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Which Episodes of STAR TREK Are In Continuity?

Which Episodes of STAR TREK Are In Continuity?

I know I originally promised a continuation of my Ideal Images column from last time, and that’s still coming, but I felt like having a little fun this week. So indulge me for a bit.

As you folks may have grasped by now, I’m a big fan of the original Star Trek. And recently over on the TrekBBS discussion board I frequent, one of the members asked an interesting question:

Of course ‘Space Seed’ is canon given Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but I am curious as to (in terms of internal chronology/consistency) how/what level of canon the rest of TOS is viewed within the context of the first six Star Trek movies?

Now the real answer to this is, of course, that CBS/Paramount’s basic policy is that everything onscreen is canon. If it’s on film, then it happened in the Star Trek universe, even if an episode’s events are never referenced again.

Star Trek TOS Spock's Brain Atomic Junk Shop
I’m looking at you, “Spock’s Brain.”

But it raises an interesting question: What episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series are explicitly in continuity because they were referenced in the Trek movies? Could you state that, say, “A Taste Of Armageddon” definitely happened to our heroes because it was referenced in one of the films? Could you find references to the entire television series if you looked hard enough?

It seemed like an interesting challenge. And since I was going through a bout of insomnia when I first read the question, I decided to find out.

So here’s the deal: I’ll start out with a list of all 79 of the original episodes. When I come across something in one of the movies that references a particular character or element in an episode, I’ll eliminate that episode from the list. The episodes that are left over will be considered to have never happened in the movie continuity. Oh, and one more thing: For the sake of fun, I’m not going to use something that appears in every episode like the Enterprise or Starfleet. We want this to be a little more challenging than that.

And don’t take this too seriously, folks. It’s just me having a little fun by looking at Star Trek in a new way. This may not make a whole lot of logical sense, but just go with it, okay?

Star Trek Motion Picture TMP Klingons Atomic Junk ShopStar Trek: The Motion Picture starts out with the Klingons (even if they looked like no Klingons we’d ever seen before), so presumably that brings all the Klingon episodes of TOS into the movie continuity. That would be “Errand of Mercy,” (1) “Friday’s Child,” (2) “The Trouble with Tribbles,” (3) “A Private Little War,” (4) “Elaan of Troyius,” (5) “The Day of the Dove,” (6) and “The Savage Curtain” (7). That’s seven episodes to start.

Star Trek TOS Klingons Atomic Junk Shop
Yep, even the neckbeard from “Friday’s Child” counts.

A couple of Andorians are seen during the Enterprise‘s mission briefing, so that incorporates the Andorian episodes “Journey To Babel,” (8) “The Gamesters of Triskelion” (9) and “Whom Gods Destroy” (10) as well. That brings us up to 10 episodes.

Star Trek TOS Journey to Babel Andorian Atomic Junk ShopSpock mind melds with V’Ger about 2/3rds into the film, so that brings in the 12 TOS episodes featuring the mind meld: “Dagger of the Mind,” (11) “Return of the Archons,” (12) “A Taste of Armageddon,” (13) “The Devil in the Dark,” (14) “The Changeling,” (15) “Mirror, Mirror,” (16) “By Any Other Name,” (17) “Spectre of the Gun,” (18) “The Paradise Syndrome,” (19) “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” (20) “Requiem for Methuselah,” (21) and finally “Turnabout Intruder” (22).

Star Trek TOS Mind Melds Spock Atomic Junk ShopI’m not going to include Will Decker as a TOS reference. I know it’s said in the Star Trek: Phase II writer’s guide and several bits of tie-in fiction that he’s the son of Commodore Matt Decker from “The Doomsday Machine,” but since it’s never directly stated onscreen, I’m not counting it.

Star Trek Motion Picture Doomsday Machine Decker TOS Atomic Junk Shop
Besides, I don’t see much family resemblance, do you?

So that’s 22 episodes of TOS referenced just in the first movie. Not a bad start.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan brings back Khan Noonien Singh from “Space Seed,” (23) so of course that’s included.

Star Trek TOS Khan Space Seed Atomic Junk ShopTWOK finds several of Kirk’s crew instructing at Starfleet Academy, so that brings in any episode that mentions the Academy. According to this script search, that’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” (24) “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” (25) “Court Martial,” (26) “Shore Leave,” (27) “The Apple,” (28) “Bread and Circuses,” (29) “Obsession,” (30) “Patterns of Force,” (31) and “The Way To Eden” (32).

