Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

We're ten years removed from the last time Star Trek was on TV, and aside from free-floating rumours, we're no closer to getting a new TV show.

Fortunately, there's a massive amount of old Star Trek media to keep us entertained until that blessed day -- five television series in all, which account for 30 seasons and 726 episodes total. Assuming that each episode is about 45 minutes long on average, that's over 22 days worth of Trekking. And that means that any Trekker (or Niner, if you're into that sort of thing) has seen the series' opening sequences a countless number of times.

There's an inherent bias in ranking the opening sequences, depending on the Star Trek we hold most dear to our heart. Which series did we grow up with? Are we into swashbuckling, exploration-esque Trek? Or do we like the slower, more character-driven Trek, with its high drama and moral quandaries?

In making this Pecking Order, I went for which sequences do the best job of capturing the excitement and wonder of the final frontier. I organised my preferences based on which sequences serve their practical purpose, and draw the viewer into watching their respective shows. (Whether the shows were able to deliver on their promises is another article entirely.)

This is my personal ranking; I take sole responsibility for it, and I deserve all the praise and beration for the attempt. So without further adieu, the worst Star Trek opening sequence is...

6) Star Trek: The Animated Series

Not much to say about this one. It was clearly made on a budget, and it's a poor remake of Star Trek's opening sequence. The song isn't catchy, the art is rudimentary, and the Enterprise fly-bys are badly angled; in the original opening, the Enterprise flies towards the screen, which engages the audience. But in the Animated Series, the Enterprise appears to be flying across and slightly upward. Simply put, the Animated opening sequence is only even remotely appealing if you've already watched the original series; it's not going to pull in any new fans. Moving on.

5) Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Deep Space Nine was divisive at the time it debuted. For the first time on a Trek show, the characters weren't 'trekking' anywhere -- they were standing still, close to Bajor, on an abandoned, Cardassian space station. Instead, it was other alien beings who were coming towards them, via the only known, stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant.

There were two slightly different openers during the DS9 series run, and both attempted to capture an 'outpost in the middle of nowhere' feel. The first opening sequence ran from seasons 1-3, and the second ran from seasons 4-7; both fell short. In the first iteration, the theme song, though pretty, is much too slow -- there's a fine line between meditative and dull, and this song creeps over the mark. There's also nothing in the field of vision except the space station and a couple of Runabouts, which doesn't befit DS9 as a hub of strange activity. And lastly, as is commonly pointed out, the Wormhole opens up at the end, but there is no starship headed towards it.

Graphics designer Dan Curry created the original visual sequence, and he fixed all of these problems on the second go-around. He put a starship in the Wormhole section. He inserted starships throughout the sequence, going to and from the station. Curry even inserted the Defiant in the shot, which brought everything up to date.

But unfortunately, the music got screwed up completely. Composer Dennis McCarthy overcompensated by speeding it up too much, and for some reason, he decided to fill the background of the song with ambient, bass-level crap. It completely drowned out the horn section, and detracts from the starkness that made the original mix so beautiful.

4) Star Trek: Enterprise

Many fans rank Enterprise's opening sequence dead last. Those fans are wrong.

The main complaint is about the music. Enterprise is the only Trek series to have a pop song in its opening sequence. The song is called "Faith of the Heart" and it was written by Diane Warren, who's also responsible for Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me," Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing," and Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart." It was originally sung by Rod Stewart, although Russell Watson does vocal duties on this new cover, retitled "Where My Heart Will Take Me." And since Russell Watson sounds like a dispassionate Rod Stewart, he defeats the purpose of covering the song to begin with.

I concede: the music is difficult to justify, especially after season 2. The producers tried to 'improve' the song by increasing the tempo and adding percussion; ironically, that made it even cheesier. My only defence is that the lyrics at least match the show's initial goal -- to show Earth's fledgling, tentative explorations of space before the formation of the Federation, and to celebrate the unwavering 'heart' of those pioneers.

But forget the music for one second, and appreciate the visuals. Enterprise's opening sequence shows a condensed evolution of human exploration, and it's glorious. It starts with a Polynesian raft crossing the Indian Ocean:

Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

And it goes through a montage of moments (there's definitely an American bias in their selection) that captures the public's imagination. We see everything from the Wright Brothers' flight, to the Spirit of St Louis, to Amelia Earhart (wasn't she transported to the future, according to Voyager?). There are even some clever self-references. We see the 1976 space shuttle Enterprise, which was actually named after a write-in campaign by Star Trek fans. Its inclusion leads to some fun 'chicken or the egg' conundrums (Did the ship inspire the starship? Or was it the other way around?). The montage continues all the way to Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the moon and the International Space Station:

Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

And it's around this point that things take an awesome, self-aware turn. The designers cleverly blended the fictional with the non-fictional, and they incorporated a shot of the Phoenix, the first warp-capable ship, into the montage:

Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

This bridge, between the utopia of the future, and the innovations of the present day, is what tugged at my heartstrings every time, and inspired me to hope for a better future. Enterprise's opening sequence has its major flaws, no question. But rock muzak aside, it's the only one to narratively connect with its audience.

