The Score of Star Trek. Here’s to the composers.

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When I was growing up, my family and I would tune in to Star Trek: The Next Generation religiously every week when it was shown on BBC Two, watching the adventures of Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D exploring the galaxy. I was immediately engrossed with the show. A lot of things awed me about the show but one thing I took for granted was the musical score. It wasn’t until I was in college in 2000 when my music tutor explained how important music is to television, theatre and films.

He bought in his copy of Star Trek: The Motion Picture on VHS and said “Many of you have seen this film, but I want you to watch and listen to what is happening,” and went on to play part of the video with the dry dock scene where Kirk and Scotty are in the shuttle heading to the refitted Enterprise, then rewound it back and played it again, this time muting the sound. Watching a video on mute in silence-filled classroom felt weird enough but my tutor persevered to play the tape to the end of the scene. He then started a discussion with us. “What do you notice? What feelings did you have both with and without the music? What does the score bring to this scene? How did the scene feel with the music missing?”

This was my first realisation of how a musical score can make a scene come to life and furthermore, where my love for scores and soundtracks started. That week, I bought one of my first soundtracks, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

I started listening to Cliff Eidelman’s score trying to match in my mind what I had seen on screen, but then remembered what my tutor told me and started diving deeper into the tracks without thinking about the film. One thing that I realised is this was the first Star Trek movie to start on a track (titled Overture) that was set to the minor key. This helps to set the tone for the film. From the outset, we knew that this wasn’t going to be a swashbuckling romp through the galaxy with the crew; something more serious was afoot.

This deeper thinking carried forward to other Trek movies as well as the shows, listening to the differences in scores from the likes of Courage, Goldsmith, Horner and McCarthy moving forward to the 21st Century with Giacchino, Russo, Melumad and Westlake; listening to the simplicity of having a few themes but at the same time the complexity of intertwining these to add depth, humour, sincerity and sometimes threat.

One of my favourite soundtracks alongside The Undiscovered Country has to be The Wrath of Khan. Watching the scene when the Genesis device is on a build up to detonation, you can’t imagine it without James Horner’s brilliant score. The Khan theme playing as the mortally wounded Reliant is adrift in the Mutara Nebula whilst chaos ensues on the slowly escaping Enterprise with the hero themes accompanying the erratic yet at other times, tense scenes. It’s this brilliance that makes an already tense will they/won’t they moment into an unforgettable scene building up to an epic crescendo. Take out the score, would it be any better? I leave that for you to think about.

As we continue with new series of Star Trek, not only do I look forward to the release of the episodes, but their accompanying scores bringing their own magic with them to accompany the stories being told.

One last thought away from music; Seán normally asks a very simple question without any thought needed. What does Star Trek mean to you?

For me it can be summed up in one word: Hope. I watched Star Trek through some tough times in my life growing up. I was bullied on a daily basis, from the last year of primary school through to moving house as I started my GCSEs in Year 10, but even with all of the negativity happening, I remain ever the optimist to this day. I believe good can come from difficult situations and it all comes back to hope. Watching the different iterations of the show throughout the years with endless possibilities for the future. That’s what I hope for and that is what Star Trek means to me.

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John

Gaming on Mondays, Quizzing on Wednesdays. Trackerthon charity streams annually. Tracker Vs from time to time. 8:30pm U.K. on Twitch!

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