From the moment your eyes settle on the vast expanse of stars, the first ambient sounds hit your ears, and you hear the mellifluous voice of Sir Patrick Stewart's cadence reciting, "Space: the final frontier..." you prepare your senses for the first thrilling notes of one of the most recognizable theme songs of all time. With much fanfare, the theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation sends your senses on an adventurous march through space, the Enterprise-D shooting across the title sequence with each blast from the brass, each flurry of the harp, and each pounding of the percussion.
Longtime Star Trek fans will recognize it as one of the franchise's most definitive pieces of music, able to instantly transport them to an emotional state of nostalgia. It's selection as the theme song for the first new Star Trek television series since the original premiered was not an easy one, mired by bureaucratic decision making and creative differences. Did you know there was also an alternate theme? Read on for 10 things you didn't know about the TNG Theme Song and Intro!
10 IT WAS TAKEN FROM STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
For the first time in over ten years, the cast of the original Star Trek series came together to make Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Released in 1979, it would feature the crew of the original USS Enterprise being reassembled for another mission.
To capture the spirit of the original series, creator Gene Roddenberry wanted a rousing new theme song that would make audiences feel the pull to adventure of space exploration. He liked it so much, that he decided it would be used as the theme for the first new Star Trek series since the original, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
9 IT WAS WRITTEN BY A FAMOUS COMPOSER
The composer of TNG's soaring theme song was none other than Jerry Goldsmith, long renowned in Hollywood for his particularly bombastic and exciting scores. He went from being a humble clerk typist in the musical department at CBS in the '50s to writing some of the most famous theme songs for film and television.
He wrote the original theme for the '60s spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as well as blockbuster films like Poltergeist, Alien, Total Recall, Airforce One, and The Mummy. His themes are atmospheric, full of percussion and horns, and have lots of character, making each one as unique as the other.
8 IT ALMOST NEVER HAPPENED
The theme song for TNG may have come out of the music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it almost never happened. Goldsmith had started composing the music for the film and finished a section to be used when Admiral Kirk and Scotty fly over the refit Enterprise.
Director Robert Wise liked the sound he was creating, but ultimately had to reject it on the basis that it wasn't cohesive, and didn't have an overall "theme". So back Goldsmith went to the drawing board until he came up with the theme song we have today, used in not just Star Trek: The Next Generation but four other Star Trek films as well.
7 IT ALMOST SOUNDED LIKE A SUPERMAN RIP-OFF
When production first began on TNG, several themes were considered. They could either use the theme from the original series, by Alexander Courage, or they could compose something entirely new. The alternate version of the theme exists on Youtube and as you'll hear, sounds very different from the theme TNG ended up having.
The alternate theme sounds like The Last Starfighter, with elements of Superman and even a few fantasy films of the '70s and '80s. It has a swashbuckling feel, which definitely speaks to a call for adventure, but ultimately sounds a little too cheesy, almost like the theme for the fictitious Galaxy Quest television show.
6 THE WORDS OF ITS TITLE SEQUENCE ARE SPECIFIC
Prior to the main theme starting up, the voice of Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard can be heard over ambient music, just as Captain Kirk's voice could be heard prior to the theme of the original Star Trek series. They recite an introductory speech that is nearly identical, save for a few key phrases.
Picard's states, "Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It's continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before!". "Continuing mission" was put in place of the "five-year mission" as stated in the original, and "where no one has gone before" replaced "where no man has gone before" as a more gender-neutral choice.
5 IT WAS INTENDED TO DRAW IN LONGTIME TREKKIES
As Star Trek: The Next Generation was the first Star Trek television program in over two decades, it came at a time when longtime Trekkies were still used to seeing the cast of the original series in feature films. Producers didn't know how they would react to a new series so they selected a theme song that would be recognizable to them.
By using the theme song from the first Star Trek film, they hoped longtime Star Trek fans would be drawn into the show and give it a chance. By not using a new theme song, producers thought the new series wouldn't seem so alien to a skeptical audience.
4 IT CURTAILED HAVING TO PAY GENE RODDENBERRY ROYALTIES
Though Gene Roddenberry is credited as being Star Trek's creator, he's also been credited for almost causing its destruction. A polarizing figure in his own franchise like Star Wars creator George Lucas, he often felt that every decision he made was in the best interest of his creation when occasionally it only benefited him.
Case in point, when he felt that he wouldn't stand to make any profits off of the original series, he decided to compose lyrics for its theme so that at least he would get 50 percent of the royalties for the writing credit. If Paramount used his theme (even without the lyrics) for TNG they'd have to pay him royalties.
3 LICENSING AND EXPENSES PLAYED A PART
When producers for TNG were discussing what theme to go with for the series, they had to be careful about licensing, rights, and ultimately expenses. They hadn't used the original series theme again composed by Alexander Courage because of the issues surrounding having to pay Gene Roddenberry writing credits as well, so they turned to another composer.
To commission a new piece of orchestral music at the time was going to be expensive. Hollywood composers operate at guild rates, and paying any of them for a new Star Trek show on an untested audience was a great risk, so recycling the theme song from Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the least expensive and convoluted option.
2 IT WAS ALMOST USED FOR STAR TREK PHASE II
Prior to word of TNG airing, there had been talk of doing another Star Trek series but involving the cast of the original series with a few new crew members. This was after the premiere of Star Wars in 1977 when producers felt continuing to have Star Trek compete in the science fiction film arena was too risky.
Star Trek: Phase II as it was referred to had already started the casting and writing process, but ultimately Paramount Studios decided to continue cranking out Star Trek films, beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 where the theme song for TNG was first heard. Concepts for characters and storylines from Phase II would wind up in TNG as well.
1 THE INTRO HAS BEEN REMASTERED FOR BLU-RAY
If you're streaming TNG today on Netflix or Hulu, chances are you're watching it in the digitally remastered Blu-ray glory it deserves. Even the beige interiors of the '90s sets look sharp and smart, and the bridge which once had all the charm of a hotel lobby now seems cleared for action.
All of the exterior shots of planets, the Milky Way, and the rest of the solar system in the Alpha Quadrant got their special effects beefed up as well. The TNG intro got shiny new lettering, as well as all of its galactic splendor restored thanks to the highly qualified folks at Industrial Light and Magic.