Ship’s Log, Supplemental: Star Trekkin’
We’re jumping ahead a few months by looking at The Firm’s chart-topping tongue-in-cheek send-up “Star Trekkin’”, which was released in June of 1987. But we’ve already played with temporal mechanics recently in regards to With Love from the Lovely Angels, and anyway, I can’t honestly comprehend looking at this song anywhere else but here: That it went out into a world where Star Trek: The Next Generation exists is frankly inconceivable to me, but I suppose it’s yet another example of how intractable and immovable the Original Series is in pop culture.
I don’t really need to analyse this song too much as “Star Trekkin’” is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a cumulative song that runs through caricatures of the Original Series cast who rattle off parodic and increasingly scrambled variations of their iconic catchphrases. And there are some real doozys-My favourites are Uhura’s acknowledgment of the sheer inherent ridiculousness of the Klingons (“There’s Klingons on the starboard bow/Scrape them off, Jim!”) Kirk’s wallop of “We come in peace! Shoot to kill!”, Scotty’s “Ye cannae change the script, Jim, och, see ye Jimmy!” and of course the chipmunk’d chorus of “Star Trekkin’ across the universe/On the starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk/Star Trekkin’ across the universe/Boldly going forward, ’cause we can’t find reverse”. It’s pretty straightforwardly, and amazingly, an itemized list of everything that was ever cliche about the original Star Trek.
One thing that’s neat about “Star Trekkin’”, aside from the obvious, is how it plays with its structure as a cumulative song. The way the crew keeps repeating their lines, both in their actual verses and when those verses are recreated in the next verse, it sounds like a VHS or cassette tape somebody keeps rewinding and playing over and over again. And, as the verses get stranger and more distorted as the song goes on, building to its epic chipmunk finale, it sounds like that same tape is getting, well, warped. And, when this is all paired up with the wonderfully bonkers music video featuring sock puppets, pizza starships and singing potatoes, “Star Trekkin’” becomes just about the perfect translation of Star Trek to the Long 1980s: At once playing off of the venerable twenty year nostalgia cycle (Star Trek, as an extent filmed media phenomenon, turned 20 in 1986) and into the post-MTV understanding of the power of symbolic imagery, “Star Trekkin’” distills its source material down to its most memorable setpieces and parrots them as a commentary on the ouroboros-like mentality that accompanies being a Star Trek fan.
But this is worth parsing out. You’ll notice that, over twenty years on from “Star Trekkin’” itself (pushing thirty at the time of this writing), there’s been nothing similar done for any of the subsequent incarnations of Star Trek that came in its wake. There are a number of factors perhaps involved in this outside of Star Trek itself: For one, so-called “old media” like pop music (or at least the pop climate that would allow something like “Star Trekkin’” to reach number 1 on the pop charts) swiftly died a quick and painless death in the 1990s, a decade that also saw (at least the West) slip into an embrace of complacency and apathy that, at least as far as I’m concerned we haven’t come out of yet (if indeed it’s even possible for us to anymore).…