Klingons are again mentioned and their ships are seen in stock footage from TMP. McCoy gives Kirk Romulan Ale as a birthday present and the Neutral Zone is mentioned, so we can incorporate the Romulan episodes “Balance of Terror,” (33) “The Deadly Years,” (34) and “The Enterprise Incident” (35).

Star Trek Romulans Atomic Junk ShopDavid Marcus mentions Surak, so that further confirms “The Savage Curtain.”

Surak Savage Curtain Star Trek TOS Atomic Junk Shop

When Kirk and company are stranded in the Genesis Cave, Kirk orders the Enterprise to go to the nearest Starbase if they don’t hear from him in one hour. Starbases were mentioned and seen several times on TOS, so according to this script search, that adds “The Menagerie,” (36) “The Alternative Factor,” (37) “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” (38) “This Side of Paradise,” (39) “Operation: Annihilate!” (40) “Who Mourns For Adonias?” (41) “Amok Time,” (42) “The Doomsday Machine,” (43) “The Immunity Syndrome,” (44) “And The Children Shall Lead,” (45) “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” (46) and “The Lights of Zetar” (47) to our list.

Star Trek TOS Court Martial Starbase 11After the crew beams up from the Genesis Cave, Saavik expresses amazement that Spock lied. I suppose that brings in any episodes that tell us that Vulcans don’t lie. According to this script search, it looks like the earliest episode to do so was the two-part “The Menagerie,” which also incorporates footage from the original pilot, “The Cage” (48).

Spock’s “Remember” to McCoy could perhaps be drawn from him telling Kirk to “Forget” at the end of “Requiem for Methuselah,” reaffirming that episode.

Spock mind meld Requiem for Methuselah Star Trek TOS Atomic Junk Shop

So TWOK gives us 26 additional episodes, bringing the total to 48.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock again references “Journey To Babel” through the character of Sarek. Sarek mind melds with Kirk, reaffirming all the mind meld episodes. Klingons appear once again.

We see some Tribbles in the bar that McCoy visits, further confirming “The Trouble With Tribbles.”

Star Trek Search for Spock TribblesSpock’s resurrection partly depends upon him placing his Katra into McCoy, an ability we saw him display with Nurse Chapel in “Return To Tomorrow” (49).

Star Trek TOS Return to Tomorrow Atomic Junk ShopThe regenerated Spock undergoes Pon Farr, so that reaffirms “Amok Time.”

Amok Time Star Trek Spock Pon Farr TOS Atomic Junk Shop

The Enterprise self-destruct sequence is drawn from “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (almost word-for-word).

Star Trek Search For Spock Enterprise destruct Atomic Junk ShopSurprisingly, The Search For Spock only brings in one new episode, bringing our current total to 49.

Star Trek Voyage Home time travel Atomic Junk ShopStar Trek IV: The Voyage Home uses the slingshot time-travel method introduced in “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” and reused in “Assignment: Earth” (50).

Star Trek slingshot time travel Gary Seven Assignment Earth TOS Atomic Junk ShopThe movie again uses Sarek and brings in Amanda for good measure, further confirming the place of “Journey to Babel” in the movie continuity.

Since “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” was brought in earlier, that’s again only one new episode, bringing our total to 50.

Star Trek VI Undiscovered Country CastStar Trek V: The Final Frontier uses Klingons and Romulans again, and mentions Starfleet Academy. Sarek has a cameo in a flashback/dream sequence. Spock plays his Vulcan lute during the campfire scenes, but that doesn’t bring in any episodes we don’t already have. I can’t think of any other TOS episodes not referenced before.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has Klingons, Romulans, Sarek, a mind meld, Romulan Ale, and mentions of Starfleet Academy and Starbases, but again, I can’t really think of any brand-new TOS references.

But wait! I just realized that I’m not including two recurring TOS characters who appear in the movies. Nurse/Doctor Christine Chapel has cameos in TMP and STIV, so we ought to bring all of her TOS episodes into continuity, too. So, not counting the Chapel episodes we’ve already included, that adds “The Naked Time,” (51) “Spock’s Brain,” (52) “The Tholian Web,” (53) “For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky,” (54) “Plato’s Stepchildren,” (55) and “Wink of an Eye” (56) to the list.

Christine Chapel Star Trek TOS Atomic Junk ShopThat’s six more episodes, so we’re at 56 total.

