Theme from Star Trek
"Theme from Star Trek" (originally scored under the title "Where No Man Has Gone Before") is an instrumental musical piece written by Alexander Courage for Star Trek, the science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry and originally aired between September 8, 1966 and September 2, 1969.
The music was played over both the opening and closing credits of the original series. The opening credits begin with the now-famous "Space: the final frontier" monologue recited by series star William Shatner, accompanied by an opening fanfare. The main theme begins, punctuated at several points by the Enterprise flying toward and past the camera with a "whoosh" sound for dramatic effect, created vocally by Courage himself. A slightly longer version of the theme, minus the fanfare, was played over the closing credits, which were overlaid on a series of stills from various episodes.
Courage has said his inspiration for the main part of the theme was the Richard Whiting song Beyond the Blue Horizon giving him the idea for a song which was a "long thing that...keeps going out into space...over a fast moving accompaniment." The opening resembles two elements of symphonies by Gustav Mahler; the very beginning echoes the first notes of Mahler's First Symphony, while the first three notes of the leitmotif fanfare, as well as some of the harmonic structure and orchestration that Courage used, are similar to phrases in the first movement of his Seventh Symphony. The melodic and rhythmic outline of the opening horn solo is clearly derived from motto themes found in the openings of the symphonies of Anton Bruckner (most especially that of the horn section solo in the opening of the Ninth) while the duplet-triplet pattern of the melody is found in Bruckner's Third, Fourth, Sixth and Eighth Symphonies. The harmonic progression is the same as the song "Out Of Nowhere," a jazz song written by Edward Heyman and Johnny Green.
The unaired pilot "The Cage" used a wordless rendition of the melody line, sung by soprano Loulie Jean Norman with flute and organ, over an orchestral arrangement. When originally written (and as heard in "The Cage"), Courage had Norman's vocalizations and the various instruments mixed equally to produce what Courage described as a unique "'what is that that I'm hearing?' sound." According to Courage, however, Gene Roddenberry had the mix changed to bring up the female vocal, after which Courage felt the theme sounded like a soprano solo. Finally, for the third season it was remixed again, this time emphasizing the organ.
Producer Herbert Solow recalled that Norman had been hired under a Screen Actors Guild agreement and would receive rerun fees for her part in the theme. For the second season onwards, her vocalization was dropped from the theme. Solow regretted the choice and composer Courage was not informed until twenty-seven years later.
The second unaired pilot episode used an entirely different theme, (Star Trek was the first series in American television history where a network, NBC in this case, requested and paid for a second pilot episode) although this too was also composed by Alexander Courage. Re-edited for time and then aired, the second pilot episode returned to the original theme and in only the first several episodes, sans all vocals, was a concerto-like solo of an electric violin playing the melodic line. Also the very well known overdubbing by William Shatner was not present in only this aired second pilot, it was music only for "Where No Man Has Gone Before."
In 2006, CBS began syndicating a "remastered" version of the series with numerous changes, including a re-recording of the theme music, which was used for all episodes of the series. Elin Carlson, a professional singer and lifetime Star Trek fan, re-recorded Norman's vocalization.
Over time, the show's theme music has become immediately recognizable, even by many people who have never seen the program. Portions of the original theme have been used in subsequent Star Trek series' and motion pictures. For 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, scored by Jerry Goldsmith, Alexander Courage provided additional cues featuring his theme, where it softly accompanies the "captain's log" scenes. Dennis McCarthy reused the original theme's fanfare when he reworked Goldsmith's main theme for use as Star Trek: The Next Generation's theme music, where the fanfare precedes Goldsmith's theme. Most of the subsequent Star Trek motion pictures's main title music starts with the fanfare before seguéing into music composed specially for the given film. 2009's Star Trek breaks with this tradition; instead, composer Michael Giacchino uses the opening notes sparingly in the movie, but features an arrangement of the theme in the film's end credits. All the Star Trek feature films to date use the fanfare at some point within the film.
Without Courage's knowledge, Roddenberry wrote lyrics to the theme — not in the expectation that they would ever be sung, but in order to claim a 50% share of the music's performance royalties. Although there was never any litigation, Courage later commented that he considered Roddenberry's conduct unethical. Roddenberry was quoted as responding, "Hey, I have to get some money somewhere. I'm sure not gonna get it out of the profits of Star Trek." The lyrics are included in the book The Making of Star Trek by Roddenberry and Stephen Whitfield, and were featured in an issue of the DC Comics Star Trek comic book, "performed" by the character Uhura.
