The Star Trek franchise just celebrated its 55th-anniversary last week, on September 8. With a cult following around the globe, the franchise is one of the most popular and impactful in cinematic history. Over the past fifty-five years, the franchise has released seven spin-off television series, two animated series, and thirteen films. Below is a chronological list of all the Star Trek television series that have made an appearance on the small screen:
The Original Series
Release Date: September 8, 1966
Often abbreviated as TOS, Star Trek: The Original Series premiered in the United States on NBC fifty years ago on September 8, 1966. The show tells the adventures the crew of the starship Enterprise, led by Captain James T. Kirk, comes across when they embark on a five-year-long mission. The humanistic storylines and relatable characters were a breath of fresh air in the genre, making the show a big hit with science fiction fans. Despite its popularity among Sci-Fi geeks and engineering students, NBC canceled the series after three seasons due to low Nielsen ratings. The last episode of TOS aired on June 3, 1969. The show later found a cult following during its many reruns. In the 2000s, the producers of the show remastered it for television, including special-effect changes, such as the CGI version of the ships.
The Original Series starred Willian Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig as the main cast. During its original run, the series earned several nominations for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award, including two wins.
The Animated Series
Release Date: September 8, 1973
Star Trek: The Animated Series, often abbreviated as TAS, aired from 1973 to 1974. It featured 22 episodes over two seasons. Some of the writers from The Original Series were on board during the series’ production. Most of the original cast also returned to perform the voices of their characters from TOS.
TAS bagged the first Emmy Award for the Star Trek franchise on May 15, 1975. The series made a brief return on television on Nickelodeon in the mid-1980s and again on Sci-Fi channels in the mid-1990s.
The Next Generation
Release Date: September 28, 1987
Star Trek: The Next Generation – often abbreviated as TNG – debuted on September 28, 1987, and continued for seven seasons, spanning over 178 episodes. It picks up the story a century after the events of The Original Series, featuring a new starship, Enterprise, with a brand-new crew led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Commander William Riker. TNG introduced many new alien races and relationships among the crew members to the storyline, which laid the foundation for episodes in later spin-offs: Voyager and Deep Space. It aired its 178th and last episode on May 23, 1994.
The main cast of The Next Generation included Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, William Riker as Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi, and Michael Dorn as Worf.
During its initial run, the show bagged several Emmy Awards and nominations, two Hugo Awards, and one Peabody Award for Outstanding Television Programming for one of its episodes. TNG was the most-watched series in the whole Star Trek franchise, securing the highest ratings becoming the No. 1 syndicated show towards the end of its original run.
Deep Space Nine
Release Date: January 3, 1993
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – often abbreviated as DS9 – makes the fourth series in the Star Trek franchise and the third sequel to TOS. It premiered on January 3, 1993, and ended on June 2, 1999, with 176 episodes spanning over seven seasons. It aired in syndication, like the previous sequels, in Canada and the United States.
Set in the immediate post-years of the Next Generation, 2369–2375, the series takes off in the aftermath of the ruthless occupation of the planet Bajor by the Cardassians. The plot centers on the adventures of the space station’s crew, captained by Commander Benjamin Sisko and Major Kira Nerys, played by Avery Brooks and Nana Visitor, respectively. Some storylines in the series include the fallout of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, the Bajoran religious prophecy, and a war with the Dominion. Unlike the other series from the Star Trek franchise, DS9 does not take place primarily aboard a starship; instead, it takes place on a space station.
DS9 introduced new plot elements to the storyline, such as conflict within the crew and religious themes, absent in the original series and The Next Generation. This detailed serialized storytelling with unique elements garnered Deep Space Nine praise from critics and the audience and made it stand apart from the earlier Star Trek series.
Release Date: January 16, 1995
Star Trek: Voyager is the fourth sequel to the original Star Trek series and the fifth series in the overall Star Trek franchise. It debuted on January 16, 1995, on UPN and ended on May 23, 2001. With a total of 172 episodes, the series ran for seven series. The cast stars Kate Mulgrew as the first-ever female commanding officer in a leading role in the Star Trek franchise – Captain Kathryn Janeway – and Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay.
