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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Generations

February 6th, 2013
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Star Trek: Generations is a film that has really grown on me over the years, to the point where I might argue today that it’s the best of the four Next Generation movies.  Despite the film’s Kirk/Picard crossover aspect (which makes the film an epilogue to the Classic Trek adventures as much as it is a kick-off to the Next Generation film series), the middle hour-plus of Generations feels like the best big-screen representation of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show that I loved so much as a kid.

The score for Star Trek: Generations was composed and conducted by Dennis McCarthy.  Mr. McCarthy was one of the Next Generation’s main composers for much of its TV run (according to the liner notes, Mr. McCarthy has scored more hours of the modern-day Star Trek TV series than any other composer), and he was tapped to score the series’ first feature film.

I think Mr. McCarthy did terrific work, and that the score for Star Trek: Generations is vastly under-rated.  OK, it surely doesn’t rival the very best of the Trek movie scores: Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic themes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, James Horner’s magnificent work on Star Trek II & III (which I think are two of the very best film scores of all time), or Cliff Eidelman’s haunting, somber music from Star Trek VI. But the score for Generations is nonetheless terrific, far more subtle and complex than many film scores, and possessing some wonderful new themes and some terrific action cues.

Here are some of my favorite tracks from the complete soundtrack:

Track 1: “Main Title” — In a wonderfully unexpected move, Mr. McCarthy forgoes the tradition from all the previous Star Trek films (and so many other movies) of presenting the film’s main theme or themes in a bombastic march at the opening of the film.  Mr. McCarthy holds this for much later.  Instead, here at the opening of the film, he presents us with a quiet, melodic, mysterious melody that gently builds as we see a mysterious object tumble through space.  The track builds to a triumphant crescendo and an ebullient presentation of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek theme when the about-to-be-launched Enterprise B is revealed.  It’s a wonderful moment, one of my favorite beats in the movie, and a terrific beginning to the film.  From the liner notes: “‘I insisted on that,’ McCarthy says of the Courage theme… ‘I wanted it to be the payoff, both of the champagne bottle hitting and then the end where Picard is standing on the top of the mountain [at the end of the film]… When it’s the big ships taking off, boy, I want to hear that Courage fanfare.  To me that is Star Trek and very important.'”  I wholeheartedly agree!!

Track 5: “Kirk Saves the Day” — Things kick into a high gear about 25 seconds into the track, when Captain Harrison at last allows Captain Kirk to assist with the ship’s predicament.  Then we hear a pulsing, propulsive presentation of the Generations main “Captains” theme, and some echoes of the Alexander Courage Star Trek fanfare, as Kirk and Scotty attempt to extricate the Enterprise B from the ribbon.  This is a great piece of action-movie music that abruptly downshifts into something much more somber when Kirk is lost.  The track ends with a beautiful, melodious presentation of the Generations main theme as we first glimpse the Next Generation crew on the holodeck, on board the HMS Enterprise.

Track 10: “Soran Kidnaps Geordi” — This is one of my favorite pieces of action music in the film.  This tight, two-minute sequence snaps into gear when Soran destroys a star, leaving the Enterprise less than two minutes to rescue their crew-mates from the Amargosa observatory and leave the system, before being destroyed by the approaching shock-wave.  With swelling strings at around the 45 second mark, the music tells us that the clock is set and the countdown has begun.  What follows is a fierce bit of music as Mr. McCarthy scores the firefight on the observatory and the surprise arrival of a Klingon bird-of-prey.

Track 15: “Outgunned” — OK, maybe THIS is my favorite piece of action music in the film!  Using a device implanted in Geordi’s VISOR, the Klingons learn how to penetrate the Enterprise’s shields and unleash a brutal assault on the unsuspecting starship.  From the liner notes: “The mounting threat motive gives way to a lengthy passage of churning, snare-driven action as the Enterprise is badly damaged. Finally, Worf is able to identify a weakness that allows them to destroy the Klingon ship, and the music reaches a frenzied crescendo as Lursa and B’Etor go out in flames.”  I love how Mr. McCarthy is able to create very distinct arrangements for the film’s different actions sequence, each one extremely memorable but also feeling part of a unified whole and utilizing the film’s main themes.

Track 20: “Jumping the Ravine” — Kirk at first refuses Picard’s pleas to leave the Nexus, and rides off on his horse.  What follows is the most full-throated presentation of the main Generations heroic theme (what is described in the liner notes as the “riding theme.”)  It’s a wonderful piece of music, a terrific hero’s theme.  Mr. McCarthy has stated that this was one of the first cues he wrote for the film: “I jumped up there because I saw that [scene in the film] and thought, ‘Okay, this is a heroic moment that becomes not so heroic,’ so I wrote that and then backed [the theme] into some of the earlier cues and the ending.”

Track 23: “The Captain of the Enterprise (Kirk’s Death)” — The music works better than the actual scene, I think!  On film, over-all, I found Kirk’s death to be underwhelming.  But the music is gorgeous and listening to this track I found myself getting a bit emotional in a way I never did watching the actual movie.  We get a slow, sad version of the Generations theme, then we hear shimmering strings intermingled with a somber sounding of the classic Star Trek fanfare as the two Captains of the Enterprise share a final moment, and then another poignant playing of the classic fanfare over the shot of Picard standing alone on the mountaintop.  It’s great, powerful stuff.

Track 24: “To Live Forever” — Another quiet, poignant track as Data is reunited with Spot and Picard and Riker walk through the ruins of the Enterprise. The track climaxes in a bold, heroic presentation of the Generations “riding” theme and then, again, the great Alexander Courage Star Trek fanfare as the three starships leave orbit with the Enterprise survivors, and the audience is left with the promise of further adventures to come.

Track 25: “Star Trek: Generations Overture” — Here at the end of the film we get the type of overture found at the beginning of most of the other Trek films.  From then liner notes: “It opens with a shining statement of the Starfleet theme before moving into an exuberant version of the riding theme, complete with jubilant answering phrases for brass. This is followed by a selection of Nexus material with full chorus and another reprise of the riding theme. As in the film’s final scene, the suite is capped off by a refrain of the Courage fanfare with riding theme counterpoint—a glorious encapsulation of two generations of Starfleet’s finest.”

Disc two of this two-CD set contains the original soundtrack album.  As I have written in pretty much every one of my previous Star Trek soundtrack album reviews, I don’t know why they wasted the space including the original soundtrack album.  Who would ever want to listen to that abbreviated version now that we have the complete score??  I was interested to see that disc two also included the sound effects library that was a part of the original soundtrack album.  There are twenty-two short tracks, each a different iconic sound-effect (Enterprise B doors open; Tricorder; Hypospray; Enterprise D warps out; Klingon Transporter; etc.).  Those were fun to listen to.  Disc two concludes with two alternate versions of cues from the film, and then finally with a short clip of Brent Spiner as Data singing “lifeforms” from the film.  It’s a surprising and fun way to end this soundtrack collection!

Previous Star Trek soundtrack reviews: I have previously written about Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: The Motion PictureJames 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 forStar 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.

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