Classic TV Themes: Star Trek Enterprise
Star Trek: Enterprise was the first show in the Star Trek pantheon to have a song performed by an established artist play over the opening credits, rather than a traditional theme tune. Up until 2001, the franchise had maintained a more formal approach, established with the iconic introduction to the original series composed by Alexander Courage. Needless to say, such a radical departure from established practise brought about consternation and debate among fans. In some respects, you can argue that point about the entire show itself, but that as they say, is an entirely different blog post. Needless to say, the dislike and hatred that the song Where My Heart Will Take Me engendered in certain quarters, lead to a petition to have it removed. Needless to say, this movement failed, and the show continued using it for four seasons. Seventeen years on this particular debacle has now died down and the song is often just referenced ironically by fans as an amusing anecdote and piece of Trek trivia.
As for the song itself, it has quite an interesting history. It was originally called Faith of the Heart and was written by songwriter Dianne warren, who has a history of penning songs for the likes of Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand and Aretha Franklin. Faith of the Heart was originally recorded by Rod Stewart and featured in the Robin Williams movie Patch Adams in 1999. It was subsequently covered by country artist Susan Ashton. Broadly both these versions were well received. English tenor Russell Watson then covered the song on his 2001 album Encore under the title Where My Heart Will Take Me. It is this version that is used on the first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise albeit in an edited version, reducing a 4.14-minute recording to a more appropriate 1:28-minutes to accommodate the opening credits. This version is very much a power ballad and very much wears its heart on its sleeve, candidly extoling the sort of sentiment and philosophy of Starfleet. The song is intended to be a metaphor for earth struggle to reach the stars and the challenges ahead. Curiously, from season three onwards, the song was re-recorded again with Russell Watson but with a more upbeat tempo. It is quite a different arrangement.
Executive producer, Rick Berman, praised Where My Heart Will Take Me, saying that it was a song "that's got a lot of hopefulness and uplifting qualities to it. And I like it. I've met a lot of other people who like it, but I've also heard a tremendous amount of banter about people who don't”. Enterprise co-creator Brannon Braga also defended the song, saying of the criticisms, "There are some people who love the song and there are people who think it's cheesy. They came with a petition with 1,000 signatures. But plenty of people find the song very uplifting”. Watson also said in response to the reaction to the song, "Something new happens, and people aren't quite sure of it. But they'll get used to it. By the time they've watched the 20th episode, they'll be thinking, well, it's not that bad after all".
After the strong themes from established artists used on previous shows, especially those from the iconic composer Jerry Goldsmith, was a song of this idiom a step too far? The medium of the power ballad has its place in musical styles and when done well can provide a unifying anthem, but was Star Trek an appropriate vehicle? When one considers the grandeur and dignity of previous themes (take for example the beauty and scope of the Star Trek: Voyager) was such a seismic shift a good choice? Replacing the subtle emotional resonance of an orchestral piece with the more arbitrary, less sophisticated manipulation of a power ballad designed to hit you hard in “feels”, does seem a little cheap. However, despite initially feeling this way, Where My Heart Will Take Me has indeed grown on me as Russell Watson surmised. Star Trek: Enterprise was itself quite a radical change in the franchise and the song does reflect the aspirations of an incipient Starfleet and the core themes of the show. It may not be the most nuanced of songs, but it certainly captures the essential principles of Star Trek with its optimism and hope. For that I kind of grudgingly respect it. However, some remain implacably opposed to it. Simon peg allegedly won’t watch the show due to theme, but it can be argued that some won’t watch the Kelvin Timeline movies due to his portrayal of Scotty. As for the song, perhaps the best thing to do is to decide for yourself.