The return of Mego toys to the marketplace with brand-new STAR TREK action figures, as well as my recent revisit to my ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT interview with William Shatner, has gotten me very much back into a classic TREK state of mind.
Other than our sense of smell, nothing makes a person more nostalgic than sound and music from a special time in their life. So in addition to catching up on classic episodes, while I’ve been writing and running errands in my daily life I’ve also been listening to the wonderful symphonic soundtrack music for select episodes of STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES. It really takes you back.
Just a few years ago LA-LA Land Records released the massive STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION and that’s been my source material. Actual, physical CDs. Remember those? The limited-edition box set is a must-have for true fans of the series, but I warn you ahead of time it’s pretty pricey these days.
The 15-disc box set showcases all episode scores heard in all three original seasons of the landmark sci-fi series, newly remastered, and features hours of material previously unreleased in any format. Four thoroughly detailed, full-color booklets (totaling over 100 pages) accompany the discs, containing composer details and histories, interviews, concept art, loads of great stills and outtakes from the series.
According to the notes, TREK creator Gene Roddenberry looked to veteran composer and arranger Alexander Courage to use a nautical approach to the show’s soundtrack, hoping to keep the mid-’60s space series that was originally pitched as “A Wagon Train to the Stars” grounded. “My feeling was this,” said Roddenberry in a 1982 interview, “that for the first time on television I was going to have situations and life forms that were totally unlike what the audience was accustomed to. And I thought, ‘My God, I had better keep as many things as possible very understandable to my audience.’ I was afraid that if, on top of bizarre alien seascapes, I had beep-beep-beep music, then I would be in trouble. And so I wanted music that said adventure, courage, boldness – all the things we talked about in the opening words of, ‘To boldly go,’ and so on.”
Listening to the incredible music by itself illustrates just how the show’s composers (Courage, George Duning, Jerry Fielding, Gerald Fried, Sol Kaplan, Samuel Matlovsky, Joseph Mullendore and Fred Steiner) would compensate for TREK’s low-budget special effects with music to excite the imagination. And if there was an emotional cue to be had, or a Vulcan mind-meld required, the requisite themes would effectively tell us all just how to feel.
As for that infamous female soprano voice heard over the opening theme that’s so predominantly associated with STAR TREK? That was sung by Loulie Jean Norman. So impressed by her delivery, Roddenberry was insistent that her voice rise above the backing instrumentation, because the theme “needed the human touch, the little human imperfection that we have in our voices that no instrument can quite give us yet.”