Star Trekkin'

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"Star Trekkin' "
Star Trekkin' Cover.jpg
UK single release
Single by the Firm
from the album Serious Fun
Released25 May 1987 (1987-05-25)[1]
Songwriter(s)John O'Connor, Grahame Lister, Rory Kehoe
Producer(s)Grahame Lister, John O'Connor
The Firm singles chronology
"Long Live the National"
"Star Trekkin' "

"Star Trekkin' " is a song by British novelty band the Firm. It parodies the first television series of Star Trek, and prominently features comical voice caricatures of the original Trek characters, provided by members of the band, a studio technician, and the wife of one of the songwriters. One of the song's phrases, "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it", originated with "Star Trekkin'", but has been subsequently misattributed to the TV series.

"Star Trekkin'" was released as a single in May 1987. The song's promotional video was created by a team of art students called The Film Garage, featuring a combination of puppetry, stop motion animation and computer-generated imagery. The song entered the UK charts at number 74, eventually climbing to spend two weeks at number one. It also found chart success in a number of other countries, selling more than a million copies.

Origin and recording[edit]

"Star Trekkin'" originated from songwriter Rory Kehoe, who was a member of an English Civil War combat reenactment society called The Sealed Knot. Kehoe had written a series of verses about the principal characters who appear in the 1960s American science fiction television series Star Trek, which were sung in pubs and around campfires, after Sealed Knot battles, to the tune of "The Music Man". This version was re-titled "I Am The Star Trek Man". Chris Steinhauer performed this version at a folk club one evening in 1986, which is where it was first heard by Grahame Lister, of novelty band the Firm. Lister convinced Steinhauer to record the song onto an audio cassette and took it to his writing partner John O'Connor.[2]

The duo dropped "The Music Man" melody, and wrote a new chorus.[2] They at first attempted to set Kehoe's lyrics to the tune of their 1982 hit single, "Arthur Daley E's Alright", creating an alternative version initially entitled "Captain Kirk (He's Alright)". Unsatisfied, they sought to create something original, locking themselves away for a week to write "Star Trekkin'",[3] based on an increasing tempo seen previously in Rolf Harris' "The Court of King Caractacus".[2] They sought to have it recorded professionally, but were received unfavourably by potential recording labels.[4] Instead, they recorded it at O'Connor's and Brian O'Shaughnessy's Bark Studios in Walthamstow, East London.[5] The arrangement was by Bill C. Martin, and the rest of the Firm was made up of Dev Douglas and Peter Sills.[4] O'Shaughnessy later said "One of the greatest highlights of my career was producing 'Star Trekkin''. The record was produced to mock the series and we had no idea it was going to be a big hit."[5]

The song features the catchphrases of several Star Trek characters, including Captain James T. Kirk, Spock and Doctor Leonard McCoy. These were intended to be recognisable to British listeners who had seen the episodes of the series on re-runs throughout the 1970s and 1980s, or those who were only relatively familiar with the source. While several of the lines such as Scotty's "Ye cannae change the laws of physics!", or Uhura's "There's Klingons on the starboard bow." had been said in the series, other phrases had not.[6] Spock's quote, "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it", never featured in The Original Series but "Star Trekkin'" subsequently so popularised the phrase that it is now commonly misattributed. The closest equivalent in the series is the phrase "No life as we know it" in "The Devil in the Dark".[7] Kirk's "We come in peace; shoot to kill" also never featured, and was suggested by author Brian Robb as having "summed up the popular impression of the trigger-happy captain's approach to alien encounters".[6] The voices of the characters were not provided by the actors who portrayed them in The Original Series; O'Connor voiced Kirk and McCoy, while Douglas voiced Spock. Scotty was voiced by a studio engineer and O'Connor's wife, Shelly, voiced Uhura.[8]


At the time of its recording in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation had recently been announced and was in production, bringing new attention to the franchise. Having funded the pressing of 500 copies of the single,[2] O'Connor sent copies of it to British radio stations, with the studio's phone number on them.[9] One Liverpool station began giving the phone number out on air and O'Connor began to receive many phone calls from the area, asking for copies of the record. A Radio 1 disc jockey, Simon Bates, promoted the song and after an initial release where it reached 74th position on the UK Singles Chart, it climbed the following week to 13th place.[9] For the two weeks afterwards, it was placed at number one,[10] and becoming the ninth best-selling single of 1987 in the UK.[6] At one point, it was selling 60,000 copies a day,[3] and went on to sell more than 470,000 copies in the UK alone.[11]

The single was also released outside of the UK, reaching 22nd place in the Ultratop chart within Belgium,[12] 9th place in the neighbouring Dutch Top 40,[13] and on the other side of the world, it reached third place on the ARIA Charts within Australia and peaked at number two on the Official New Zealand Music Chart.[14][15] Worldwide, it sold more than a million copies.[8] "Star Trekkin'" has become well known in the United States due to frequent play on the Dr. Demento Show radio program.[8]

