On May 8, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek will introduce a new generation of fans to Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise. Featuring a young, sexy cast — and a decided lack of Shatner — Abrams’ franchise reboot will attempt to entice moviegoers to boldly go where they may never have gone before: a Star Trek film.
But for those of us well versed in the moral implications of the Prime Directive, the world of Trek has lived on even in the time between new films and TV series. Astute observers may have even noticed the show creeping into the alien world of pop music. My nine favorite such minglings are listed below:
1. William Shatner’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”The erstwhile Captain Kirk’s entire 1968 spoken word album The Transformed Man is a mind-blowing goldmine of unintentional comedy, but the take on the Bob Dylan classic is a landmark of tin-eared line readings and hammy portentousness.
2. William Shatner’s Has BeenRedemption, almost forty years later. With production and arranging help from Ben Folds — and no small amount of ironic self-awareness — Shatner atoned for his earlier recording misstep with this well-regarded album of spoken word ruminations and autumnal musings.LISTEN: William Shatner, “Common People”
3. Spock’s BeardProg rock and sci-fi just seem to go together. Brothers Neal and Alan Morse thought so, and named their long-running, Genesis-influenced L.A. band after a legendary episode of the original Star Trek series that takes place in an alternate universe (which is signified by Spock’s devilish goatee).
4. Spirit, Future GamesDevotees of classic rock radio might be familiar with Spirit’s late-’60s mini-hits like “Nature’s Way” and “I Got a Line on You,” but long after the band fell out of fan favor, the pysch-rock outfit continued recording their highly eccentric albums. One of those, 1977’s Future Games, featured snippets of dialogue taken from an old Trek episode where Kirk turned into one of his old girlfriends. It’s a long story, and like this album, best encountered in altered states.
5. Beastie Boys’ “Ch-Check It Out” music videoThe video for this standout track from the trio’s To the 5 Boroughs album begins with a Star Trek homage, as MCA, Ad-Rock, and Mike D are teleported, as if by Scotty himself, onto a gritty urban streetscape. Later, wearing Star Fleet uniforms, the Boys engage in some poorly choreographed fisticuffs.
6. Phish, “Spock’s Brain”This never recorded song’s title was also taken from an episode of the original TV series. So far only performed live, the song and its lyrics seem to be unrelated to the show’s plot, but the spooky, slyly grooving tune is one of the jam band heroes’ best unreleased numbers.LISTEN: Phish, “Spock’s Brain” Live, 09.29.00 Las Vegas, NV
7. Mick Fleetwood guest stars on Star Trek: the Next GenerationI remember visiting London once and seeing Mick Fleetwood stroll by. Well over six feet tall, with long hair, and a big smile, the Fleetwood Mac drummer was hard to miss. He was harder to spot on his guest appearance on TNG. Playing a member of the Antedean race, Fleetwood donned makeup that made him look like a giant walking fish.
8. “Amok Time””Amok Time” is a famous Trek episode in which Spock and Kirk are forced to fight each other to the death (an event parodied by Matthew Broderick and Jim Carrey in Cable Guy). The battle is soundtracked by some amazing stabbing horns and thumping tympani. The link to pop is tenuous here, though I’ve read that some DJs cut the “Amok Time” theme into their sets. But I don’t care, because whenever I imagine myself engaged in a life-or-death struggle, this is the music playing in my head.
9. Deodato, “Star Trek Theme”Brazilian composer and instrumentalist Eumir Deodato made something of a name for himself during the ’70s with his jazzy, heavily orchestrated version of Richard Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” (i.e., the music used in the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey). But his squiggly, synthtastic version of the Star Trek theme music is an equally satisfying bit of musical kitsch.