New Star Trek Defeats Classic Trek In One Important Way

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

star trek music

Among Star Trek fans, there is a constant debate about whether things like the Kelvinverse movies or NuTrek TV shows will ever be equal to vintage franchise entries such as The Next Generation and Voyager. While we doubt we’re going to settle that cantankerous debate anytime soon, we have to point out that there is one respect in which newer Trek completely trounces earlier franchise entries. Here it is: while older Star Trek shows and films relied on classical and jazz music, newer shows and films finally introduced more contemporary tunes.

On The Enterprise-D, Everyone Is Rocking To Mozart

star trek music

The fact that Star Trek characters are very obsessed with classical music is very noticeable if you happen to watch any given episode of The Next Generation. In “The Ensigns of Command,” for example, Commander Data and Chief O’Brien led a concert performance where they played Mozart, and in the later episode “In Theory,” Data is joined by O’Brien’s wife Keiko to play some more classical music from composer Anton Reicha. And when Captain Picard is putting the moves on Nella Daren in “Lessons,” they make an abortive attempt to play some Johann Sebastian Bach.

Voyager Didn’t Help Things

star trek music

When Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered, the music choices felt anachronistic, and fans often questioned how believable it was that 24th-century characters would spend so much free time jamming out to music from the 18th century. Nonetheless, the classical music influence of The Next Generation continued into spinoff shows like Voyager: Seven of Nine plays some Chopin on the piano in “Human Error,” and we discover that Captain Janeway loves listening to Brahms (in “Timeless”) as Ensign Kim does playing him (in the infamous “Tuvix”). For a long, dark time, Star Trek fans simply had to assume that classical music was all Starfleet officers listened to.

The Kelvinverse Sabotages

That all changed in a delightfully over-the-top way in 2009 when it came to the new Star Trek‘s music. This reboot film made it very clear that James T. Kirk is a big fan of listening to The Beastie Boys, and that rock and roll influence extended to the sequels (especially Star Trek Beyond). It wasn’t until the advent of NuTrek, however, that we realized what a major music makeover those films had begun.

Ground Control To Captain Burnham

For example, the first season of Star Trek: Discovery finally gives audiences contemporary music while showing them a proper party, complete with plenty of drinking and Wyclef Jean’s “We Trying To Stay Alive” blaring. Modern music continued to permeate that show, and we later learn that David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is Tilly’s favorite tune while she and Stamets sing it during a stressful scene.

Lower Decks Rocks Harder Than Anyone

Meanwhile, Lower Decks hasn’t dipped into the licensed music pool very much, but the animated show did introduce some fun facts into the franchise, including the fact that there is a musical genre known as “Klingon acid punk” our heroes love.

The Argument Against

Before you say it, we’re aware of the irony: hundreds of years from now, even the songs that we consider very modern would be considered classical music. As viewers, though, we can’t help but feel like it’s easier to relate to these characters when they listen to the same kinds of tunes that we do. It properly humanizes these Starfleet men and women in a way that The Next Generation never did because it shows they like to let their hair down just like us. 

Of course, that might explain the fascination Picard has with classical music: having no hair to let down, he is stuck listening to music that would instantly put Tilly and the rest of us to sleep. At this point, we can only hope that Commander Riker will intervene once he sees Picard’s Spotify Wrapped. After all, being in the top .01% of Mozart fans is a cry for help that rings out very clearly even in the airless vacuum of space.