3) Star Trek: The Original Series

It's the original Trek opening, and it has all the little touches that have become archetypes. There's the blackness of space, which is then disrupted by the appearance of a starship. There's the voiceover monologue. There's the starship jumping into warp speed. Even the song transition, which shifts from quiet and reflective to more upbeat and driven, has become a Trek trademark. Soprano singer Loulie Jean Norman, rather than singing words, vocalized notes at the end of the song; it was a bit disorienting, but it also added a human warmth without dating the sequence -- the same can't be said for the Enterprise sequence, or even the Next Generation sequence.

But the original Star Trek opening is not ranked higher, simply because overall, it was improved and refined by the next two entries. Still, there's elegance in simplicity.

2) Star Trek: The Next Generation

I labored over this long and hard. I played around with putting this at #1 for a while, because the song is just that good. It's joyous and triumphant, and it's got that aggressive "we're goin' exploring!" air that none of the other songs were able to match. It actually reminds me a lot of Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring," which is also about frontier living:

When I was a kid, the 'stretching' of the ship, right before the Enterprise went to warp speed, was my favourite part. I also enjoyed the several seconds right before the final warp sequence, when the Enterprise rose from the bottom of the frame into full view. And how about Patrick Stewart's deep, cultured voice? I want him to read me bedtime stories every night.

Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

But ultimately, the Next Generation opening sequence could not be #1, because it's not original. At its heart, it's a remix of the original series opening, albeit a superior remix. And as thrilling as the Next Generation song is, it doesn't really fit with Picard's more formal, measured Enterprise; it fits better with Kirk's Enterprise, actually. The opening sequence does not distinguish Next Generation as its own show, with its own characters and tone, whereas the #1 opening sequence manages to do just that...

1) Star Trek: Voyager

The concept of Voyager opened the door to so many narrative possibilities. Janeway's crew was stranded in the middle of the Delta Quadrant, which meant the writers could conceive of entirely new conflicts and races of beings. It also ensured that Voyager was always in a position of weakness -- a massive turnaround from having the might of the Federation behind one's back.

The opening theme is both serene and pretty -- the muted brass section captures the loneliness of being far from home, and yet, the melody is not depressing. There's a feeling of optimism to the piece, unlike the severity of the DS9 theme. The sentiment feels earned, unlike the Enterprise theme's schlock.

There's also the beautiful visual shots. Just one of them would have been enough for the other opening Trek sequences, but this intro has three shots that stand out prominently. The first is when Voyager flies through the solar flare:

Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

And then, when it flies through the mist:

Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

And finally, when it passes the solar eclipse at the very end:

Let's Rank The Star Trek TV Openings, Worst To Best

Beautiful. Poignant. And still unmatched.

Disagree with the ordering? Do you think DS9 should be in the Top 3? Let us know about your Pecking Order in the comments below!


Comments

    God I miss Star trek. Wish Enterprise didn't turn out to be so disappointing, we might have had a new and interesting series by now.

    I always thought the only thing Enterprise needed to do with its opening credits was replace the theme song with the ending theme. (Especially from the :25s mark onwards...) Loved the visuals.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RAuU9URKY4

    Last edited 17/08/15 1:43 pm

      Nerrrrrrrrd

      PS: I haven't seen Enterprise, but am familiar with the music. I agree with this.

      Last edited 17/08/15 1:53 pm

      Hi, DC. I prefer 60s trek in all ways XD

        I am not fond of '60s Trek! Let's fight!

        I love the J.J. Abrams reboot, but I know that's blasphemy to some! :P

          I enjoy it all, especially this recent reboot, which I love.

          But 60s trek is by far the best.
          It's a great excuse for sf writers to do some short stories. Great stuff!!

          When's the last time you actually sat down & watched 60s trek properly?
          I said for years I loved it for the camp, but upon a rewatch last year I realised it's solid sf!

          Last edited 17/08/15 2:36 pm

            I rewatched the first 2 seasons of Original on Blu-Ray (I am not a massive Trekkie and haven't seen that many episodes, but I have seen all movies).
            But I am a massive Sci Fi fan and Original had so many brilliant Sci Fi authors come up with brilliant Sci Fi scripts, and the dynamics and pacing and great use of the ensambe cast was so revolutionary that with the updated visual effects and blu-ray, it looks very modern except for a few things (ie massive tape based computers, but that is easily ignored).
            Voyager was the first show I really sat down and watched, I was in high school when it came out. It had some great stuff but sadly quickly went to late at night in Australia and then the quality went down. It seems that the only show to have the least in the way of formula is the original series.

