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‘Star Trek’ at 50: The theme song has lyrics. No, really!

‘Star Trek’
Leonard Nimoy, left, and William Shatner in the original “Star Trek” series, which ran from 1966 to 1969.
(CBS)

For those who grew up with syndicated UHF programming, the opening to “Star Trek” is about as indelible as it gets. 

With delicate orchestral flickers framing an introduction that begins with William Shatner’s stentorian narration “Space… the final frontier,” the familiar, one-minute theme gallops on an operatic soprano that resembles a theremin framed by strings and brass. But what if that wordless melody actually had lyrics?

FULL COVERAGE: The 50th anniversary of ‘Star Trek’ »

Before you start picturing Bill Murray’s swinging lounge singer delivering a theme to “Star Wars,” those lyrics already exist, written by the series’ beloved creator, Gene Roddenberry. And somehow, they’re more awkward than even Nick Winters could have imagined. Read them below:

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BeyondThe rim of the star-lightMy loveIs wand’ring in star-flightI knowHe’ll find in star-clustered reachesLove,Strange love a star woman teaches.I knowHis journey ends neverHis star trekWill go on forever.But tell himWhile he wanders his starry seaRemember, remember me.

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To be fair to Roddenberry, it’s possible he wasn’t trying very hard. When the series first aired, the theme music had been composed by the evocatively named, and very prolific, Alexander Courage, who was an arranger with 20th Century Fox.

After Courage enjoyed a year of royalties, Roddenberry picked up his option to add lyrics, which didn’t need to be used to qualify him for half of the song’s performance royalties as co-composer.

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But do these lyrics add to the “Star Trek” story? The song offers the classic perspective of a lover left behind by a wayward sailor — presumably Shatner’s Capt. James T. Kirk — but there’s something more revealing about what Roddenberry recognized as integral to that journey.

While the object of the singer’s affection is out exploring the stars, apparently it’s just assumed he will find the “Love, strange love a star woman teaches.” That sounds something akin to an intergalactic “Kama Sutra,” and given Kirk’s various alien romantic interludes, the singer knew him all too well. But hey, as long as he remembers her every now and then, right?

chris.barton@latimes.com

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

MORE:

‘Star Trek’ at 50: Pop music boldly goes to space

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