Series producer Robert Justman noted that work on the film Doctor Doolittle kept Courage from working on more than two episodes of the first season. Justman was unable to convince Courage to return for the second season and believed that Courage lost enthusiasm for the series due to the "royalty" issue.
Other recordings and uses
- In the television series Twelve O'Clock High Season 1, Episode 23 (3/5/65) and Season 2, Episode 7 (10/25/65), with music by Dominic Frontiere (who also composed music for "The Outer Limits" television series. Gene Roddenberry was "often present in the studios" of this series during the conception of the Star Trek pilot episode The Cage), the opening horn motif from the Star Trek theme is heard, verbatim, at the 50-minute mark (Season 1, Episode 23), at the opening (Season 2, Episode 7).
- In the 1970s, Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Uhura on the original series, recorded a disco version of the song with lyrics different from Roddenberry's.
- Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson recorded a fusion version of the tune with his big band, first released on his Conquistador album in January 1977. This recording was later used as the opening theme for The Larry King Show on the Mutual Radio Network, and was so popular that King would occasionally play the entire song at the end of the show.
- The theme was used as the breakaway music for the aircraft carrier Enterprise for many years, until it was replaced by the theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- In 1992, Austrian dance act Edelweiss had a hit with the number "Starship Edelweiss", which used the theme as its melodic base.
- In the movie Wayne's World, Garth is heard whistling the Star Trek theme while lying on top of the hood of an AMC Pacer. While looking at the stars, he says, "Sometimes I wish I could boldly go where no one's gone before".
- At the 2005 Emmys, Shatner and operatic singer Frederica von Stade performed a live version of the theme, with Shatner reciting the opening monologue and von Stade singing the wordless melody line.
- The 2003 release Magical Moods of the Theremin, by lounge act Project: Pimento includes the theme performed with lyrics, and a theremin. (The title theme recordings for the TV series are often erroneously believed to feature a theremin.)
- In the 2006 film RV, Jeff Daniels' character has an RV with a horn that uses a snippet of the theme.
- In 2007, some TV ads for the Hummer H3 featured the theme recording used in the second and third seasons.
- In 2009, the theme was used as the wake-up call for the crew of mission STS-125 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.
- On March 7, 2011, Shatner, in character as Kirk, voiced a wake-up call for the crew of STS-133 in the Space Shuttle Discovery on its final day docked to the International Space Station. His call at 0723 UTC, reminiscent of the over-voicing on the original Star Trek series, was backed by the theme as he said, "Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before."
- Tenacious D has covered the theme live, with the original lyrics, on several occasions.
- Tim Grant Engle (editor, writer), Bob Klein (producer) (March 2006). Malibu Celebration of Film Presents Music Takes Courage: A Tribute to Alexander Courage (part 1) (video). Event occurs at 0:39. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
- Tim Grant Engle (editor, writer), Bob Klein (producer) (March 2006). Malibu Celebration of Film Presents Music Takes Courage: A Tribute to Alexander Courage (part 4) (video). Event occurs at 2:39. Retrieved 2007-05-20. "So I went out on the stage and watched the screen, and as it went by, there was the microphone. I just went "whooosh," and that's what they used."
- Star Trek Stories - Alexander Courage on writing the theme song (video). Archive of American Television. February 2000. Event occurs at 0:24. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
- Tim Grant Engle (editor, writer), Bob Klein (producer) (March 2006). Malibu Celebration of Film Presents Music Takes Courage: A Tribute to Alexander Courage (part 4) (video). Event occurs at 2:06. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
- Inside Star Trek The Real Story. Simon & Schuster. 1997. pp. 351–352. ISBN 0-671-00974-5.
- Elin Carlson. "The Re-recording of the Original Star Trek Theme". Retrieved 2008-07-20.
- "Unthemely Behavior". Urban Legends Reference Pages. March 10, 1999. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
- Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. 1997. p. 185. ISBN 0-671-00974-5.
- 'Star Trek' moment for Earth-bound shuttle Discovery. space-travel.com, 7 March 2011, accessed 9 March 2011