The Star Trek canon is a complicated place. Within the TV show and movies alone, there are prequels, sequels, time travel and alternate universes to keep track of – and not all of them happen in the right order. Star Trek Discovery is the latest continuity insert (and a fine one at that) – but how does it relate to everything else?
We begin our look at Star Trek’s timeline around 40 years into “our” future, at a point when the Earth is recovering from World War III…
2063 – Star Trek: First Contact (most of it)
This movie – Star Trek 8, if you’re keeping track – sees the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew take a jaunt back in time to the era of Zefram Cochrane: the man who invented warp drive technology. The flight of his ship, the Phoenix, attracts the attention of some passing Vulcans who make the titular first contact. It’s an important moment.
2151-2155 – Star Trek: Enterprise
A hundred years later, the crew of Starfleet’s first warp 5 vessel, the Enterprise (registration NX-01) seeks to establish humanity as a significant player in the galaxy, although poor relations between Vulcans and humans keep it from being a simple task. Significantly, the Enterprise is key to defeating the Xindi who attempt to attack and destroy Earth.
2161 – As detailed in the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT 4×22: These Are The Voyages…) the United Federation of Planets is formed from an alliance between four species: Humans, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites. The Enterprise NX-01 is also retired.
2165 – Sarek, Spock’s father, is born on Vulcan.
2210 – Amanda Grayson, Spock’s mother, is born on Earth.
2230 – Spock is born. Amanda Grayson is 20 and Sarek is 65. Problematic tbh.
2233 – James T. Kirk is born. Just for context, in the divergent timeline of the reboot movies the Romulan terrorist Nero arrives from the future on the Narada, destroys the USS Kelvin and kills George Kirk. Everything after this point doesn’t apply to the reboot timeline, but… that’s a separate article.
2245 – The USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) is launched under the command of Robert M. April.
2254 – The USS Enterprise visits the planet Talos IV while under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. Spock is already serving aboard the vessel at this time. Although the Talosians attempt to capture the crew, they are able to escape. It’s all detailed in The Menagerie (TOS 1×15-16).
2256-ongoing – Star Trek Discovery
Experimental starship Discovery (NCC-1013) fights in the first major Klingon-Federation war. Michael Burnham, Spock’s adopted sister, is part of the crew. Sarek also visits sometimes. At one point Discovery encounters the Enterprise of this era while investigating the red lights phenomena and is placed under temporary command of Captain Christopher Pike.
2265-2269 – Star Trek: The Original Series
Nine years after the events of Star Trek: Discovery, Kirk, Spock, Bones (and the rest) run a five year mission in deep space aboard the Enterprise, exploring the galaxy, establishing tropes, and talking numerous computers to death.
Notably, on one mission the Enterprise is able to restore a seriously-injured Christopher Pike to Talos IV so that he can live out his life in a psychically-created paradise preferable to reality. Lucky git.
2269-2270 – The Animated Adventures Of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek
Sometimes deemed non-canon but increasingly less so, this series takes place immediately following the live-action show and mostly features most of the original cast. (Don’t listen too carefully to the voices.)
There’s a comic book series where the animated crew meet the Transformers which is definitely not canon and absolutely nuts but therefore great.
2270s – Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Following an 18-month refit, the Enterprise encounters V’ger prompting Admiral Kirk to reassume command of the ship.
2285 – Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
Khan Noonien Singh, having escaped exile at the hands of Captain Kirk (TOS 1×24: Space Seed), exacts revenge on the Enterprise using the Genesis device. The crew defeats Khan but Spock sacrifices his own life to save the Enterprise. Sad.
Slightly later in 2285 – Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
The Enterprise returns to Earth for repairs before realising that Spock is still alive, having been reborn on the Genesis planet created in the previous film. The Klingons get involved and while attempting to rescue Spock, the Enterprise is destroyed. The crew hijacks a Klingon Bird of Prey and returns Spock to Vulcan and the care of Sarek.
2286 – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
The crew of the Enterprise return to Earth (sans Enterprise) just in time to find it under attack: an invincible alien probe is bombarding the planet with a destructive signal trying to communicate with whales, which humans have driven to extinction. After heading back in time to 1987 to grab a whale, the crew return to 2286 and are placed on board a new version of the Enterprise: the NCC-1701-A.
2287 – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Spock’s half-brother Sybok steals the Enterprise and tries to fly it into God. We wish we were making this up.
2293 – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
The wall comes down, IN SPACE. When the Russian Klingon power station Moon Chernobyl Praxis explodes, the notoriously insular empire begins discussion with its former enemies to achieve a friendly peace. Kirk and his crew save the peace process from a destabilisation plot by the Romulans. The Enterprise A is decommissioned.
2293 – Star Trek: Generations (some of it)
The Enterprise B (NCC-1701-B) is launched and Captain Kirk is thought to have died following an encounter with the mysterious energy ribbon known as The Nexus.
2344 – The Enterprise C (NCC-1701-C) is active under the command of Captain Rachel Garrett. You can learn more in TNG 3×15, Yesterday’s Enterprise, which is a great episode.
2364-2370 – Star Trek: The Next Generation
The crew of the Enterprise D (NCC-1701-D) – Picard, Riker, Data (and the rest) travel around the galaxy encountering moral dilemmas which can usually be solved by reversing the polarity of something.
2368 – Sarek dies (TNG 5×01 – Unification)
2369-2375: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Things get confusing as TV shows begin to overlap. Commander Sisko unleashes the dragon aboard the strategically-important space station, Deep Space Nine.
2371: Star Trek Generations (the rest of it)
Picard et al rescue Kirk from the Nexus, proving that he didn’t die in 2293 after all. Although he later does in fact die. No backsies this time. Except in that one novel series. The Enterprise D is also turned into space-confetti.
2371-2378: Star Trek Voyager
Captain Kathryn Janeway gets the USS Voyager (registration unimportant) stranded in the Delta Quadrant and they spend 7 years trying to get home while stopping to check every molecule of every asteroid they so much as brush against. Harry Kim dies and is replaced by a replica created by a weird time thingy but no-one really talks about it.
2373: Star Trek: First Contact (the rest of it)
Aboard the newly-commissioned Enterprise E (NCC-170-ah you get it by now) the Next Generation Crew follows a Borg ship back in time and prevents them from disrupting First Contact with the Vulcans. See the start of this article.
2375: Star Trek Insurrection
Nothing important happens in this one but it’s not as bad as people think.
2379: Star Trek Nemesis
Some important stuff DOES happen in this one because Data dies, but in this case it IS as bad as people think. Janeway shows up, promoted to Admiral, likely because she never wants to see the inside of a starship again.
2387: Star Trek (reboot)
Romulus is destroyed when a nearby star goes supernova. Spock is unable to stop it. A grieving Romulan named Nero travels back in time and creates the divergent JJ Abrams timeline which remains outside the scope of this article. However, the destruction of Romulus and the strange disappearance of Spock remain canon. Who knows what everyone else is up to?
Some time after 2387: Untitled Picard Series
The producers of the eagerly-awaited UNTITLED PICARD SERIES have explained that the destruction of Romulus and dissolution of the Romulan empire will be a springboard for some of the events in this TV show, in which Picard has (likely) left Starfleet behind for good.
This, broadly, is where established canon ends. Further glimpses in the future (such as the future timeline seen in TNG finale, All Good Things) can only be considered potential futures.
Have we missed anything?