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One Trek Mind #39: Favorite TOS Sound Effects

One Trek Mind #39: Favorite TOS Sound Effects

If you got into the original Star Trek at the same time I did and lived in the New York area, it meant watching reruns at midnight. Not always an easy thing to do when you had school the next day. As such, I'd be lying if I said that I always stayed awake through the entire episode. Not that I wasn't always enjoying it, but considering I was already in the guest bedroom with the lights down low, well, let's just say that it took a really long time until I finally saw the ending of “The Alternative Factor.” (I'm still waiting for the day when I understand it, but we’ll save that for another day.)Star Trek lulled me to sleep in my early adolescent years, so while the stories, performances and bright colors are all very dear to me, the music and sound effects have a particularly special resonance. Since they were drilled directly into my subconscious when I was at my most vulnerable, I figure now is the time to ring the klaxon for my 10 favorite TOS sound effects.10 – Heartbeats On The Biobed

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9 – Alien Materialization GongOkay, this one may be hard to explain, but I'm gonna do my best. There were a number of times on TOS when our heroes would encounter an alien force that could either make something disappear or materialize out of nowhere. It was oftentimes accompanied with an echoey, slightly electronically distorted gong sound. Even though it happened in multiple episodes, the only one I can pinpoint in my mind is “Whom Gods Destroy.” It's the sound you'd hear when Garth of Izar would perform an act of Antosion cellular metamorphosis. (Nice to think that other culture's similar acts would create a similar sound.) The near-comic resonance of this effect is the aural equivalent of simply shrieking WHAAAAAT?!!?? at an unexpected story development. You kinda have to love it.

8 – Phasers

7 – Tricorder Scan

6 -- Communicator Chirps

Star Trek was incredibly prescient in predicting ubiquitous mobile communication devices, but they were a little off with the noises they'd make. I like to interpret the many chirps as something like sparks flying out into the stratosphere – little electric currents firing off in all directions until one hits the right frequency and is able to connect to another device. What's also so neat is just how many you hear. It isn't a standard three – it's more like ten. This somewhat random, haphazard quality makes this one of the more unique sound effects in all of TOS.

5 – Photon Torpedoes

4 -- Sliding Doors


This one has been mocked a bit more than some others on the list (who remembers Airplane 2?), but it is a lovable piece of classic Star Trek that every fan has to like.My main question – is it me or don't ALL the doors on the Enterprise sound like they can use a little WD-40?

3 – Red Alert Klaxon

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2 – Transporter

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1 – Viewscreen


I know I left a lot off (like the Boatswain's whistle! And the Computer!) but you can't list everything. Let me know if I got to yours and, if you got a kick out of this, maybe I'll revisit this idea with some sound effects from the post-TOS world.


Jordan Hoffman was the movies editor at for more than four years. He has produced two independent films (look 'em up!) and is a member of the New York Film Critics Online. In 2005, he was named the Ultimate Film Fanatic of the NorthEast by IFC. Jordan fell in love with Star Trek through TOS reruns just as TNG was getting ready to launch. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels. He has a funny story about the one time he met Leonard Nimoy.