Your Morning Head: The Music of Star Trek Films, part 2

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All the chicks dig the vulky emo love songs!

Yesterday we chatted about the film scores for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Wrath of Khan.  Today?  Everything else.

Without a doubt, the weakest of the Trek scores has got to be the music for what is the most popular films of the franchise – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.   You know?  The one with the whales?  Right.  The funny one. 

Composed by Leonard Rosenman, the same fella who gave us the soundtrack for Bakshi’s 1978 Lord of the Rings, the music for Trek IV is just plain hideous.  It is an unexpected, unwelcome departure from the grandeur of Horner and Goldsmith’s earlier themes.  Rosenman has no success in creating a memorable sound.  One blessing, it’s a short album.  About 35 minutes or so, and that’s including the two 80’s synth-rock pieces performed by the Yellowjackets.  Yuck.

It’s amazing to me how the most commercially successful of the films can have such a rotten soundtrack.  Even more alarming is how the two worst films of the series have fantastic scores.

trek-vStar Trek V: The Final Frontier is a dismal, terrible failure of a film.  Shatner usually gets the lion share of the blame for the steaming heap of crap, but I lay the blame at the feet of Paramount Pictures.  They chose to plow ahead with production of a film during the writer’s strike and make a film heavy in specil FX without Industrial Light & Magic.  The one good thing they did, though?  They brought back Jerry Goldsmith to score the film.

It’s a beautiful score.

Utilizing both his themes from The Motion Picture as well as call backs to Alexander Courage’s TV series title music, Goldsmith applies new insight to themes laying foundations for the soundtracks to follow into the Next Generation era.  The discerning ear will hear similarities to this soundtrack on the First Contact disk.  It really is spectacular, which renders it all the more shameful that it is out of print.

Used copies can be found on eBay and Amazon.

As bad as Final Frontier was as a film, Star Trek: Nemesis is many more times earth-shatteringly worse.  Like Trek V, it ignored continuity.  But unlike Shatner’s Opus, it claimed a real-live script writer.  A talented one at that, John Logan, who gave us such awesome films as Gladiator and The Last Samurai.  John Logan should have known better.

nemesis1Trek stars Patrick Stewart (Picard) and Brent Spiner (Data) to this day maintain that Nemesis was a good movie.  They blame Trek fatigue for the feature’s poor performance at the box office.  The franchise needed a rest, they said.

Horse shit.

The franchise needed a decent story.

Nemesis would prove to be the nail in the coffin for Trek films as we’ve known them.  It was also the last Trek score by Jerry Goldsmith.  There are many tracks that I love on this disk.  My favorite has to be A New Ending with its perfectly organic incorporation of call backs to Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” a song sung by Data at the wedding of Riker and Troi.  Its sentimentality is awfully effective.  Other standouts include the ominous tones of Remus complete with Alexander Courage homage and martial themes as well as the tender melodies of Ideals.

I cannot listen to Nemesis without thinking of Jerry Goldsmith and the gift of music he gave Trek fans the world over.

stealing-enterpriseLately, my favorite Trek track is Stealing the Enterprise from James Horner’s Star Trek III score.  It is wonderfully evocative of the scene in which it is featured where Kirk and crew defy Starfleet command, hijack the ship, and escape from spacedock with Excelsior hot on their heels.  There’s a swashbuckling adventurous tone throughout with big fanfare and blasting horns.  It’s a long track, eight minutes and thirty-five seconds.  Loves it!

The score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country by Cliff Eidelman is reminiscent of Horner’s Trek II music.  It is big, angry, and badass.  The film opens with Overture. Employing a male chorus, it has a sweeping darkness to it.  It reminds me a bit of Danny Elfman’s Batman music.  It works for this movie.

Heavily influenced by Holsts’ Mars, Battle for Peace is just one of the best bits of Trek music ever.  Seriously, profoundly cool.

There’s a lot to love about Trek film music.  I’m hoping the new film continues in this grand tradition.

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