Interview with Strange New Worlds Composer Nami Melumad
The most recent episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (“Children of the Comet”) features music and singing extensively. I recently interviewed the show’s composer, Nami Melumad, about it and her work on the series in general. Nami – the first female composer to ever work on the Star Trek franchise – recorded the music of Strange New Worlds at the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, with an orchestra comprised of thirty-seven musicians.
Firstly, congratulations on receiving the opportunity to work on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
Thank you! I’m super excited about it!
How have you been finding the experience of actually working on the show?
There were many highlights in Season 1 – basically, for me, every spotting session is a highlight in itself. I really enjoy watching each new episode with Henry Alonso Myers (the showrunner) and getting his perspective and direction.
But the best thing is spending time with the orchestra – it’s a little addictive. You always want more time and can’t wait for the next recording date. I often joke that I’d love to move into the scoring stage at Warner Brothers. Even the coffee there tastes better than anywhere else in the world!
How did you get the job?
Right after I completed the first pass on Prodigy‘s pilot, we had a review call on Zoom – it was my showrunners (Kevin and Dan Hageman), our director (Ben Hibon), and executive producer Alex Kurtzman. Alex had quite a few notes for me, but he had to leave the call after about fifteen minutes because of another commitment.
After we finished the call, I received an email from Alex’s assistant, asking if I would be available later that day because Alex wanted to talk to me. I was a little nervous because I thought maybe he had more notes!
But when I got on the call, he said something along the lines of, “So, we have this upcoming show, ‘Strange New Worlds’…” and that’s when my big smile came on!
What was scoring the show’s pilot like? Do you have any favourite memories from that experience?
We scored the show out of order, so technically the pilot was third (first there was episode three, next episode two, and then the first episode). And I’m glad it was that way because, at that point, I already felt much closer with the tone, the characters, and the story.
At the beginning of working on Strange New Worlds, when I was trying to come up with a love theme for Spock and T’Pring, a lot of it was actually pretty calculated. I was going to theory a lot, and I was going for a theme that had not been done before, and it’s a little more suppressed. Like, it’s very emotional, but it’s also a little held back at some places. There are unexpected turns in that, and that was done on purpose.
Scoring the pilot was very meaningful to me, and re-introducing the Enterprise to the viewers provided a great opportunity for me to embrace a feeling of homecoming and nostalgia. When Pike says, “The Enterprise is my home,” I totally identify with that!
For the second episode, “Children of the Comet”, how did the idea of Uhura and Spock singing come about?
This was in the script – in fact, it was the first thing I composed for Strange New Worlds. The actors needed the music before the shoot, and so, I worked on the on-screen musical segments of this episode way in advance, based on the script and a couple of meetings I had with Henry. I asked for the actors’ vocal ranges in advance, to make sure what I wrote would be within their abilities. I wrote several ideas, and then we picked a couple of them to move forward with. They also played the alien songs on the set, to help the actors get in the mood.
This wasn’t the first time I’d worked on something musical for Star Trek. “Q&A” had Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn sing “Modern Major General”, and Star Trek: Prodigy‘s “First Con-tact” featured the Cymari, a species that communicates through music.
Did the actors playing Uhura and Spock have previous experience of singing?
Celia Gooding comes from a Broadway background (playing Mary Frances “Frankie” Healy in Jagged Little Pill, for which she won a Grammy in 2021, and she was also nominated for a Tony Award)… lots of talent there. In fact, when Uhura has to repeat that super-strange comet song – I remember I was looking for something so alien, so different, but still melodic – I wrote something truly strange, and she nailed it! I’m not sure about Ethan Peck’s musical background, but they both did great!
Do you have a favourite character on the show so far?
They are all my favourites – but if I must choose, I think it’s Chapel. Jess Bush‘s performance of the Chapel character is a complete joy for me. I just loved seeing her on screen, in any scene, any time. Her charm is overwhelming, so captivating! Smart, witty, and funny, sweet, but with depth and complexity which will later be revealed. I’m very much team Chapel!
But I feel this answer wouldn’t be complete if I fail to mention Celia Gooding’s Uhura. While we know where the character eventually goes in The Original Series, Strange New Worlds explores a younger Uhura who is a cadet, and it’s fascinating to watch her grow into the incredibly confident woman Nichelle Nichols portrayed. Celia captures everything – the excitement, the uncertainty, the fear, the happiness – and as a newbie on the Enterprise, I share all those feelings with her. Puppy energy for the win!
I should also mention Melissa Navia‘s Ortegas, who is an absolute delight to watch; what an incredible actress. While Ortegas’ character provides a lot of comic relief, she’s also an exceptional helmsman, possibly the best in the fleet – and an amazing and supportive friend to her crew.
And lastly, Spock – Ethan Peck knocks it out of the park, in what is becoming my favourite Spock performance of all time.
How has the experience of scoring Strange New Worlds been different from working on Star Trek: Prodigy?
Strange New Worlds is a live-action show, while Prodigy is animated. While in both cases my job is to enhance the emotion, help propel the story and support the cinematic feel, I’d say in animation the music has (slightly) more room and presence. Also, for Prodigy I’m writing twenty-two minutes for every episode and the transitions are much quicker. Strange New Worlds has a much longer runtime, which means I’m writing much more, and the live-action nature of it allows me to really dive into longer dialogue scenes before we shift to the next bit. The process is also a bit different, given that everything on SNW is much faster in terms of delivery. I’m very fortunate to work on the two best Star Trek shows (best animated and best live-action) on TV today. And I’m not biased at all!
Have you been able to visit the Strange New Worlds set?
I wish! Maybe when they film the next season. Luckily, I had a chance to visit the Strange New Worlds exhibition at The Paley Center for Media in New York right before the premiere. It was so much fun to see the costumes and designs I’m already so familiar with!
Will you be working on the second season of Prodigy and/or Strange New Worlds?
Yes, I’m currently working on the next ten episodes of Prodigy, and I’ll be going back to Strange New Worlds in June. Very excited for everyone to see what we’re working on, on both shows. There’s some phenomenal Trek in store, and I’m super proud of what the crews have achieved.
Nami Melumad, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Webmaster of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Also known as “The Scotch Trekker”, Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course run at Glasgow Clyde College, and ran The Scotch Trekker YouTube channel, which regularly featured live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.