For those of you who are only familiar with the Star Trek universe thanks to the two recent blockbusters from JJ Abrams, there's a lot more to discover. You've got a little more than a year to binge watch the 701 (or 702, depending on who you ask) episodes that make up Star Trek canon.
So here is a primer on Star Trek's TV history in all its forms (except for the animated series, nobody counts that).
Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969)
This is the one that started it all. Gene Rodenberry's tale of the future, set aboard the starship Enterprise. It introduced a colorful cast of characters and broke a lot of new ground for American television. Not only did it feature the first inter-racial kiss on TV (between Kirk and Uhura), but in the middle of the Cold War it showed a multicultural, multinational team working together.
An American, a Russian, a Scot, a Japanese man, a Vulcan, and -gasp!- a black woman take on a "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." Everything about the show was cheap: the costumes, the special effects, the acting - but the stories were fascinating. TOS was cancelled well before its five-year mission was complete, but not before gaining millions of die-hard fans.
Key aliens: Almost all the staple aliens: Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans, and many more. Vulcans, of course, were the most featured, as Spock was the second in command of the Enterprise.
Catch phrases: "Live long and prosper." -Spock; "Dammit, Jim! I'm a doctor, not a [insert occupation here]!" -"Bones" McCoy
Must see episodes: The Trouble with Tribbles: Instead of the usual ferocious, demonic villains, the crew are plagued with cuddly, lovable tribbles. Amok Time: Spock is not his logical self during Vulcan mating season, which leads to him challenging Kirk to a duel - to the death!
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
The success of a few Star Trek movies proved the world was ready for a new series, so in 1987 the Enterprise took to the cosmos once again, this time with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) at the helm. The series featured a rebooted Klingon - with Worf joining the crew - and entirely new technology and alien beings.
Major additions: The holodeck; Data, a self-aware humanoid android.
New aliens: The Q, the Borg
Catch phrases: "Make it so." -Captain Picard; "Resistance is futile." -The Borg
Must see episodes: It doesn't get any better than The Best of Both Worlds, a two-parter that sees Picard captured and assimilated by the dreaded Borg.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
This was the first time a crew boldly went nowhere: the series was set at a space station on the edge of a newly discovered wormhole. There is a lot of politics on DS9, as control over the wormhole is claimed by several different parties. There's the Federation ("the good guys"), the Cardassians ("the baddies"), and the Bajoran people,recently liberated from decades of brutal Cardassian oppression.
Add to the mix an unusual-for-Star-Trek element of religion, and you have a lot of drama to work with.
The show marks the first time a black captain ran things, as Benjamin Sisko arrives to take command of the station. Fans were also treated when TNG familiars Worf and O'Brien became crew members.
Major additions: Religious elements; political messages about imperialism and rebels
New aliens: Security Chief Odo, the Changeling (and his kind); Ferenghis are developed; Trills, Cardassians, Bajorans
Catch phrases: Anything involving the Ferenghi "Rules of Acquisition."
Must see episodes: Facets/Way of the Warrior: Odo must lead the station in preparations for an invasion of Changelings; Trials and Tribble-ations: Sisko, and the crew go back in time and hang out on the Enterprise. Producers digitally inserted them into footage from TOS so they could interact with Kirk and the gang. Cheesy, but fun for any Trekkie.
Star Trek Voyager: 1995-2001
Finally, Star Trek gets a woman to lead the team. Captain Kathryn Janeway and the crew of the Voyager are locked in battle with a ship full of Maquis terrorists when a mysterious wave of energy zaps both ships across the galaxy, stranding them in the Delta quadrant. With both ships severely damaged, the crews decide to merge on the Voyager, to fight together and find their way back to the Alpha quadrant.
STV continued with threads of DS9's political focus, where the line between rebel and terrorist is blurred.
Major additions: In addition to a female captain, there is Tuvok, a Vulcan who happens to be black. The doctor is actually a self-aware hologram, who is always struggling for more freedom. The stand-out star though, is Seven of Nine, a woman who is rescued and un-assimilated from the Borg, and must re-adapt to life as an individual.
New aliens: Talaxians, Ocadians, Hirogens, and many more. Because the crew is in uncharted space, pretty much any alien they encounter is a new one.
Catch phrases: "Please state the nature of the medical emergency." -The Doctor
Must see episodes: Pilot: Sets up the "lost in space" adventure; Dark Frontier: Janeway leads a team into the heart of a Borg cube to steal a transwarp coil.
Star Trek: Enterprise: 2001-2005
A prequel set 115 years before the glory years of Kirk, Enterprise follows Earth's first foray into interstellar travel. They've been ready for a few years, but the Vulcans (who have only recently made contact with the humans) are keeping them in the back seat for now. There first full-fledged mission will be a diplomatic one to the Klingon home world - a tall order since computer translation isn't an automatic thing yet. The show is interesting because of its lower-tech lifestyles than the usual Star Treks, but it's downside is that it's really, really American. Like Bubbas and good-ol'-boys sitting down to barbecue on the swamp. This might have something to do with the fact that it was released just two weeks after 9/11.
Major additions: Lyrics to the opening credits. Seriously, this was a big scandal for Trekkies. As this was the first time Earthlings were "allowed" to explore deep space, there is a lot of new stuff happening.
Major additions: A communications officer who doesn't just twiddle with knobs. Hoshi Sato is actually a linguist who has to program the computer as she goes, learning languages along the way.
New aliens: Well this is a prequel, so technically they're all new. But it lets us see a different side of the benevolent Vulcans.
Catch phrase: "Well I don't particularly like the way YOU smell, either." -Commander Tucker; "I'll bet you didn't know this, but at one time, most of my world was ruled by reptiles." -Captain Archer
Must see episodes: Pilot: Introduces us to the political situation between the Vulcans and Earth.The Andorian Incident: T'pol, the Vulcan assigned to the Enterprise, must question where her loyalties lay.
Star Trek: Phase II
There is a lot of Star Trek fan fiction out there, but the team behind Phase II puts a lot of their time, money and talent into these productions, which you can watch on YouTube. They follow TOS, with the original characters recast with modern (and unknown) actors.
Got a favourite Star Trek series? Leave a comment and let me know! Don't forget to share this with all of your Trekkie friends, and be sure to follow me @YPSamGus on Twitter!
Oh ... and also, THIS!!!