The Strange New Worlds opening credits make two terrible choices.
As soon as I watched the Strange New Worlds opening credits sequence, which Paramount Plus revealed yesterday, I disliked them. Intensely. My dislike doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the Strange New Worlds premiere next week. I am. And it doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful I’ll end up loving the show. I hope I do. But I submit this opening credits sequence makes two illogical choices I hope don’t bode ill for the series itself.
One problem is the opening credit sequence’s excessive attention to the Enterprise. The sequence begins with points of light appearing in utter darkness. But we aren’t seeing a starfield. We’re not peering into “space, the final frontier”—even though Captain Pike, in voiceover, is intoning the captain’s oath. No, we’re looking at windows in the Enterprise hull as someone inside turns on its lights. For more than 30 seconds, the credits bombard viewers with beauty shot after beauty shot of the ship, down to its nacelle caps and warp engine “exhaust ports.”
Is the Strange New Worlds Enterprise a pretty ship? Sure. But Anson Mount’s tweet last year notwithstanding, the Enterprise is not the star of Star Trek. Yes, the Enterprise has always been, as Captain Kirk told a befuddled Norman in “I, Mudd,” “a beautiful lady, and we love her”—but the Enterprise is the means by which Starfleet, and Star Trek’s viewers, reach the destination, not the destination itself.
As Strange New Worlds goes on, of course I want to see this new take on the classic starship in detail, inside and out. But no Star Trek series has ever foregrounded its vessel in an opening credits sequence, or spent this much time inviting viewers to gawk at it as Strange New Worlds is doing. The only series that came close to doing so was Deep Space Nine, with its slow pans over the space station. But DS9 was that series’ primary setting: a solitary outpost, our heroes’ home that (mostly) never went anywhere.
Not even the original series’ opening credits lingered over the Enterprise as the Strange New Worlds opening credits do. Those credits gave us one shot of the ship slowly passing in front of us. Twenty years later, The Next Generation gave us two. These series’ opening credit sequences exercised restraint. They mostly showed the Enterprise doing what the Enterprise is supposed to be doing: rapidly streaking through space to new discoveries and adventures.
Jeff Russo fails to give Strange New Worlds a soaring main theme
The other misstep the Strange New Worlds opening credits sequence makes is a musical one. Composer Jeff Russo has turned in some beautiful and stirring episodic scores for Discovery and Picard. But he seems chronically incapable of composing a Star Trek main theme that exudes anything but hesitancy, melancholy, and danger.
Once Russo’s theme completes an admittedly pleasing statement of Alexander Courage’s four-note fanfare and introductory phrase from the original series, it more or less inverts the classic theme in what I’m assured, by those more musically sophisticated than I, is a major key, though it sure gives me minor key vibes. The melody goes down where it used to go up. It slogs where it used to soar. It’s set against a bellicose bed of drumbeats throughout. It’s a stunningly unimaginative choice for a series we’ve been told will celebrate classic Star Trek’s sense of imagination, adventure, and fun.
The only truly thrilling choice Russo makes in his theme is using a theremin, the oft-maligned but inarguably most sci-fi musical instrument of them all (thanks in no small part to its prominence in The Day the Earth Stood Still, the 1951 classic directed by none other than future Star Trek: The Motion Picture director Robert Wise). Russo follows the disappointing precedent The Next Generation set (despite composer Dennis McCarthy’s wishes) and Enterprise followed in failing to give the franchise a completely original new main title theme. (Fortunately, Prodigy composer Nami Melumad has been entrusted with weekly scoring duties for Strange New Worlds.)
The exotic interstellar scenes we glimpse in the Strange New Worlds opening credits are visually rich and intriguing, if overly polished and CGI-perfected. But between its lackluster musical score and its half-minute long obsession with the nuts and bolts of the Enterprise, these credits leave me feeling disheartened—and suspecting I’ll hit my “skip intro” button on Paramount Plus each week.