I had planned to share my thoughts about the latest news on The Hobbit or Watchmen in this, my second blog entry – and I certainly didn’t want to discuss Star Trek again so soon – but I couldn’t ignore the passing of Alexander Courage.


It was revealed this week that Alexander Courage, who composed the original Star Trek theme, had died on May 15 in Pacific Palisades, California at the age of 88.  (Ironically, another sound composer whose death was announced this week was Bebe Barron, who composed the first completely electronic film score for the science-fiction classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, which Gene Roddenberry said was one of his inspirations for Star Trek).


Although he was not a science fiction fan, he scored episodes of several science fiction shows that I enjoyed as a child – Lost In Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Land of the Giants.  He also scored episodes of The Waltons and wrote arrangements for Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Singin’ in the Range.  (I will refrain from mentioning that he also wrote the score to one of the worst films in history, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, even though he holds no blame for 134 of my most painful minutes spent in a movie theater).


However, he was best known for writing the Star Trek theme, which was original performed by an electronic violin and latter arranged for a female soprano.  To be precise, I don’t think the theme itself was a classic by any stretch of the imagination – it was hardly one that I ever wanted to hum to myself – but rather, it was the opening fanfare accompanied William Shatner’s narration (“Space… the final frontier) that became the musical heart of the Star Trek franchise and was forever etched into pop culture.


Variations of his fanfare were heard in every Star Trek episode during any “flyby” shot of the Enterprise in space.  Courage himself adapted the full title theme for Jerry Goldsmith’s socre for Star Trek – The Motion Picture, and virtually all of the subsequent Star Trek films opened with the Enterprise fanfare.

One thing that I miss about the original series were the musical cues – not just Courage’s fanfare, but also the whole library of short music pieces the various composers used, even if they were frequently campy.  I loved it that even when one character gently pushed an antagonist aside, horns would blare “DA!  DU-DU-DA!  DU-DU-DA! DU-DU-DU-DA!”  And whenever something goofy happened to us, one of my friends would punctuate the moment with Star Trek’s humor theme – “DU-DA-DA-DU-DA-DU-DU-DUUUUUH!”.  Subsequent Star Trek series always seemed lacking for not using a memorable library of music cues.  (Another thing I missed was all the sounds of the original Enterprise bridge, especially the musical tones of the control panels.  By contrast, Picard’s bridge sounded and looked like a giant McDonald’s cash register).


I was delighted to learn that Michael Giacchino would be scoring J. J. Abram’s upcoming Star Trek film.  I loved his score for The Incredibles, and am tickled that he got his start by composing the scores for videogames.  (I am reminded of hiring John Ottman to write the music for my game adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, not realizing that he was editing and scoring a little film called The Unusual Suspects at the same time, and would go on to score and edit many other Bryan Singer films – including Superman Returns, which I enjoyed a bit more than Superman IV).


I am sure that Michael Giacchino will be incorporating Courage’s Enterprise theme into his upcoming Star Trek score.  As far as sound effects goes, J. J. Abrams has promised that the turbolift doors would go “whoosh” – I just hope that we get to hear musical bridge controls again too.

Be seeing ewe.

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