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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek and movie-soundtrack fans have been spoiled over the last few years, as we’ve seen the complete, unedited scores from almost every single Star Trek film released to CD.  I have previously written about James Horner’s score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Leonard Rosenman’s score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Jerry Goldsmith (again)’s score for Star Trek: First Contact, and Michael Giacchino’s score for J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek.

A few months ago saw the release of a third Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek soundtrack on CD — his first project for the franchise: the complete score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was groundbreaking, filled with themes that are now iconically associated with the series.  First and foremost, of course, is his main theme.  Heard over the opening credits (and throughout the film, most notably during the minutes-long introduction of the newly-refitted Enterprise), this theme was later re-purposed as the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Mr. Goldsmith used it extensively in all of his future Star Trek scores (including Star Trek V and the last three Next Gen films: First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis).

Running a close second in terms of iconic staying power is Mr. Goldsmith’s beloved Klingon theme, which was also introduced in TMP. We hear it right away, in the film’s opening sequence (in which three Klingon warships are destroyed by V’Ger).  The CD’s liner notes describe the theme as a “repeating open-fifth figure… [that] establishes an aggressive, tribal atmosphere for the warlike characters.”

For the most part, each Star Trek film has had a distinct musical identity, and each composer has created new themes.  James Horner created his own Klingon theme (which I happen to love) for Star Trek III, and Jerry Golsmith’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was different than James Horner’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek II, which was different than Cliff Eidelman’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek VI, which was different that Michael Giacchino’s Vulcan/Spock theme for 2009’s Star Trek. But Jerry Goldsmith’s main Star Trek theme, and his Klingon music, both “stuck” in a powerful way.  That Klingon theme was heard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and also recurred in the other Trek TV shows and future films.  (Mr. Goldsmith certainly had a hand in that, as he used that Klingon theme prominently in his scores for Star Trek V and Star Trek: First Contact.)

Listening to the complete score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I was struck that the score has exactly the same weakness as the film itself.  The first half is full of excitement and promise, while the second half is deadly boring.

There are several stand-out tracks in the first-half of the soundtrack CD:

Track 1: “Overture” — I LOVE that this film had an overture, a 2-minute sequence during which we just see stars while Mr. Goldsmith’s music plays.  This gorgeous piece of music is the Decker-Ilia love theme, and I think it’s my favorite piece of music from the entire score.

Track 2: “Main Title/Klingon Battle” — As I’ve written above, the main title is a classic, indelibly associated with Star Trek. (It’s hard, now, to believe this theme wasn’t heard in the TV series!)  And the Klingon music is great, very exciting and energetic.  It’s a great opening to the score.

Track 5: “The Enterprise” — It may be the most made-fun-of sequence in the film, as the story is put on hold for five minutes as we watch Kirk and Scotty fly around the new Enterprise while the filmmakers show off their movie’s gorgeous visual effects shots.  But I still maintain it’s a great sequence in the film that makes every true Star Trek fan’s heart swell, and a HUGE reason for that is Mr. Goldsmith’s soaring, heroic music.

Track 8: “Leaving Drydock” — Another great presentation of Mr. Goldsmith’s heroic Star Trek theme.

Track 10: “No Goodbyes” — After the overture, this is the first presentation of the love theme, and it’s a great piece of music, even clocking in at less than a minute of music here.

I also love hearing Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek theme (from the TV show) woven into tracks 9 and 12.

This first half of the score isn’t perfect.  I really can’t stand the atonal, electronic sounds used for V’Ger (hear in track 2) and throughout the Vulcan material (in track 3: “Total Logic”).  It’s unpleasant to listen to, and I think those synthesized sounds really date the film (in marked contrast to much of Mr. Goldsmith’s far more timeless work elsewhere in the score).  But over-all this first-half of the score is really alive musically, introducing a number of new themes and weaving them in and out of one another in an exciting and creative and truly gorgeous way.

Then the Enterprise meets V’Ger, and the film, and the soundtrack, screeches to a full halt.  We hit a wall in the soundtrack with track 13 (“Meet V’Ger”), 14 (“The Cloud”), and 15 (“V’Ger Flyover”).  Those three tracks represent almost 15 minutes of music, and they are deadly boring.  This isn’t totally Mr. Goldsmith’s fault, as almost nothing happens during those 15 minutes in the film — it’s just shot after shot of the Enterprise flying through V’Ger.  But whereas Mr. Goldsmith took the Enterprise in drydock sequence (another extended sequence of the film in which NOTHING happens) and brought that to life through his music, I was not at all taken with any of his V’Ger themes or instrumental music.

The score picks up a little bit as we get to the final few tracks, presented at the start of disc two of this 3-CD set, but too little, too late.  Most of my times through this score, I have shut off the CD at some point during all of that boring V’Ger music.  Oh well.

This complete soundtrack is presented in an elaborate 3-CD set.  Disc two contains (in addition to the final three tracks of the complete score), the 1979 soundtrack album, as well as seven tracks described as the “unused, early score.”  Mr. Goldsmith famously recorded several lengthy sections of the score for the film, before stopping and re-working all of those tracks, which were eventually re-recorded in a much different form.  The DVD of the “Director’s Edition” of Star Trek: The Motion Picture contains a fascinating discussion of how Mr. Goldsmith originally didn’t quite have the Star Trek theme nailed.  On the DVD, they play the Enterprise in drydock sequence from the film, with that unused original score playing over it — the music is gorgeous, but it doesn’t have the energy that the final version does, because it’s lacking a distinct theme.  That story is re-told in the fantastic, extraordinarily detailed liner notes by Jeff Bond & Mike Matessino.  We get to hear that original track in its entirety on disc two, as well as Mr. Goldsmith’s original approach to various other tracks from the score, including the Decker/Ilia theme in “No Goodbyes” and the V’Ger material in “Games” and “Inner Workings.”

Disc three is filled with even more additional music — early or alternate takes of various tracks from the score.  Frankly, I was hard-pressed in most cases to be at all able to tell the difference between the music on disc three and the finished tracks on disc one.  This disc really seems designed for the hard-core soundtrack fans.  I did enjoy getting to hear some of the studio chatter in the “raw takes” included at the end of the disc.

These special features on discs two and three are certainly neat, and they contribute to making this soundtrack presentation feel special.  But despite my being a huge Star Trek fan and a nut for movie soundtracks, I can’t imagine I will spend much time listening to discs two or three in the future.  As I have said over and over again in regards to these soundtrack collections, I wouldn’t miss all those extra tracks if I could save some money by paying for one less CD in the set.

Be that as it may, without question, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture stands as a towering achievement, iconic and influential.  It’s fantastic to finally have that score available in its complete, unedited form.

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