"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!"
- – James T. Kirk,
thirdcaptain of the starship USS Enterprise
- – Kathryn Janeway, captain of the starship USS Voyager
Star Trek is a multimedia science-fiction series and one of the cornerstones of nerdy media properties (in fact, Klingon is the most learned fictional language, rivalled only by Tolkien's elvish in popularity), and one of the few to crossover into mainstream popularity (alongside Star Wars, Doctor Who and a few others). It's also one of the longest-running science fiction franchises, as it began when the the first episode of The Original Series aired in 1966, and since then has had over 50 years of geek history spanning several generations. Needless to say, it's had a huge influence on all things sci-fi, and, by extension, /tg/.
Originally, Star Trek was noblebright beyond noblebright and, in many ways, was the polar opposite of Warhammer 40K's grimdark. The more recent reboot films, however, have taken a much, much more grimdark tone, which is delightfully skubtastic.
- 1 Games
- 2 So why should I care?
- 3 Setting
- 4 Factions
- 5 The Shows
- 6 Films
- 7 Novels
- 8 Video Games
- 8.1 Star Trek Online
- 8.2 Bridge Commander
- 8.3 Elite Force
- 8.4 Starfleet Command
- 8.5 Armada
- 8.6 Legacy
- 8.7 NonCanon
- 9 Would you like to know more?
You're in /tg/ = 1d4chan, so, we'll start with the games.
There's been plenty of tabletop games and vidya gaems featuring Star Trek without being merchandising bullshit (see: themed Monopoly sets), including one of the earliest action multiplayer wargame: Netrek.
- Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier (1978) The very first Trek tabletop RPG. Written by, I shit you not, Michael Scott. Groggy (grokky?) as all hell, and due for an OSR.
- Starships & Spacemen (1978 1e, 2013-present 2e) This was an attempt by a guy named Leonard Kanterman to make his own Star Trek RPG but since he didn't hold the license he had to alter the names and fudge the rules a bit so he wouldn't get sued. It appeared and died fairly quickly. It was later purchased by Goblinoid Games and heavily reworked to work more like their other game, Labyrinth Lord but different enough that converting things back and forth should take a minute or two longer than just dropping them in. The 2e version has some decent third party material at least.
- Star Fleet Battles (SFB) (1979-) The crunchiest starship combat game you're ever going to find outside of a computer. Based on the original series and not any of the later series, for licensing reasons. Takes some liberties with the setting, which (combined with the aforementioned licensing) is why "Star Trek" isn't actually in the title. It's had its own video game spinoff in the form of Starfleet Command. The vidya series died when the last company owned by Interplay broke up in the early 2000s, but the original game is still published by its designer, Amarillo Design Bureau (formerly in conjunction with the defunct Task Force Games).
- Star Trek: The Role Playing Game (1982-1989) Made by FASA, essentially Traveller-lite, or a happier, shinier Rogue Trader. Hasn't aged terribly well, what with having been made when the only canonical Star Trek materials to work with were the original and animated series, the first four films, and a couple of now non-canon novels. If you try to dust it off, expect tons of conflict with the rest of the show. Died as they were trying to update it for TNG, because Paramount's corporate suits (surprise, surprise) had no idea what an RPG actually entailed and were worried about violence, and getting their cut, and... oh you know the drill by now. Welcome to the 80's.
- Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator (1983) FASA designed this, so it feels like Battletech but not as good.
- Prime Directive (1993-2008) The most successful tabletop RPG line (but that's not saying much), it's actually still in print. Produced by Amarillo Design Bureau, so again no direct name-dropping of "Star Trek." Lasted as long as it did by constantly evolving, in Borg-like fashion, to adapt to the current zeitgeist. Has had 4 editions, with the second using GURPS, the third using d20, and the fourth d20 Modern.
- Star Trek CCG (1994-2007, 2011-2014, 2013-2015, 2018-) There's been a few of these, most notably the games released by Decipher, but never globally popular. They also suffered from game balance problems from fans wanting their fave character, but needing extra rules for their quirks. There's also the problem of putting numbers to character stats, such as one game that asserted that Picard having about twice the integrity of a Klingon pig. Later versions are "deck-building" games to try to cash in on the popularity of Dominion and Thunderstone. And now virtual CCGs are the order of the day.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Role Playing Game (1998-2000) The next attempt, made by Last Unicorn Games. Won an Origins Award for best new game. Has a lot of extraneous skills, as expected of a 90's RPG, but does a good job of capturing the feel of the show. Includes core books for Deep Space Nine and The Original Series, with a planned Voyager book never released. Tons of fan material is available, including books for Enterprise, Voyager, and even the Captain Pike era. Authors of the original game have also finished and released adventures and sourcebooks online. Died an untimely death.
- Star Trek Red Alert (2000) A Diskwars game themed to Star Trek.
- Star Trek Roleplaying Game (2002-2005) When Decipher had the CCG license, they decided, "What the hell, let's make an RPG, too." Some of the authors of the Last Unicorn Games RPG worked on this game. The systems are similar but different enough that they aren't compatible. The fluff focuses more on the Voyager era. A well made game but it's forgotten for a reason.
- Star Trek Online (2010-) An MMO. Decent gameplay mechanics, especially starship combat. Storyline leaves something to be desired, especially when the ostensibly peaceful Federation trades shots at least once with every other faction in the galaxy. Is also sadly being screwed over by CBS who keeps retconning the series thus forcing the game to bend more and more unnaturally to fit in the new canon. Still, it's solid enough for an MMO and you can hit max level quick enough to get into the real meat of the game and join a Fleet (their version of a guild) and blow shit up.
- Call To Arms: Star Trek (2011) Mongoose's license for Babylon 5 expired, so they collaborated with Amarillo Design Bureau (the Star Fleet Battles guys), re-themed the game to Star Trek along with improving the system to make it more nifty. Less micro-management than SFB, and ships get some cinematic feats.
- Star Trek: Expeditions (2011) Ignore the tie-ins to the movie, Reiner Knizia designed this. Explore the gameboard, flip over missions, try to have the proper crew to get victory points.
- Star Trek: Fleet Captains (2011) Tile flipping, exploring, and spaceships fighting over resources
- Star Trek: Attack Wing (2013-) WizKids license the flightpath system from Fantasy Flight Games and adds Star Trek to the mix, Skub ensues. The game has been consistently plagued with balance issues, to the point that the rules errata is more than ten times longer than the actual rules. The actual current rules for things like the Borg special movement and fighter squadrons are completely different than the rules as written.
- Star Trek: Ascendancy (2016-) 4X table top boardgame from GaleForce9. Most of the races are represented, though the base set only has the Federation, Klingons and Romulans. Andorians, Vulcans, Cardassians and Ferengi can be purchased as expansions. There is even a Borg expansion that turns the game semi-coop as everyone tries real hard not to be assimilated.
- Star Trek Adventures (2017-) The latest attempt at an RPG, by Modiphius. It also comes with a whole range of miniatures of the various crews from the show. Runs on a similar engine to the creator's Conan the Barbarian which both makes sense, since they're both pulpy storytelling, and is hilarious, given the total tonal mish-mash between the two. Task resolution is generally done via a mixture of six attributes and six disciplines, which are added together, then used as a modifier for a d20 roll. For instance, combat is usually handled by the Security discipline, but hand-to-hand combat would use Fitness or Daring, while firing a phaser or other long-arm would use Control, and shipborne weapons Insight or Reason. In addition to combat stuff, players might solve problems by obtaining information and sciencing the shit out of it. They also have various Values that can be tapped for additional dice, a shared pool of Momentum all players can spend to gain advantages and add to by overboosting on success, and a pool of Threat that they can give the GM rather than burning Momentum, which he can then spend to make the situation degrade. It's a fun system, but it requires a GM who can wrap their head around the idea of an evolving situation rather than a set encounter to really click, which can be hard for GMs who're used to the D&D model.
So why should I care?
Because between them, these six TV series and their assorted spinoff movies, books, etc. can provide inspiration for any sci-fi game you could care to run. If you want light-hearted action, look at the sort of things that happened in TOS or DS9 to get the crew into some dangerous situation. If you want a charismatic villain, look at Gul Dukat or the Borg Queen (but not the one in Voyager). More serious issues are often handled with various degrees of success. While many science fiction series deal with a wide range of topics, Star Trek does so as aspects of a greater world. Like Tolkien is to fantasy it's a prime gateway drug to science fiction and especially science fiction which is more than "action movie IN SPACE!"
Not to mention in any sci-fi RPG with remotely free-form rules you're likely to encounter Star Trek fanboys, so you might as well know what they're talking about. The unholy spawn of a Trekkie and a Furry is known as a Chakat, and you should fear it.
At its best Star Trek is thoughtful, optimistic futurism with a positive human element and brings you to strange new worlds in the grand tradition of speculative fiction but one that's accessible to even the layman. At its worst Star Trek is arrogant, smug, hypocritical, one-sided, preachy, dull and sloppy.
Here's the Cliff's Notes on Star Trek. A couple of general warnings; firstly, Star Trek likes to really take its "racial themes" bits just a little too far. Second, despite this, it's rare for an entire race to be completely irredeemable the way many fictional aliens are: there are heroic and sympathetic characters from nearly every race listed below, able to put more-positive spins on their racial themes. Thirdly, aside from very occasional appearances by aliens who are so bizarre that humankind can barely comprehend them, all of the aliens look like dudes with rubber masks on (because they are). In real life, this was because there was no budget for anything else, but in-universe it's been explained by some kind of Precursor race who seeded all of the planets with their broadly humanoid DNA, and every race evolved slightly differently from there. There isn't much fluff on what these precursors were like, and some of it was contradictory, and Gene Roddenberry didn't like the idea (although he still had to work with the rubber forehead stuff). The good news for fa/tg/uys who like homebrew is that this makes it fairly easy to write d20 system rules for all of the races - after all, most D&D races are just humans with rubber masks on...
A Composite Creation
This is a general note that one should consider: Star Trek was created in pretty much the opposite way as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien worked out a bunch of linguistic stuff and general history of Arda in his spare time over the course of years, then decided to use that as the basis for some stories that he eventually gave to some publishers which in the end sold quite well.
Roddenberry, by contrast, pitched a very broad general idea (it's the future, things are good, we got some guys on a ship exploring space; a "wagon train to the stars") to the networks and eventually Lucy from I Love Lucy made it happen. Roddenberry then worked with a variety of writers and actors (and some later on in later series) who added to this rough skeleton of an idea in a process that would continue on to this day.
This is not to knock either approach, but both have their advantages and disadvantages. In regards to Star Trek, a franchise which relies mostly on an episode of the week format (until recently, apparently) that's been going on for more than half a century, there were numerous people at the helm and many of them had often very different ideas about what should be done that were just thrown out to see what stuck, many of which were contradictory, meaning that the canon is a fucking mess (Kinda sounds familiar, doesn't it?). Some of which we'd frankly rather forget (Data being possessed by a mask, for instance). In general fans and fluff writers have been spending a whole lot of time trying to straighten things out and much of the lore is basically a rough consensus of what people like and what fits in with it. Later series got more systematic about this, but there are still points of contention and a lot of flat out contradictions due to its scattershot nature.
You know, like comic books.
Might as well talk about that main faction. The United Federation of Planets is what the Tau think they are. Its backstory is that in the distant future of the 1990s, übermensch created by genetic engineering began conquering the Earth. The normies fought back and won through sheer numbers, cryogenically freezing the Augments and kicking them out of Earth, but the damage and mass political unrest of World War III got half the planet nuked. This was why genetic engineering was banned. Fortunately, in 2063, a
drunken asshole heroic visionary named Zefram Cochrane created humanity's first warp drive (though it functioned based on the principle that gravity bends space-time, and was therefore more akin to an Alcubierre drive than anything that's dependent on the Warp) and made first contact with the Vulcans. The Vulcans eventually helped humanity rebuild and overcome poverty, disease, war and hunger. With its Earthly problems solved, man turned to the stars and found out its three closest neighbors were racist xenophobic dicks trying to murder each other. Since any war between them would've swept up puny little Earth and gotten it glassed, humans decided to force their neighbors to sit down and talk things out. Incredibly, it worked, and the United Federation of Planets was born.
