New Star Trek Releases Review

As mentioned earlier, there have been two recent Star Trek score releases that feature expanded/complete scores.  For any fan of Trek and film music, it has indeed been a good year, a good few years in fact considering last year’s release of the complete Wrath of Khan score, and this year we have James Horner’s companion piece in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and a deluxe/complete edition of Michael Giacchino’s score for last years Star Trek reboot.  I’ll offer here a few thoughts on each release, but I can tell you right now that both of these come with my highest recommendation.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – James Horner:  Many fans find this film troubling and hard to quantify.  It’s nowhere near as bad as Trek V, nor as slow-moving, “boring,” or esoteric as The Motion Picture (though I have always felt that MP has been misjudged and misunderstood), but at the same time The Search for Spock is nowhere near as good as the films that came before or after it, or Star Trek VI.  It is merely mediocre Trek.  For these and other reason, the score has always been judged similarly.  It builds on many of the themes and sounds that Horner established for the Trek universe in Wrath of Khan, but without many of the intense battle sequences found in that film, it lacks some of the excitement and punch of the previous score.  It has the same main theme and also features the bowed vibraphone sound that characterized Spock, and also features a new theme for the Klingon villains, and even though that theme shares similar qualities to Goldsmith’s klingon theme from Motion Picture, it is nowhere near the same level.  There is also a new theme for the Genesis planet that is at the heart of the plot of III, but truly the stand out track on this album is the nearly nine minute cue “Stealing the Enterprise.”  This cue ebbs and flows along with the action, shifting tone as the scenes changes from the Enterprise bridge to that of the pursuing Excelsior.  Also included in the set is a ten-minute cue of source music that was used in the bar scene when Dr. McCoy is trying to get a ship to take him to Genesis.  For this, as explained in the always wonderful Film Score Monthly liner notes (some twenty pages), Horner took three songs from the Paramount library and arranged them into bar muzak.  A little unnecessary, but Trek fans do tend to be completests.  Also in the set is a second disc featuring the original score album, which at times differs from what was used in the film and is found on the first disc.  It is an over-the-top, complete set that should find its way onto your score shelf.  What I really hope that this combined with last year’s Khan release indicates that FSM will be working to release all of the Trek scores in a complete/expanded edition, especially Star Trek VI and all of Goldsmith’s scores.

Star Trek: The Deluxe Edition – Michael Giacchino: Last year’s release of Giacchino’s Trek score by Varese Sarabande was at the same time a good release but also hard to get a handle on, and with this new release, I finally understand why I was a bit off-put by it: the music on the original release was too alike.  It featured all the major themes of the score, but there wasn’t enough diversity in tone, it was mainly action music and there was no push and pull to the disc.  This has all been corrected in this release.  Featuring two-discs of music from the film and presented in order, you’ll find all the tracks from the first album, including some additional music on those tracks, and all the music that was missing.  It not only gives a better feel for the score as a whole, it also further demonstrates something I commented on in my original review: not only was he purposely evoking the sound of the original series, but he was also pulling from the scores of Horner and Goldsmith (though more Horner in my opinion).  As I also pointed out in the earlier review, the track “That New Car Smell” is especially pulling from the Horner sound, as are many new tracks featured on this release.  To try and catalogue all of these and how Giacchino pulls from the earlier scores, would be quite an undertaking, but maybe someday when I have time I’ll take a stab at it.  But I’ll say this, Giacchino truly is a master of imitating period styles and synthesizing them into his own idiom.  In same ways, he reminds me of what Michael Kamen did in his Die Hard scores by interpolating a famous musical theme into the sonic fabric of the score.  For this release, we also see that Giacchino continues his tradition of humorous cue titles, which I know not everyone likes, but I find amusing and I believe fits not only his personality, but also that of much of his music.  If there is a complaint with this new set, it is two-fold, and they both have to do with packaging.  First, the booklet:  it features the obligatory write-up from the director J.J. Abrams that I assume was part of the original release (I got mine off iTunes so I wouldn’t know), and a new short piece from the founder of the original Star Trek fan magazine.  Both are well and good, but neither really delivers any real information on what went into the score itself.  And that is my big disappointment, in a twenty-some-odd page booklet, there are the two short “essays,” a personnel list for the orchestra, credits, track listing, and then pages and pages of pictures.  Seriously, we’re music fans, give us music content.  Oh well.  Secondly, the entire thing is contained not in a standard two disc case, but rather an oversized digipack that will not fit well on your standard DVD shelf.  See the picture below:

It’s a bit taller than the standard case and quite a bit longer so that it’ll most likely stick off the end of your shelf.  It’s like some of the annoying DVD packaging that has come out in recent years.  I don’t want bells and whistles in my package, I want content!  Anyway, despite the lack of truly informative content in the package and the annoying size and shape of the case, I still recommend this set to fans as it ill help to get a good feel for the scope of Giacchino’s score.

Well that’s about it for now, my laundry should almost be done so I better get to folding.  See you all a bit later this week.

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