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

I love movie soundtracks.  And I love Star Trek.  So these past few years have been fantastic, as we have gradually seen, for the first time ever, the release of the complete, unedited soundtracks for every single one of the Star Trek films.  With the recent release of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the pre-J.J.Abrams-reboot Star Trek films, every Trek film’s complete score has been released.  (With the exception of the most recent film, Star Trek Into Darkness.  But I am trying to forget that dreadful film was ever made, so I’m not counting it.)

After listening to, and thoroughly enjoying, many of the previous Trek complete soundtrack releases, I often went back and re-watched the film whose soundtrack had just been released.  Usually listening to the soundtrack made me eager to re-watch the film.  I knew that would not be the case, though, with Star Trek: Nemesis.  That absolutely dreadful, abysmal film is by far my least favorite of all the Star Trek films (Into Darkness included).  (Click here to read my ranking of all the Star Trek films, from worst to best!)

I have only seen Star Trek: Nemesis two times (first in theatres, and then again when it came out on DVD, as I had to verify that the film really was as horrible as my first impression had indicated), and I have no plans to watch the film again any time soon.  But I was excited for the release of Jerry Goldsmith’s score.  Even before getting the various Trek scores on CD, I knew most of those scores very, very well.  One of the best aspects of the Trek films have been their fantastic scores.  But because I had only seen Nemesis twice, its score was very unfamiliar to me.  I had no recollection of what any of the main musical themes of the film were.  So I was eager to get the CD and get to know this score a little better.

Quite a number of fantastic composers have worked on the Trek films over the years.  My favorite remains James Horner, whose scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III are genius-level magnificent.  But it’s impossible to deny the extraordinary contributions to Trek music of the late, great Jerry Goldsmith.  Mr. Goldsmith established the musical sound of the Trek movies with his rich, bombastic score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  (Click here for my detailed thoughts on TMP’s score.)  His main theme for TMP was later adopted as the theme music for Star Trek: The Next Generation.  So it’s appropriate that Mr. Goldsmith returned to the Trek universe to score three of the four Next Gen films.  There is no question that Jerry Goldsmith is one of the greatest film composers who ever lived, and while his work for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek V (click here for my thoughts on the Star Trek V score) overshadow his work on the Next Gen films, I think the scores for both First Contact and Insurrection are great.  (Click here for my thoughts on the score for Star Trek: First Contact, and here for my thoughts on the score for Insurrection.)

So what did I think of Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: Nemesis?  It’s fantastic!  While perhaps not at the level of the best of the Trek scores, or even the best of Mr. Goldsmith’s work, the score for Nemesis is terrific, dark and suspenseful, and I am thrilled to have finally had a chance to explore it.

This score is very unusual for a Star Trek film, as it is very dark, without the heroic bombast of much of Mr. Goldsmith’s previous work for Star Trek.  The focus of the score is on what I would describe as suspense music (pulsating music that builds tension) and militaristic, pounding action music.  It’s quite a departure for Trek music, and I love it for that.

Here are some more thoughts on the music from the two-CD complete soundtrack release:

Track 1: “Remus” — Jerry Goldsmith opened all of his Next Gen films with a heroic statement of Alexander Courage’s Star Trek theme.  So too here, but in this case the Trek theme is cut off and the music immediately shifts into snaky, slithering-sounding martial music for the Romulans and the villain Shinzon.  Usually Star Trek films begin with an extended opening credits sequence over which we here a bold, heroic presentation of the film’s main theme, but here the action cuts right to Shinzon’s assassination of the Romulan senate, accompanied by pulse-pounding drums that continue into track 2, “The Box.”

Track 3: “My Right Arm” — I appreciated the liner notes (spectacularly done, as always, by Jeff Bond) pointing out Mr. Goldsmith’s use, in this track that accompanies the festivities of Riker and Troi’s wedding, of the “wistful motive” that Mr. Goldsmith had first used back in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  From Mr. Bond’s notes: “There [in Star Trek V] it represented the Vulcan Sybok’s quest for God, but Goldsmith repurposed it for the Next Generation films to signify Starfleet’s humanistic purpose.”  (The theme was integrated into the score for First Contact as well.)  This theme is heard in track 1, track 17 “The Mirror,” and disc 2 track 6, “A New Friend” (when the Enterprise crew realize that Data has been killed).  It’s a lovely piece of music, and I love this subtle bit of musical continuity between Mr. Goldsmith’s Trek scores.

Track 4: “Star Field/Positronic” — The very start of this track gives us a gloriously beautiful rendition of Mr. Goldsmith’s main theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which, as I noted above, then became the TNG main theme) for our first glimpse of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Most of the Trek movie scores have quoted this main theme music, but there is something special about the way Mr. Goldsmith orchestrates this theme that is particularly beautiful.