The Federation is a commie noblebright hippieland society with a post-scarcity economy and a strong democratic government (pretty much Roddenberry's idea of utopia). As a result, Federation citizens work not because they have to, but because they want to. However, despite their advanced technology, transhumanism, that is intentionally making SPESS MEHREENS and mutants like the infamous antagonist Khan Noonien Singh, is illegal.
The Federation's Navy is almost always called Starfleet. It's a mix between a military, a coast guard and a space agency, and usually rates scientific research as a higher priority than defense. One of its quirks is that it doesn't subscribe to the "bigger is better" policy used in most sci-fi, and even by most of the other Star Trek factions. If the Federation does make a large ship, it's because they want it to have a daycare, swimming pool and ice cream bar. If they want a warship, they'll take a little gunship half the size of a modern day destroyer and pack it with enough antimatter nukes and guns to exterminate a solar system. In some cases, especially when dealing with ships from several centuries into the future, the ship is bigger on the inside than on the outside allowing it to hide a vast array of powerful armaments, space-bending equipment, and even whole planetary landscapes. They can get away with this because they out-tech almost everyone else by a country mile. The reason for the series' infamous "technobabble" is that
even they don't know everything their tech can do! their technology is always evolving, and they know it so well that they can often use it in ways that even the original in-show design schematics did not intend.
In theory, Starfleet follows a rule called the "Prime Directive", which says that you're not allowed to interfere with low-tech races ("low-tech" being defined as "not having invented the warp drive", since warp technology apparently follows naturally from the laws of physics) or else things like turning the locals into Nazis might happen. The Original Series talked about this rule all the time, and Captain Kirk threw it aside whenever there was a sexy alien babe in sight. From TNG onward, it tended to instead be brought up whenever a hack writer needed a reason for the heroes to not instantly resolve a given problem with their superior technology or a way of making our heroes look like assholes for following it rigidly (yes, we could save this species from extinction but that would be interfering with the cosmic plan!), though there were a few good episodes that took it seriously.
Some of the more important member races are:
- Humans: You know 'em, you love 'em. Comprise seemingly 90% of Starfleet for reasons in no way related to the cost of makeup/CGI.
- Vulcan: The Original Space Elves, very emotional, especially during "pon'farr" (see below), who followed the teachings of an enlightened sage and embraced logic and rationalism after their emotions nearly led to them wiping themselves out. They are what the average race of fantasy elves think they are, except on Enterprise because the writers wanted to artificially inject tension into the show (some of that was retconned to be a Romulan plot). Occasionally enter a state called "pon'farr," where they need to either fuck something half to death, kill it with the nearest sharp object, or die of a brain aneurysm to let out all that pent-up emotional tension. Fa/tg/uys may recognize this as the sensation they feel every time Games Workshop puts out a new army book. There are ships with mostly Vulcan crews. But only two are seen. One commanded by the biggest jerk among them and the other got eaten by a giant space amoeba. However they're pretty bro-tier overall.
- Andorians: Blue dudes with antennae and constant fits of passion, the polar opposite of Vulcans and their one time foes. Pretty much fa/tg/uys, right down to the romantic streak, in the technical sense. Also, they live underground on a diet of meatbread and rage. Most of what defined them happened in Enterprise as they rarely showed up in the TNG-era, and even then did so as set dressing, allegedly because one of the showrunners hated their antennae and banned anyone from using them.
- Tellarites: Space Dorfs; like insulting everyone and arguing a lot (no, really, petty insults are considered a polite gesture in Tellarite culture), mostly because the very first tellarite ever shown in the series got in an argument with Spock's dad and now it's their whole racial thing. “Sarek said something in a scene once that was meant to demonstrate that he was stand-offish and kinda rude, but we like Sarek so it's now the defining attribute of this species.” It's all in good fun you understand, your confidence in your ideas and actions should be sturdy enough to withstand honest assessment and critique.
Notable Additional Members:
- Betazoids: Invariably attractive humanoid aliens with telepathic powers. Half-betazoid, half-humans apparently only have "empathic" powers, so they are well-regarded by Starfleet captains for their ability to point out the obvious and fill out the tight bodygloves that make up the Starfleet uniform in a pleasing manner, especially since theirs seem to come in a custom cut for reasons entirely unrelated to Roddenberry's erection. Their homeworld is like dropping a really hippie college and Space Vegas into a blender. They were taken over during The Dominion war because Earth or Vulcan would be seen as bullshit due to their large post Borg attack defense fleets/ship yards. While the writers would have to actually add new characters for the Andorians and Tellarites(such as Ambassadors for a government in exile). So Betazoid took the hit to raise the stakes.
- Trill: Originally a one-off race introduced as a sapient parasite that possesses and controls a barely, or even unintelligent humanoid host, they were radically reworked in Deep Space Nine, right down to losing their rubber foreheads in favor of spots. Now, the host is itself an intelligent humanoid, and some, but not all, of their kind are able to willingly merge with a symbiont (because someone can't spell) that allows them to access a mixture of the memories and personalities of all previous hosts, though in a way that, theoretically, enhances the host's personality rather than destroying it or subsuming it. Then, when they die, they can pass on the symbiont to another host, theoretically, one they mentored. They went from having a rubber forehead to some spots because Terry Farrell had a allergic reaction to the make-up.
- Tamarians: Previously a one-off in TNG, newly joined as of Lower Decks. Tamarian communication is based entirely around metaphor and idiom, meaning their entire language is predicated on understanding their history's pop culture references. This throws the universal translator for a fit, as it can chew on the vocabulary okay but it can't unpack the contextual meanings. Imagine a medieval monk trying to decipher Korean text messages and you've got the basic idea.
The Klingon Empire
The Federation's main rival and (movie era and afterward) the quintessential Star Trek race of lumpy foreheaded aliens. Originally they were a rough analog to the Russians (though they took some elements from communist China) in a rough cold war allegory with the Federation (even though the Federation are as commie as they come, though admittedly much of that came around in the TNG era). Their defining feature was that they were militaristic and imperialistic while the Federation was scholarly and respected liberty. This gradually moved more and more into them becoming Imperial Japan/Vikings In SPESSS obsessed with honor, fighting and dying honorably in battle while worshiping at the altar of warrior Jesus, even as they turned from the Federation's bitter enemies into that friend who's fun to be around when he's not getting into drunken bar fights. You see shades of it during the movie era and it became more and more prominent through TNG, culminating in DS9. Do not make the mistake of thinking that Klingons are nothing more than barbaric savages, however; with Worf being part of the crew, and with DS9 dealing with Klingon politics an awful lot we can see Klingon society as it truly is. Even so, they do often wander into self-parody territory.
The Klingons, in their current iteration, are a feudal society ruled by a council made up of the most powerful families. Klingon society holds very little value on things such as currency and material gain (which results in the Klingon empire having a very simplistic understanding of economics), believing that anything you acquire without some form of blood, sweat and/or tears on your part is a pathetic and dishonorable way of going about things, much the same way many cultures used to hurl abuse at merchants and bankers. Another thing to keep in mind is that a Klingon's reputation is literally everything. Central to this is fighting your battles personally and against worthy opponents. Calling out a superior is almost always an honorable fight, and Klingon captains can expect challenges if they become lax or suspect in their decisions. Klingons are still capable of being cunning and crafty, however, and having a high diplomacy score is viewed as honorable as they still have examples of cunning and clever heroes tricking boorish and stupid monsters.
Klingons often carry swords into battle in an age of energy beam guns. In-universe, this is less suicidal than it sounds in the context of boarding actions and tight starship corridors. The Bat'leth is actually a rather shitty weapon. The Mek'leth is noted to be better in most situations. They use the same Disruptor weapons as the Romulans, and at one point used similar starship designs. While is explained as the result of a temporary and unholy alliance, given the eventual animosity between the two races, it was just an excuse to reuse props on a limited budget.
The Klingons are tied with the Vulcans and the Borg as being the most prominent and recognizable non-human species in Star Trek. Beloved of the Internet and the general public, to the point that there are published books like "A Klingon Christmas" in the world. The Klingons have their own constructed language. If you are ever worrying that you might not be a nerd, learning Klingon will solve that problem for you. Please note that this is in general considered by experts to be pathognomonic of autism. You have not experienced Shakespeare until you hear it in the original Klingon.
The Romulan Star Empire
"It's always chess with the Romulans"
You know those Vulcans? Well a few thousand years ago, as their planet was ravaged by war, some of them turned to intense emotional control and logic to tame their murderous passions, while most others left the planet altogether, founding a colony on the planet Romulus and dubbing themselves Romulans. Since said planet shares a name with a mythical figure known for founding a city which built a vast empire, and they had warp drive while those around them did not, you probably know that they turned to building an empire of their own. They hold the second place of prominence as immediate rivals to the Federation. Comically, they actually have better emotional control than the average Vulcan, since they gene-engineered most of their problems away years ago, and don't have to deal with the emotional blowback from pon'farr. The downside is that they lost some of their cousins' niftier powers, like mind-reading and being able to transfer their soul into another person for safekeeping. Although Star Trek Online also revealed that their trip to Romulus was a terrible ordeal, and their gene-engineering was taking during that time resulting in them losing most emotions save for bitterness of being "forced out".
The difference between the Klingons and the Romulans is basically the difference between Gork and Mork, or Khorne and Tzeentch. Klingons will fight you up front with simple brute force. Romulans are sneakier guys, preferring to fight you when you're not looking with spies, cloaked ships and complex plots behind the scenes and playing the long game. There is a lot of political infighting among them, though where the Klingons would duel to the death Romulans would seek to discredit their rivals, have them die in unfortunate "accidents" or disappear. This difference has left both Romulans and Klingons with a big hate-boner for each other, to the Romulans the Klingons are crude brutish barbarians and to the Klingons the Romulans are a pack of scheming cowardly weaklings.
Like the Klingons, they served as a rough Cold War allegory. In this case, they were rough analogs to Communist China (as seen by 1960s Americans), a distant horde of inscrutable and potentially dangerous Orientals who generally were unseen and projecting vague menace, but when encountered face-to-face could pack quite a punch indeed: the first major Interstellar War that Star Trek Earth fought was with the Romulans, which was fought entirely in space with neither side ever seeing the other face to face. Afterward, they set up a 'Neutral Zone' between the Federation and the Romulan Empire that no one even tried to cross for a century. From the Original Series onward, they frequently squabble and bicker with the Federation, before joining forces with them to fight the Dominion in Deep Space Nine and having their government devastated in Nemesis.
In one of the two alternate universes created by J.J.
BinksAbrams movies, the so-called "Prime Universe", Romulus itself got caught in a supernova as part of the Abramsverse's backstory. Picard has revealed that Starfleet was going to help evacuate Romulus before the nova hit, but then some rogue androids destroyed the shipyards that the rescue fleet was being built at, so the Federation shrugged, flipped the Romulans the bird, and let them get blown up. The Romulan Star Empire collapsed in the aftermath, with the surviving Romulans are now scattered across half the galaxy. Most of the former Romulan colonies are now officially governed by the Romulan Free State, but their ability to exert their authority is implied to be limited at best and non-existent at worst. The Neutral Zone, in particular, collapsed into near lawlessness. One of their secret police/ anti android cults got a hold of Borg cube and were presumably up to some nefarious shit with it until the events of Star Trek Picard.
The Ferengi Alliance
"A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all."
- – Eighteenth Rule of Acquisition
Introduced in TNG's early days as the villains for the series, and what /pol/ thinks Jews are. Some Jewish people have actually complained about their being subliminally Jewish and thus anti-Semetic, specifically mentioning that they were money-hungry, lascivious, and ugly, and their large ear lobes were stand-ins for the sterotypical Jewish nose, based on an old medieval stereotype that was enforced to prevent them owning land or assets and ended up sticking around long after the fact (i.e. (we're not shitting you but also they have a valid gripe). Claims of stereotyping aside, they're basically just a ripoff of the Shingouz from Valérian and Laureline.
The idea was to make a caricature of capitalism as a contrast with the techno-communist Federation. This might have worked if these were not TNG's early days. Instead, they overshot the mark by a light year or so, on top of other bad decisions, and you got a race of short, big-eared, goblin-like losers about as threatening as a grumpy pug. (Gene wanted to make an evil short race as big evil races were overplayed.) Over the first and second seasons they tried to make these guys threatening, but they fell flat on their face every time; eventually the writers just said "fuck it" and the Ferengi got demoted to comic relief species, and their status as terrible enemies was demoted to propaganda designed to scare the Federation while the Ferengi government tried to figure out what to make of a species that rejected the acquisition of wealth as a goal. The Ferengi had some good moments in the later seasons of TNG, but most of the best stuff that fleshed them out came from DS9, which had an awesome Ferengi bartender named Quark as a major character. For an idea of what the Ferengi might have been like if the writers had their shit together, look up the Druuge of Star Control II or the Magog Cartel from Oddworld.
