 2001-2005
Enterprise arrived at the end of the Trek Renaissance. It sent the franchise back to the early days before the founding of the Federation, depicting humanity’s early efforts at space travel and first encounters with such species as the Klingons and the Andorians.
From the beginning, it was bested by problems out of its control, including a premiere scant weeks after the events of September 11 and a shake-up in the corporate offices that ultimately killed the series well before its time. It created a long hiatus for Star Trek TV shows, but like the original series, time allowed it to find a place of respect among the fans.
Star Trek: Discovery, 2017-Current
The first new Star Trek series in over a decade began on the CBS All Access streaming service, which was renamed Paramount+ in 2021. Set a decade before the events of The Original Series, it depicts a Federation starship equipped with a unique propulsion system and engaged in threats against the Federation.
It embraced the multi-episode story arcs similar to that of Deep Space Nine, with each new season entailing an overarching threat or complication in need of solving. It’s also the first Trek series to feature a woman of color in the series lead. Three seasons have aired thus far, with a fourth scheduled to premiere later this year.
Star Trek: Short Treks, 2018-2020
Short Treks was a series of vignettes appearing alongside Star Trek: Discovery, intended to help introduce the new era in the Federation’s history and give viewers an idea of how the show would work.
Each episode ran between eight and 18 minutes, and each one was intended as a standalone story, ranging from the funny to the heartbreaking. It provided the universe with some depth and flavor, as well as serving as a bridge between the second season of Discovery and the premiere of Picard.
Star Trek: Picard, 2020-Current
The success of Discovery fueled an increase in streaming subscriptions, which in turn prompted a steady stream of additional Star Trek content. That began with 2020’s Picard, picking up the titular character 20 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis.
Though he remains the focus of the series and other Next Generation characters have a cameo, it’s not strictly a sequel to The Next Generation, as Picard assembles a new crew outside of Starfleet’s chain of command to address a mystery surrounding the Romulans and artificial intelligence. A second season is slated for release in 2022, featuring the return of John De Lancie’s mischievous deity Q.
Star Trek: Lower Decks, 2020-Current
In its own way, Lower Decks might be the most daring show Star Trek has ever produced; a half-hour animated comedy from the co-creator of Rick and Morty, with adult themes and content. Inspired by a Next Generation episode of the same name, it shifts attention away from the bridge staff and focuses on the lowly underlings of a Federation starship. It pokes fun at some of the sillier and more illogical corners of the Trek universe, though always with the affection of true fans. A second season is slated to begin on Aug. 11.
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