Several weeks ago in THIS POST, I discussed songs that were either about or included references to Star Trek. At the time, I promised that I would cover television Star Trek references and parodies at a later date, and…well…here we are.
Frankly, this is a massive topic. Over the last 50 years, Star Trek has been referenced on literally hundreds of shows. If I were to try to cover every instance where a character name-checked Spock or said something about beaming up, I’d be at this for ages. To give you some idea, here are the pages at the vast Star Trek reference site, Memory Alpha, for Live-Action and Animated Television references. And even that isn’t complete (Also, some of them are reaching a bit, I think.). No Muppet Babies? Seriously, guys? They did at least one entire Star Trek episode.
While many shows have done Star Trek bits, some of the best (and certainly most self-contained) have come from sketch comedy shows.
Saturday Night Live is, of course, the most famous of all sketch comedy series, and they have taken on Star Trek a few times. The first of these skits was in 1976, during the very first season of the long-running show. In “The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise,” Captain Kirk (Played by John Belushi), Mr. Spock (Chevy Chase), and Dr. McCoy (Dan Aykroyd) come up against a foe they cannot defeat: NBC executives determined to cancel the show. The skit is hopefully available to watch HERE (It’s the NBC website, so I don’t know if there are country restrictions).
Ten years later, in 1986, William Shatner was the guest host on Saturday Night Live. One sketch from that night has become incredibly famous. In it, Shatner is appearing at a Star Trek convention and, after getting a barrage of questions from the assembled Trekkies about the minutia of various episodes, he finally snaps and tells them all to “Get a life!” You can see it HERE (With the same caveat as above). Shatner later used the line as the title of his 1999 book about his own interactions with Star Trek fans. Far from an attack along the lines of the SNL skit, the book is about his embrace of fandom and his realization of how amazing it is.
In the same episode, Shatner appeared as Kirk in “Star Trek V: The Restaurant Enterprise,” in which Kirk and crew are manning the Enterprise, which has been turned into a restaurant. Kevin Nealon is decent as Spock, and Phil Hartman makes a great Dr. McCoy. The real standout of the skit, though, is Dana Carvey who shows up as Khan. He still wants his vengeance, and this time he plans to take Kirk down through health code violations. The skit is HERE.
And eight years after that, at the height of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s popularity, Patrick Stewart hosted Saturday Night Live. The episode featured one Star Trek related skit, “The Love Boat: The Next Generation,” where the TNG characters are running the Love Boat…in space. The skit is available is semi-acceptable quality HERE.
In 1991, the short-lived revival of The Carol Burnett Show featured a sketch based on the original Star Trek. In the skit, all of the characters have had their genders swapped due to the effects of a spatial anomaly. Andrea Martin, who would go on to play Quark and Rom’s mother on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, appears as the female Spock. You can watch the skit HERE. This idea has been used in other Star Trek media. A two-part story in the Star Trek comics based in the Kelvin timeline had Captain Kirk and crew encountering a ship from another universe where they entire crew was gender swapped.
Also in the early 1990s, the sketch comedy series In Living Color took on Star Trek a couple of times, with Jim Carrey playing Captain Kirk in each. In the first skit, “The Wrath of Farrakhan,” the famous minister comes aboard and shows the crew that Captain Kirk has been oppressing them. David Alan Grier doesn’t get nearly enough to do as Spock, and Carrey is so over-the-top that the top isn’t even visible. It is available HERE.
In a later skit, Carrey and other show cast members portray exceptionally elderly versions of the TOS crew in “Star Trek VII: The Really Last Voyage.” Carrey has toned it down a little bit. Of course, he’s also pretending to be ancient and using a walker to get around. You can watch it HERE.
As I said earlier, this barely scratches the surface of all of the times Star Trek has been references or parodied on television. For example, there’s “Taysiders in Space” from a show called Chewin the Fat. Warning: you will need a universal translator for this one. Mine failed.
You could easily spend ages on YouTube looking at various skits that have produced over the years, but it would definitely be entertaining.
- Alan Decker
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