There have been some very exciting Star Trek soundtrack releases over the past few months! Recently I have written about the complete soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the complete soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I also recently picked up GNP Crescendo’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek: First Contact, composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. I think that First Contact has the strongest score of all the Next Generation movies (with Generations coming in a close second), so I was very excited to finally have the complete soundtrack on CD.
First Contact is Jerry Goldsmith’s third of five Star Trek film scores. He inaugurated the Trek film series with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and then returned with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. (Click here for my thoughts on Mr. Goldman’s score for Star Trek V.) Before First Contact, Jerry Goldsmith had never written music for The Next Generation, although actually in a way he had, since his main title music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was used as the opening credits music for all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. According to the wonderful-as-usual liner notes (by Jeff Bond & John Takis), Rick Berman, who oversaw all of the 24th century-set Star Trek TV shows as well as the four Next Gen movies, got connected with Jerry Goldsmith when Mr. Berman hired Goldsmith to compose the main title music for Star Trek: Voyager. Though Mr. Goldsmith had often proven to be too expensive for the low-budgeted Star Trek films, Mr. Berman and director Jonathan Frakes were set on bringing Mr. Goldsmith in to score their film. According to the liner notes, Jonathan Frakes recalled that “They made sure there was a line item in the budget to pay Jerry’s fee — that was part of the original budget of First Contact and I remember that specifically. That was how strongly Rick felt about it and I certainly shared that feeling.”
Thank goodness for that, because much of the flavor of First Contact is given to the film by the rich and epic score by Jerry Goldsmith, who was assisted by his son Joel in the score’s creation. Though I enjoy the heroic bombast of Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek V, I tend to find myself more drawn to the darker Trek scores such as James Horner’s work on Star Trek II (probably my very favorite Star Trek score) and Star Trek III, and Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI. What’s so wonderful about Mr. Goldsmith’s work on First Contact is that it weaves together the epic and the ominous, the dark and the light. The film’s main score is a dazzlingly melodic, heroic piece of music. When it’s played full throttle in the film (over the opening credits, and at the end of the film during the first contact sequence) I think it stands proudly among the best movie themes. But the First Contact score is also notable for quiet, creepy, menacing Borg themes that so effectively capture the danger of the seemingly unstoppable villains. It’s great stuff.
Here are some of my favorite tracks in the soundtrack:
Track 1: “Main Title/Locutus” — A full-throated, triumphant recitation of the main theme plays over the opening credits. I adore the theme, and I love listening to this track. (I will comment, though, that the very end of this track contains one of two small musical mis-steps that have always bothered me about First Contact’s soundtrack. I have never cared for the triumphant crescendo that accompanies the end of the pull-back from Picard’s eye to reveal the immense Borg cube. It’s far too heroic a moment of music to accompany what should be a horrifying, scary scene.)
(The other musical mis-step? It comes during track 4: “Red Alert.” It’s the moment when Worf steps onto the bridge of the Enterprise E, and we hear a beat of Mr. Goldsmith’s Klingon theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Now, generally I am always the guy wishing there was a lot MORE musical continuity from Trek film to film, with more themes carrying over as opposed to the composers feeling they need to come up with all new themes for every movie. So I should be loving the reappearance of the Klingon theme from TMP, but I never liked it. It always seemed to obvious, too on the nose. Plus, while that theme was clearly the Klingon theme in TMP, it was also a villainous theme, and it never seemed right to me for that theme to accompany Worf. Just one man’s opinion…)
(A more interesting bit of Trek film-score continuity? Despite having seen both of these films countless times, I’d never realized that Mr. Goldsmith reprised a cue from Star Trek V for his First Contact score until reading about it in the liner notes. One of the main themes that runs throughout First Contact is what the liner notes refer to as the “quest motive.” It’s the ba-dum-bum-bum drum beat first heard at the very start of the film, mixed in with Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek fanfare. Apparently that theme had its origin as a theme for Sybok’s quest for God in Star Trek V. I popped in my Star Trek V soundtrack, and when I got to track 21, “A Busy Man,” there it was, clear as day!)
Track 11: “Retreat” — Action music turns into melancholy as the Enterprise security officers are routed by the Borg outside of Engineering.
Track 14: “Welcome Aboard” — The main title music plays for the first time in the body of the film itself, for a wonderful scene in which Picard reveals to Lily that she’s on-board a space-craft, and their friendship begins.
Track 21: “Not again” — Picard and Lily’s angry confrontation in the Ready Room is by far my favorite scene in the film, and possibly my very favorite moment from all of Star Trek. Mr. Goldsmith’s score is quiet, letting the beautifully written and performed scene speak for itself, but the music works perfectly. We hear a dark, menacing version of the main theme as a wild-eyed Picard swears vengeance on the Borg.
Track 24: “Flight of the Phoenix” — The action climax of the film, wonderfully orchestrated by Mr. Goldsmith. Excited, fast-paced music accompanies the first flight of the Phoenix, Zephram Cochrane’s warp-ship, which is intercut with somber music of mounting dread as Data appears to betray Picard and the Borg Queen orders the Enterprise to destroy the tiny Phoenix. (Watching the film, I always love how we hear menacing, evil music play when the Enterprise appears on screen in these moments, dwarfing the Phoenix – what a switch that is!)
The only down-side of this CD release? The fantastic liner-notes are cut short. To get the actual track-by-track notes, you have to go on-line to download a pdf. What a hassle! I wish they had cut all the big photos out of the CD’s booklet so that they could have included the terrifically detailed liner notes in their entirety.
Oh well, nothing is perfect. This is a great film score by one of the masters of film scoring, and I’m thrilled to see it’s release in its complete, original form.