The original run of Star Trek is now undeniably iconic, spinning off into one of the biggest sci-fi franchises in history. Viewers of a certain age will always feel a little warm and fuzzy when they hear Shatner’s opening narration and that famous theme, but you might not know that the theme was once accompanied by lyrics. Very, very bad lyrics.
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was the man responsible for these lyrics, and it was all about royalties. Before the tales of the USS Enterprise became one of the best TV series of all time, Star Trek was just a pilot bought by NBC. Talented composer Alexander Courage was brought on board to pen the opening theme, bringing us the delightfully sci-fi tune we know today.
Roddenberry and Courage signed a contract giving Roddenberry the option to share royalties if he ever wrote lyrics for the theme. When the first Star Trek series got a full order from NBC, Roddenberry went ahead and tried his hand at being a lyricist, with disastrous results.
Courtesy of the fact-checkers over at Snopes, those lyrics are: “Beyond the rim of the star-light/My love is wand’ring in star-flight/I know he’ll find in star-clustered reaches/Love, strange love a star woman teaches/I know his journey ends never/His star trek will go on forever/But tell him, while he wanders his starry sea/Remember, remember me.”
Now, have a listen to the theme and imagine those words being the introduction to your favorite Star Trek characters, if you dare.
In Herb Solow and Bob Justman’s 1996 book ‘Inside Star Trek: The Real Story’, Courage is quoted as saying there was “nothing that could be done legally” to prevent Roddenberry receiving his cut of the royalties. This is despite the fact there was never, as far as anybody knows, any serious expectation that these lyrics would be used for the show.
The same book quotes Roddenberry’s response to being challenged on this as: “Hey, I have to get some money somewhere. I’m sure not going to get it out of the profits of Star Trek.”
Well, Roddenberry was wrong about that, but he could never have known how sprawling the Star Trek timeline would go on to become. Ultimately, we’re just glad that the best sci-fi series never had to go out into the world after the words “his star trek will go on forever”. Yuck.
In fact, that particular line reminds me of the controversy around whether the title of Star Trek into Darkness needed a colon, a capital letter on “into”, or neither. This might sound trivial (it is), but tell that to the people who engaged in more than 40,000 words of debate about it on the Wikipedia page for the Star Trek movies. Wild.
Personally, I’m firmly in the camp that the phrase “Star Trek” should never be used like it’s a verb.
For more from the Enterprise and beyond, check out our rankings of the best Star Trek captains and the best Star Trek starships. We’ve also worked out which Star Trek captain would survive a zombie movie, which is everything you ever need to know. Right?
But if that’s still not enough, then learn about the long-lost Star Trek prop that just appeared after nearly 50 years. Finally, look to the future with our guide to the Star Trek Legacy release date.