Check out my appearance on Trek Ranks where I talked about my choices for Top 5 Main Title Themes. There may be some differences there!
Choosing a top three main themes is sort of like choosing your top three children, if you had 28 or so children. Every Star Trek series and film has brought with it its own theme (or themes). And if I’m being completely honest, I love them all from Alexander Courage’s and Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic themes that literally defined the sound of Star Trek for the past 57-plus years. But, a challenge is a challenge, so here are my Top 3 Star Trek Main Titles as of today, November 1, 20231Ask me again tomorrow, and you might get a slightly different answer.
1. Star Trek: Prodigy (Main Theme) by Michael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino is certainly no stranger to Star Trek having written three fantastic scores to the Kelvin Timeline films and having served in some capacity or another on many current-era Trek films (not to mention directing the absolutely sublime “Ephram and Dot” Short Trek). I’ve been a fan of Giacchino’s going back to THE INCREDIBLES, and it’s rare that I don’t enjoy a score he has been a part of. So he’s already set the bar pretty high when it comes to what I’m expecting from him.
But goodness his theme to Star Trek: Prodigy is wonderful. Because the conceit of the show is essentially teaching the main characters what it means to be a part of Star Trek and because the show is geared towards children2Although I have long maintained that the show is really aimed at Star Trek fans who happen to have children, Giacchino couldn’t simply do a riff on existing Trek music3Unlike a certain other currently active composer who shall remain nameless for now. Instead, he came up with a title theme that is immediately recognizable, appropriately epic in scope, yet pulls in threads of existing Trek scores (especially towards the end) in a way that is so wonderfully subtle they don’t hit you over the head, but if you know they are there, you can’t miss them.
In particular, I am highlighting the extended version of the theme that appears on the album, which includes the full theme as seen in the show but begins with a gorgeous solo French horn playing of the theme that perfectly embodies the young rag-tag crew of USS Protostar as they struggle to make their way to the Federation and to Star Trek.
Side note: I really need to do a deep dive into the absolutely fantastic score for the series written by Nami Melumad. Stay tuned…
2. The Mountain (from STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER) by Jerry Goldsmith
There will no-doubt be a lot of Jerry Goldsmith selections for today’s prompt, and with good reason. His score to STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE set the modern Gold(smith) Standard for what Trek music should sound like. Likewise, his main titles to STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT are some of the most beautiful music written for Trek.
With that said, I’m picking another absolutely gorgeous main theme Goldsmith wrote that tends to get overlooked, probably because it is from STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER. While the start of the opening credits begins with Goldsmith’s famous theme, it segues into a lush, Aaron Copland-esque theme that plays over Captain Kirk’s ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It’s a wonderful piece of music and a theme that doesn’t appear again in Trek after this film4Goldsmith would however adopt his “quest theme” that dominates the latter half of the score into a theme for the TNG crew and their friendships, particularly Picard and Data, in that crew’s films..
3. Mirror Main Title from “In a Mirror, Darkly” from Star Trek: Enterprise by Dennis McCarthy and Kevin Kiner
This one makes my list for its sheer audacity. It starts with the brilliant idea by Mike Sussman, Manny Coto, and the rest of Enterprise’s writing staff to commit to spending two hours entirely in the Mirror Universe—no crossovers, no transporter malfunctions, none of that. Instead, we are treated to two episodes of the television adventures of the ISS Enterprise.
Committing fully to this concept also meant redoing the opening credit sequence, turning it from a montage of hopeful imagery of exploration to one of perpetual war and destruction. Thankfully, it was also decided that, whatever one thinks of “Where My Heart Will Take Me” as a theme, it absolutely would not work for these episodes! In its place, Dennis McCarthy and Kevin Kiner wrote a pounding, driving theme that works perfectly with the overhauled credit sequence and the feel of the two episodes in general.