Track 8: “Repairs” — Shinzon’s introduction is accompanied by his theme (first heard in track 1), a wonderfully slinky, sinister piece of music.

Track 9: “The Knife” — Creepy suspense music is heard here.  It’s a great piece of score, and it’s so different from the type of music generally heard in these Trek films!  (Track 23: “The Viceroy” is another great example of this creepy music and Shinzon’s snake-like evil theme.)

Track 13: “Ideals” — The dark, creepy music heard through much of this score shifts into a surprisingly beautiful melody here in this track.  From Jeff Bond’s liner notes: “Goldsmith hints at the lyrical potential of Shinzon’s theme in Ideals, when Picard and the clone discuss a potential peace agreement between the Romulan Empire and the Federation… Goldsmith’s music suggests the possibilities for understanding and cooperation.”

Track 17: “The Mirror” & Track 21: “Attack Pattern” — Mr. Goldsmith has always scored action music like nobody’s business, and these two tracks show off that skill in spades.  This is exciting, compelling music that is a lot of fun to listen to on its own — this isn’t just the chaotic “wall of sound” that I often hear used to accompany action sequences in movies.

Track 20: “Battle Stations” — Jeff Bond’s liner notes directed my attention to this track.  From the notes: “Interestingly, the score’s most heartfelt expression of Star Trek’s classic, heroic sound comes not from a statement of Goldsmith’s march or even Courage’s fanfare, but from a new theme heard only in Battle Stations.  The cue unfolds as Picard walks the corridors of the Enterprise as his crew prepares to engage the Scimitar [Shinzon’s battleship], Goldsmith’s melody perfectly encapsulating Picard’s sense of duty and his inherent nobility.”

Disc Two:

Track 1: “Engage” — Pounding, dramatic, exciting music plays over the Enterprise’s space-battle with the Scimitar.  This is fantastic action music.

Track 2: “Full Reverse” — Things downshift slightly in this track, as the music shifts into suspense-building mode.  Pulsing beats beautifully ratchet up the tension.

Track 4: “Final Flight” –Whirling strings give an exciting, more upbeat accompaniment to Data’s space-jump from the Enterprise to the Scimitar.  That music shifts back and forth with Shinzon’s theme as he prepares to activate his doomsday weapon.  From Jeff Bond’s liner notes: “Final Flight would be the last signature Jerry Goldsmith action cue to grace movie theatres, demonstrating the composer’s enduring capability to whip up excitement on a level very few of his contemporaries could match.”  (Mr. Goldsmith would sadly pass away from cancer not long after the release of Nemesis.)

Track 7: “That song/an honor” — In a clever touch, when we see the Enterprise in dock, undergoing repairs following the tremendous damage the ship suffered during the final confrontation with Shinzon, Mr. Goldsmith reprises his iconic music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture that played when we saw Kirk’s Enterprise in drydock.

Track 8: “A New Ending” — The track opens with an instrumental echo of “Blue Skies,” the song Data and then B-4 sung, before shifting into a dramatic declaration of Alexander Courage’s Star Trek theme as the film (and sadly the adventures of the Next Generation crew, as Nemesis proved to be the last film before J.J. Abrams’ reboot) comes to a close.  Over the closing credits, we then hear an exciting rendition of Shinzon’s main theme.  I will quote from Jeff Bond’s fantastic liner notes one final time: “For the Star Trek end title sequences, Goldsmith had typically reprised music from within the score.  But for Nemesis, he created a full, expressive rendition of the Shinzon theme with a heartbreaking second subject for French horns.  Unlike anything heard previously, it plays as an elegy for the man that Shinzon might have been, representing Picard’s hopes for the clone — and providing a more uplifting finale for the movie than the storyline allowed.”  Because of my dislike for Nemesis, I had never before heard this music because I had never continued watching the film once the credits started to roll.  But it is a wonderful piece of music, and a terrific conclusion to the score.  The track ends, appropriately, with one more strong presentation of Mr. Goldsmith’s TMP/TNG main theme.

I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to discover Mr. Goldsmith’s terrific score for Star Trek Nemesis, the one Trek score with which I was completely unfamiliar.  It’s a great score, far, far better than the film itself.  The best compliment I can give this score is that, listening to it, it overcame my strong dislike for Star Trek: Nemesis and actually got me thinking that maybe I should go and watch the film again!  (I resisted that temptation.)  This score is a strong conclusion to Mr. Goldsmith’s decades-spanning musical contributions to the Star Trek saga.  I am thrilled to have it in my collection.

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