The opening narrative, usually presented as a monologue, should impart the tone and content of a television show. The narrative must be concise and provide background information, whilst being able to lead the viewer into the story. The best opening narrations speak to the listener, priming them for the action, comedy or drama that lies ahead.
Here are my top five opening narrations.
Number 1: Star Trek The Next Generation.
Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
This is identical to The Original Series’ opening narration, with the exception of ‘continuing’ instead of ‘five year’ and the use of the gender neutral ‘one’, instead of ‘man’. Famously, the final version of the monologue was delivered to Shatner just one hour prior to the recording. I’ve opted for the Patrick Stewart version over the Shatner version because of the added gravitas that Stewart gives the monologue.
Number 2: Quantum Leap
“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished… He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”
Oh Boy! here is a bit of trivia that you might not know, Dean Stockwell actually “Leapt” backward through time 28 years before Scott Bakula in The Twilight Zone episode “A Quality Of Mercy”. Incidentally, the episode also starred Leonard Nimoy! who would time travel as Mr Spock in Star Trek.
3. The A-Team
“In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.”
Everyone loves it when a plan comes together, and the opening monologue for the A-Team, combined with a cracking musical hook, perfectly sets the scene for this action packed and fondly remembered show.
4. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down.And I liked to take a minute, just sit right thereI’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air…”
The opening sequence perfectly sets out the premise of the show. Will Smith plays a street-smart teen who goes to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle after getting in a fight.
5. The Outer Limits
“There is nothing wrong with your television. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are now controlling the transmission. We control the horizontal and the vertical. We can deluge you with a thousand channels or expand one single image to crystal clarity and beyond. We can shape your vision to anything our imagination can conceive. For the next hour we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the deepest inner mind to the outer limits…”
I was torn between this, Patrick McNees original Battlestar Galactica narration, or William Conrad’s narration to Knight Rider or Buck Rogers. The 1995 Kevin Conway narration to The Outer Limits won out. Other notable narrations below:
Life on Mars. “My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident and woke up in 1973 … “
The Six Million Dollar Man. “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.”
The Twilight Zone. “There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man”
Farscape. “Look upward….and share the wonders I have seen”
Feel free to add your own favourite opening monologue in the comment section.