Where to Start With Star Trek

Where to Start With Star Trek

There’s more Star Trek now than there’s ever been in the franchise’s history. Legendary shows, new hits, and more Trek appealing to more people than ever before. It can make jumping on board really hard — but the beauty of Star Trek is that you can kind of start anywhere. Here’s the best places to warp into Star Trek, and why.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Image: Paramount

The most recent show is one of the franchise’s best — classic Star Trek storytelling with a modern budget. There’s only one season right now, but considering it’s one of the strongest debuts in the franchise’s history, if not the strongest, it’s very easy to recommend.

Start Here If…: You want the best of both worlds: classic Star Trek, but with a 2022 budget and look.

Star Trek: Lower Decks

Image: Paramount

On the surface, this might seem like a weird choice: it’s animated, and it’s also as much a comedy as it is a Star Trek show. But its humour is in service of a heart that really loves the totality of Star Trek, and although some of the references might go over your head if you’re a first-time Trekkie, its charm and love arstill understandable.

Start Here If…: You don’t mind animation, you don’t mind a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you don’t mind having a few jokes go over your head.

Star Trek: Discovery

Image: Paramount

Discovery is a great hopping on point if you want something that’s modern and lavishly budgeted, but also largely tries to eschew the feeling of classic Star Trek. Its darker tone, its focus on largely a singular character — Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham — and its arc-driven storytelling all make it stand out from its fellow Treks.

Start Here If…: You want a modern Star Trek that wants to do a lot of non-Star Trek-y things trope-wise, but still captures its themes and feel along the way.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Image: Paramount

To many, TNG is going to be the be-all and end-all of Star Trek. It’s not quite as old as the original show, so it’s slightly less “retro,” but it’s really where the franchise hones the idea of what it can and should be to what we know of it in the wider pop cultural context. This is the template for a huge chunk of Star Trek around it, arguably even more than the original series.

Start Here If…: You really like Patrick Stewart, and want some old-school Trek but might be hesitant to go all the way back to the original series.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Image: Paramount

Trek’s infamously “gritty” sibling deals with a lot of heavy subjects, and breaks a lot of what felt like the then-established rules of the series — a starbase, not a starship, a mix of Federation and non-Federation crew, and a lot of moral complexity where our heroes aren’t always heroic. It’s an incredible show, but arguably tough as a first recommendation, because part of what makes it work is having an underlying knowledge of the rules it’s breaking.

Start Here If…: You want a Star Trek that is as challenging as it is loving of what the franchise is about, and one that feels modern in its tone and storytelling in spite of being over two decades old.

Star Trek: Prodigy

Image: Paramount

Modern Trek’s latest animated series skews for a young audience, but that’s not to say it’s not worth checking out if you’re older as a first taste of the series. It does some different things — young, non-Federation protagonists, and it’s largely disconnected from Starfleet at large — and does a great job of teaching both its young heroes and its target audience about the ideals of the franchise.

Start Here If…: You’ve got kids who want to get started with the franchise too.

Star Trek: Voyager

Image: Paramount

Voyager may have a bit of a reputation for its uneven quality at times, but in many ways it’s kind of the perfect dip-in, dip-out show for a beginner to start with. One of its greatest weaknesses might be that it gives up on its intriguing premise — stranded Starfleet and guerrilla fighters forced to work together to survive being lost in space — pretty quickly to become a standard episodic series, but its largely unchanging nature means you can hop in anywhere with the series and experience a slice of, on the whole, pretty solid Star Trek.

Start Here If…: You want Star Trek that’s just right — classic feeling but not retro, great highs and weird lows, and largely very episodic.

Star Trek

Image: Paramount

It might seem so odd that the very first Star Trek series is so far down this list — and that’s not a reflection of its quality. This is the origin point, perhaps to many the definitive starting option. But the unfortunate fact of the matter is that some people just aren’t keen on watching a show that’s over 50 years old. If you’re willing to try, you’ll be rewarded with weird, wonderful highs and stories that hold up remarkably despite their age… and plenty of weird, wonderful lows that don’t.

Start Here If…: You don’t mind watching old TV, and want to see where it all began, warts and all.

Star Trek 2009, Into Darkness, and Beyond

Image: Paramount

A perhaps controversial suggestion to diehard Trek fans, but hey, if you were one of those already do you really need this list? The classic Trek movies rely on you being familiar with the crews of the original show and Next Generation, but the modern “Kelvin” films, despite rebooting the classic series, lean more into gung-ho action adventure than the more cerebrally-minded pace of most Trek. Skip Into Darkness though. You won’t miss anything.

Start Here If…: You find the idea of massive TV shows daunting to get started with, and want something that prioritises spectacle over introspection.

Star Trek: Enterprise

Image: Paramount

Trek’s first prequel is a fascinating mix of what was at the time the beloved, classic format of Star Trek episodically and tonally, with a tempting premise: what would a Star Trek show look like before the Federation existed? It doesn’t always work, but if you want to see where it all really began, it’s an intriguing experiment.

Start Here If…: You want to see the long road, getting from here (the early days of humanity’s role in interstellar relations) to there (the rest of Star Trek).

Star Trek: The Animated Series

Image: Paramount

It’s more classic original Trek, except it’s in 2D. There’s a lot of retro charm here, and some great stories, but if you already have a rough time with older TV, similarly aged animation might be a tough ask.

Start Here If…: You don’t mind retro animation and want a breezy, weird series to chill out with.

Star Trek: Picard

Image: Paramount

Picard might only have two seasons so far, and those seasons might veer wildly up and down in quality. But that’s not really the reason it’s hard to recommend as your introduction to Trek. It’s just that it’s a show that really — really — leans on the idea of you loving its titular hero before you actually get into the show. It’s not to say that it’s impenetrable, but Picard gets away with a lot simply because it’s got Picard in it. If you don’t know who he is or don’t care about him yet, then… well, it doesn’t get away with it.

Start Here If…: You really like Patrick Stewart, but you’re not entirely sure why.

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