Ferengi religion is only hinted upon in DS9, but what is seen implies a simplistic system based on financial success. Ferengi all follow a rulebook/canon known as the Rules of Acquisition, which can be described as Ayn Rand IN SPACE and condensed into the form of Confucius' Analects. There are 285 of these, each a short piece of advice on how to stay in the black. Examples include "Peace is good for business," "War is good for business," "Never have sex with the boss's sister," and "Dignity and an empty sack is worth the sack." The first (and most important) of these is "Once you have their money, you never give it back." Sometimes, the Ferengi Randian spirituality extends into outright interpretations of the afterlife: according to some, the afterlife consists of the Divine Treasury and the Vault of Eternal Destitution, which are respectively analogous to Heaven and Hell. Entrance into one or the other depends on one's business ventures at the time of death; those that were turning a profit are allowed to enter the Divine Treasury, and the rest are damned to the Vault.
Ferengi government is ruled over by a Grand Nagus, a mix between a
pope chief rabbi and a CEO, and he basically treats his civilization like some sort of company, with citizens regarded as workers. Directly below him is the Ferengi Commerce Authority, a quasi-religious organization dedicated to ensuring that correct business practices were followed and correct moral behavior was shown (including keeping the proles in line) - of course, to the Ferengi, these are one and the same. The agents of the FCA are the Liquidators, who are essentially Inquisitors crossed with IRS auditors on steroids. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Ferengi females have no rights and are mentioned as not even being allowed to wear clothes, which leads to boorish behavior on the part of Ferengi towards just about any species. Of course, we see female Ferengi on the show who push that envelope, but it seems that overall "regressive" does not even begin to describe the gender relationships in their culture. Quark's mother, a social climber who marries the head of their government, begins pushing through a women's rights movement during DS9, which proves more successful as time goes on.
The Borg Collective
"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture shall adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."
- – The Borg's opening hail. This is not a boast or a brag, it's them simply explaining you how things are going to go down.
"One other thing. You may encounter Enterprise crew members who've already been assimilated. Don't hesitate to fire. Believe me, you'll be doing them a favour."
- – Picard going full grimdark.
The Ferengi were utter failures as serious villains, so they needed something to fill that gap. Thus they made the Borg, an aggressive hive-minded collective of hyper-adaptive, regenerating cyborgs that assimilates entire species into itself in its attempt to improve and evolve. Shit, that's like coming up with Warforged while trying to replace Kender.
In many ways, the Borg are the truest dark reflection of the Federation, and despite their name, they're not Swedish. While the Feds want you to join their little club on your own, to "add your culture to the galactic community," the Prime Directive means they will ultimately accept you turning them down, even if you have shit they really want. The Borg say "fuck that" and just absorb you. While the Federation believes everyone should work together for the greater good, they still have a very strong sense of individualism and a culture of personal accomplishment (unless your individual belief happens to run counter to the Federation's principles anyway, in which case you're just WRONG because the Federation is the best). The Borg pool all their minds together into a massive collective consciousness in the pursuit of group perfection, becoming an almost-literal personification of techno-capital. The Federation is all about beauty and tranquility and all that hippie stuff, and their tech is eco-friendly and dolphin-safe. Borg strip mine entire planets and drain entire oceans in the name of growth and efficiency.
Your standard Borg cube is a huge multi-kilometer metal box (yes, bigger than most Imperial Navy cruisers) able to go up against an entire Federation warfleet and win. That's right, one of their ships could threaten the entire Federation and Exterminatus Earth. When done right, they are a cold, calculating, nigh-unstoppable force, a threat to all life that wants to retain free and distinct personalities (although they will ignore a single person if not on an assimilation mission, as what they really want is to absorb whole civilizations). Apparently, in Picard's nightmare in First Contact, the Borg assimilation process includes a surgical drill through the eye. While awake. Of all the stuff to come out of the TNG Era they are undoubtedly the most well recognized in mass pop culture.
Unfortunately they got a bad downgrade during Voyager (the Borg Queen blew up cubes full of tens of thousands of drones because a few of them have been severed from the Hive Mind), but even there they were frequently not to be messed with. One amusing thing to note for people that haven't watched TNG: the Borg were actually only in six episodes (and three were breakaway drones) and one movie, yet they're arguably the franchise's most famous pure villains aside from Khan. Goes to show how good they were when written properly. Then in Voyager they get their shit completely pushed in when they discover a new race of extradimensional aliens which they label Species 8472, which were immune to being assimilated, and had to ask the Federation for help in dealing with them. Wait, this sounds familiar...
The Cardassian Union
Introduced in TNG, they are third fiddle to the Klingons and the Romulans. If the Klingons are hypothetically-honorable techno-barbarian warriors and the Romulans are an empire of civilized and refined but sly and ruthless expansionists, the Cardassians are essentially scaly fascists re-enacting 1984 IN SPACE. Their trials announce the outcome at the beginning, and the defense attorney is executed if he wins. Also, THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!
Originally a race of peaceable, spiritual artists called the Hebitians (ironically not dissimilar to the Bajorans), modern Cardassia was born in hunger and desperation when their homeworld began to suffer simultaneous mass famine, pandemic, resource depletion, and ecological collapse. A military junta seized power, figuratively and literally auctioned off the soul of their culture through liquidating all the planet's art and religious artifacts into cold hard cash, and turned the Cardassians into the opportunistic imperialists they are today.
Despite being a whole lot weaker than the Federation, the Cardassians manage to hold their own, partly because what they lack in resources and raw power is made up for by a combination of intense cunning and high charisma stats. Compared to the equally deceptive Romulans, the Cardies are more likely to flash you a smile while tickling your ribs with a knife. They'll use any tool they can to gain the upper hand and while that often means unpleasant and terminal sessions in dark rooms, strip mined planets and the enslavement of entire species, they'll gladly become your bestest buddy if it would achieve their goals. Their intelligence service, the Obsidian Order, is also one of the most ruthlessly efficient organizations in the entire sector, managing to outscale the Romulan Tal Shiar when it comes to producing magnificent bastards and manipulating the politics of entire worlds to their advantage. Unlike the Romulans or the Klingons, they don't tolerate the sort of literal infighting that is rampant in both those states, that shit only serves to weaken GLORIOUS CARDASSIA and needs to be stamped out with ruthless efficiency. Exposing that someone who just happens to be your enemy as being a dangerous subversive is just a benefit, although this can result in both sides of a conflict shouting "For Cardassia!" as they charge each other. Sort of how Democrats and Republicans are both for America, yet oppose each other.
Cardassia has a very fluid hierarchical government, similar to the political realities of post-Stalin but pre-Collaspe Soviet Russia. Broadly speaking, there are three different facets of the government: the Central Command (which holds all the power) the Obsidian Order (who holds the least amount of power, but controls the most puppets) and the Detapa Council (similar to the High Lords of Terra and just as worthless). Cardassian society holds a very strict view of family, placing family just below the needs of the State in a vague approximation of Confucianism.
The State holds a semi-divine mythical status in the eyes of its citizens, with it being viewed as impossible for the State to ever make mistakes. The ideal Cardassian life was one of complete loyalty and servitude to the State and family, with the "repetitive epic," detailing how generations of Cardassians go on to serve both in exactly the same way over and over seen as the height of their culture. The Cardassian government is assumed to be omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent by pretty much every Cardassian, with all Cadassians gladly giving of themselves to the State. Such was this level of belief that when Picard was tortured by the Obsidian order, the torturer saw nothing wrong with bringing his daughter to work because he was working for the State, and therefore the torture of Picard could never be disturbing or wrong. That's why their trials announce their sentences at the beginning and execute the defense attorney if he wins; their "trials" are more excuses to show off the power and infallibility of the State to the masses than actually determine guilt or innocence.
In terms of the Alpha Quadrant's political landscape, they are basically space fascist Italy: indisputably still a great power but nonetheless basically the weakest of the great powers, resentful of it, and unwilling to accept it. They first bully weaker powers in an attempt to carve out an empire, turn from a military junta to a despotist state after a coup, eventually join a bigger, meaner power in a great war against the rest of the Quadrant in an attempt to gain power and respect, see it blow up in their faces and force them to rise again in revolt to save themselves. Beta canon continues the analogy with the establishment of a democratic but unstable postwar government in the vein of the Years of Lead.
As far as plot significant activities went, they had a war with the Federation a few years before TNG which ended in the creation of a Demilitarized Zone between the two powers and (significant to Deep Space Nine) abandoning the previously occupied planet of Bajor they had exploited for resources and along with it the space station Terok Nor, which the Federation took over and renamed Deep Space Nine. After a disastrous war with the Klingon Empire and a faction of ex-Starfleet settlers who refused to be relocated after a treaty called the Maquis led to a popular revolution and overthrow of the existing government, one leader seized power, declared himself absolute ruler, and joined the Dominion towards the end of DS9, which was some serious bad news for the DS9 crew, and, ultimately his own people.
The Bajoran Republic
The Bajorans are a species native to the Planet Bajor. They were, until shortly before the events of Deep Space Nine, under a brutal occupation by the Cardassians who strip mined their planet. They had a fighting resistance which veered in and out of being considered terrorists and all in all were often represented as Palestinians IN SPEHSS. After that, they got their independence, although they're thinking about joining the Federation. The Bajorans have one system and are technologically backwards; the Federation is technically breaking the Prime Directive by interacting with them, but as they've spent years under the oppression of a warp-capable species, they can probably handle it. Also DS9 proves that ancient Bajorans managed to travel at warp speeds to Cardassia using solar sails and an enormous amount of luck, which technically makes them a warp-capable species. The only reason why they are significant in terms of the politics of Star Trek is that they have a wormhole near their planet, which has some timey-wimey aliens living it that they worship as gods, and serves as the only way to get to or from the Gamma Quadrant that won't take decades, making it strategically priceless. Hilariously, this was discovered almost immediately after the Cardassians thought they'd extracted everything of value from the Bajorans and peace'd out, certain that the system was no longer worth the PR hit they were taking from it, only to get burned by some harsh seller's remorse. Also, their species has the oldest civilization (roughly a half-million years) of any major Star Trek race, and the wormhole aliens have gifted them some cool shit, like the Orb of Time.
The other big thing that makes the Bajorans unique is that they actually have a serious religion going on in a way that isn't an extension of their racial "hat" -the human race is depicted as mostly non-religious. They're also probably one of the most accurate depictions of any highly religious alien race in a sci-fi franchise, because they are divided between the majority who interpret their religion as peace and love, and a small but loud minority of bastards who interpret it as condoning acts of terrorism. They generally represent all manner of oppressed and colonized peoples throughout Earth's history, with the Cardassian occupation standing in for the Holocaust, Imperial Japanese atrocities in Asia, and European mischief in Africa during the Age of Imperialism.
A vast empire which exists on the other side of the galaxy in the Gamma Quadrant. The Dominion is ruled over by a species of liquid shapeshifters called The Founders.(aka Changlings, Odo's people) They have at their disposal a military composed of two genetically engineered species that worship the Founders as gods: the short and articulate Vorta who serve as ambassadors, bureaucrats, and political commisars and the big brutal Jem'hadar, who are vat grown, drug addicted, cannon fodder. These oversee a large number of vassal races, including (as of later seasons of DS9) the Cardassians.
The Founders were once (according to them anyway) a peaceful, kind civilization of explorers who wished to see the galaxy, explore strange new worlds, and seek out new forms of life. Unfortunately, they did this in the wrong neighborhood, and quickly ran into species who did not tolerate others. The fact that the Founders were shapeshifters capable of mimicking almost anyone did not help either. Paranoia, mutual mistrust, and some very bad things eventually led to the Founders deciding "fuck this" and moving their planet into a nebula so nobody would bother them. So more or less, a grimmer, darker, counterpart to the Federation, but with spookier Real Aliens.