The Firm subsequently released an album, Serious Fun, in 1987, through K-Tel in the UK and Dino Music in Australia. "Star Trekkin'" was track one on the A-side of the record, and the album featured previous single "Arthur Daley (e's Alright)". The album also featured the follow-up single to "Star Trekkin'", "Superheroes",[16][17] which was released in the UK on 26 September that year. It reached the 99th spot in the top 100, while the album did not chart.[18]

Music video[edit]

Following the success of the single, the band realised that they would be expected to appear on the British television series Top of the Pops on BBC1 the following week. The decision was made not to make personal television appearances, as O'Connor and Lister felt that they were a "bunch of balding thirty-somethings" and an appearance as themselves on the show "would kill the whole fun element of the thing stone dead!"[2] So despite the time constraints, they sought for an animated music video to be created. They approached several potential providers,[2] including the production company behind the television series Spitting Image, which had previously produced the video for the single "Land of Confusion" by Genesis. However, the cost was too high, and they needed longer than a week to create the video.[2] One of the other companies approached was a team of graduate art students called The Film Garage. On a low budget, they created a claymation stop motion animated video.[8]

The characters in the video are based on food items, such as being made out of potatoes, with the Enterprise being created to look like it was made from pizza and sausages. The idea for the video as described by co-director Pete Bishop was that "Kirk has been out in space too long, and is hallucinating – about food". It was shot over seven days under the direction of Pete Bishop and Marc Kitchen-Smith, while the company No Strings was responsible for the model construction.[19] The video was completed with just hours to spare before it was due to air for the first time on Top of the Pops.[2]


In Brian Robb's 2012 book, A Brief Guide to Star Trek, he said it was a testament to the quality of the series and of the characters that some 20 years after it was originally broadcast,[20] a series of catchphrases could still summarise the appeal of the television series.[6] The song has appeared in several lists, such as in MSN's list of the most annoying songs of all time, "Star Trekkin'", placed in 15th place.[14] British Sunday newspaper The People included it in a list of the most irritating songs in 2005, calling it "Funny, but dreadful."[21] In 2011, it was included in Wired's list of seven great geek comedy songs.[22]

Track listings[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[32] Silver 250,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "New Singles". Music Week. 23 May 1987. p. 37. Misprinted as 26 May on source.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Kutner, Jon (10 February 2013). "Star Trekkin' (The Firm)". Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b "It's a Hit Jim, But Not As We Know It...". Lookin. No. 30. 18 July 1987. p. 4.
  4. ^ a b "Graham Lister". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b "A Walthamstow studio's role in one of the most iconic singles of the 90s". Epping Forest Guardian. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e Robb 2012, p. 37.
  7. ^ Knowles 2002, p. 224.
  8. ^ a b c d Wuench, Kevin (July 22, 2016). "Begin your Star Trek weekend with this '80s classic". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  9. ^ a b Roberts 2006, p. 476.
  10. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  11. ^ "Gallup Year End Charts 1987: Singles". Record Mirror. London, England: Spotlight Publications. 23 January 1988. p. 36.
  12. ^ a b "The Firm – Star Trekkin'" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  13. ^ a b "The Firm – Star Trekkin'" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  14. ^ a b c "The most annoying songs of all time". MSN. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  15. ^ a b "The Firm – Star Trekkin'". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  16. ^ "Firm, The – Serious Fun". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  17. ^ "Firm, The – Serious Fun". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  18. ^ "Firm". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  19. ^ Clarke, Jeremy (October 1987). "Trekkin' across the universe". Animator. No. 21. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  20. ^ Robb 2012, p. 38.
  21. ^ "Aaaargh Tunes! Tunes You Just Can't Get off Your Brain". The People. 29 May 2005. Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via HighBeam Research.
  22. ^ Brown, Sophie (26 September 2011). "Seven Great Geek Comedy Songs". Wired. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  23. ^ Star Trekkin' (UK 7-inch single sleeve). The Firm. Bark Records. 1987. TREK 1.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  24. ^ Star Trekkin' (UK 12-inch single sleeve). The Firm. Bark Records. 1987. 12 TREK 1.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  25. ^ "European Hot 100 Singles". Music & Media. Vol. 4, no. 30. 1 August 1987. p. 17.
  26. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Star Trekkin'". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 34, 1987" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  28. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  29. ^ "Top 100–Jaaroverzicht van 1987" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  30. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1987" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  31. ^ "END OF YEAR CHARTS 1987". Official New Zealand Music Chart. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  32. ^ "British single certifications – Firm – Star Trekkin'". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 30 May 2022.

Further reading[edit]