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Josh Enjoys the Release of Jerry Goldsmith’s Complete Score for Star Trek V!

As a big fan of Star Trek and of movie soundtracks, I’m starting to get spoiled.  In the last few years we’ve seen the release, on lovely new CD sets, of the complete versions of James Horner’s amazing scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III (click here for my review), as well as Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abram’s Star Trek (click here for my review).  Then, a few months ago, Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek V was released on a double-CD set.

Jerry Goldsmith was one of the finest film composers who ever lived.  He composed the scores for a veritable boatload of famous, successful films, including Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, Alien, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Hoosiers, and so many more.  Star Trek V marked Mr. Goldsmith’s return to the world of Star Trek — he had composed the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture — and Mr. Goldsmith would go on to score three of the four Next Gen movies (Dennis McCarthy scored Star Trek: Generations).

Say what you will about the quality of Star Trek V (and I’ll say that I think it pretty much stinks), Mr. Goldsmith composed a terrific score.  It’s rousing and heroic and a great return to classic Star Trek adventuring.  “Return” is an interesting word, as Mr. Goldsmith’s work for Star Trek V would mark something of a turning point for Star Trek, musically.  Mr. Goldsmith composed a number of iconic themes for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including the main title theme (which was then used as the main theme for the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation) and his theme for the Klingons.  But James Horner’s scores for Trek II and III didn’t utilize any of Mr. Goldsmith’s material.  Instead, Mr. Horner composed his own themes for Kirk and the Enterprise, and he also wrote his own themes for the Klingons when they appeared in Star Trek III. But now in Star Trek V, Mr. Horner returned to his music from The Motion Picture, and (with the exception of Cliff Eidelman’s wonderfully dark, ominous music for Star Trek VI) those themes would come to define Star Trek musically for many years to come.  Whenever you heard a Klingon musical theme playing over an appearance by the bumpy-headed warriors in a future Trek TV show or movie, they never used James Horner’s theme — they’d always use Mr. Goldsmith’s.

Now, personally, I prefer James Horner’s scores for Star Trek II and III over Mr. Goldsmith’s work in Star Trek V.  I’m not a musician, but as a fan I have always found Mr. Horner’s work to be a bit more subtle, and more musically complex — while Mr. Goldsmith’s work in Star Trek V (and the future Trek films) always seemed to me to be a little more simplistic, a little more straight-up bombastic and heroic.

But just because I don’t think Mr. Goldsmith’s score can equal Mr. Horner’s work on what are probably two of my very favorite film scores of all time doesn’t mean that he didn’t do great work on Star Trek V! Indeed, as I noted above, this is a terrific score — a far better score than the terrible film deserved.  When listening to the music on CD, separated from all of the silly goings-on and weak visual effects on-screen, one can really appreciate what fine work Mr. Goldsmith did on the music.

Stand-out tracks on the CD include:

Track 3: “The Mountain” (Main Title) — Ever since I first saw Star Trek V in theatres, I have always loved the soaring, gentle music that plays as we see Captain Kirk climb El Capitain.  The track listings describe this as an “Americana” theme for Captain Kirk, which is never quite how I saw it but which does seem like an apt description.  The melody is beautiful and rich, and it carries with it a lot of emotion when it recurs later in the film.

Track 8: “A Tall Ship” — This is a lovely orchestral presentation of Mr. Goldsmith’s main Star Trek theme as Kirk, Spock and McCoy approach the Enterprise via shuttlecraft.

Track 17: “It Exists” — I’ve always enjoyed this sequence, in which we hear Sybok’s theme play as he describes his quest to reach the mystical Sha Ka Ree.

Tracks 20 & 21: “The Barrier” and “A Busy Man” — I love how the tense action music (which accompanies the Enterprise‘s violent passage through the Great Barrier) fades into Mr. Goldsmith’s bucolic theme for Sha Ka Ree.  That lovely theme appears again when Kirk and co. disembark from the shuttlecraft after landing on Sha Ka Ree, and it’s one of my favorite musical moments in the whole film.  Both of these tracks also have some playful moments, such as the brief playing of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek theme at the end of track 20 when we see the “To Boldly Go” plaque displayed on-screen, and the more ominous insertion of the Klingon theme into track 21 when the camera — but none of the bridge crew — notices the appearance of a Klingon Bird of Prey on the bridge monitor screen.

As always, I will whine now for a moment about having to pay for the useless disc 2 of this 2-disc CD set, which includes the original, shortened soundtrack release from back when Star Trek V came out.  Why would I ever want to listen to the edited version of the score, now that I have the complete full-length version??  I just don’t understand why so many of these recent complete-score releases have included the original edited soundtrack CD as a second disc.  Let us all save a few bucks and lose that useless second disc on future soundtrack releases, OK?

I’ll also comment that, while I loved the extensive liner notes as always (it’s so much fun to read these through after having listened to the soundtrack CD a few times), I was a bit surprised at how the opening section seemed to blow off Jerry Horner and Leonard Rosenman’s work of Star Trek II-IV. The text dismissively notes that Mr. Horner was hired on Star Trek II (rather than Mr. Goldsmith) “for budgetary reasons” and that he returned to score Star Trek III “for continuity.”  Well, yes, it was important to the filmmakers that there be musical continuity between Star Trek III and Star Trek II, since the story flowed from one movie to the next.  But Mr. Horner was kept on because his score for Trek II was AMAZING and a huge part of the success and identity of that movie!  If his score had stunk, no one would have given a damn about “continuity.”  Then the liner notes observe that Mr. Rosenman was hired to score Star Trek IV “due to his friendship with [director Leonard] Nimoy.”  Again, that’s technically correct, but he was also hired, I’d argue, because he was a terrific fit, musically, with the lighter, more comic tone of Star Trek IV.  (I know some people really dislike Trek IV’s playful score, but I’ve always quite enjoyed it.)  These attempts to write off the work done by James Horner and Leonard Rosenman, as a way to explain away the reasons why Jerry Goldsmith wasn’t brought back to score those films, is just silly.

No matter.  I’ve quite enjoyed being able to appreciate Jerry Goldsmith’s top-notch, iconic score for Star Trek V in it’s complete, original form.  Now please bring on the complete scores for Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI!!

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