The Founders are obsessed with order and are both extremely racist and xenophobic, and believe that all alien life is inherently untrustworthy and evil, and the best thing to do is conquer/enslave them before they do the same to them. They don't care about the rights of "Solids", and will happily ignore any sense of decency when convenient. This can be seen when The Dominion runs a simulation of the Dominion dominating the Alpha Quadrant. When O'Brien is assaulted by a Jem'Hadar and severely beaten to the point of needing emergency teleportation to medical (the crime being "disrespectful"), the Founders (disguised as Federation Officers) do not press charges, and when Sisko comes barging in demanding answers, dismiss him with little concern about their own soldiers brutalizing citizens. Their overall ideology could be thought of as Qin legalism IN SPACE: people are inherently evil and the only way to make a better world is to impose order upon them through brute force from a position of absolute, unquestioned power.
The Founders, when not wandering around in various forms, tend to spend their time in a massive ocean literally made up of countless billions of Founders, something which is referred to as the Great Link. According to the Founders, this allows them to share information with each other and come to peaceful decisions. This is rapidly proved to be bullshit; when a separated-at-birth one of their own merged into the Great Link to share his memories of the Federation as peaceful and tolerant space hippies, not only did the Founders ignore his memories, but actively fucked with his mind in an attempt to turn him into a sleeper agent. And even if it weren't, it shows their hypocrisy through their willingness to share freedom and liberty among themselves while depriving all their various slaves and conquered peoples of the same.
The Founders are massive dicks, even to their own people. Failure among Jem'Hadar is rewarded with slow and painful death from deprivation of the drug they're created to need and their lifespans are incredibly short. To be even bigger dicks, the Vorta have no sense of taste and can't appreciate beauty. Not to make them better diplomats, but because they were raised from a primitive stone-age ape tribe, and the Founders think they shouldn't be ever allowed to forget that. (On the plus side, they did give the Vorta an immunity to poison that would make Mortarion himself jealous. Observe.) This may also stem from their own neuroses: the Founders themselves have almost no bodily needs at all and require no nourishment, so they design their slaves to be like them. Notably, Vorta tend to come in packs of clones; a new one is activated when an old one dies, and they retain some memories and personality between "lives," further hammering home how expendable they are to their makers.
And both races are literally engineered to love their makers for what they have done to them and worship and revere them as gods.
They ultimately get what's coming to them in the latter half of Deep Space Nine, through an invasion of the Alpha Quadrant that starts out in their favor and rapidly goes against them.
Species 8472 / Undine
The one and only race in the galaxy even the Borg don't want to fuck with. Introduced in Voyager, Species 8472 are three-legged creatures that live in a space called Fluid Space. It's similar to the Eye of Terror for the fact that it connects to an alternate dimension and everyone will be ripped apart upon entering.
When the Borg first came around to try and assimilate them they were completely obliterated in a war in which 4 million Borg were killed in the first few days at the cost of almost no members of Species 8472. This war was such a roflstomp that the Borg were forced to call on the Federation for help. The Federation being the better people swallowed their pride and decided to help their sworn enemies, but were dicks and sent only one ship.
Species 8472 fought with fast moving, small ships and devastating beam weapons so the small ship of the Federation could keep up with them and helped the Borg force the species back into Fluid Space. The Federation were the villains on this one. That said, they eventually came to an accord with Species 8472, preventing further wars between the denizens of Fluid Space, except in lots and lots of video games that want to use a fresh antagonist.
That and that in Star Trek Online, they look like the fucking Predator.
The Q are a race of beings who have elevated themselves to the point where they are basically gods. Most of them do not interact directly with the younger races, who they tend to consider with disdain- if they consider them at all. However a few of them take a more enlightened view, and one in particular has been known to fuck with individual humans from time time. They are mostly a TNG thing, and even there they work mostly by grace of John de Lancie's acting chops as a counterpoint to the charisma of Patrick Stewart, as de Lancie played the character Q. "Tapestry" even has the two waking up in bed together.
Q is an all-powerful epic troll. TNG's Q's occasionally Tzeentchian games sometimes appeared to be for his own amusement and sometimes acted as education or event protection to the human race. Various subplots involving the Q species range from somewhat thought provoking to mildly entertaining to ridiculous and banal, but the classic episodes that highlighted the charisma and chemistry of the two actors were often quite excellent. De Lancie also appeared as Q in DS9 and Voyager a couple of times, but the chemistry just isn't there without Stewart. The writers knew it too, composing a scene where Avery Brooks punches this bastard in the face telling him "I'm not Picard!" (with the added fanservice of watching Q get punched, high on the wishlist of anyone that had the misfortune to meet him).
The Mirror Universe
This isn't a faction; it's an alternate setting. Its own factions do bleed into the mainline starting in DS9. So it merits its own section.
The Mirror is a parallel universe in which things have gone differently in Earth's History. The main point of divergence appears to occur when the Vulcan scientists who landed at Bozeman, Montana in 2063 are not welcomed with alcohol and music but instead are killed and have their ship looted. It is equally clear that where the main universe is Noblebright the Mirror Universe is Grimdark. Instead of a peace loving Federation searching for knowledge and friendly cooperation for the betterment of all, Earth gave rise to the Terran Empire which seeks out new life and civilizations to conquer and enslave, as it had done with the Klingons. Pretty much it's the PG-13 version of the Imperium of Man with a bit more Grimderp. Junior officers get promoted by killing their superiors, those that fail at that get thrown in the agony booth for their troubles and Emperor gets the job by usurping the previous incumbent. As a rule, characters in the mainline become, in the Mirror Universe, a selfish asshole version of themselves (or have to go along to get along: O'Brien, Spock). Following comic book logic the uniforms for the female characters are more revealing, and facial hair is vogue. Occasionally people can cross over from one universe to the next due to technobabble and cause mischief in either realm.
Originally it was a one off TOS setting for an episode of the week, but it was brought back in a few novels and some romps in Deep Space Nine in which the Terran Empire had fallen. In Enterprise's fourth season it got a two parter that was pretty good and would have been an annual thing if the show had been renewed, this one having little crossover with the main universe (a ship from TOS ended up in the Mirror Universe and is salvaged after all it's crew have died). We also went there in Discovery, for better or worse. Voyager never did the mirror universe, but instead got a homage episode with some alien historians in the far future getting the details wrong like historians tend to.
The Star Trek Crew
Whether the focus of the show is exploration, manning a space station in an important locale or trying to get home, all Star Trek series have a basic set up of casting and focus: namely on a collection of people who are usually the senior-most officers on the ship. If you decide to make a Star Trek inspired game take this into consideration.
- The Captain: Big cheese. Makes the hard decisions. Needs to be able to talk, think or fight out of situations as needed. The third option fetishist finding the balance between empathy and reason. (Two least skubby examples: Kirk and Picard, but the skub will fly hard if you say one is better than the other, sufficed to say that people like both of them alot but for different reasons)
- The First Officer: Second in command and trusted advisor. Added after the original series, where the role was combined with and split between two others. (Two least skubby examples: Riker and Kira)
- The Science Officer: Got high Int stats. Can analyze the situation and work out solutions. The voice of reason. Almost never human. (Two least skubby examples: Data and Spock)
- The Engineer: Hard working technically minded guy who gets shit done. (Two least skubby examples: Scotty and Geordi)
- The Doctor: Ship's healer with a secondary scientific role. The voice of empathy, whether prickly or serene. (Two least skubby examples: Bones and the EMH Doctor)
- The Security Officer: Rough and tumble no-nonsense sort whose job it is to keep these guys alive when diplomacy fails, which it often does. Often has to juggle providing ship's security with working the tactical station on the bridge in a crisis. (Two least skubby examples: Worf and Odo)
- The Helmsman: Got mad spacecraft piloting skills, either full-sized starships, shuttles, or fighters. Younger and more brash. (Two least skubby examples: Sulu and Tom Paris)
- The Other Guy: A crewmember whose role doesn't cleanly map onto other positions, a role often restricted to a single show. Example positions include communications officer, ship's councilor, transporter chief, and linguist. (Two Least skubby examples: Uhura and Troi)
- The Outsider: Someone who is a passenger and regular cast member, but exists outside the organization, looking in and commenting. Usually works a side-job, like tailor, bartender, or cook. Either a beloved fan-favorite or utterly despised, there is no middle ground. (Two Least skubby examples: Guinan and Quark)
Some of these hats may be worn by more than one character, some may be worn by no one at all. This is especially true in the original series, which had a smaller cast overall, and which put less emphasis on an ensemble and more on the main trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. The usual roles and character dynamics were instead set down by The Next Generation, which later series generally copied.
The Original Series
Created in 1966 by legendary sci-fi spiritual liege and money-grubbing, sexist, pseudo-communist lounge lizard Gene Roddenberry and pitched as a "Wagon Train to the stars", it's a pulpy adventure sci-fi, full of fistfights, sword fights, and hammy speeches. (The guns never work.)
The USS Enterprise is tasked by the Federation to go on a five year mission to explore space: the final frontier, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations and boldly go where no man has gone before, though due to budget constraints, her crew often finds that man has in fact gone there before. Or at least something that looks exactly like a man but is actually an alien; most episodes split the difference. James T. Kirk sleeps with hot alien babes who either die tragically or leave tearfully at the end of the episode, but it's 'k because he's too in love with the Enterprise to ever love a mere woman more. Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy are cold and logical and rash and emotional respectively, and their constant friction must be resulting in the best make-up sex in the world, Mr. Sulu and Lieutenant Uhura wait in vain for focus episodes that never come, Ensign Chekhov suffers horribly to the approval of American Cold War audiences, and Scotty gets shit done. Uniforms, while iconic, tend to look a bit civilian though. Miniskirts are apparently mandated attire for the ship's fan-servicey female "yeomen" and others, because 1966. The civilian nature of the attire (including, one must assume, the miniskirts, but they had a visual appeal all their own) were apparently an intentional design decision by Roddenberry who didn't want uniforms to look military. Further specialness on the part of Roddenberry demanded phasers not look like guns (not even have trigger-guards even though those exist for safety reasons), instead looking like nothing in particular at all (although looking back at them today they look sort of like TV remotes, which would be invented much later), and also (probably the only sensible decision in this category) ships that didn't look like rockets, giving ships their distinctive and iconic saucer-engineering-nacelles look that still stands out today.
The Original Series frequently ran out of budget and entire episodes were filmed using spare costumes belonging to the production company, resulting in a series of extremely goofy excuses to go to planets full of gangsters or Nazis. This is often copied by shows who don't realize it was done out of pure expediency, and nowadays this "Planet of Hats" gimmick is practically a box to check off when doing sci-fi adventure. The lack of budget also resulted in one of the more memorable inventions; unable to budget for a sequence showing the Enterprise or a shuttle landing on a new planet every week, the writers instead decided to invent the transporter to "beam" the crew down to planets or between starships. Also worth noting: despite its mediocre critical reception, ratings and eventual cancellation, not to forget the uneven quality of many episodes, especially in the Roddenberry-less third season where poor Fred Freiberger had to come onto a show he didn't understand and try to get better ratings with less money, TOS had a hell of a cultural impact thanks to syndication and it has been said that since it entered syndication in 1969, there hasn't been a 24-hour period without some TV station, in some country, playing Star Trek. Cancellation of The Original Series is now considered one of the worst decisions in TV history, and while much of its silly 60's campiness is now laughable, it often still manages to teach relevant and important lessons today.
Fun fact: the Enterprise and each of her 11 sister ships have enough firepower to Exterminatus a planet by themselves, after getting issued an order called General Order 24. This however is likely a time-consuming task. According to a later DS9 episode, it takes a fleet of 20 warships 1 hour of sustained bombardment to destroy a planets crust and 5 hours of sustained bombardment to destroy a planet down to its mantle. These 20 ships were also in service 100 years after the Enterprise so they were also more powerful. Kirk has the distinction of being the only known captain to issue a General Order 24, because a planet was too much into wargames (he changed his mind after they dropped wargaming).
- Outstanding Episodes: Balance of Terror (Sub Battle in space, debut of Romulans), Space Seed (Khan's first apperence), The City on the Edge of Forever (beautiful tragedy).
- Episodes to Avoid: Rascals (kids, magic and most of TOS's weakness dialed up to 11), Way to Eden (dumbass hippy episode).
The Animated Series
The often forgotten middle child. More or less "seasons 4-5" of TOS with the same writing staff and actors, sans poor Walter Koenig. He was replaced by a weird camel person. He learned this at a convention, from a fan, while he was trying to announce he'd be writing an episode, which Gene promptly demanded he rewrite over and over. Classy.
