Every 'Star Trek' Theme Song Ranked

It's hard not to take the Star Trek: Enterprise theme as an affront upon first hearing it. There's nothing science fiction feeling about it, and none of the orchestral swell found in previous Star Trek series themes, which foreshadowed the more perfect human future ahead. Instead, it's a twangy soft rock ballad version of a song from Patch Adams, which had come out less than three years before Enterprise. But this time "Where My Heart Will Take Me" was sung by British opera tenor Russell Watson instead of Rod Stewart.

The discordance was clearly no accident. Enterprise was meant to stand apart from other Star Treks in any number of ways—the words "Star Trek" didn't even appear in the title until the third season. But there was an instant backlash to the saccharine theme when Enterprise premiered in 2001, with fan protests and petitions calling for a return of "score that is without vocals, as traditionally used by Star Trek television series."

"What's a Star Trek series without something for people to hate?" Star Trek series producer and Enterprise executive producer Rick Berman said at time, responding to the backlash for SciFi Wire.

But for all the sputtering, it's hard not to find a Star Trek theme with singalong lyrics at least a little charming, even if its syrupy sentiment would make actually singing along embarrassing. The Enterprise theme may have sucked all the mockery in the galaxy into its orbit, but it's a little hard not to admire them for sticking by it, even doubling down with a baffling third season pivot to a new version—this one smooth jazz-pop, which sounded a little as if the record player had been sped up slightly to get it over with.

While few would dispute that "Where My Heart Will Take Me" is the worst Star Trek theme, it has still, for the most part, been tolerated, sometimes even embraced. NASA archivist Colin Fries confirms Space Shuttle crews were subjected to it four times, with "Where My Heart Will Take Me" serving as a wake up call twice as often as the themes for the original Star Trek or The Next Generation. (Other selections used for morning esprit de corps on space missions included the theme from the 1965 Western For a Few Dollars More, "Eye in the Sky" by Alan Parsons Project and "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" by Will Smith.)

Watson, the song's singer, probably described the journey towards acceptance best: "Something new happens, and people aren't quite sure of it. But they'll get used to it," he said in 2001. "By the time they've watched the 20th episode, they'll be thinking, 'Well, it's not that bad after all.'"

He's probably right. Those sticky lyrics ensure you'll never forget it.

Cause I've got faith, of the heart.

I'm going where my heart will take me.

I've got faith to believe.

I can do anythinggggggg.

But while it's easy to step on the Enterprise song, ranking the rest of the Star Trek themes—which stick closer to the style of the soaring orchestral introduction that first appeared before the very first episode, "The Man Trap," on September 6, 1966—is a lot trickier. A 2013 poll by the official Star Trek site found a split fanbase, though the most substantial support went to the same two themes as top this ranked list.

Star Trek: Discovery

Jeff Russo's Star Trek: Discovery theme is cluttered with instrumentation. This sometimes works beautifully, including its early, mournful horn build-up and the confident strings vibrating after, but the cumulative effect is a little too mathematically fussy, made worse by an emphasis on propulsive energy over mood. But the Discovery theme might have been able to stand on its own if it weren't for the decision to sink it between two nostalgic stings from Alexander Courage's original Star Trek fanfare.

Star Trek: The Animated Series

With story editor D.C. Fontana's focus on tight science fiction plots and most of the original cast returning to voice their characters, The Animated Series felt like another year in the Enterprise's five-year mission—rather than just Star Trek for kids—when it debuted in 1973, four years after the original series' cancellation. But while Star Trek: TAS did everything right, there was no disguising the limited animation or the derivative theme, composed in-house by the animation studio's cofounder and their prolific cartoon composer, both bearing pseudonyms.

But while it's missing the orchestral grandeur of other Star Trek themes, The Animated Series music is undeniably jaunty. It's chintzy for sure, but there's a colorful bounciness to it that gives it an enduring camp appeal.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Created by longtime Star Trek series composer Dennis McCarthy, who scored hundreds of hours—from the first episode of The Next Generation to the last episode of Enterprise—the Deep Space Nine theme has an unimpeachable pedigree. Opening with a lonely trumpet solo, it's a moody introduction to the remote space station setting for the series.