Voyager is set in the same period as Deep Space Nine, i.e., 2371-2378. Much like DS9, the early seasons of Voyager focus on the conflict between its crew members, which frequently arises due to clashes between the conformist Starfleet crew and the rebellious Maquis fugitives forced to work together on Voyager starship. Later seasons introduced many characters and cultures from prior series to the plotline, including cast members from The Next Generation.
Release Date: September 26, 2001
Originally titled Enterprise, Star Trek: Enterprise begins as a prequel to The Original Series. It premiered on September 26, 2001, and ended on May 13, 2005, airing a total of 98 episodes spanning over four seasons. Set in the 2150s, nearly a century before the events of TOS and a decade before the formation of the Federation, the series follows the adventures of the Enterprise, Earth’s first starship capable of traveling at warp 5. The show features Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer – Commander of the Enterprise – and Jolene Blalock as the Vulcan Sub-Commander T’Pol.
During the first two seasons, the series featured self-contained episodes, like the OTS and its sequels. However, the third season focused on a single arc, giving it serialized nature similar to DS9. The fourth and final season explored the origins of some elements from the previous series and resolved some of their continuity problems through several mini-arcs comprised of two to three episodes.
While the series had a strong start, its ratings declined rapidly as the show continued. There was a backlash by fans on the series finale who complained that the episode focused on guest appearance by cast members of The Next Generation instead of the series’ plot. With the cancellation of Enterprise, the 18-year back-to-back airing of the new Star Trek series came to an end.
Release Date: September 24, 2017
Star Trek: Discovery takes place about ten before the events of The Original Series. It is the seventh Star Trek series and the first series of the streaming television Star Trek revival. It premiered on September 24, 2017, and has run three seasons till now, with the fourth season scheduled to premiere in November 2021. In Canada and the United States, the series is broadcasted on CBS All Access and Paramount+ respectively, while elsewhere, Netflix distributes the show worldwide.
Discovery chronicles the voyages of a new starship, the USS Discovery, commanded by Captain Gabriel Lorca in Season 1, Captain Christopher Pike in Season 2, and Captain Saru in Season 3. It is a serialized drama with each season following a single overarching narrative: the first season focuses on Discovery‘s role in a war between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets; later seasons focus on Discovery’s battle with a rogue AI. Unlike previous Star Trek series, the primary protagonist, Michael Burnham (played by Martin-Green), is a science specialist and not the captain of the titular ship, not until the last season.
Release Date: October 4, 2018
As the name suggests, Star Trek: Short Treks is a companion series spin-off of stand-online short films. It explores the key characters and themes from Discovery. The series includes ten short films spanning over two seasons, with each film about 10 to 20 minutes. A few of the episodes are animated. The series aired from October 4, 2018, to January 9, 2020. It received positive reviews from critics and earned several nominations, including one for a Primetime Emmy Award.
Release Date: January 23, 2020
Star Trek: Picard is a serialized drama created for CBS All Access. It made its debut on January 23, 2020, and is still running. Set around 30 years after the events of TGS, the series revisits the protagonist of TGS Jean-Luc Picard, reprised by Patrick Stewart, who is now retired and seeking redemption for his past mistakes.
Release Date: August 6, 2021
Star Trek: Lower Decks is a two-season adult comedy animated series created by Mike McMahan, writer of Rick and Morty. The first season debuted on CBS All Access on August 6, 2020, and comprises ten episodes. The second season premiered on August 12, 2021, and is scheduled to have seven episodes. The series focuses on the support crew of “one of Starfleet’s least important ships.
Even after 700 episodes and thirteen movies, Star Trek fans, who call themselves Trekkies, are still looking forward to more intergalactic adventures. With new animated and live-action television series currently in development, we can only imagine what new surprises the Star Trek franchise has in store for us!