Being animated allowed the staff to get a lot more creative with the alien designs and plots, and the writing and acting remain... well, top notch is a stretch, but certainly at the same levels as The Original Series, with the occasional low point. Not nearly as bad as you're probably picturing from the name, although still limited by the low budget and primitive, cheap animation techniques of the television era it was aired in. Notably some sci-fi novelists were brought in to write some episodes, such as Larry Niven, and at least one episode, "Yesteryear," is considered such a pivotal moment in Spock's development that even people who hate the series enough to consider it all non-canon often make an exception just for that one.
Also, since the series now has no excuse for throwing in lots of Space Puritans and Space Wizards, it of course continued to do so to derptastic results, because by this point it had become traditional. The presence of a straight-up furry on the bridge, however, is downright unacceptable.
The Next Generation
Here's where it starts getting a little deeper and a little darker, although with a lot of left-wing political subtext turned up to 11. The USS Enterprise-D (the original and C were destroyed in action while A and B were retired) is, like its predecessor, tasked with going where no-one has gone before, but this time around the problems are less likely to be solved in a single episode. Jean-Luc Picard is the captain and he plots and negotiates his way to victory; Mr. Data is cold and unemotional, though not by choice - as an android, he'd very much like to change that; Riker takes over the captain's "sleep with alien babes" duties since Picard is married to the job; Worf the Klingon gets beaten up by monsters to show how tough the monsters are, meaning that Worf winds up looking incredibly weak by the end of the show's run and doesn't regain his badassery until his run on DS9; Dr. Beverly Crusher is good old Bones minus his temper; Dr. Pulaski is Bones plus temper; Counselor Troi is so badly written she becomes a running joke; and Geordi LaForge gets shit done. Only two things need to be said about helmsman Wesley Crusher: he was Gene Wesley Roddenberry's shitty self-insert fanfic character, and his sueness got to the point that even his actor started to hate him within the first season of the show.
Due to the massive success of The Original Series in syndication (and Paramount being pissed off by broadcast networks treating their most valuable IP like any other show), TNG was aired through syndication from the beginning. Although the first two seasons were laughably bad, the quality began to improve dramatically after an increasingly cocaine-addled Gene Roddenberry got too sick to keep ruining it and his partner-in-crime Maurice Hurley was thrown out on his ass, a moment often pinpointed via looking for when Riker grew a beard. The later seasons are widely considered to represent the apex of the franchise's episodic formula on the small screen (although DS9 gave it a run for its money with a more serialized approach); sadly, this series only got one good movie.
The Next Generation started and ended on one of its skubbier elements, that being Q, an omnipotent trans dimensional alien that starts testing Picard in the first episode and is finally persuaded to go away in the last. The entire multi-season run of the show is set up with the subtext that the Q are judging whether humanity is worthy of its implied lofty destiny. What should have been a stifling deus ex machina was carried entirely by the performance of Q's actor; the dialogs between Picard and Q were some of the show's most entertaining, even as the Q episodes tended to be the obligatory season silly story.
- Outstanding Episode: Best of Both Worlds (Borg 2 parter, action and drama), Darmok (Picard learns to communicate with alien captain on far-away planet, all of TNG's strengths), The Inner Light (I am not crying, you are crying).
- Episodes to Avoid: Code of Honor (racist and stupid), Shades of Grey (half assed clip show)
Deep Space Nine
Unlike all the other series so far, Deep Space Nine primarily takes place in a fixed location - the titular space station Deep Space Nine, out near the borders of Federation Space. Said space station is near Bajor, which was recently freed from Cardassian occupation, and a wormhole to the other side of the galaxy which allows all sorts of of crazy shit to go down. If the other shows are a wagon train, this one's the border fort.
Benjamin Sisko is the captain, declared Emissary by the nearby Bajorans for making contact with the wormhole aliens they worship, and he successfully hybridizes the blow-the-shit-out-of-whatever-you-can't-punch Kirk approach with the talk-in-a-very-dignified-way-about-the-philosophy-of-the-thing-and-win-by-rhetoric Picard maneuver, in his ultimately-successful quest to become the baddest motherfucker in space, then literally becomes a space god. Kira the Bajoran ex-
terrorist noble freedom fighter (who are we kidding she calls herself a terrorist) struggles to free and rebuild her people while coming to terms with the moral ambiguities of situations she prefers to see in black-and-white, Dr. Bashir works to find his character for several seasons before becoming a highlight, Dax gets often written poorly and has to switch bodies doing it, Odo IS Liquid Space Cop, Quark runs his bar and heckles the Federation, Garak pretends to be a tailor while definitely not being a super-spy and dropping killer lines, and Miles O'Brien gets shit done and gets physically, mentally, and/or emotionally tortured in at least one episode a season (referred to by the writers as the "O'Brien Must Suffer" episodes). Also, Worf wanders in halfway through, and actually gets to punch things instead of just getting punched by them, up to and including offing the Klingon chancellor in an honor duel. It's also a lot more political than other series (though TNG and Voyager have their moments) and the last series to have Gene Roddenberry's involvement (with less enthusiasm, in fact often much to the benefit of this particular series thematically, although Roddenberry's complete departure did not necessarily bode well for the franchise in general.)
It's the closest the pre-Kelvin series ever get to grimdark. Especially when the Dominion show up. With minimal grimderp that plague the later seasons and Kelvin era movies. The show has aged remarkably well and the terrorist/freedom fighter debate was repeatedly explored in a very mature and honest way; the darkest episodes ventured into duping the Romulans into a war by assassinating a senator, and forcing a Klingon regime change the Klingon way. DS9 is the most serialized of all Trek shows and could be considered a forerunner to the golden age of television with its long story arcs and deep character development. Overall, DS9 has to be considered the most consistently good Trek show thanks to the excellent writing and fantastic performances from a truly wonderful ensemble cast. At least until the final season . . .
Which brings us to DS9 Skub. The show was airing around the same time as another thematically similar sci-fi show, Babylon 5. Not only that but characters also shared similarities, as did the episodes especially as both shows became war stories later on. Interestingly, beginning of both series, introduction of characters and airing of similar episodes were often too close to each other for one show to copy the other but this did not stop massive Rage and fanboy wars from starting between fans of the two series accusing one another of plagiarism and having an inferior product. Happily, as time went on and both shows evolved, these hurt feelings have mostly faded.
There's also that last season. The earlier (good) writers had got pulled to try to make movies, which movies they'd failed at. The new writers also had to bring in a new Dax due to Berman constantly being a sexist asshole to actress Terry Farrell, Ezri, who was very different from Jadzia; and Ezri only got that one season to make her mark, which season she had to share with the Great Epic Conclusion (it's a miracle Ezri was as well received as she was, and a testament to Nicole de Boer's talent). Those finale episodes were mostly okay and tied up the story semi-satisfyingly, though a few die-hard subplots fell flat. The season, therefore, was shaky; not necessarily a harbinger for The Decline Of Trek to come, but at least inauspicious.
How good is Deep Space Nine? Every Star Trek series and even the reboot movies have pretty much ripped off ideas and concepts established during the series. Famously, within the "Trekker/Trekie" fan community, there's a little cell of fans who like it better than most other Star Trek; these fans are typically called "Niners."
- Outstanding Episodes: Duet (excellent character work elevates low budget episode), In the Pale Moonlight ("how far would you push your principles to save the world" done very well).
- Episodes to Avoid: Profit and Lace (Quark has a horrible relationship with his mom and has a sex change for zany antics), Let He Who is Without Sin (bullshit on resort planet Risa)
Star Trek: Voyager centers around the eponymous USS Voyager, a smallish ship which gets teleported over to the other side of the galaxy. The plot of the series centers on the crew's efforts to get back home, which COULD have made for an excellent premise. Unfortunately, there were few lasting story arcs, with most episodes being fully self-contained (as well as being littered with far too many episodes featuring holodeck or transporter incidents). As a consequence, despite being completely isolated from the Federation, no matter how bad things got Voyager always appeared in the next episode without a scratch, fully supplied, and with all its shuttlecraft intact. Think Gilligan's Island on a starship.
Like TNG and DS9 it's a character-driven drama just as often as it is a sci-fi adventure romp, although compared to TNG only a few of the characters are particularly memorable. The captain and arguable "main character" is Kathryn Janeway, a Katharine Hepburn lookalike (I see what you did there) who is stern without being cold, and principled without being inflexible. The fan favorite is a character called "The Doctor" (No relation); he's the solid-light hologram representative of the ship's emergency medical computer, who has to take on actual medical duties when their chief medical officer was conveniently killed in the pilot episode. Other than this, Chakotay is a peace-loving and spiritually rich indian
freedom fighter terrorist who was written with the help of a special Cherokee consultant so native his name was Jamake Highwater and it turned out later on that he was actually Jewish and didn't know dick about native cultures so he made everything up resulting in Chakotay basically being a borderline racist caricature of what you think Indians are like. Akoochimoya. Tom Paris is an annoying jerk and is counterbalanced by Harry Kim who is the ideal boy-scout, making him only half as annoying and twice as boring. B'elanna Torres tries to perpetuate a lineage of dudes getting shit done but ends up blankly reciting her technobabble, having second degree plasma burns and – worst of all – systematically fails to get shit done whenever the warp core goes nuts. Tuvok tries hard to be as cool as Spock but ends up being a lame version of the n°1 Vulcan who uses logic to justify everything and makes it short for "you are wrong, I am right because I said so." Kes is passed as a fragile and nice character but it takes a couple of episodes to realize that having a short lifespan does not change the facts: when you can boil someone to death from the inside of their body, drain life from everything around you to become stronger and do anything you want without knowing how, just by thinking of it, you are a goddamn Mary Sue. From the fourth season onwards the only character the writers seemed to care about was Seven of Nine, a human woman who recently escaped from Borg control and kept all of her cyborg enhancements but regained her free will; another Mary Sue, to be sure, but she's hot, and the other characters are much worse, so that's not really a bad thing. Fortunately, The Doctor still received a lot of attention from the writers and almost single-handedly made the show watchable. There was also Neelix, who was the apparent inspiration for Jar-Jar Binks, and any sane crew would have pushed him out of an airlock on the first episode. Fans who stuck with the show despite its glaring failings were given one final slap in the face with the controversial shit final season, in which the producers decided "screw steadily crafting a satisfying conclusion to a story which we have wasted for most of the last seven years anyway; lets just ignore it until the final episode and then throw in some shit about trans-warp conduits and time travel, bitches love time travel!" If you did not care about any of the characters or the subplots or time travel making sense (the writers sure didn't), then the final episode was made just for you (and the Borg got a major setback, too, just don't think about the setup too hard).
The Doctor never once stopped being totally fucking awesome though (enough so to even earn a cameo in First Contact and for Robert Picardo to turn up as his inventor in an episode of DS9), and the great acting from the cast carries the series from being horrific to occasionally watchable. Just goes to show that no matter how good your actors are, they can't make diamonds out of shit.
Overall, most Star Trek fans view Voyager's legacy with a shrug and a "meh." Unfortunately, hopes that Voyager's successor would revitalize the franchise would soon prove to be overly optimistic.
- Outstanding Episodes: Timeless (excellent time travel episode)
- Episodes to Avoid: Threshold (Tom Paris and Janeway turn into Salamanders and have Salamander Babies)
From the minute the Nickelback-tier theme tune started, Enterprise attempted to take Star Trek in a new direction and was only partially successful in doing so. The series never quite caught its footing, although it still managed to have some enjoyable moments. It was most notable for providing a first-hand view of the key events that directly led to the formation of the Federation. The Federation's founding races were also featured heavily, with Andorians, Tellarites, and Vulcans all enjoying significant screen time alongside the human characters.
It's a prequel to the rest of the canon, taking place on the first Enterprise, before the Federation was founded and during the period when Earth was still an independent power- so there's a lot of primitive versions of things from other series. At least the uniforms were pretty cool in an Air Force sort of way. Captained by
that guy from Quantum Leap Jonathan Archer, in hindsight the fact that they had to rename him from their original choice of Jeffrey Archer to avoid confusion with the disgraced British MP and author of the same name probably cursed the series with bad karma before it had even begun shooting. In an unusual twist for a Trek series, his first officer isn't a terrorist noble freedom fighter, however she does share a trait with her Voyager predecessor in that the actress who portrayed her frequently criticized the show's writers in interviews. Other than that, well, Hoshi Sato screams a lot, Travis Mayweather was so dull that even the writers forgot he existed, the resident Vulcan T'Pol serves as both the Science Officer and source of sexy fanservice, Malcolm Reed has an accent, Dr Phlox is a weird creepy alien with weird creepy alien morals (and gets surprisingly interesting when given enough screentime, which hardly ever happened), and Trip also has an accent and gets shit done.
