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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

I’ve been really enjoying the releases, over the past few years, of the complete soundtracks for the original Star Trek films.  (Click here for my review of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, here for my review of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and here for my review of Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek.)  Recently, Intrada released Leonard Rosenman’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Cliff Eidelman’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I’ll be back here soon with my thoughts on Trek VI — for now, let’s dive into Mr. Rosenman’s wonderful score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

After James Horner’s glorious scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III, director Leonard Nimoy and composer Leonard Rosenman decided to go in a totally different direction for the soundtrack of Trek IV. To fit the lighthearted film, Mr. Rosenman produced an equally lighthearted, joyous score.

It’s a score that is unique among the Star Trek films for many ways.  There are not a lot of different themes for all the different characters, as we hear in the scores of the other films (by James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and Cliff Eidelman).  There’s no main love theme and no real “bad guy” theme (though there is an ominous motive used for the Probe).  The score is also incredibly short.  This complete version of the score clocks in at 40 minutes and 5 seconds long, and it includes several minutes of music that Mr. Rosenman wrote but that were not included in the finished film.  Much of Star Trek IV plays without any score at all — after the crew of the Enterprise arrive in San Francisco, there’s no music whatsoever until Chekov’s run across the flight deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier.  It’s funny, I’ve watched Star Trek IV countless times and it’s never ever occurred to me that there is so little scoring in the film.  It’s a testament to the skill and craft with which Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Rosenman spotted the music for the film, and a perfect example that sometimes a little really does go a long way.

We hear a triumphant rendition of Mr. Rosenman’s main theme for the film in the disc’s first track: “Logo/Main title.”  I absolutely love the soaring, ringing main theme for this film — it sets the perfect tone of fun-filled adventure.  The liner notes describe the music as “upbeat, heraldic, and heroic,” which I think sums up the main theme perfectly.  It’s totally different from the nautical heroic themes of James Horner, but is nevertheless perfectly successful.  Here’s another way in which the Star Trek IV score is unique amongst the Trek films: rather than recurring at heroic moments throughout the film, we never hear this main theme again until the end of the film!  It’s such iconic music that is so indelibly associated, in my mind, with Star Trek IV, but it only appears at the very beginning and the very end.  Wild.

Track six, “Market Street,” is interesting.  I never realized (though I should have) that the jazzy trumpet music that plays when we first see the Enterprise crew walking through the streets of San Francisco (“double dumb-ass on you!”) was composed specifically for the film.  Mr. Rosenman collaborated with the jazz-fusion group the Yellowjackets to record the piece.  It works perfectly in the finished film, though I’m not sure I’m going to re-listen to this complete 4:38 track each time I re-listen to this score…

Track 8, “Chekov’s Run,” is one of the most distinct pieces of music in the film.  Mr. Rosenman comments in the liner notes that he “used a parody on the Manfred Symphony of Tchaikovsky” to create what Mr. Bond describes in his liner notes as a “boisterous Russian scherzo” to score Chekov’s mad dash across the deck of the aircraft carrier Enterprise. Equally great and memorable is track 10, “Hospital Chase,” which plays as Kirk, Gillian and McCoy race to escape the hospital with an injured Chekov.  This is perfect comedic music in my mind.  It’s clearly jolly and fun, without being too obviously “humorous” music.  Instead, I would again use a word I used earlier in this review, to characterize Mr. Rosenman’s score: joyous.  When the track’s final chord plays, and we see (when watching the film) that our heroes have beamed away to safety at the last second, it’s a highlight of the film.  The music works just as well without the visuals.

Track 12, “Crash/Whale Fugue” starts out with an exciting sequence which played as the Bird of Prey returned to the 23rd century and then, powerless, crashed into the bay beneath the Golden Gate bridge.  Once Kirk frees the whales, Mr. Rosenman unveils his “whale fugue,” a lovely extended bit that lasts from 3:50-6:41 on the track (thank you again, Jeff Bond’s magnificent liner notes!) that’s a lovely, abstract evocation of the whales’ communication with each other and the alien Probe orbiting overhead.  Then the track finishes with triumphant, celebratory music, and for the first time since the opening credits when we get to hear some of the film’s main theme.

Track 14, “Home Again/End Credits” brings it all home.  I love the tension in the strings we hear in the moment when the shuttlepod carrying the Enterprise command crew approaches the U.S.S. Excelsior, and Kirk & co. briefly fear they’ve been assigned to that ship… followed by a triumphant stating of Alexander Courage’s classic original Star Trek theme as the hull of the new Enterprise, NCC 1701-A, comes into view.  Over the end credits we get another rousing presentation of the film’s main theme, and then that’s a wrap.

There are some extra tracks included on the CD — various alternate takes of certain tracks, including the altered versions of certain tracks that were included on the film’s original, truncated soundtrack release.  They’re interesting to listen to once for completeness’ sake, but the alternate takes are inferior in all cases to the finished versions used in the film.  And I can’t imagine why I’d ever want to listen to the shortened tracks from the original soundtrack release, now that I have the complete version.  But I do thank the great bird of the galaxy that, at last, I have the complete version of “I Hate You” (presented as the final track on the CD, number 24)!  This deliriously profane bit of punk-rock junk plays from the boom-box of the dude Spock gives the Vulcan neck-pinch to on the San Francisco bus.  The song was written and performed by Trek IV’s associate producer Kirk Thatcher (who also played the nerve-pinched punk rocker in the film!) and sound effects artist Mark Mangini.  It’s terrible, of course, but perfectly so.

This is another fine soundtrack release from Intrada, and one I am proud to have in my collection.  Mr. Rosenman’s score was nominated for an Academy Award, and with good reason.  It’s a wonderfully innovative effort, and above-all it is tremendous fun to listen to, both when watching the film and on its own when listening to this soundtrack CD.

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