And the former Yeoman Janice Rand appears in TMP, STIII, STIV, and STVI, so that gives us her TOS episodes “The Corbomite Maneuver,” (57) “The Enemy Within,” (58) “The Man Trap,” (59) “Charlie X,” (60) “Miri,” (61) and “The Conscience of the King” (62). (Again, I’m not including the Rand episodes that we’ve already listed for clarity’s sake.)

Janice Rand Star Trek TOS Atomic Junk ShopThat’s another six episodes, bringing our grand total to 62.

So that means that a total of 17 TOS episodes are left out in the cold. Let’s take a look at what’s eliminated…

Star Trek TOS Kirk Mudd“Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd” are both out. Harry Mudd is a popular character, but his shenanigans were never mentioned in the movies.

Star Trek TOS Galileo Seven Atomic Junk Shop“The Galileo Seven” is eliminated, which I guess explains why we saw the shuttlecraft Galileo in so many other episodes.

Star Trek TOS Kirk Trelane Atomic Junk Shop“The Squire of Gothos” gave us Trelane, who was basically the proto-Q. Fun episode, but nothing too vital.

Star Trek TOS Arena Atomic Junk Shop“Arena” is gone. No more Kirk fighting with the Gorn. Rats.

Star Trek TOS Catspaw Atomic Junk ShopThe Halloween adventure “Catspaw” never happened. No big loss in my book.

Star Trek TOS Metamorphosis Zephram Cochrane Atomic Junk Shop“Metamorphosis” gave us warp speed discoverer Zephram Cochrane, who didn’t appear again until the Next Generation film First Contact.

Star Trek TOS Wolf in the Fold Jack the Ripper Atomic Junk Shop“Wolf in the Fold” didn’t happen, so congratulations, Star Trek movies, Jack the Ripper is still on the loose.

Star Trek TOS A Piece of the Action Atomic Junk ShopNo “A Piece of the Action,” meaning that Kirk and Spock never played Fizzbin or dressed up as Space Mobsters. This is starting to hurt. Vic Tayback is officially out of continuity.

Star Trek TOS Ultimate Computer Daystrom“The Ultimate Computer” is gone. No M-5 or Dr. Richard Daystrom, who didn’t get a shout-out until TNG‘s “The Measure of a Man” established the Daystrom Institute.

Star Trek TOS Omega Glory Atomic Junk ShopWe’ve vaporized “The Omega Glory,” so no more of Kirk reciting the Preamble to the Constitution. Sad.

Star Trek TOS Empath Atomic Junk Shop“The Empath” is another one I won’t miss much, as I’ve only seen it once or twice. Like most of the third season, it’s not high on my rewatch list.

Star Trek TOS That Which Survives Atomic Junk Shop“That Which Survives” I remember mainly for Lee Meriwether. Again, no huge loss.

Star Trek TOS The Mark of Gideon Atomic Junk Shop“The Mark of Gideon” is the overpopulation episode of TOS, and another one I haven’t watched very much.

Star Trek TOS The Cloudminders Atomic Junk Shop“The Cloudminders” is the TOS version of Metropolis, with Spock acting very out of character and expressing romantic interest in Droxine.

Star Trek TOS All Our Yesterdays Atomic Junk ShopSpock gets his freak on again in “All Our Yesterdays,” but that episode at least had the courtesy to give us a handwave explanation for his behavior.

And that’s all of them. A few fan favorites, but nothing too vital to our perception of TOS as a whole. Yep, nothing too important there. I mean, it’s too bad we’re losing Harry Mudd and the Gorn, but it’s not like we’re eliminating a huge fan favorite, like…

Star Trek TOS City on the Edge of Forever Atomic Junk Shop
Oooooooh… Crap.

So there you go. According to the movies, “The City on the Edge of Forever” never happened, but we still have Space Lincoln and Space Hippies, so it’s all good.

Star Trek TOS Way To Eden Atomic Junk Shop
Behold… CANON.

See you next week.


  1. fit2print

    Funny stuff… well, as any true blue Trekker knows, beyond consensus No 1 pick The City on the Edge of Forever, the rest of the top 10 (okay, 11) greatest TOS episodes are Mirror Mirror, Arena, Space Seed, Wolf in the Fold, The Deadly Years, The Tholian Web, Tomorrow is Yesterday, Spectre of the Gun, Patterns of Force and A Piece of the Action, several of which don’t make the cut here. In my not-so-humble view, that just goes to show how overrated continuity is. And yes, I know my picks of the best TOS episodes are flawed but there’s no accounting for taste, is there?

