The Sounds of Science Fiction

The ur sounds of science fiction

NPR ran a piece* on the most memorable television theme songs the other day; the on air presentation included the theme to Star Trek (the original series of course).

The radio show discussed the several different kinds of TV show theme song (some set the mood, others are explanatory) and it got me thinking about what hearing the Star Trek theme does to me.  It evokes in me a connection to the a priori concept of science fiction, writ large; if there is a collection of cells in the brain that specialize in the sense of wonder, Star Trek’s theme song stimulates that center.

Take a moment to listen to it:

(Please note that the first season introduction didn’t have Kirk’s spoken words with the now problematic “where no man has gone before” line that was corrected in the Next Generation’s version), so we’ll stick with the original one.)

If you grew up with this show as I did, I have little doubt that hearing it makes you feel the way it makes me feel.

How does it make me feel when I hear those opening bars?

Thrilled. Excited. Anticipatory.  Happiness.

Awe. What new visions await? What great moral quandary will present itself? Above all – who am I going to meet, what great wonders am I going to be exposed to?

There are other opening themes that do the same thing for/to me.  The opening for The Outer Limits (original series) is a natural –

The title music that opens up the original 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still

The opening credits theme for Forbidden Planet

and the background music that plays during the visit to the underground Krell City –

The opening theme from the Tom Baker Dr. Who series –

(a couple of minutes in)

and even – digging way down into my past – the theme from Fireball XL5

(though sharing a first name with one of the main characters may have something to do with my affection for this one….)

There are others of course, films, radio plays, The Shadow for one –

X Minus One for another, 

and television shows. the very sounds of which will make me sit up and take notice, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

I’m sure there are other ‘stop you in your tracks’ examples of SF themes.  What are yours?

*the NPR article link will appear in tomorrow’s news roundup

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