Scoring the Final Frontier: Celebrating 50 Years of Trek Tracks

By Jessica Getman, Michael W. Harris, and Brooke McCorkle

Welcome to The Temp Track’s celebration of Star Trek music, being held as part of Film Music Central’s Star Trek Blogathon. Seeing how The Temp Track will be hosting three entries for this blogathon, Temp Track editor-in-chief/owner/dark-overlord Michael W. Harris thought it would be useful to write this intro giving new readers some introduction, context, and also have some fun with getting a bunch of Trek nerds to listen to all thirteen film scores and compile a ranking-to-end-all-rankings of Trek film music…at least until a new film comes out and we all rewatch and relisten to all the previous films, and in the process completely change our minds. Except for Wrath of Khan. That film and music will forever reign supreme over all of Trek.

For those new to The Temp Track, this humble blog is primarily the work of Michael W. Harris, an archivist, librarian, and musicologist living and working in Colorado. His abiding love of all things Trek goes back to his childhood days of growing up on the The Original Series films and Next Generation. These days, however, he would probably rank Deep Space Nine as the best series that the franchise has to offer. Though, as an archivist and historian, there is one scene from First Contact that has always resonated with him:

Michael will be writing about the main title for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, its connection to Russian music, and how that intersects with the film’s Cold War overtones. Remember the old Vulcan Proverb: Only Nixon could go to China.

After that, Brooke McCorkle will discuss will discuss the first minute of music in J.J. Abrams’s reboot Star Trek (2009) with music composed by Michael Giacchino. She explores the ways the primary theme connects the new films to the Original Series. Brooke is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at SUNY-Geneseo, where she teaches Western classical music history, including film music. She’s recently published an article on Star Trek concerts in The Journal of Fandom Studies. While she loves all things Trek, Brooke is a self-proclaimed Kirk girl and cries every time she watches this scene from Wrath of Khan:

Finally, Jessica Getman will be writing about Spock’s musicality in TOS.  Jessica is the Managing Editor of the George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition at the University of Michigan, and her main area of research is music in science fiction television—with a focus on Star Trek (1966–69). Her essay explores the ways in which Spock’s racial and gender stresses are expressed through music. Spock has existed in the murky margins between human and Vulcan, but is also cast in an enigmatic light in terms of gender roles, caught between the masculine and feminine on screen. These tensions are tied to his relationship to music—both the source music that he performs on screen and the underscore that represents him.

With the introductions out of the way, now to the fun. While preparing for this series Michael asked all three contributors, along with a fourth who was unable to contribute an entry but still wanted to join in, to send along a list of how they would rank the film scores, best to last (though, there are really no terrible Trek film scores, only ones that aren’t as good). Once Michael got those lists, he then assigned points to each score depending on its ranking: 12 points for first, 11 for second, and so on until 0 points for thirteenth.

There was a lot of variety between lists, though each voter agreed on two things: Wrath of Khan is the best, and The Final Frontier is the eighth best score.

So without further ado, here is our totally objective and non-biased ranking of the Star Trek film scores:

  1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, James Horner (48 points – 4 first place votes)
  2. Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Jerry Goldsmith (43 points – 3 second, 1 third place votes)
  3. Star Trek (2009), Michael Giacchino (36 points – 1 second, 1 third, 1 fourth place votes)
  4. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Cliff Eidelman (31 points – 2 third, 1 fourth place votes)
  5. Star Trek: Insurrection, Jerry Goldsmith (23 points)
  6. Star Trek Beyond, Michael Giacchino (21 points)
  7. Star Trek: First Contact, Jerry Goldsmith (20 points – 1 fourth place vote)
  8. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Jerry Goldsmith (20 points)
  9. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, James Horner (18 points)
  10. Star Trek Into Darkness, Michael Giacchino (17 points)
  11. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Leonard Rosenman (15 points)
  12. Star Trek: Nemesis, Jerry Goldsmith (14 points – 1 fourth place vote)
  13. Star Trek: Generations, Dennis McCarthy (6 points)

And while Michael did rank Generations as the least of the film scores, he does feel bad about it because it does have the fabulous “Generations Overture,” which is a nice note to go out on. See you back here later today for the first of our three bloggers.

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