              I agree with much of this including similar feelings for Voyager.

              I can live without the updated effects though. I like it like it is :-)

    Swap 3 and 4 and you've probably got my order. Voyager wins hands down over TNGS; as much as TNGS is amazing I felt Voyager has, and always has, captured what it "is" to be Star Trek.

    Missed my personal favourite Star-Trek opening :P
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfbsZRbwbJ4

    This is probably one of the few times I agree with one of these list things, especially with DS9. I thought the intro was alright but a bit dull when I first started it but then the updated version looked so much better... until I got sick of the updated music by about the second or third time hearing it. The original music still sounds fantastic.

    I agree on Enterprise too, visually I loved it but the music just doesn't suit it.
    Also thought Voyager and TNG openings were great. I'd probably have TNG as number 1 but can't argue with the logic that it is essentially an update/improvement on the original opening rather than something 'new.'

      What's interesting to me when comparing the TNGS and Voyager openings (and this is the first time I've done it or even thought about it) is what takes focus for each one.

      In TNGS, you've got space for the first 30 seconds, then 20 seconds of Enterprise, followed by the same shots of Enterprise L-R / R-L, with text taking up almost / over half the screen. It's all about the text.

      With Voyager, the focus is almost always on space. Text only takes up 1/4 of the screen (except the main title) and it's about how beautiful space is. Even the final shot, which mirrors the TNGS final shot of Voyager moving off in to the distance it barely takes up 50% of the "canvas" at its largest, and even then it's the bottom of the ship. Focus is still on the planet / nebula beyond.

      Of course a lot of that could be technology developments in the meantime and differences in how television was produced in the meantime, but it still highlights to me the differing focuses of each show.

    Voyager wins, then Enterprise, STNG, STOS and boldy go nowhere last.

    There’s also the beautiful visual shots. Just one of them would have been enough for the other opening Trek sequences, but this intro has three shots that stand out prominently.You missed my favourite - the part where the camera pans upwards through a planet's rings. I love that part.

      What makes that particular shot amazing is the sound design as they move through the rings. Really sells it.

    Star Trek: The Next Generation is my vote, kickass music that gets the blood pumping, and the scenes give you a feel of a epic starship going into the infinity unknown. Voyager was really just a graphic showoff imo, TNG intro even has the epic warp sounds!

    Its not about the looks, its about the feel!

    Last edited 17/08/15 2:32 pm

    I know this isn't TV, but I was fond of Elite Force's take on a Voyager theme.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej_DZpKEJAs

    How about the Enterprise opening from the Mirror Universe two parter? Turns the exploration theme on it's head with images of war and conquest and ditches the muzak for a cinematic military march.

    Some of the CGI is naff as hell, but it must have blown a few minds the first time the episodes played.

    I love the voyager series, both the music and the story. I kinda wish it has more ship-to-ship fight though (yes, I know the point of the film is peaceful exploration/diplomacy)... But some of the best ship-to-ship fight scene IMHO are from voyager.

    Who can forget the last episode, that armor shielded voyager, the year of hell, and scorpion

    Though DS9's sacrifice of angels tops it off...

    I wonder if there will be an article about the top ship-to-ship battle in sci-fi movies.

    Dam it I want some start trek now... and not the lens flair bullshit version.
    One told in the Real Trek timeline and with a proper story.

    TNG will always hold my spot. Voyager yes, but them flying through a solar flare always annoyed me as something a Starfleet ship would never do. That's what sensor probes are for

      Weeeeeell, that depends. I know the books aren't canon, but there is a book where they fly a ship temporarily in to a sun to evade capture.

        William Shatner wrote a few of the books so I take them with a pinch of salt. Also, I, liketo, read, them, in, hisvoice

        I did enjoy the Section 31 books though

        Last edited 17/08/15 7:06 pm

          Haven't read the Section 31 series, but I do enjoy the "cross-property" novels so they'd probably be worth a look!

      TNG is without a doubt the best series and the best opening for me. Patrick Stewart narrating has yet to be topped. Voyager was okay but like someone else above said, it was just a graphics showcase. What the ship was doing in several scenes is something they never would have actually done in-universe.

      Also, DS9's first sequence wasn't very good and deserves the spot it's in, but the second sequence is really underrated. The music wasn't that bad, and the increased traffic and activity around the station did a great job of showing the station as alive with activity.

    Care to create a new series? Lets start with a concept/title. Here is mine:
    Startrek: Genesis...a collection of aliens awaken from the Borg collective as a plague ravages their Borg cube. They find an old federation vessel partially assimilated in the depths of the cube and escape as the cube self destructs. They dont know where they are or what stardate it is.

    Enterprise was the only series I actually liked. Could never get into the others.

    Enterprise's song is the reason why that opening should always be number 1. All the other openings are rubbish for no theme song.

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