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Sci Fi Week – Music Monday: Having Faith in Star Trek’s “Faith No More”

This is Sci-Fi week at The Spinoff – we’re running a bunch of content devoted to the most ambitious genre of them all. First up: Andrew Todd defends the much-hated theme song to Star Trek: Enterprise. //

Star Trek: Enterprise, the sixth and thus far last TV show to bear the franchise’s name, was initially met with some trepidation. What should have been a fresh-feeling prequel started out as a fairly inert show, content to rest on the narrative laurels of its predecessors. But even though the series itself improved immensely in its heavily-serialised third and cleverly self-referential fourth seasons, one target of fan hatred remained throughout the run: the theme song.

Written by Dianne Warren and performed by Russell Watson (though, like all good music, the song was originally sung by Rod Stewart for the Patch Adams soundtrack), “Faith of the Heart” is an unabashedly sentimental pop-rock song about hope – not at all like previous Star Trek title tracks, none of which feature lyrics* and all of which are at least somewhat orchestral in nature.

Fans reacted viciously upon broadcast of the Enterprise pilot. “I fear change,” they cried in unison, as they signed online petitions and even protested outside the Paramount lot about the “sappy” song that was ruining their favourite franchise.** Simon Pegg, who would of course later play Scotty in JJ Abrams’ Trek films, called it “probably the most hideous Star Trek moment in history.”

But here’s the thing: “Faith of the Heart” is not just a great theme song for Star Trek: Enterprise, but a great theme song for Star Trek at large.

Fans complained about the song being too cheesy – but they failed to realise that its cheesiness is part of its appeal. I don’t mean it’s “so bad it’s good,” or any other inane garbage, either. There’s an earnestness to “Faith of the Heart” that fits with Star Trek and with this show in particular.

Enterprise is about a fresh-faced, wide-eyed humanity stepping into the unknown for the first time – an act involving a strength of will which is up to, and past the border into, cheesy. Both the lyrics and the music sport a wistful determination (though the more upbeat arrangement introduced in season three nullified that somewhat) that speaks to what humanity is like at its best – fearless, adventurous, compassionate.

A significant part of the song’s charm, too, lies in how well-constructed the opening titles sequence is as an audio-video package. The credits sequence traces the history of human exploration: from the early seafaring peoples, through air and space travel, into Star Trek’s bright, spacefaring future.

It’s a litany of images showing people going boldly where no one had gone before. “Faith of the Heart” is all about that yearning to go further, without which we would never have reached the moon. Its power ballad-vocal hooks and guitar parts are well-matched to the sequence’s imagery of pioneers across the centuries.

Enterprise did something different (at the time) for Star Trek: instead of pushing ever further into the future, they went back and looked at the infancy of the Federation. Chronologically, it’s nearer to us than the franchise had ever gone (barring time-travel storylines), and the inclusion of a rock song as a theme is just one of the many ways in which the show specifically links itself to present day Earth.

This future is just a few steps away from where we are now, the show is saying – Starfleet crew wear boiler suits, not “pajama” uniforms; they eat food prepared by a chef, not from a replicator; they watch movies, not holodeck programmes. And yes, they have a god-damned rock song as their opening titles music.

In a way, Enterprise’s opening titles are more Star Trek than any other Star Trek show. Something about soaring guitars and vocals just inspires a feeling of freedom, dammit, and I can’t think of any orchestral piece that’s nailed the Final Frontier aspect of the show in quite the same way. Rather than taking a literal approach, whizzing past planets and stars to sweeping orchestral music, ‘Faith of the Heart’ actually says something. It’s emotional. It’s optimistic. It’s all the things Star Trek should be. Because Star Trek isn’t about spaceships – it’s about people, and the human spirit.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s not so bad to have someone sing a song about that.

* Gene Roddenberry actually wrote lyrics to the original series’ theme tune, which though never performed, gave Roddenberry co-writing credit with Alexander Courage, and thus 50% of royalty payments.

** At least, until Star Trek Into Darkness ruined it further. There’s always a worse travesty where fan outrage is concerned.

 

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