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Josh Relishes the New Release of James Horner’s Complete Score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock!

The fine folks at Retrograde and Film Score have followed up last year’s release of James Horner’s complete score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Mr. Horner’s complete score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.  Since I am a) an enormous Star Trek fan, and b) very into film scores, I immediately snapped up this two-CD set when it came out at the beginning of the summer.


I think James Horner’s scores for Treks II and III stand as two of the finest film scores ever made, and this new complete presentation is phenomenal.  Just as Star Trek III continues the story begun in II, so too does Mr. Horner’s score reprise many of the key musical themes that he originated in Trek II.  Most notably, the rousing Enterprise theme, as well as the somber Spock theme, form a key back-bone to the Star Trek III score. 


There are a lot of new musical motifs created for the Star Trek III score as well, the most significant being the percussion-based music for the Klingons.  I love Horner’s Klingons theme and wish that it had been used more in future Trek films and TV shows.  (The Trek productions that came after favored, instead, Jerry Goldsmith’s Klingons theme which originated in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That’s a terrific musical theme as well, but I do have a soft spot for Horner’s Trek III Klingons music.)


Mr. Horner’s score for Star Trek III is filled with iconic musical moments that have always thrilled me when I watch the film.  These are moments when the music is so wonderfully distinct and evocative that, when listening to the score, I can clearly see the images from the film in my mind.  These moments powerfully demonstrate the critical role that effective film scoring can play in creating an iconic scene or image in a movie.


My favorite moments from the score include the bit at the end of track one, “Prologue and Main Title,” in which the opening credits end and Kirk’s Captain’s Log entry begins.  Horner’s melancholy cue (played on celli, according to the liner notes), perfectly establishes the somber, dark place in which we find our characters at the start of this film.  Speaking of melancholy, I also adore the moment found half-way through track two, “Klingons,” when the film cuts away from our introduction to Kruge and we see the Enterprise’s approach to spacedock.  There’s a powerful moment in the sequence, in which we see Janice Rand (in a cameo appearance) shake her head sadly as she looks out from the spacedock windows to see the terribly damaged Enterprise.  Mr. Horner’s music for that moment is so perfect, as the propulsive Excelsior music shifts into a muted presentation of the Enterprise theme – it’s one of my favorite moments in all of the Trek films, and I must say that I have re-listened to that spot on the track many times!


Another highlight of the score must be track six, “Stealing the Enterprise.”  This lengthy (8:39) piece of music plays over Kirk & co.’s hijacking of the Enterprise in order to return to the Genesis planet in search of Spock.  This is one one of the best sequences in the movie, and the score is one of the best bits of movie-action music I have ever heard, as many of Mr. Horner’s established themes (and also, in a brief bit, Alexander Courage’s opening theme from the Star Trek original series) come together in a crashing, propulsive arrangement.


I mentioned the Alexander Courage Star Trek theme, and I must also praise Mr. Horner for his liberal use of that classic music in his Star Trek III score.  More than in any of the other Trek movies,  the theme music from the Original Series TV show is wonderfully utilized, as Mr. Horner cleverly weaves it in and out of his score.  I should make particular note of Mr. Horner’s use, at the very end of the film (during Spock and Kirk’s brief conversation following the Katra ritual), of the longer second part of the original Star Trek theme.  I don’t think that particular bit of classic Trek music has ever appeared in one of the Trek movies, except for this sequence. 


Terrific liner notes by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall complete this package.  Bravo to Retrograde and Film Score for presenting this phenomenal, classic movie score in its complete form!

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