Published Sep 8, 2020
How to Make Your Perfect Star Trek Day Playlist
What songs would you choose?
By Ryan Britt
2020 has been a hard year for a lot of reasons, but if there’s one day to celebrate, that day is Star Trek Day. On September 8th, Star Trek will turn 54 years-young, which, let’s face it, is like still the teenage years for a Vulcan. During this particular birthday, Star Trek has never been stronger. This means, if you’re marathoning Star Trek at home, or throwing a nice, safe socially-distanced Trek-themed party, you’re going to need some music.
To make your Star Trek Day party special, you could simply put the various scores of Star Trek on repeat. But, to make your Star Trek Day party really special, you could curate a playlist that actually kicks some serious anti-matter. Jerry Goldsmith is great, but let’s talk about a slick Star Trek playlist that includes mostly Rock, and Hip-Hop. Best of all, these are tracks you heard in actual Star Trek shows or movies, or that exists right on the edge of the Final Frontier. Get ready to assemble your Star Trek Day Playlist and as Captain Pike would say: Hit it.
The first place to start with your Star Trek playlist is — and I’m sorry if this was obvious to some of you — with the Beastie Boy’s track “Sabotage.” This song appears in two Trek films; Star Trek (2009) and in Star Trek Beyond. Bones referred to it as “classical music” in Beyond, and he’s partly right. This song still slaps, even in the 23rd century. But, if you can put on one from the Beasties, why not two? The track “Intergalactic” name-checks Spock himself, so it seems like it belongs on this playlist, right away. (Let’s just not think too hard about how the Beastie Boys exist in Trek canon and had advanced knowledge about Vulcan nerve pinches and Spock, okay?)
Discovery’s greatest hits
If you want to keep things going and to keep the dance beats happening, then I suggest you segway directly into Wyclef Jean’s “We Trying to Stay Alive.” This was the track that the Discovery crew blasted during the party scene in the episode “Magic To Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.” After that, if you want to keep it in the Discovery vibe, but also go for a deep-cut, I suggest you stick with the ‘90s nostalgia and play the song “If You Could Only See” by the band Tonic. Why would you put this 1997 track on after Wyclef Jean, other than the fact that the songs came out the same year? Well, Tonic is the band that was formed by Jeff Russo who is...the composer for Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard!
After you have four fairly percussive tracks in a row, you might want to calm things down a little bit, you know, go from Warp 8 to like Warp 2 for a second. And that’s why it’s a perfect time to play Tilly and Stamet’s favorite song, “Space Oddity,” by the immortal David Bowie. (They sang this one in the episode “An Obol For Charon.”) Just never forget that David Bowie’s wife, Iman, was also the shapeshifter Martia in The Undiscovered Country.
First Contact Rocks
After the epicness of Bowie, you’re kind of ready for another classic rock track, which is why you reach for Zefram Cochrane’s favorite song, “Magic Carpet Ride,” by Steppenwolf. In case the temporal distortion caused by the Croniton field erased your memory, this song played while the Phoenix became the first warp-capable ship in human history in 2063. Because ol’ Zefram was pretty good with the jukebox, you can follow this one up with another banger he loved, the song he played for the Vulcans right after he shook hands with them for the first time; Roy Orbison’s “Obby Dooby.” If you try to do the dance like Zefram, we’re not going to judge.
Beats and Shouting and Sledgehammers
After the goofiness of that Roy Orbison track, you’re gonna need to take a sharp detour back into something a little more dancy. This is why you’ve got to go back to Star Trek Beyond and remember that Jayla loved Public Enemy probably more than she loved the Beasties. When Scotty and Jayla try to repair the U.S.S. Franklin, the first song they play is “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. From here, I’d recommend sliding slightly out of the Trek canon and playing the Lenny Kravitz classic “Fly Away.” This song wasn’t actually heard in any Trek movie or film, but it did play during the second season trailer for Star Trek: Discovery and it seems like the right song to play as you get ready to play the fantastic Rihanna song that was actually on the Beyond soundtrack, “Sledgehammer.” This epic — and underrated — pop anthem is the perfect transition to get you to the next part of your mission. Time to wind down.
Sip some Romulan whiskey or a glass of Chateau Picard
For me, that Rihanna track from Beyond makes me want to start playing some stuff that’s a little calmer. Maybe this is the point in your party that you want to sit back and relax. Which means you’re ready to take things slow. So, let’s drop out of warp with the newest version of “Blue Skies,” as sung by Picard star Isa Briones. It’s beautiful, will make you cry about Data, and generally get you in a more reflective, cocktail-sipping mood. (Synthehol is fine by the way!)
From there, it’s time to visit our old friend, the holographic lounge singer, Vic Fontaine, better known in this quadrant as James Darren. The recorded version Darren released of “The Best Is Yet to Come,” sadly lacks the duet with Captain Sisko, but you can do Sisko’s part. (Or maybe don’t. Your call.) Either way, there’s not a better sentiment for what Star Trek is all about than this song, and so if you want to play it twice, I understand. Star Trek tells us the best is yet to come. Let’s hope that’s still true.
At this point, my suggestions for your playlist are coming to a close, at least in terms of vocal tracks. If you’re doing a Star Trek playlist that is going to transition into the various scores, I think these ending slower songs are a good way to lead into the soundtrack for The Motion Picture, or even Jeff Russo’s score for Picard season 1. (I just pre-ordered that one on vinyl, did you?) Either way, these old standards like “Blue Skies” and “The Best Is Yet to Come” are the smart way to move into the lush scores of the expansive symphonic Trek sonic world. But, there’s just one track you must play before you move into that stuff without words. And you know what track that is.
That’s right, you are obligated to play “Going Where My Heart Will Take Me,” by Russell Watson. The song is probably better known as “Faith Of The Heart,” to the faithful fans of Star Trek: Enterprise. It may be a cheesy song, but I dare any true Star Trek fan not to feel a little bit better about life after listening to it.
From there, you can boldly take your Star Trek Day party music wherever you want. Or, you can remix these songs with various cuts from the different scores. Personally, I’m going to follow the Enterprise theme with the closing credits of Discovery Season 2, which mixes the Russo Discovery theme in the classic TOS theme composed by Alexander Courage. But, you can boldly dance, or listen or party however you see fit. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations applies to party music, too. The human adventure — and your Star Trek party playlist — is just beginning.
Ryan Britt's (he/him) essays and journalism have appeared in Tor.com, Inverse, Den of Geek!, SyFy Wire, and elsewhere. He is the author of the 2015 essay collection Luke Skywalker Can't Read. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and daughter.
Star Trek: Picard streams on Paramount+ in the United States, in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave, and on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.