On April 5th 2063, Zefram Cochrane will take to the skies in the cockpit of the Phoenix. After breaking through the atmosphere of a war-torn Earth, he will engage her engine and become the first Human being to travel at Warp Speed.
During this historic flight, a Vulcan science vessel will be traveling in the area. And though they had no intention of visiting such a primitive species, the flight of the Phoenix will draw their attention. For it means that we, primitive as we are, will be able to leave our solar system and visit our neighbors––An alarming yet intriguing prospect for the Vulcans!
The Vulcan ship will land in the wilderness of Montana. The crew will emerge to meet Cochrane and his people, wish him a long and prosperous life, and become the first extraterrestrials to make contact with Human Beings.
With the knowledge that we are not alone in the universe, Humanity will rally together to eliminate war, poverty, and hunger within 50 years.
Just a few generations later, Humanity will take to outer space, in search of strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.
This all sounds great, right? If you’re new to Star Trek, however, you might be wondering what happens next. And what if you want to get into Star Trek, but feel overwhelmed by so much content? Have no fear, for I, Lieutenant Commander Stephanie Edd, have put together a watchlist of essential episodes to get you on trek.
A New Age of Star Trek
We are in a new and exciting age of Star Trek with series such as Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, and Strange New Worlds streaming and in production. This is a wonderful opportunity for new viewers to join the fandom and experience the optimism, joy, frustration, and inspiration that is Star Trek.
I became a Trekkie at thirteen, when I watched First Contact during an awkward summer trip. I had seen some episodes of the Original Series and The Next Generation before that infamous vacation, but it was the mission to ensure the flight of the Phoenix that really pulled me into the warm embrace of Star Trek and held me there.
Though it wasn’t like it is today, where I could binge the series in order at my convenience, I soon after took every opportunity to watch Star Trek when I saw it appear in the cable listing crawl and via early 2000s internet, I was able to put them into some kind of order and context.
But, now, in our New Age of Trek, we can watch it all on demand. What a remarkable time to be alive.
Star Trek: A List of Essential Episodes
For new viewers and old alike, I have prepared a list of what I consider the essential episodes for getting the most out of the new series. Unfortunately, not all Trek is good. And that which is not good is also sometimes not at all relevant.
So, if you’re looking to break into Star Trek but feel intimidated by the sheer volume of canon content, look no further, cadet.
Here you will find my list of essential episodes for The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.
You can download it as an interactive PDF with links, or visit the active Google Doc, which will show real-time updates in response to developments in the new series.
The list includes episodes that are critical for understanding the universe of Trek, integral to future plots, important for character development, beloved by the fandom, infamous or controversial, and a few episodes that I like, personally, whether or not they’re important or popular.
Take a trek among the stars and behold a vision of the future in which Humanity is no longer addicted to profit, consumption, war, and prejudice; a future in which we are part of a galactic United Federation of Planets, coexisting and cooperating not only peacefully, but enthusiastically; eager to learn, improve ourselves, and do the right thing.
Star Trek conceives of a truthful, egalitarian, kind, and loving vision of Humanity. It is aspirational at its core and unafraid of the ridiculous, which I find refreshing. If you want to feel invigorated by possibility, entertain the absurd, and jump into lively, passionate discussions with incredible fans, all you have to do is get Trekking.