Was retooled twice, the third season tries to be 24 IN SPACE (stop some aliens, the Xindi, from blowing up Earth) while the 4th season is a massive apology about the last three seasons that tries to fix all the problems they had. As a result, the last season is the only one that's close to being really good.
Unfortunately, the poorly-received final episode is set on the holodeck of the Enterprise-D, which leaves us with the firm impression that the producers would have much rather have just continued making The Next Generation. Considering the mediocre quality of the TNG movies we got instead, this probably would have worked out better for all involved (Or not since Voyager was that; its first episode was even numbered 901, as in Season 9 Episode 1).
Yet despite all the bad directing, subpar plots, and frankly boring episodes, Enterprise sometimes still manages to be moderately enjoyable with occasional moments of awesomeness if you can suffer through a fair few awful spots and aggressive mediocrity almost everywhere else. The focus on founding Federation races like the Andorans was refreshing and the technology level, being somewhere between the original series and the real world present-day, was quite interesting. We also got to see the Vulcans portrayed as arrogant, superior dicks. This actually makes a lot more sense than the way they're usually portrayed (which is fairly submissive towards humans) because they are, obviously and objectively, the superior race. The Klingons certainly still considered themselves to be honorable but the show made it clear that the Klingon notion of honor is rarely analogous to the human concept which was interesting as all hell to watch. There have been a few small nods to Enterprise in Discovery and the Abrams movies.
And let's be fucking honest, /tg/ loves 40k and the Xindi arc was about as grimdark as shit gets. And that was awesome.
- Outstanding Episodes: Damage (Enterprise is nearly destroyed and can barely function), Zero Hour (End of Season 3, good action and good payoff), Regeneration (Borg episode, silly but well executed).
- Episodes to Avoid: Dear Doctor (boring prime directive extremism), These are the Voyages (Trip dies in a rush-job ending, last minute or so is alright as a visual send-off divorced from crap narrative).
STD aka Disco aka Discovery
A LOAD OF SOCIAL JUSTICE SHIT! Ahem, let's start again, shall we?
A new "prequel" series set 10 years before The Original Series. Again. Run exclusively on CBS' paid streaming service (unless you live outside the US and Canada, in which case you can get it on Netflix) to try and drum up sign-ups and revenue, it features a mix of Enterprise and Abramstrek aesthetics despite supposedly taking place in parallel to the TOS "The Cage" pilot while having technology superior to late DS9 and introducing mushroom-based space travel that would imply all later events and warp travel would be outdated. The trailer has attracted a lot of concern over the fact that Klingons have been completely redesigned to look like slit-nosed ogres wearing ancient Egyptian cosplay, and rumors that the Klingons shown were primitives who had been trapped in stasis proved to be unfounded, so there is no excuse. Not having a cold war to posture about, the new villains are based off of Trump-inspired xenophobia by the admission of the authors. Also the lead character is Spock's human sister that he never mentioned before, aka the exact origin of the Mary Sue which is just fucking depressing. To further reinforce this, there are numerous examples of dialogue and exposition that serve only to show how the Mary Sue main character was right all along, usually in conjunction with the death of the character that had foolishly disagreed with her. Want a new Star Trek episode about racism and immigration? Try the now-banned Star Trek Continues. Want Star Trek with humor, we suppose: Star Trek: Lower Decks, below. Oh! want a pseudo-Star Trek show about other modern issues? Try The Orville. That's right, American Dad In Space
may right now be is a better Star Trek than an actual Star Trek series.
Initial reviews have been... well, never mind the 2017-era soy-guzzling critics. STD is as much fun as an outbreak of Nurgle's Rot. Mostly. There are exceptions.
The writing is overly convoluted, the massive injection of grimdark into pre-TOS continuity is anathema to the hardcore fans (the human characters are often the ones doing the nastiest shit, including trying to kill a Klingon party by planting an explosive on the corpse of one of their comrades for when they came to collect the dead) and the Klingons are so flat and devoid of characterization that they might as well be Larry the Cable Guy lookalikes wearing Trump hats. This is a massive disappointment for a series that promised to put a spotlight on Klingon culture but ended up retconning all the characterization that happened in TNG and DS9. It may get better with time (remember that it took two seasons for TNG to get really good) but given the release schedule (split between 2017 and 2018 with a long break) it may come too late for the fanbase to care. Currently it's cause for more fans to lose their shit over whether it's better or worse than the Abrams movies, which is a new record of Trek Skub. Releasing the show on CBS All Access instead of cable or broadcast TV makes it seem that executives don't really give a shit if the show succeeds or fails, bringing up the question of whether they're deliberately putting Star Trek: Discovery in a no-win scenario where, no matter what happens, the executives have an excuse to cancel Star Trek altogether.
Another stupid decision was not shelling out the cash to bring back Bruce Greenwood and Zachary Quinto as Captain Pike and Spock, respectively. Their ages wouldn't have mattered either if CBS and Paramount weren't too cheap to use the anti-aging CGI tech that is so commonplace these days. Hell, Star Trek makeup artists are among the best in the entertainment business. So they could have pulled it off with applying the bare minimum, and we probably still wouldn't have noticed.
There were also allegations that large chunks of the plot were stolen from previews of an in-development indie game. The unreleased 2014 game featured giant Tardigrades that had the ability to use an interstellar network to travel anywhere they wanted to- sound familiar?
We must however give credit where credit is due. Season 1's fifth episode "Choose Your Pain" starred Rainn Wilson as a younger Harcourt Fenton Mudd, and this was a surprising treat. Season 2 also featured Anson Mount as Captain Pike, whose addition to the cast was nothing short of a revelation. Indeed, Pike's character was by far the most well-received aspect of that season.
Unfortunately, while Season 2 had some watchable moments, it was still middling at best, and nobody is ever going to let this series live down the garbage fire that was Season 1. If you do decide to watch Season 2, try not to think about it too hard once you are done. It gets worse and worse the more you think about it as you can and will come to realize that the overarching plot hinges on time-travel but because the writing and production staff kept being shuffled, no one kept continuity so some of the hints of future actions or "red lights" are just forgotten about, some time-travel is done just to set up another event to make it possible for that same time-travel to happen. Think Bill and Ted, except lame and very confusing. Season 2 is an okay show if you look at the state-of-the-art visuals, let the big emotional moments grip you, but if you stop for a second and think about the continuity of events, you push yourself on a slippery slope that ends in not being able to ever trust the showrunning staff again.
Season 3 sees the Discovery transported far into the future, one in which the Federation itself has fallen apart due to the mysterious disappearance of the Dilithium required for Warp Travel. What was the issue with the Dilithium? A member of the same species as the character Saru was on a planet with a lot of Dilithium and had a freakout so bad it somehow psychically fucked up all Dilithium everywhere at roughly the same time. Oh, and apparently turbolifts now fly around in a pocket dimension or some stupid shit.
Set to be a continuation of the original timeline, featuring old man Picard with Patrick Stewart reprising the role. Hopes are not high, but at the very least Patrick Stewart's presence should make it watchable if nothing else.
Update: It's bad. So, so bad.
The story so far: Picard ragequit Starfleet after they sat back and let the Romulans get blown up by the supernova mentioned in the first Abrams movie. This happened because some rogue androids orbitally bombarded Mars and blew up the rescue fleet that was being built there, so the Federation has banned all R&D on synthetic lifeforms and subsequently become isolationist, racist and xenophobic (does this remind you of anything?). Picard has been living in his family chateau ever since, making wine and hanging out with his dog and his Romulan housekeepers. Then a scared girl named Dahj turns up on his doorstep, and it turns out she's a highly advanced biological android constructed from the surviving bits of Data's positronic brain by the guy who wanted to dismantle Data in that episode "The Measure of a Man." Before Picard can really figure out what to do about her, she gets killed by a secret society of Luddite anti-android Romulan assholes, but it turns it that's okay because she has a twin "sister" named Soji who is working with some other Romulans on a derelict Borg cube. Picard decides it's time to saddle up and go be a hero again. He starts putting together a crew that includes Agnes Jurati, a former cyberneticist; Raffi Musiker, his last executive officer, who is now an alcoholic drug-vaping hermit after getting kicked out of Starfleet; Cristobal Rios, a scruffy merc pilot whose ship is staffed entirely by holograms of himself; Elnor, a Romulan warrior monk raised by Romulan warrior nuns; and Seven of Nine, who has become a kickass pilot and is no longer wearing her infamous catsuit. Together, they're out to save Soji, stop the Romulans, and be the good guys in a galaxy that needs heroes, etc etc.
Key storytelling criticisms of the show include the idea that the Romulan Empire should have had enough infrastructure to effect an evacuation without help, and that even if they didn't, the Federation would never abandon a neighbor who was asking for help- not even a former enemy, and not even when doing so became difficult or inconvenient. Another issue comes up when the show reveals that the Borg have assimilated transgalactic teleporters from a throwaway alien race that appeared in an early episode of Voyager, but only for the Borg queen to use in case the cube she's on is about to be blown up, which begs the question of why in the hell aren't they using them to overwhelm the Federation's defenses with drone spam and assimilate everything?? There's also an (abortive) space battle in the final episode where Riker shows up leading a fleet of ships that are just copy-pastes of the same CG model, which was derided for being cheap and lazy on the part of the showrunners and a failed chance to show Riker in command of the Titan or Enterprise.
To make matters even more dumb and yet also more complicated at the same time, the showrunners are apparently under some kind of licensing agreement regarding the portrayal of images and concepts from the earlier shows. This means that they can't, for example, casually mention the Dominion War and its impact on the Federation, because if they did, they'd have to pay a licensing fee. This is why the show has been carefully crafted to look like a distant, derpy cousin of Star Trek, while only occasionally featuring cameos of things such as the Enterprise-D, or directly referencing arcs in previous shows: because if they use concepts from prior Star Trek shows, they have to pay for them.
Finally, when all has been said and done by the end of Season 1, Picard himself is reduced to a nearly-useless side character in his own show. Where once he commanded the admiration and respect of friends and foes alike, in this show he is consistently portrayed as a disrespected, disregarded, and often powerless caricature of himself, utterly reliant on the characters around him. It doesn't help they legit kill him in the last episode and then made him an android after he also agreed to "kill" Data whose memories are basically in a server on a planet of Soong androids. The showrunners specifically came out and said their plan was always to kill Picard to make a point about how privileged he was being a captain in Starfleet. You can't make this shit up. Patrick Stewart himself claims that they hadn't written Picard's death until they were almost finished filming the season, so who knows what the hell was going on.
One other thing is certain. Whether you like the series or not, it's clear that this series is not taking place in Gene Roddenberry's noblebright vision of the Federation, and the fact that it is yet another grim, violent entry into the franchise is a point that has left many viewers with a bad aftertaste. If the rumors are true, then this show may have either killed the current grimderp Trek or has left fans so pissed that CBS is, once again, on the verge of financial ruin and possibly looking to sell the franchise since they aren't making the money they thought they would after the massive amounts of money they dumped into both this and Discovery.
