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Musicians Abound in Star Trek

The Enterprise-D: More Bands Than The Love Boat

Perhaps no other TV show has done more to promote music as a hobby than Star Trek: The Next Generation. Any number of episodes depict the Enterprise crew members using the performing arts--but music most especially--to unwind after a long watch. Perhaps the greatest thing about the way amateur music is depicted in the 24th century is that it shows people relaxing and working with it alone in their quarters, as well as those memorable performances in Ten Forward. Let's see who's jamming on the Enterprise.

Capt. Jean Luc Picard - In one episode, Picard is transported to some outworldly place where he lives an entire lifetime in the space of 25 minutes. The only memento he has of this is the skill and love of the Ressikan Flute, a small fife-like instrument that he has learned and loved over this entire [25 minute] lifetime. In a subsequent episode, he is seen in his quarters having the computer generate an orchestral accompaniment for his private playing. And...he appears to playing the stuff by ear. Needless to say this episode is dear to my heart. In another episode he meets a female officer who plays a roll-up electronic keyboard, and they adjourn to remote service passage (jeffries tube?) to have quite an impressive jam session. The shared musical experience, of course, leads to an ill-fated romance, but any musician could've told you that.

CDR Will Riker - The ship's first officer is not to be left out of this. Riker is a jazz trombonist, who sometimes jams in the lounge with a rhythm section of other crew members. His greatest frustration is a tune called Night Bird, which is just a little too fast and tends to get away from him. When given some time off during a maintenance stop he goes to the holodeck (a place that becomes anything you want) and conjures up a jazz club where he picks up his trombone for a very nice rendition of The Nearness of You. In another episode, he must come to terms with...a machine-generated clone of himself that is just as human as he is. (sheesh!) As the two Rikers find their common ground, Will gives his departing clone his most precious possession--the trombone.

LTC Data - Data is his name. First, last and middle. He's a robot, but is a 'scientient positronic life form' who has his act together well enough to serve as an officer over a human crew. His deepest wish is to be human, and his weekly struggle to understand the quirks of humanity are enough to make you think that the producers of Mork and Mindy could've sued for big bucks. Played by a very versatile performer named Brent Spiner, Data plays the violin, sings comic opera, tap dances, ballroom dances, and acts. Since he's a walking computer with access to a database of all the greatest composers and performers, Data is the one guy who doesn't have to practice. But, he makes up for it with listening. Up to ten pieces simultaneously at ear-shattering volume. (Definitely a guy you don't want to live next to!) He performs regularly with a shipboard string quartet, and has even jammed with his late mother, who was reincarnated as a robot. (does this remind you of an old TV show starring Jerry Van Dyke?)

Obviously, the Enterprise has more bands aboard than the average luxury cruise ship. But this illustrates one more hope for a perfect future world, where the arts are for everyone, and everyday people work hard enough at it to achieve excellence.

The Music Scene Aboard Deep Space 9

Well, TNG had a robot violinist, so DS9 had to up the ante with holographic lounge singer Vic Fontaine, played aptly by James Darren. Vic's program was written by the station's doctor, but somehow became self-aware and just as much of a life-form as anybody else. Vic becomes the Dear Abby and father confessor on DS9, solving romantic problems for the palindromic security chief Odo (who is himself made of alien jello and can turn into any form he wants). Just listen up when you hear him say, "Now listen, Pally, I might just be a light bulb, but I've been around the block..."

Other minor musical interludes include Nana Visitor (as a holographic version of her character Col. Kira) singing "Fever" and Worf's boys singing Klingon Opera and various battle songs over their blood wine. I think I'd rather listen to Vic. (I wonder if they ever offered Bill Murray the role?)


USS Voyager:  Jamming in the middle of nowhere

The producers of Star Trek Voyager have been more modest in their musical exploits, but loving nonetheless.

Ens. Harry Kim - I saw Voyager's first episode and was intrigued when the captain spoke of a call from Harry Kim's mother. It seemed that Harry had left his clarinet at home and his mom wanted to know if it was too late to send it to him on the ship. Too late, unfortunately, but not to worry. While roughing it out in the far reaches of the Delta Quadrant, Harry saves up his rations for a machine known as a replicator. Simply put, it's a machine that makes anything you want out of thin air. Harry wants a clarinet, and we hear him practicing in his quarters despite the occasional bang on the wall from his neighbors. Actor Garrett Wang is not a clarinetist, but he learned the fingerings in order to look like he's doing what the studio clarinetist is playing. Hat's off to a great job, Garrett. In another episode he knocks off some jazz licks, and in yet another he's seen blowing some alto sax. The most interesting reference that I've seen to his clarinet playing is where he enters an alien world where people live in their dreams. (no, I didn't notice them smoking anything unusual) One of Harry Kims nightmarish fears is of 'that G-sharp in the Mozart Concerto.' Thanks for caring, Harry.

'The Doctor' - Holographic musicians did so well on DS9 that Voyager got a holographic doctor who sings. My favorite episode involves a recital where the Doc is singing La Donna Mobile, the first officer takes sick, and the doc gives instructions for his emergency treatment via new lyrics to the song. One of the funniest musical moments I've ever seen on TV. There is also an episode in which they visit a world where a year goes by in one Earth minute. During this, the Doc goes down to the surface and returns in about five minutes having sprouted a wife, a child and--you guessed it--a singing career.  In a more poignant episode, the Doc introduces music to a planet where it has never been heard. Audiences are enraptured, he gets a girlfriend, and decides to jump ship to enjoy his stardom. But just before the ship leaves, his girlfriend invents a better hologram who sings music that's more mathematically interesting to the audiences. Doc has learned what it's like when a rock musician turns 40!

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