Your Morning Head: The Music of Star Trek Films, part 1

uhura-music
Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die

Like a rutting Vulcan deep in the throws of Pon Farr, I have a burning passion for the music of the Star Trek films.  From the ethereal movements of Star Trek: The Motion Picture to the explosive tracks of The Wrath of Khan, from First Contact to, yes, even Nemesis, I love the music of Star Trek.

Let’s open them hailing frequencies and talk about some Trek music shall we?

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Arguably, the soundtrack is the most remembered thing about Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I am awfully fond of TMP, but many find the film too cerebral.  But the music?  First in the franchise, composer Jerry Goldsmith was tasked with creating a memorable sound while at the same time leaving a footprint as indelible as Alexander Courage’s theme from the TV show.  Jerry Goldsmith knocked that one out of the park.

tmpGoldsmith’s Main Title from TMP is one of the most memorable movie themes ranking with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It went on to become the touch point for subsequent Trek films as well as the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation. That wasn’t the only music from the score to be utilized in TNG.  No, Klingon Battle would go on to become the foundation of Worf’s Theme. Another standout in the soundtrack is Ilia’s Theme, a somber, romantic piece evoking the soulful passions of the character and her tragic end.

The overwhelming tone of this soundtrack is wonder. There is wonder in being among the stars, going where no man has gone before, seeking out… you get the idea.  The film spends a great deal of time focusing on the amazement of the Enterprise crew’s wonder of experiencing V-ger.  That comes through in the score.

It’s a great soundtrack.

wokStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I’m not going in chronological order here.  I list Wrath of Khan, not because it’s second in the franchise nor because it is the best Sci-Fi sequel of all time (in your face, Holmberg).  No, I mention it here because it is the perfect counter point to TMP.

Where the TMP score is full of peaceful wonder, WoK explodes with the power of war.

James Horner composed the soundtrack for Wrath of Khan and paid great homage to Courage’s original series theme in his Main Title.  Director Nicholas Meyer envisioned a much more militaristic Starfleet than Rodenberry  ever had.  Horner provided him a score harkening to something appropriate to Horatio Hornblower, a huge win  for Trek in my opinion.

Brass is used to great effect in this work, particularly in such tracks as Genesis Countdown and Kirk’s Explosive Reply. The horns, my God, the horns are beautiful.  They embody the character and nobility of Starfleet, capturing the heroism of Kirk and his crew.  Truly stirring.

Contrasting WoK to TMP, I will say that the score The Motion Picture is soothing, calming.  The music for Wrath of Khan makes you want to go out and punch Ricardo Montalban in the nose.

The entire disc is terrific and is constant rotation in my playlist.

That’s all for this time, tune in next time for part two!

3 comments on “Your Morning Head: The Music of Star Trek Films, part 1Add yours →

  1. I enjoyed this column very much. It has pointed out to me that my movie soundtrack collection is lacking in the Star Trek department. I’m going to remedy that situation! 😉

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