“Stardate” by Dennis McCarthy
I absolutely remember sitting down on September 28, 1987, to watch the debut of Star Trek: The Next Generation and being blown away when the new Enterprise warped away to kick off the opening credits to “Encounter at Farpoint.” So as iconic as “The Enterprise” from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE is, this is the “new starship” moment that sticks out to me the most.
I’m also picking the opening scene to “Encounter at Farpoint” because it’s a chance to highlight the highly underrated music from Season 1 of TNG. The music of TNG gets a bum rap in general for being largely uninteresting. While I would say that only some of the scores, particularly in later seasons, fit that description, the earlier music of TNG certainly does not1I really ought to write a longer post about this someday….
In “Encounter at Farpoint,” Dennis McCarthy provides music that in no way fits the “musical wallpaper” monicker that he would be saddled with in later seasons. Full of thematic elements2GASP..themes! and interesting musical textures, largely owing to the orchestrations necessitated by a small ensemble augmented by synthesizers.
“Stardate,” which plays over our first look3The original presentation had no cold open, so I guess this would technically be our second look. In the syndicated presentation, the opening scenes would often be used as the cold open. at the USS Enterprise 1701-D, McCarthy uses a lovely horn melody (something that was always a consistent element of his scores) along with adaptations of his unused theme for the show that would become the little-known “Picard’s Theme”—a motif that would appear a few times in early episodes.