      1. I would have sworn Daystrom’s name was dropped in ONE of the movies. Or the word ‘duotronic.’ Must have been thinking of TNG.

        I just did a search for both “Daystrom” and “duotronic” over on the Star Trek script search, and the only hits on either one for TOS and the first six movies were in “The Ultimate Computer.”

    1. If you’re going to include mind-melds, then certainly wouldn’t Vulcan neck pinches apply? That would bring in The Ultimate Computer and I’m not sure how many others.

      Hmm. Interesting idea. Tougher to search for on the script search site, since they weren’t usually referred to in dialogue. But yeah, Spock definitely pulls a neck pinch in The Motion Picture when he steals a thruster suit to go mind meld with V’Ger.

      I’ll poke around Memory Alpha & see if I can find a definitive list of episodes where Spock performs the neck pinch.

      1. Hmm. Well, oddly enough, Memory Alpha doesn’t seem to have a complete list of TOS episodes where the FSNP (The Famous Spock Nerve Pinch) was used. I know that it was first developed by Nimoy to subdue the evil Captain Kirk in “The Enemy Within” when he thought that hitting Kirk with the butt of a phaser was undignified for Spock.

        So, near as I can tell from looking at Memory Alpha, Wikipedia, and a YouTube video I found, the FSNP was used in the following episodes (and I’m sure I’m missing some):

        -The Enemy Within
        -The Naked Time
        -Dagger of the Mind
        -The Menagerie, Part I
        -Tomorrow is Yesterday
        -Return of the Archons
        -A Taste of Armageddon
        -Space Seed
        -Errand of Mercy
        -City on the Edge of Forever (on the insane McCoy — Shucks 🙂 )
        -Friday’s Child
        -Wolf in the Fold
        -The Apple
        -I, Mudd (unsuccessfully on the android Alice)
        -Bread and Circuses
        -A Piece of the Action
        -Patterns of Force
        -The Ultimate Computer (on Daystrom, as you noted)
        -The Omega Glory (where Kirk laments that Spock can’t teach it to him)
        -Assignment Earth (Gary Seven was immune)
        -The Empath (the Vians were immune)
        -Day of the Dove
        -Whom Gods Destroy (a DOUBLE neck pinch, on an Andorian & a Tellarite!)
        -Turnabout Intruder
        -Star Trek: The Motion Picture
        -Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (the Katra-possessed McCoy tries it unsuccessfully)
        -Star Trek IV (on the punk on the bus)
        -Star Trek V (He neck pinched a HORSE, IIRC)

        So yeah, Spock used that thing a LOT. I guess because it was an easy thing for them to throw into the fight choreography, even if it wasn’t in the script.

        Here’s the video, BTW:

        1. So I count that that brings back 6 episodes into your Movie-based canon.

          Gotta say it’s a bit arbitrary to consider Christine Chapel a “recurring” character but Chekov a “regular”. According to internet, Chekov is in 36 eps of the original series, and Chapel 25. I mean, I understand the thought, but it’s still slightly arbitrary.

    1. Great question! Doesn’t look like it. A search for “dilithium” on the ST script search only turns up “The Alternative Factor,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “Journey to Babel,” “Elaan of Troyius,” “The Paradise Syndrome,” “Day of the Dove,” TMP, ST IV, and ST VI.

      “Mudd’s Women” mentions “lithium crystals” as the source for the ship’s power, since they hadn’t nailed all the terminology down quite yet at that early stage of the show.

      Interesting that something we think of as so synonymous with Trek was mentioned so seldom on the show, right?

  2. A question that I’ve thought about from time to time, which is similar to this one, is which episodes are actually necessary to make sense of subsequent series of Star Trek? So for example, if you knew nothing and you wanted a story that made as much as possible, which eps of the Original Series (and which Original Series movies) would be necessary in order to understand all of what came later–all of TNG & movies, DS9, VOY, ENT, DIS. Which ones could you skip and it wouldn’t make any difference at all?

  3. John King

    Of course, going back to the original question there is the issue of “which episodes are NOT consistant with the movies?”
    and the only answer that comes to my mind is “Where no man has gone before” which is set in an alternative universe in which Kirk has a different middle name

    the other big issue is unrelated to the movies but internally within the Original Series. The events of “Obsession” are not consistent with multiple later episodes

  4. ClayinCA

    I don’t know if this changes anything, John, but “Commander Kyle” in THE WRATH OF KHAN is the same character (played by John Winston) as Transporter Chief Kyle in numerous episodes of the original series. Does that bring any more episodes back into canon?

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