Season 2 premiered in March 2022 after the Covid pandemic delayed production. John de Lancie and Whoopi Goldberg are both set to come back and there appears to be some kind of time travel shenanigans happening. Expectations are low after the trash fire of the first season, but at least it'll be nice to see Q getting on Picard's nerves again. So far it's kind of meh, but they definitely listened to some of the major criticisms of the first season: Picard's been reinstated in Starfleet, they brought back many fan-favorite starship classes for the big space battle in the first episode, the gratuitous swearing and needless grimdark got toned down, and they've been including deep cuts and Easter eggs from TOS and DS9 lore. Q shows up and launches the gang into a hilariously over-the-top alternate timeline where the Humanity Fuck Yeah knob got cranked to 11 and as a result the Confederation of Humanity has been going around exterminating all xenos scum up to and including the Borg, which is admittedly pretty badass. They're all appropriately horrified by this and steal the Borg queen right as she's about to be executed so they can do the sun-slingshot move from the fourth movie to go back to 2024 Los Angeles and fix whatever got messed up. Brent Spiner turns up as yet another identical-to-the-rest morally skewed Soong ancestor (seriously, is someone just cloning them offscreen?) and the punk from Star Trek IV returns, still blasting his boombox all these years later. Picard and co. save the future by ensuring that his ancestor Renee goes on a manned mission to the moon of Europa, where she discovers an alien organism that allows humanity to magically fix Earth's biosphere and make everything noblebright forevermore, apparently because the writers forgot that according to the Trek timeline WWIII will be devastating the environment, destroying most major cities and governments, and leaving 600 million people dead in about 30 years. Rios decides to stay in the past because he met a sexy doctor and dies in a barfight over medical supplies, Dr. Soong is revealed to be working on more Khans, his fake daughter Kore meets Wesley Crusher and becomes a Traveler, and it turns out that the reason Q did all this in the first place was to help Picard confront his deep-seated family issues so he could avoid dying alone, as Q is in the process of dying alone himself and doesn't want the closest thing he has in the galaxy to a friend to go through the same thing. In the season finale the Borg (now being controlled by Agnes after she forced the Borg queen to bitch down by getting her to admit that she's just as lonely as Agnes) ask to join the Federation so they can keep an eye on some weird transwarp conduit that some unknown entity just opened, which was why the Borg rocked up at the beginning of the season. Pretty cool way to wrap things up on an otherwise meh show.
Season 3, which is the last season, will be rounding up the entire core cast from TNG (except Wil Wheaton, because fuck you Wesley) for one last road trip, as Riker puts it in the trailer. They're also apparently jettisoning most of the cast from the first two seasons, as the actors for Agnes, Elnor, and Soji have all confirmed they're not coming back for this one, though they're keeping Seven and Raffi around. The main villain of the season is being played by Amanda Plummer, whose dad Christopher played General Chang in Star Trek VI, but holy shit, they're also bringing back Lore and Hologram Moriarty.
Strange New Worlds
An attempt to put the golden goose back together on the operating table. After seeing the reception of having Captain Pike in Discovery, Paramount decided to simply return to the pilot cast of The Original Series with its fingers crossed that the old bird will resume replicating gold eggs.
It's good so far. It's fun and optimistic, which is a genuine relief after the grimderp of Discovery and Picard, but isn't afraid to occasionally go in dark places and present genuinely difficult philosophical problems. We'll have to see if it holds up, the science can be very stupid even by Trek standards, and if you liked the Gorn you'll hate what they're doing with them, but overall, so far so good. The season 1 finale is a treat; it's a retelling of the classic episode "Balance of Terror" but with Pike in command of the Enterprise instead of Kirk, and they recreate everything from the blocking to the dialogue to the cheesy zooms of the original episode. It's pretty awesome.
Mike McMahan is doing this one, him being the person behind the Rick & Morty cartoon. It's set in 2380 on the Cerritos, concentrating (like the TNG episode of the same name) on the grunts working in the bowels of the ship. The main characters are ensigns and low-level lieutenants: Tendi is the perky Orion female science office-in-training with massive insecurities about her species. Rutherford is Geordi LaForge with more extensive cybernetics and minus ten years of experience. Mariner is Kirk's and Sisko's propensity to break the rules in the daughter of the ship's captain (and an admiral) but without their judgement on when to do so. They are all the bane (and close friends) of the worrisome Boimler existence, the Starfleet straight-man who would be Picard if he stopped worrying about getting promoted so much.
Fans feared this would focus on lowbrow "humor" episodes with technobabble nonsense stapled to it just like McMahan's other works. And they were right, although the technobabble is here honestly less annoying than in mainline Trek, on account it's not being taken seriously.
The fans weren't won over by the August 2020 pilot ep, with the manic energy of Rick & Morty, directed at appearing to kick the shins of the franchise it has in its name.
As the first season progressed consensus warmed up a bit. Lower Decks is not as unwatchably bad as Discovery or Picard. While it does ooze millennial snark, it's greater sin (or virtue) is that it's completely irreverent. It's not that the writers don't know of Roddenberry's noblebright ideals, they just believe that ideal won't survive contact with reality (remember the conversations between Julian Bashir and Elim Garak?). Enjoying Lower Decks means accepting the likely reality that a few decks below all of Picard's noblebright ready room monologues there were hundreds of ignoble, corner-cutting crewmen who just want to get to the end of their shift.
The most-justified complaint against Lower Decks so far is that it can come off as mean and sarcastic, making low blows against Star Trek for the sake of a joke. High points are moving the plot forwards with Bajorans in Starfleet proper and the Pakleds, originally a joke of a species (in 2365), are now a serious threat that can take on weaker Federation ships and win (in 2380). It also has the first on screen appearance of the USS Titan. John de Lancie reprises Q, last seen in Voyager and now infamous throughout Starfleet as an unwelcome menace. Among all but the most whiny of fans, Lower Decks is at least considered better than the first two seasons of STD and first season of Picard with a better understanding of what Star Trek is than either.
The second season is on a more even footing, now that it's gotten past the shock of introducing people to the series and is teasing more backstory and personality for all of the main characters and the ship's bridge crew, while the mix of TOS and TNG era humor continues. The second season also represented a shift in the overall tone and humor of the series. The ideals and tone of traditional trek are more present and accounted for, and the show even veers into surprisingly deep and insightful exploration of them on occasion. They are shown less as naive ideals, and more from the PoV of practical everyday life as the show's name implies.
In summary, the first season was rife with teething issues (but show me a trek series which's wasn't) and directly appeals to people who loved Star Trek but now believe Star Trek is dead Jim. Second and third season are more appealing to trekkies who aren't afraid to laugh at the thing they like.
Here for sake of completeness, an animated show targeting a younger audience that debuted in 2021 on Nickleodeon (alongside Paramount+). The show follows a collection of misfit (mostly young) aliens on a mining colony that find hidden in a crystalline planetoid the USS Protostar, a Starfleet Starship with a hologram of Janeway to aide the collection of "Cadets" as they escape and venture out into an galaxy full of adventure while the owner of the mining colony and his robot minion try to take the Protostar for themselves.
So far it has a decent critical reception. If you want Star Trek which is noblebright and not ironic and are fine with a PG rating, this may be worth a look.
We're putting these at the end in the (unlikely) event someone does a movie that's in the non-Abrams canon ever. As a general rule, the even-numbered ones aren't complete shit.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture: AKA: The Slow Motion Picture, or the Motionless Picture. A giant space whatsit is flying towards Earth, the mostly-retired crew has to go figure out what's going on and stop it. Old school sci-fi geeks like the ideas, but terrible pace and interminable special effects that were clearly meant to capitalize on 2001: A Space Odyssey while failing to understand what people like about that movie kill them dead for everyone else. Besides the uniform worn by Kirk, the uniforms also look like pajamas. So no wonder they were changed only a movie later. Features an entirely bald female alien who is so good at sex that she has to swear an oath not to get it on with the crew. Really. This is canon.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: As Kirk starts to feel his age, a one-off villain from the show played by Ricardo "Corinthian Leather" Montalban makes a dramatic reappearance: KKKHHHAAAAAAAAAAAANNNN!!!! Widely considered the best of all the films, and the only one considered a straight up great film, no qualifiers. If you haven't seen it, see it. So good many later movies in the franchise just try to rip it off instead of finding their own identities. Interesting fact: due to time constraints, Shatner and Montalban weren't available at the same time. So the entire script was written so that Kirk and Khan never need to meet face-to-face. But you'd never notice if it weren't pointed out to you. Roddenberry screeched autistically and objected to some of the actions of his characters, including Kirk shooting a brain eating space parasite that had literally just emerged from the head of his friend rather than "keeping it for study." The fact that his strongest objections came to the most win of the films says a great deal about his depreciating value to the franchise around the TNG era.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Where is Spock? He's on Genesis. ALL AHEAD FULL! Not really bad, just mediocre and run of the mill compared to the superior films that surround it. It was also saddled with the misfortune of undoing some of the previous film's more-daring decisions, and having its only daring decision reversed a film later. If you had to say that any film broke the "odd numbers suck" rule, it would be this one. This was Leonard Nimoy's first attempt at directing a full film, having asked for the seat in exchange for agreeing to play Spock again.
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: The crew of the Enterprise travels back in time to save the whales. No, literally and unironically. Scott tries to talk to a computer through the mouse, Spock nerve-pinches a punk on a bus in San Francisco, and somehow it works, creating something perhaps not quite in the genre intended but a classic in sci-fi dramedy. The Voyage Home is a zany comedy romp beloved by the general public and fandom alike, leaving only the most intractable fanbois to bitch and moan. Nimoy directed this one too but there was a contract stipulation that Shatner would get whatever Nimoy got, thus leading to...
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: aka. the film that should never have been made, even by many die-hard Trekkies. Kirk's actor got his spin behind the camera as agreed and wanted a "thought-provoking movie" after the more comical IV. Good intention, but the abysmal execution leaves the audience facepalming at the very best. Between the weak script, the 'moral' of the story ('faith can be abused by unscrupulous people', for the record) delivered with all the subtlety of a punch to the face, poor (or deliberately campy) special effects, uninspired performances by the actors (who for the most part didn't like the script as it had them behave against everything that had come before and betray Kirk) and Kirk's screentime-hogging (despite being behind the camera); this movie is by far the absolute worst of the original six and simply not worth watching... but it's just dumb and hapless, not dead and soulless like what's to follow from other crews.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: The Space Cold War ends amidst searing mystery and drama. The sendoff for the original cast, except Kirk who got a worse send-off a movie later. Gene Roddenberry watched it, hated it, and was going to seek legal advice but died a week later. And good riddance to that, because it's a pretty sweet political thriller if your hippie-panties don't get into a twist at the thought that the Federation isn't a perfect place full of perfect people. Press F for Christopher Plummer, second best ham in Trek history. After the previous movie's painful directing, Sulu's actor only agreed to come back if he got to be captain of his own ship. He did, but Shatner still found a way to steal his thunder.
- Star Trek Generations: Malcolm McDowell blows up planets to get into a magic space ribbon to live forever, no it does not make any more sense in context. An already-weak story hamstrung by its obsession with being daring and unconventional rather than good (aside from the bit where Worf gets promoted, that was great). Also, Kirk dies on the bridge in the most face-palming manner possible. Nimoy was offered the Director's chair, took one look at the script and demanded a rewrite which didn't happen so he refused to be involved.
- Star Trek First Contact: The TNG crew face off with the Borg to ensure the future happens. Lots of action, a script that sparks with energy and snark, and some quite effective performances make this the only good TNG movie (we don't blame you TNG cast). It is sadly also the only appearance of the Defiant on the big screen, doing a pretty decent job of fighting the Borg before the Enterprise E saves the day of course. The Borg Queen was also introduced here before Voyager ruined what could have been a good idea. (Or demonstrated the flaws in what was already a shaky idea, depending on who you ask, but either way she works well here in a way she won't later.)
- Star Trek Insurrection: If you thought the Na'vi were a bunch of badly-written Mary Sues, you ain't seen nothing yet! B-b-b-baby you ain't seen n-n-n-nothing yet! Also, Riker shaves his beard, and that's basically a war crime. Aged from terrible to forgettably bad thanks to that one scene of Picard and Data singing HMS Pinafore going memetic.
- Star Trek Nemesis: The last stand of the TNG cast, ending not with a bang but a whimper. It also required amending the even=good/odd=bad rule to "Galaxy Quest counts as a Star Trek film so this one is also odd." Infamous for killing off Data (which was actually Brent Spiner's idea since he was starting to visibly age) and because the director hadn't watched a single episode of TNG, back when it was considered a bad thing not to know anything about the property you were adapting. It also nearly killed Tom Hardy's career.
- Star Trek (2009): Alternate timeline "reboot" (sideboot?) with the original crew, albeit with new younger actors. Timey-wimey shit happens and old prime timeline Spock (reprised by old Leonard Nimoy) is hurled back in time along with a bunch of Romulan assholes. The dickbag Romulans begin fucking shit up, slightly altering history in a way that ensures gratuitous lens flare. Skubtastic, but at least fun to watch (if a literally gleaming, uncomplicated space action-adventure that doesn't delve deeply into the human condition ala II or deeply into idiocy ala V/Generations/Insurrection spells "fun" to you), which is more than most odd-numbered films can muster. If you still even count it as odd, without the Galaxy Quest-amendment.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: Some edgy shit. The second of the alternate timeline Trek films. Terrorism, conspiracy and flapdoodle. Even more skubtastic, but generally considered worse than its predecessor, partially because (like Nemesis) it tries to be a remake of The Wrath of Khan and having Kirk at his most punchable.