But from there, the DS9 theme expands into a repetitive martial fanfare. Loaded with trumpets and French horns, it's a song that feels like it's perpetually revealing, instead of going anywhere. While its theme is in line with the diplomacy and war of the series (and a fourth season re-orchestration adds a little more energy), it's a little too stately for a series that deconstructed the high-minded planet-hopping of The Next Generation, pioneered Star Trek serial storytelling and pushed the United Federation of Planet's utopian principles to their breaking point.

Star Trek: Picard

Where Deep Space Nine is a one-dimensional theme that doesn't suit its fascinating show, Star Trek: Picard is everything its series is not. Composed by Russo, but far less slavish than the nostalgic Discovery theme, the main title for Picard feels mysterious and hopeful, combining strings to evoke the cultured, urbane Jean-Luc Picard with a pining flute—a reminder of the starship captain's soulful playing of his Ressikan flute (an instrument he learned to play in the beloved TNG episode "Inner Light"). While the series devolves into a busywork action adventure, the theme song has an earthy sentiment, perfect for a Star Trek series about a planetbound captain returning to the stars.

Star Trek: The Original Series

"I don't want any of this goddamn funny-sounding space science fiction music, I want adventure music," composer Alexander Courage recalls Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry telling him, in interviews excerpted in the 2013 collection Music In Science Fiction Television: Tuned to the Future. "He wanted something that had some balls and drive to it."

Courage combined woodwinds, a harp, a vibraphone, French horns and Loulie Jean Norman: a soprano singer from The Dean Martin Show, who was the first to sing the wordless Star Trek melody. The result is a theme that is both adventure-driven (you can almost hear trotting horse hooves underneath the singing) and iconically sci-fi, as the first four notes ring out like satellite pings over the depths of space.

Courage even created the "woosh" sound effect as the Enterprise zips across the screen during the opening credits, by making the sound with his mouth. (Gene Rodenberry would later write useless, never-sung lyrics so he could lay claim to half of Courage's royalties).

A beautiful version of the theme also popped up in Star Trek: Discovery, right after the reveal of a rendezvous with the U.S.S. Enterprise at the end of the first season finale. Discovery and Picard composer Jeff Russo assembled a 74-piece orchestra, more than doubling the original recording.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Jerry Goldsmith was nominated for Best Original Score at the 1979 Academy Awards for the 12th time for his soundtrack to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Unlike his second nominated score—the experimental, influential and deeply strange music for Planet of the Apes—Goldsmith's Star Trek movie score was bold and unabashedly accessible. Goldsmith cited the direct influence of John Williams' theme for Star Wars, which came out in theaters two years earlier—not the last time the series would aim for the more mainstream appeal of the space opera pulp adventure.

The 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' Soundtrack became a bestseller upon release in 1979. Columbia Records/Paramount Pictures

The opening fanfare became so central to the Star Trek identity that McCarthy, the composer who would go on to create the DS9 main theme, rearranged The Motion Picture theme for the opening of Star Trek: The Next Generation nearly a decade later.

The result is likely the most iconic Star Trek title track. Booming and heroic, it evokes the more elevated and diplomatic dilemmas confronted by the starship Enterprise of the 24th century, redefining the series from James T. Kirk's swashbuckling adventures a century earlier.

Star Trek: Voyager

The Next Generation theme may be the defining musical motif for all of modern Star Trek, but Goldsmith topped its sonic pleasures when he composed the Voyager theme in the middle of a decade-long run scoring Star Trek movies (including beloved entries like First Contact, and loathed ones like Nemesis). Completely different from the marching rhythm of the TNG and DS9 themes, Voyager recaptures some of the spacey ethereality of Courage's original vocal melody, while adding a deep space resonance that evoked the series' lost explorers, far from home among uncharted stars.

The cast of 'Star Trek: Voyager.' CBS Television Distribution

Unlike most other Star Trek themes, there's not a hint or sample of what came before in Voyager's main title, emphasizing how apart the series was from the supportive unity of the United Federation of Planets. Rather than the drumbeat of purpose, Voyager captures a more open-ended sense of searching. Of the Star Trek series released since The Next Generation, it's the Voyager theme that sounds the least martial and most exploratory. This is music to calibrate your nacelles to.

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