For a long time I couldn’t hear the 20th Century Fox fanfare without mentally adding the opening bars of the Star Wars theme.
[Fox Fanfare finish] duh duh duuh duuuuuuh [Star Wars fanfare intro] Da da da daaaaa daaa Da da da daaaaaaaa daaaa…….I would even sing it out loud until people threatened to use Vader’s Death Grip on me.
Even now I can hear the trumpets blaring, the drums rolling. And it’s not just the music. As soon as the theme starts I can see the words start scrolling across the screen, see the underside of the battle cruiser slide into view and, crucially, feel that same sense of anticipation and excitement I had when I saw Star Wars for the first time.
A good theme tune can set you up for the story ahead and, years later, take you back again. So here are my top 10 sci fi themes.
10. The X-Files theme (Mark Snow)
This music was perfect for The X-Files. The moody, haunting keyboards suited the weirdness of Mulder and Scully’s world perfectly.
9. Star Trek: The Next Generation (Jerry Goldsmith/Alexander Courage)
It was a toss up between TNG and the original series but this won out because it has elements from the original’s theme tune and from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Plus, The Next Generation is my favourite of all the Star Trek series. Sorry, Kirk.
8. ‘The Eve of the War’ from The War of the Worlds (Jeff Wayne)
Richard Burton’s reading of the opening lines, “No one would have believed….” with that great orchestral score always make me want to re-read H. G. Wells’ classic. This music is still way better than that in either of the films.
7. Red Dwarf (Howard Goodall)
A theme of two halves. There’s the mournful, lonely trumpet in the opening credits as the picture pans out from the guy in the spacesuit to the huge spacecraft, and the bouncy melody and wonderful lyrics of the end credits’ song, “It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere…”
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Also Sprach Zarathustra (Richard Strauss). This one’s a cheat – I know that, as a piece of pre-existing classical music, it doesn’t really count as a theme but its become so linked with 2001 and space that I would imagine a lot of people have only ever heard it in this context.
Useless factoid that will impress none of your friends: Richard Strauss was not related to Johann Strauss II, composer of The Blue Danube, the other piece of classical music used in the film.
5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Another cheat. The music to the BBC radio show was ‘The Journey of the Sorcerer’ by The Eagles. But I’m including it because, 1) it sounds nothing like The Eagles, and 2) I’ve been listening to the shows again on my ipod.
4. Doctor Who (original version) (Ron Grainer/Delia Derbyshire)
This must have been truly awesome in the 60s. The music’s sinister on its own but put it together with the opening sequence and no wonder kids were reportedly terrified by it.
3. Battlestar Galactica (new series) (Bear McCreary)
There’s so many themes from this brilliant series, it’s hard to choose – the main title, the Opera House theme and Starbuck’s theme are the best I think.
Also, McCreary’s take on Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ is easily the best version of this.
2. The Terminator (Brad Fiedel)
This music could only come from the 80s. This is still one of the best sci fi movies ever and the music sets it off brilliantly – moody, menacing and melancholy.
1. Star Wars (John Williams)
The Force is strong with this one.
Escape from New York (John Carpenter)
Dammit, the man’s a genius – great music, great director.
‘The Beginning is the End is the Beginning’ (Smashing Pumpkins).
Again, music that isn’t really a theme to the film. In fact, it’s not even on the official soundtrack – why the hell not?? Watch the trailer and see what the soundtrack’s missing.