The Legacy of Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek Scores
As a young boy, I was mesmerized by the visual effects of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, completely captivated by the sight of the Enterprise in drydock as Admiral Kirk and Scotty took the long way around sci-fi’s most legendary spaceship. I’ve come to realize in my adult years that there was another actor, another part being played that impacted my experience with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In fact, I would argue that it is the movie’s crowning achievement, even above and beyond the amazing special effects. The film marks the reintroduction of our beloved Star Trek characters and the adventure that captured our hearts and stirred our imaginations in the original series. It also marks the introduction into the Star Trek world of the incomparable Jerry Goldsmith!
Goldsmith was well known for his use of electronic music within his film scores (Star Trek: The Motion Picture was no exception, featuring the introduction of a new electronic instrument called a blaster beam). His original “big break” or “breakout” film score was the original Planet of the Apes (1968), where his use of diverse instruments played a huge role in the uniqueness and success of that film. He also composed music for such films as Patton (1970), Alien (1979), First Blood (1982), Gremlins (1984), Total Recall (1990), Air Force One (1997), Mulan (1998) and The Sum of All Fears (2002). My personal favorite movie score off Star Trek is his work in the film Hoosiers (1986). However, it is Goldsmith’s excellent work on Star Trek I’ll be considering in this article.
Scoring The Motion Picture
The first Star Trek film starts with one of the most beautiful themes I’ve ever heard in any film, “Ilia’s Theme”. It is so masterfully crafted in its moving parts, and the piano’s leading role is still unique to the Star Trek universe of soundtracks. Then the sweeping strings come pouring in like a rushing waterfall. The horns, which Goldsmith uses as effectively as anyone in the business, make their mark, adding adventure and mystery. This ballet in space sets the stage for what will be one of Star Trek’s brightest moments musically.
As “Ilia’s Theme” winds down, enter boldly, proudly, and most energetically one of film history’s most iconic themes! This theme would later be used as the main title theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation. It would also introduce Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (more to come on that film score in a moment) and would weave its way into several Next Generation films.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture may not be on everyone’s favorite list, although it seems to be gaining new interest as a classic film; yet I, for one, have a special place in my heart for this film. Despite all its disappointments that were thankfully corrected in the subsequent Wrath of Kahn, it is visually and musically a stunning film. And, after all, every Star Trek fan should be grateful for the trail this film blazed, making it possible for the franchise to grow and continue to produce more films and television shows.
Composing The Final Frontier
Goldsmith’s next Star Trek adventure came with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Not unlike TMP, this film is generally regarded as one of the lesser films in the franchise. However, it has some pretty great bright spots and one of those bright shining lights is the score, in which Goldsmith managed to catch all of the themes embodied in this story and, once again, elevates this film beyond what it was before the music was composed for it. He wonderfully and beautifully brings back the Klingon theme he introduced in TMP. With such selections as “A Busy Man” and “Open The Gates”, this film score is nothing short of inspirational.
I wish Star Trek V: The Final Frontier did not suffer from the budget and production problems it faced, as I feel it could have been much more interesting if it was given the money and other resources the story originally demanded. Whatever you think about the fifth Star Trek film, I implore you to give it another chance and to allow the soundtrack to add the immensity and scale that Shatner must have envisioned for this story. You might be surprised at the possibilities.
Orchestrating First Contact
After composing the beautiful main theme for Star Trek: Voyager (1995), Mr. Goldsmith finally got to compose music for an all-around impressive Trek film, in Star Trek: First Contact. The music in the film’s opening title sequence boldly declares the arrival of one of the largest and most action-filled Trek films in the franchise.
As a Next Generation kid, First Contact embodied everything I love about these characters and their stories. The music is grand and sweeping, emotional, and perfectly set into this amazing story. This film and its musical score show us why TNG was such a success on the small screen. Goldsmith, interweaving his classic theme throughout, helps to link this film with the past films and serves as a bridge to remind us of where we have been and the reason we need to keep going.
Jerry was the go-to for the remaining TNG films Insurrection and Nemesis, and we are most fortunate for this, as those films never quite lived up to the stature and scope of First Contact. They were great in their own ways and, once again, Goldsmith’s musical contributions made those two films feel bigger than they really were.
Whatever your thoughts on the films mentioned above, I hope we can agree that this franchise of films has a lot to offer, and we can be proud of them from so many different points of view. The richness and depth of the Star Trek universe is immense, and I am grateful for men and women like Jerry Goldsmith who have played instrumental parts in making it so.