Here's your guide to all the Star Trek tie-ins that should really be considered canon. Star Trek has always had a loose relationship with the idea of canonicity, with Gene Roddenberry not particularly concerned about whether or not episodes contradicted one another. He was even quite dismissive of the movies, preferring the TV shows, and he famously had no interest in tie-in media that had been arranged by licensing departments. As such, Star Trek has traditionally considered all the comics and novels to be non-canon, however good they may be.
Even this wasn't a hard-and-fast rule, with two tie-in novels written by Jeri Taylor - the co-creator of Star Trek: Voyager - used by the show's writers when scripting episodes of the series. And the situation seemed to change in 2009, when IDW published comic book tie-ins for JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot. That film reset the timeline, meaning Paramount had no qualms about considering tie-ins set in the Prime Timeline to be canon any more; they never expected to return to the Prime Timeline again, after all. In 2016, CBS commissioned various tie-in novels and comics for Star Trek: Discovery, and they worked unusually closely with publishers IDW and Simon & Schuster during the production of this content. As a result, recent tie-ins have actually seemed to be canon, and a couple of them have even been subtly referenced in the show.
The Star Trek: Picard Countdown miniseries marks a milestone in the franchise's history; this tie-in comic reveals important backstory for the TV series, and even retrospectively confirms that some of the 2009 comics are considered canon as well. In the wake of that publication, here are all the tie-ins that seem to be part of the Star Trek canon.
Star Trek: Voyager - Mosaic and Pathways
In 1996, Pocket Books - who had long published a popular range of Star Trek novels - approach Star Trek: Voyager co-creator Jeri Taylor with an offer she couldn't refuse. Taylor had found herself simply adoring the character of Kathryn Janeway, to such an extent that she joked she sometimes resented that Kate Mulgrew got to define her on the small screen, and Pocket Books suggested she should pen Janeway's definitive backstory. This led to two novels, Mosaic and Pathways, the only books published in the '90s that have a claim to canon. While some contradictions inevitably developed as the show went on, many elements made their way into their series, with a little gentle help from Taylor herself.
Star Trek: Countdown
A four-issue prequel to JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot in 2009, Star Trek: Countdown follows the stories of Spock and Nero in the year 2387. The miniseries explores the events that led the two to travel back in time in Star Trek, detailing Spock's desperate but unsuccessful attempt to prevent the supernova that destroyed the Romulan Empire. The filmmakers were closely involved with the production of the comic, and as a result it's generally been considered to be canon - unless or until it's contradicted somehow. It's worth noting, however, that both Star Trek: Picard and recent tie-ins have matched up with this perfectly.
The Star Trek: Discovery Novels and Comics
Although Star Trek has traditionally dismissed tie-in content as non-canon, Star Trek: Discovery writer Kirsten Beyer - an accomplished in her own right - took a different approach. She personally worked with novelists and comic book writers in order to create a synergy between the different mediums, and as a result the books should really be considered canon. The series has contained oblique references to the books, including Tilly's mentioning being a runaway, or Burnham referring to a brief moment of peace reached between herself and Spock some time ago. Here are all the published and upcoming books to date:
- Desperate Hours - written by David Mack, this novel is set a year before the Battle of the Binary Stars. It's a crossover between the crews of the USS Shenzhou and the USS Enterprise, and elements of the story were subtly incorporated into the series itself.
- Drastic Measures - written by Dayton Ward, this book is set ten years before the Battle of the Binary Stars. The plot focuses on an aggressive contagion that's ravaging the food supplies of Federation colony Tarsus IV, with Commander Philippa Georgiou and Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Lorca working together to prevent disaster.
- Fear Itself - written by James Swallow, this is another adventure of the USS Shenzhou, and it's focused upon the character of Saru. Many elements from this book have been confirmed on the small screen, including the name of Saru's race, the Kelpiens.
- The Way to the Stars - Una McCormack's novel is an unusual, character-focused one that eschews all the traditional Star Trek tropes. It's focused entirely upon Tilly's backstory, setting her up as a teenage runaway. It's explicitly referenced in Star Trek: Discovery season 2.
- The Enterprise War - written by John Jackson Miller, this reveals why the USS Enterprise didn't participate in the Klingon War. It further gives an indication of just how desperate the Federation truly became, and how close the Klingons came to victory.
- Dead Endless - due to be published in December 2019, Dead Endless reveals a previously untold adventure that's focused upon Lieutenant Paul Stamets and his Spore Drive.
- The Light of Kahless - written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson, this comic book miniseries is the official backstory of T'Kuvma, the Klingon who ignited war between the Federation and the Klingon Houses.
- Captain Saru - a one-shot written by Beyer and Johnson, which reveals an adventure set inbetween the first two seasons. It also references The Way to the Stars, further reinforcing the sense that all these different mediums should be considered equally canon.
- Succession - written by Beyer and Johnson, this comic book miniseries spins out of the events of Star Trek: Discovery season 1. It reveals what happened in the Mirror Universe after Discovery returned to its own reality.
- Aftermath - again written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson, this comic book miniseries explores the aftermath of Star Trek: Discovery season 2. It features Captain Pike of the USS Enterprise and Chancellor L'Rell, as they attempt to negotiate peace between Starfleet and the Klingons.
The Star Trek: Picard Tie-Ins
To date, two official tie-ins have been confirmed for the Star Trek: Picard series. The first - Star Trek: Picard Countdown - is essential backstory to the TV series, revealing why Jean-Luc Picard lost faith in the Federation and presumably resigned. A further tie-in novel, Una McCormack's The Last Best Hope, will be published in 2020. According to the publisher's blurb, this is focused on the show's secondary characters.