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I was watching an episode of The Adventures of Superman, specifically Stolen Elephant made in 1957 and there was a short scene with background sounds that were very close to the sound loop used for the bridge background sounds in Star Trek. (Loop of bridge sounds here.)

Anyone who was watching TV in the 1960s and 1970s heard this sound loop re-used in shows like Mission: Impossible. (And I think I remember hearing it used in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, but I'm not sure.)

Was this sound loop created for Star Trek originally? Or had it been used previously? Is there any documentation on where it came from and how it was made? If it was used before Star Trek, where was it used and when was it made?


I'll add that I just saw the episode Elegy in The Twilight Zone, which aired in 1960, and the same sounds are used in the first scene while the astronauts are still on their ship.

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  • There's some more information here: scoreforsale.com/html/trek.html
    – Ian Coley
    Feb 6, 2015 at 8:18
  • FWIW, I found this question while watching Elegy and wondering if anyone else thought the sound effect sounded just like one of the bridge sounds in ST. Oct 20, 2021 at 5:21
  • @Smartybartfast: Even back in the 60s and 70s, you could hear those sfx in other shows. I know I heard it in I Dream of Jeannie at some point. I don't know if that was while Trek was still running or not. That loop has been used over and over.
    – Tango
    Oct 21, 2021 at 6:12

6 Answers 6

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If you believe this site it states that nearly all of the sounds were original to Star Trek (at least one exception, down below).

From the sleevenotes: "The guiding genius behind this ... was Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry recruited a hand-picked technical crew to create the incredible series ... Virtually all the sound effects were created exclusively for the television series ... principally by Jack Finlay, Douglas Grindstaff and Joseph Sorokin."

As to how it was made, Alan Howarth, who worked on every Star Trek film, has this to say about the Bridge sounds:

The bridge background of the 60's was electronic music with sonar beeps.

Ben Burtt, who worked on the new Star Trek 2009 movie, had this to say about the original sounds in an interview he gave.

Two things in the original Star Trek effects were revolutionary: Roddenberry had his team create lots of detail. Every room in the ship sounded different.

The other thing that was used a lot in the original show a lot was shortwave radio recordings and sounds off of transmissions and Morse code, things you can pick up in-between the dials on a shortwave radio.

It reads to the audience that you’re way the heck out at the edge of the universe, barely in contact. Things are far away: there’s these disembodied sounds that are being transmitted back and forth

From a different interview with Supervising Sound Editor Mark Stoeckinger on Star Trek 2009.

If you listen to TOS’ (The Original Series) sounds you can get a good idea what was used to create some of those sounds and so we would make button pushes and electronics out of bird calls, phone rings, animals screams or comedy effects as the originals were.

At least one sound on the show was copied (or duplicated)

In the original series, the steady blast of the phaser was derived from the hovering sound of the Martian war machines made for the 1953 version of Paramount’s War of the Worlds. The original was made with tape feedback of an electric guitar and a harp.

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    I don't think Ben Burtt worked on the original Star Trek series as this answer states. He worked on 2009 Star Trek film, but nothing I've ever read (or can find now) indicates that he was crew on the original show. I'm reluctant to edit an accepted answer and one from such a high rep user but...I think I'd want some more evidence for that particular claim here if possible
    – NKCampbell
    Jul 12, 2017 at 14:21
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The photon torpedo effect was also based on a sound effect created for The War Of The Worlds. It was used as the effect for the green weapons fired from the wing tips of the Martian machines and was created by plucking an electric guitar string and adding lots of reverb. The Star Trek technicians added an additional “popping” sound at the beginning of the sound effect to give it more ‘oomph’.

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    Can you provide some evidence that this is indeed what it was based on?
    – Valorum
    Jul 16, 2018 at 15:50
  • The book Star Trek Season One by Mark Cushman
    – Dep1701
    Jul 16, 2018 at 16:27
  • Also, my own experiments with audio cassette tapes led me to the discovery that the different Photon Torpedo sound effect heard in the Filmation Star Trek animated series was simply this same sound effect sped up ( I was doing a high speed dub of an audio recording of The War Of The Worlds when I suddenly heard the same sound as the cartoon coming from my speakers ).
    – Dep1701
    Jul 16, 2018 at 16:32
  • You should add in both the quotes and some evidence (sound-recordings?) of what you discovered. That would turn this from a sub-par answer into an excellent one.
    – Valorum
    Jul 16, 2018 at 16:42
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I found this page because I also heard the Star Trek bridge sound on an episode of The Twilight Zone. It was called "On Thursday We Leave For Home" and takes place on the interior of a space ship.

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  • I found the video on Youtube and added it to your answer. Is there a particular time to listen for the sound?
    – Null
    Jun 11, 2015 at 13:29
  • Yes, a time would be nice. I really don't have 45 minutes to sit and watch.
    – Tango
    Jun 12, 2015 at 15:42
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    @Null - Video dead
    – Valorum
    Jul 16, 2018 at 15:37
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I just watched an episode of Gomer Pyle on ME TV, where a man was scamming Pyle and Sgt. Carter with a computer dating service. In an "office" behind the counter the scammer was playing a record of the same sound effects as on Star Trek TOS to fool Pyle and Carter that there was a computer operating in the back matching them up with dates.

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  • While that adds information, it doesn't really help track down the source, since it was well after the 1957 episode of Superman, which is the earliest example cited (so far) where they were used.
    – Tango
    Feb 9, 2019 at 12:40
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The engine noise, whether in warp or running in space, was from the USS Cushing DD-985. We were able to wear the MGM logo on our hats because of it.

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    This is a really cool story! It's not the answer, but I'm glad you added this, since it's so interesting. If I have time, I'll try to add a separate question about the engine noise. If I do, I'll let you know so you can provide this as an actual answer.
    – Tango
    May 30, 2023 at 5:33
  • What is the relationship of MGM to Star Trek the original series? May 30, 2023 at 14:15
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Well, I am re-watching all of Twilight Zone, which was made before Star Trek, and I am hearing many of the same sound effects (yes, the bridge sound was the first to absolutely catch my attention) that were etched in my memory as a Trekkie who grew up in the 60's. But now I'm watching Dead Man's Shoes, Twilight Zone episode aired in 1962, and there is the exact same music used in episodes of Star Trek. Just listen to it. Anyone who had Star Trek on the brain first, will hear the music used during lots of sneaking around scenes...you will expect the piano or trombone to start in any second, but it does not. My ears say these are the base tracks, and Star Trek expanded on some of them.

Twilight Zone is the earliest example of the bridge sound that I am now aware of...Maybe someone else has heard it on something from before that. Heck, Star Trek got several of its main actors from Twilight Zone...why not sound effects and music as well? (still in no way detracts from the genius of GR)

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  • I think I heard it on a show on MeTV or AntennaTV that was made even before Twilight Zone - but I was not free to stop and write it down so I could include that here. So it's possible something else used it before TZ, but I'm not sure.
    – Tango
    Oct 14, 2018 at 1:42

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