Yeah, I think we all knew I was going to do this the moment I wrote it in yesterday’s review of the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery.
Star Trek has had numerous spin-offs since it started in 1966, each with its own opening credits that made it stand out but, if done right, still felt like a continuation of the mythos. And since I have a fascination with intros it should be no surprise that the last two series have been problematic. They were good intros but those intros lack that Star Trek vibe. (Also only one of the last two shows were what I’d call “good”, but that’s judging on one episode. They could both be bad as we go on.) But what makes a Star Trek intro…a Star Trek intro?
There have been seven official Star Trek shows. There have, as someone will possibly point out, eight intros if you count “The Cage”, the unaired (until recently) pilot that was rejected and later reworked into the two-part episode “The Menagerie”. For the purpose of space I will be focused on these eight series, ignoring tweaks that were made as the series went on to represent cast changes and improved special effects (including the re-done classic series) because I’m not that pedantic. I also won’t be looking at the movies and video games, or any fanfilm or fan series. This is still going to be very video heavy though. I’m sorry to people on slower connections and Patreon who has to click a bunch of links.
The very first intro, for the unsold first pilot. It’s not surprising that it’s a bit shorter than the final show probably would have been. I also don’t see that zoom-in to the bridge of the Enterprise happening every week, especially if the story starts elsewhere in the ship or on a planet somewhere. It’s a cool effect for the time though. We also get hints of the classic theme song, which only had lyrics so Gene Roddenberry could get a writing credit and part of the royalties. Nice guy?
There’s the intro we all know. The haunting music that informs of the otherworldly adventures to come, just after the teaser that shows a future that’s better…but still quite dangerous to explorers on a new frontier. The narration also completes your journey into this reality that the teaser only got your attention for. We get a good look at the ship we’ll be traveling with for most of the episodes (I think there’s one that just takes place in a shuttlecraft without seeing the Enterprise at all outside of the intro), and seeing it shoot through space as the credits introduce the three main characters is just neat to see.
Star Trek The Animated Series
Or just Star Trek the Saturday Morning cartoon. The series was produced by Filmation, who did quite a few animated spinoffs and continuations among their licensed shows. It’s a faithful adaptation of the intro, but not a complete one. For whatever reason Filmation didn’t get the regular theme song. It’s not even a singerless version of the music. Odd since they had all of the sound effects and most of the actors. It’s a pretty decent theme song though, with the cymbals as the Enterprise goes past us being a nice tough, and certainly better than a lot of Filmation intros, if only because the original already had that narrated part to copy. Possibly by necessity, the Enterprise whizzes by us at a slower pace than the live-action, giving us a better look at the starship, which I do like and we’ll be seeing the ships move slower across the screen as we move on. The closing credits was just a copy of the opening but without Kirk’s narration.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Interesting that this starts with an update of the classic TV theme before going into the theme song for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Also we get a couple of passes of the Enterprise-D and then the rest is credits just before seeing go into warp speed near the end. I’m happy that this version lists all the main character and not just three focus characters. TNG did feel more like an ensemble cast rather than Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and friends. They also went the extra mile in showing outer space. Instead of a bunch of stars and one planet we get a couple of planets, nebulae, and it only got better in later seasons when they improved the graphics. But like I said, we aren’t looking at the tweaks. You can see how low the budget was in early years compared to the later seasons, but they still managed a great intro.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Deep Space Nine by necessity had to do things different in their intros. While the rest of the franchise was about exploring space and finding “new life” in this show the aliens came to them. So having the station whiz through space was out of the question. While the station was capable of limited movement it mostly didn’t go anyplace, so instead the camera has to come to it, like the aliens and I wonder if that was the point. This could be from the perspective of coming to the station rather than the ship coming to us and passing us by. We get amazing shots of the station with the credits giving all the main cast at the time an introduction. The theme song also betrays a sense of majesty that the inside of the dilapidated station admittedly doesn’t deliver, but it does look cool from the outside. Still there’s a power to it that makes it look like a place to visit. I also hope you weren’t really tied to those narrated parts because they’re done from here on out. It’s probably a good thing since this show has enough comparisons to Babylon 5 as it is, and what would you have Captain Sisko say? It ends with a shot of the wormhole opening which is a nice touch since that’s how we got new-to-Starfleet aliens onto the show.
Star Trek: Voyager
DS9 have my favorite theme song but Voyager has my favorite visuals. We’re back to a moving vessel but rather than have the Voyager come zooming at you at top impulse speed it takes a cue from its predecessor in dramatic shots of the title vessel. There are just some beautiful shots of Voyager going through a gas cloud and calmly passing planets and asteroids, plus that shot of the ship going past the sun flare and ending with the ship going to warp are just great touches. The theme also makes traveling through space look fascinating. Too bad the show wasn’t very good. Every now and then I try and watch it and the intro is only thing I like.
And here’s where it starts falling apart. Oh don’t get me wrong. By itself it’s actually not a bad intro. “Faith Of The Heart” is a beautiful song and it’s neat to see homages to the many ships that have born the name Enterprise, with this being the last one because it takes place before the original series. (Odd that the space shuttle is there since it was named after the ship of the original series but also necessary.) The problem is it doesn’t feel like a Star Trek intro. There’s a love of the ship’s name that would be nice if the show was about a starship named Potemkin or Yamato or some other famous ship, but this is Star Trek. This is the first Starfleet ship to bear the name Enterprise. There is no sense of wonder from the visuals as we see the title starship traveling through the heavens. The song doesn’t have the same majesty or mystery as the other theme songs. Even the credits only mention Star Trek as the show this is based on but until I think near the end there was never a Star Trek in the title, like it was trying to not be a Star Trek series but was so by force, which is kind of what the show felt like as well. Speaking of which…
Star Trek: Discovery
I touched on this briefly in yesterday’s review of the pilot. Hopefully you can see what I’m talking about when I say it lacks the Star Trek feel. It is a nice intro, certainly better than most of the Netflix MCU offerings, but still feels more like that then a Star Trek intro. It’s trying to have pretty artsy visuals, and while it’s a nice homage to the series it feels more like an homage for a show about Star Trek than an actual Star Trek intro. We see shots of the phaser and the bat’leth, what I’m assuming is the USS Discovery (because we don’t see it in the show) zooming past some kind of giant plant or something and zooming past the camera. But it lacks the wonder and majesty of traveling through space and exploring strange new worlds that the other shows (except for Enterprise) demonstrated. It’s a nice intro but it’s lacking that Star Trek vibe, which the show also does. Basically, if the show features brass ships piloted by Starfleet officers in blue suits you know it’s not going to feel like Star Trek.
And there you have it. All the intros of Star Trek and it’s many spinoff series to date. Which one is your favorite intro or do you prefer some mash-up of intros, or one of the many fan-made or game intros? Hopefully at some point CBS will look back on its history and give us a proper intro for the next series. I highly doubt it but anything’s possible.