- Star Trek Beyond: Didn't totally suck; graded on a curve against the prior two. So - the good / bad / skub. Good: lots of good character stuff for the entire cast (including Kirk not being a asshat) and a decent story revolving around a race of mysterious space pirates trying to conquer a colony; handles IRL death of Leonard Nimoy excellently. Bad: villains are under-written, the action photography is poorly-lit shaky-cam horseshit, and the sound work is awful. Skub: Takei came out to complain that its Sulu was gay-married, since he'd played Sulu straight himself, so gay-Sulu was - Takei complained - an insult to his acting prowess (but: alternate universe, remember). If it's the last "Kelvin Timeline" movie, as it seems it will be, at least it ended on a note that wasn't total turd. Apparently we're getting a fourth one now, which was news to everyone including the cast.
Like most long time franchises Star Trek has a massive line of books.
Most are effectively fanfics as nothing but the show and the movies is canon so the writers can do whatever they want. Partial exception to be made for the Deep Space Nine line; those are considered the "eighth season", justifiably, because they're actually quite good. Start with Andrew "Garak" Robinson's Stitch in Time.
This changed after Nemesis since that movie was so godawful the producers calculated they might never have another show or movie in the "Prime" universe; also, several DS9 actors started dropping off dead (so their fans never did get their kino). The writers got their shit together and wrote a group of books as a tight community very close to the shows. The relaunch novels are a continuation of the show they're about. Also there's the Titan book series which is about Riker and Troi getting their own ship, which happens to be staffed by every race in the Federation including living rocks, space dinosaurs that smell like toast and a space cyborg ostrich.
All the relaunch lines eventually got brought together in Star Trek: Destiny, where the Borg go nuts and eat Pluto ... yeah... and then they finally get sick of the Federation somehow managing to not get assimilated all the time, so they finally just send every last cube they have with orders to Exterminatus the absolute SHIT out of the entire Alpha Quadrant. Pretty much every important character from TNG, DS9, and Voyager has to team up to stop them, and even then the Federation still gets its shit kicked in and winds up having to rely on a vaguely ridiculous deus ex machina to beat the Borg, and billions of people still die and dozens of planets are blown to shit. It was pretty insane.
Then all the Federation's main enemies get together to form an anti-Federation and start poking the bear, all the while telling their allies that they're somehow warmongering dicks, Section 31 gets its cover blown in a big way, and Riker gets promoted to Admiral. Also, a lot of the newer TNG novels have been devoted to following up on one-shot aliens from the show, like the guys that sent out the probe that made Barclay super-smart and those fish monks that were abducting crewmembers for experiments. Now that the Picard show is coming out, though, this will all presumably be chucked in the dustbin.
Picard show came. Dustbin. But! Some of the authors who'd been working on the novel continuity for the last twenty years weren't willing to let the Trek novelverse die an inglorious death like the original Star Wars EU, so they got together and wrote a trilogy to give it a proper send-off. The dickhead aliens from that TNG two-part episode with Mark Twain have worked out a way to blow up entire quantum realities and feast on the neural energy of the trillions of lives snuffed out in the process. The novelverse crews all team up to stop them and learn that they're in an alternate timeline created by the Borg during the events of First Contact, and that their reality will have to be erased permanently in order to ensure the survival of the rest of the multiverse. Some of them are less happy about it than others, but they band together to fight the good fight one last time. Everyone fucking dies, of course, but in the end they defeat the dickhead aliens and save the day before being extinguished forever. Still a better note to go out on than Disney saying "lol none of the old EU is canon anymore, buy our new stuff nerds."
Again, you're in /tg/, so /v/ comes LAST.
There have been over 100 Star Trek video games to date but you'll be lucky for find more than 6 on Steam or GOG that aren't shitty mobile phone games. The vast, vast majority of Star Trek's games are abandonware with no way to purchase them, let alone get them from completely trustable sources. Also for a long time gamers had the (justified) prejudice that Trek games were shit and Wars games were good. This changed a bit after Elite Force redeemed Trek a bit and more so on the other end after EA ran Wars to the ground.
Star Trek Online
Star Trek Online is the free-to-play online game built by Cryptic Studios and run by Perfect World. With an official license CBS, recurring characters voiced by various Trek alumni, and recently a license to include references to the reboot chronology (officially known as the "Kelvin Timeline"), it's the closest existing thing to an "official" continuation of the "Prime" timeline, and contains history and fluff extending nearly 40 years from the end of Star Trek: Nemesis.
Taking place in the 25th century (around the year 2409-2410), the Hobus supernova (the event that kicked Nero and Spock into the past during Star Trek 2009) has devastated the Romulans, and its near-collapse and fragmentation causes tensions between a resurgent Klingon Empire and the Federation. The tensions blow up into a war, with members of a new, nicer, breakaway Romulan Republic playing both sides in exchange for development aid.
The game contains deep cuts from all over Trek lore, and answers questions about what happened to various key characters, including Data (took over the Enterprise-E, then retired), the Enterprise (now an even bigger ship run by Andorian captain Shon), and the Voyager crew (it took Harry Kim 30 years to make Captain lol). Raises barely-shown, unnamed, and otherwise obscure races to new prominence as big bad foes, including the Iconians (ancient aliens with god complexes who mutated into energy beings, currently live in dyson spheres and were only defeated by predestination paradox), Tzenkethi (4-armed halo guys whose weak points are the FRONT of their shields), and Na'kuhl (the alien nazis from Enterprise as time-traveling terrorists who blame the Federation for a throwaway event that happened in TNG's beach episode).
Ostensibly free to play, but don't let that fool you... the not-so-microtransactions are the only reason the lights stay on.
A game that lets you feel like a captain. Very dated, but mods are very good.
There was an "Away Team" game that sucked and a "Voyager" game 1995-7 that got canceled. Elite Force was the ST:VOY away-team FPS game that critics didn't poop on, and it even got a sequel featuring much of the cast of TNG.
Starfleet Command was a series real time space battle games by Interplay based on the much older tabletop game Star Fleet Battles. It came out in 1999 and was followed by several sequels and expansions. Gameplay was much like Battlefleet Gothic, but with the player only controlling one ship. SFC remains Interplay's best selling game, topping even Baldur's Gate.
A series of low effort RTS's churned out by Activision in 2000. Tried to take on both Homeworld and Age of Empires, both of which have recently gotten HD remakes and Armada hasn't so that should tell you all you need to know. However, for one of the first 3D model space RTS's it was surprisingly easy to mod, resulting in many ship mod packs being made for it.
Starfleet Command dumbed down but with fancier graphics and the ability to fly in 3D. Features ships and protagonists from all 4 main series before the reboots so it has everything iconic. The Ultimate Universe mod has every single ship from all series before the reboot.
Being such a long-running franchise with a wide audience, Star Trek has gained enough pop-culture recognition that it is often referenced in other works. In a few cases entire projects are made to pay homage to Star Trek. Here are some examples.
A sci-fi/comedy film released in 1999, directed by Dean Parisot. Built around that Three Amigos premise of "What if the cast of Star Trek ended up on a real spaceship and had to actually do the shit they did in the show?", this one parodies science fiction films and series in general - Star Trek (and its fandom) in particular.
The film stars big name actors including Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and the late Alan Rickman. The plot revolves around the cast of a defunct cult television series called Galaxy Quest (for example, Tim Allen played the Kirk/Shatner expy and Alan Rickman played the Spock/Nimoy expy). They're also suffering fatigue that mirrors the experiences of the actual Star Trek actors (Rickman's character is typecast with his Galaxy Quest character and laments it, similar to how these things happened to the late, great Leonard Nimoy).
The cast are suddenly visited by actual aliens, the Thermians, who believe the series to be an accurate documentary (they have no concept of fiction and only the most bare bones idea of lying - which they only just learned about when the antagonist deceived them repeatedly) and seek their help. The Thermians take the actors with them, who find themselves involved in a very real, and dangerous, galactic conflict against the alien warlord, Sarris. Unlike the show where it all wrapped up quickly they struggle to learn about and relate to the aliens. Can these ordinary, flawed actors find greatness within themselves, and possibly personal redemption? (Spoiler: yes, and it is incredible.)
Speaking of the aliens, in a witty nod to the "rubber forehead aliens" so common in Star Trek, the Thermians first appear to resemble humans with unnaturally pale skin and straight hair/cheap make-up, but that's revealed to be a holographic disguise and their true forms are squid-like. This does not stop one of the actors from striking up a relationship with a female alien anyway. Shine on you crazy /d/iamond!
/tg/ deems this one of the best parodies ever made, and an affectionate love-letter to the franchise as a whole. If you disagree then feel free to consume a big bag of Saurian Swinoid dongs.
"Never give up, Never surrender!"
Now has its own page.
We could point you to An Archive Of Our Own but, for those (few) of you not keen to watch Kirk and Spock probe Uranus, here are some of the better noncanonical Trek you might want to watch.
Star Trek: Renegades
Kickstarter Trek. The makers submitted their made-for-TV movie pilot to CBS in an attempt to get it made into a legit on-the-air series (and by god it shows), but they were not successful. As a result, while the project limped along for a few years afterward, it has good and bad in equal measure. As a non-official product it also cannot be considered canon. Some characters are actually interesting (about time we saw more of the Breen!) while others are pure Mary Sues (including a male Seven of Nine with a built-in Borg-gun/personal shield/fully-functional hand). Some of the ideas are interesting while others are boring or already-been-done. The CGI is all Hollywood-quality, but the practical effects are okay at best. It's obvious that they made this without knowing that they were going to be able to make a TV show or not, and tried to cram the sort of build-up and intrigue we saw in DS9 into a span of 90 minutes. For now though, it's decidedly meh, and probably a dead project as well since it hasn't been mentioned on the maker's website in over a year as of late 2019.
Star Trek Continues
Of all the offerings listed here, Star Trek Continues is BY FAR the closest in theme and tone to the original 1960's series. Indeed, this is the whole point: from its inception, this fan-funded project was intended to represent a what-if "4th Season" of the Original Series, ending with the conclusion of the Enterprise's 5-year mission. It is surprisingly and at times delightfully watchable, with strong stories, consequences and arcs that carry over to later episodes, tons of attention to detail, unexpected cameos, and a cast that really came together, particularly in later episodes. It also delicately navigated a line between viewing female characters through the lens of a show that was rooted in 1960's culture while also not treating them as weak children dependent on men for protection. Star Trek Continues successfully concluded its "season" with all 11 episodes gradually released from 2014 to 2018, to heaps of industry awards and wide praise (including a personal endorsement from Gene Roddenberry's son, who said his father would've approved).
Matt Groening, that mad lad, got almost all the original actors in a Futurama episode to [re-]enact a Trek episode on behalf of an alien fan. But not Doohan, so "Scotty" is replaced by "Welshie". Who gets horribly killed and has his corpse zapped whenever the alien loses his temper.
Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning
Another parody, parodying not only Star Trek but Babylon 5 as well. The seventh in a series fan movies released in 2005, it's about Captain Pirk builds a starship called CPP Kickstart, allies with Russia and takes over the world. He wants to take over more planets but the ships of his P-Fleet aren't fast enough to travel outside the Solar system. A maggot hole opens and it leads to an alternate reality. Pirk wants to take over the Earth of this reality, which leads to an awesome space battle between the P-Fleet and the fleet of the space station Babel 13 led by Johnny Sherrypie. The movie features some of the best special effects ever put in a sci-fi movie, which is pretty impressive, considering that this is an amateur film with a very low budget and was rendered in five years in someone's bedroom. The film is spoken in Finnish but subtitles are available for a wide variety of languages, including Klingon. They also made a role-playing game based on it, where your character becomes more incompetent as he levels up.
Would you like to know more?
And oh Lordy, is there more...
- Main Memory Alpha: A Star Trek wiki
- Main Memory Beta: The flip-side of Memory Alpha for the less than official stuff
- SF Debris: opinionated episode reviews, has some non Trek stuff as well
- Let's Watch Star Trek: A curated list of the episodes for newcomers - which episodes to watch or skip.