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Did Alexander Courage Steal 'Star Trek' Theme?

Nicholas Meyer says maybe, Richard Arnold says no

The last several weeks have been busy for Nicholas Meyer.

The two-time Star Trek movie director first joined the writing staff of the new Star Trek series for CBS All Access. He sold his Palisades-based home for $5.4 million.

And he accused the late composer Alexander Courage of possibly lifting his famous "Star Trek" theme fanfare from a 1951 movie.

"There can be no doubt that much original music has been composed for the series and its various spinoffs and feature film descendants," Meyer wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles Times on April 3. "But it is questionable whether Alexander Courage's familiar fanfare is among them."

Meyer pointed to the theme to the 1951 film "Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N." from composer Robert Farnon, which he says "eerily resembles Courage's 'Star Trek' motif."

Although Meyer called Farnon an "Englishman," the composer was actually born in Canada, although he died in 2005 in the United Kingdom. The film, however, was British, and starred Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo, and was directed by Raoul Walsh, whose resume goes all the way back to 1913, and earned him a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 1960.

The film had been meant as a vehicle for Errol Flynn, but by the time casting started, the popular actor of the time period was starting to appear in box office bombs, and few directors wanted to work with him.

"You don't have to unearth the charming film, as the score is available on CD and, for all I know, elsewhere," Meyer said. "I believe it is well known that Gene Roddenberry was a big fan of Capt. Hornblower."

Those wishing to decide for themselves don't even have to look for a CD. They can simply turn to YouTube, like at this link.

The following week, Meyer got a response — from former Roddenberry assistant Richard Arnold. And while Roddenberry was indeed a fan of Horatio Hornblower, Arnold wanted to point something out about the music: "The fanfare from the original 'Star Trek' series, written by Alexander Courage, and the score for 'Captain Horatio Hornblower' share three notes."

Courage has never seemed to receive the credit he was due from those involved with Star Trek. After he wrote the original series theme, Roddenberry himself reportedly added never-used lyrics to the song without Courage's consent, which would then allow Roddenberry to collect half the royalties on the song's usage.

That created a rift between Courage and Roddenberry that was never repaired.

Courage was nominated for two Oscars, in 1966 and 1968 along with Lionel Newman. He also was nominated for three Emmys, winning one in 1988 for "Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas."

He died in 2008 at the age of 88.

Source: Los Angeles Times


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