Monday, June 10, 2013

Musical Monday - Star Trek: The Original Series Opening Theme

There are few television shows that are more iconic than the original Star Trek series, which earned the number four spot on my list of the top ten science fiction television shows. Though it only ran for three seasons from 1966-69, the show has had an almost pervasive influence on popular culture since that time, with an impact that extends well beyond just the science fiction community.

Within the science fiction community, the original Star Trek is so recognizable that some people don't even recognize that science fiction as a genre is not actually coterminous with Star Trek. I recall one instance in which an individual was trying to reconcile the Star Wars movies with Star Trek, because, in his mind, they had to fit together or else Star Wars was somehow illegitimate as a story. I recall another instance in which I was asked, in all sincerity, whether Babylon 5 took place before or after the events of the original Star Trek series, and why all of the aliens were different. The person asking the question assumed that the Earth Alliance was either a precursor or successor to the Federation. In short, there are people who assume that all filmed science fiction is essentially Star Trek.

In a less perplexing kind of influence, Star Trek has become almost a short hand reference in the science fiction community. Mention phasers, warp drives, or dilithium crystals, and pretty much everyone will instantly know what you mean. Solemnly say the word "Space" in a deepish authoritative voice, and there's a decent chance someone will respond "The final frontier". And that brings us to the iconic opening credits of the show. Featuring a voice over by William Shatner that ran in all but one of the seventy-nine episodes (the lone exception being the second pilot Where No Man Has Gone Before, which was the second pilot episode for the show that wasn't actually used as a pilot episode), the opening theme song by composer Alexander Courage, also titled Where No Man Has Gone Before, is almost universally instantly recognized within the first few notes.

In an interesting side note, Gene Roddenberry wrote lyrics for the song, without Courage's knowledge, so that he could claim half of the songwriting credit and get half of any royalties. The lyrics are terrible, and Roddenberry's somewhat underhanded maneuver seems to have helped drive Courage away from working on the show.

Previous Musical Monday: Firefly Opening Theme by Sonny Rhodes
Subsequent Musical Monday: Stargate SG-1 Opening Theme

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