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Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - Soundtrack Review

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My God Bones, what have I done?

by Chris McEneany May 19, 2013

  • Movies review


    Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - Soundtrack Review

    Well, we're still boldly going, aren't we?

    Just before we focus our audio scanners upon Michael Giacchino's music for Star Trek Into Darkness, I thought I'd keep the Federation spirits alive with a look at, and a listen to how composer James Horner carried on his phenomenal success with The Wrath of Khan (which the new film models itself upon) by helping director Leonard Nimoy Search for Spock in the third big screen Starfleet outing, hailing from 1984. Why this score in particular? Well, I've already covered the superlative Wrath CD release, and since this is part of the saga so tellingly, so longingly, and so disappointingly mimicked by JJ Abrams' new instalment, I thought it only fair to return to a time when things were done with a bit more care and attention, not to mention wit and originality, and without committee-led hack scripts that mistake reference and homage for fanboy pandering and strong story and motivation for juvenile Warp Speed shoot-em-ups. I am in the uncomfortable position of finding my appreciation for the new film lessening, day by day. Right now, after watching ALL the original movies, a slew of classic episodes and the 2009 reboot in the midst of my own full-blown Trek-Mania, the 7 out of 10 that I gave Into Darkness seems recklessly generous.

    "My God, Bones, what have I done?"

    "What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live."

    This essential 2-disc release from FSM Retrograde contains the complete score to the film, as well as a digitally remastered presentation of the original album, which makes for an interesting listening companion. With typically stunning production work from Dan Wallin and Mike Matessino, both versions sound superb. As this is the sister score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the themes that debuted there evolve and grow, alongside the newborn Spock, you could say, and the two soundtracks form the only musical continuation in the series until Michael Giacchino joined the crew for the reboot. Whilst the main themes from Alexander Courage (for the glorious and immortal TV title theme), Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner have found placement and reference in other entries, the majority of the Trek scores have been originally composed by an assortment of talent, and offer diverse interpretations upon characters beloved for decades. But, beyond question, the best, most exciting and most passionate of the entire film series are to be found rhapsodising across the first three outings.

    Famously, though not strictly accurately, Nimoy only consented to do Wrath with the promise that his Vulcan alter ego would be killed off at the end of it. The actor had grown tired of the ears, it would seem. Only logical after three seasons and a leviathan theatrical crossover in Robert Wise's surprisingly sophisticated and unashamedly high-concept spectacle, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But old habits die hard, and the critical and commercial success of the film that killed off Spock guaranteed that more Trekkin' was on the cards … and if the rest of the crew were involved, then fans demanded their Vulcan back as well. Thus, finding inspiration behind the camera, as well as a fleeting climactic return as the adult Spock, Nimoy returned to the fold with the sort of gusto that he maintained throughout three more successive cinematic outings for the original crew, and appearances in both of J.J. Abrams’ franchise re-energise. The Search for Spock marked the second entry in what would become the series’ only continual theatrical story-arc, with II’s Wrath and IV’s A Voyage Home completing the trilogy surrounding the Vulcan’s heroic self-sacrifice, his traumatic rebirth upon the doomed Genesis world and his eventual acceptance back into the core family of Enterprise regulars with a spot of cosmic whale-saving.

    Whilst everyone agrees about the masterclass that has been, and always shall be Nick Meyer’s Wrath, most often go on to adore Voyage Home’s comedic bent, probably because after so much heartbreak and hand-wringing for Kirk in two doom-tinged adventures, its brazen, knockabout attitude comes as a much needed tonic. But, “Curse of the Odd-Numbered Film” notwithstanding, I have found that, over the years, I have come to rate Search for Spock higher and higher each time I see it. For many it is the poor relation to Wrath and a by-the-numbers middle section in the Genesis Trilogy, and whilst it cannot attain such giddy heights as its illustrious forebear it is certainly more entertaining, exciting and ambitious than many of the entries that came afterwards, and still offers a lot of fun. Following on from the dazzling action, suspense and tragedy of Wrath was never going to be an easy task, especially as it genuinely does follow directly on, but Harve Bennett’s screenplay toys smartly with similar themes of loss, honour and friendship and happily sews-in plenty of humour and 60’s style comic-book action to complete a quintessential Trek yarn. And, for his part, director Nimoy does a superb job of providing acute villainy in the form of Christopher Lloyd’s nasty Klingon Lord Kruge, equipped in the iconic Bird of Prey (whose cloaking ability would go on to become a vital ingredient in the Predator’s arsenal), and possessed of such devilry that he will even kill his own people, let alone Kirk’s son, David (once again played by Merritt Butrick), and establishing a deeper understanding of Federation red-tape and attitude. But it remains a workmanlike effort that has the unfortunate fate of meandering to a lethargic close instead of hurtling to an exhilarating finale. The emphasis is, of course, about reuniting Kirk and Spock, and this is treated with respect. But the villainy is vanquished far too summarily, and BIG MOMENTS like the murder of David, the destruction of the Enterprise and the duel between Kirk and his Klingon nemesis, Lord Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), is largely sucked out of the airlock and rendered weightless and drifting.

    The overriding impression I get is of a story thrown together purely to bring Spock back ... and sadly at the expense of some great concepts such as the Genesis Planet, itself, the aggression of the Klingons and the mental melding of Spock and McCoy. After a great first half, the story just wants to get the conflict over and done with as quickly as possible so that we can meet Spock Prime again. But in extolling the limitless bounds of honour and loyalty, the film still excels ... and it makes a much better job of bringing cherished characters back from the dead than a certain reboot does, that's for sure.

    However you feel about Spock's return, or about how Nimoy handled the helming of it all, Shatner does some excellent work here. His emotions are once again put through the wringer as he mourns for Spock, accepts the quest from a grave Sarek to fetch his son’s body back to Vulcan for the Katra Ritual that will complete his spiritual existence, and goes toe-to-toe with the murderous Kruge on a planet that is literally and metaphorically tearing itself apart. Plus, he will destroy the Enterprise in the bold do-or-die finale – surely the most glaring Kobayashi Maru Test that he has actually faced. Notorious for his bizarre staccato line delivery, this film ironically showcases some of the Shat’s best work, Kirk looking and sounding properly drawn and untethered without his crucial right-hand-man at his side, adrfit in melancholy. And whereas many critics decry the film’s lower production values, I actually love the rather obvious use of soundstages for the Genesis planet because they so totally evoke the imagery and atmosphere of the original TV show.

    But the film does inevitably run out of gas during the third act ... just when it should be accelerating to Warp Speed.

    Narrative and pacing issues aside, the film was blessed with another tremendous score from James Horner, whose star was definitely on the ascension during these gloriously unstoppable early years of almost back-to-back projects.

    Besides Jerry Goldsmith and now Michael Giacchino, James Horner is the only composer to have worked on more than one of the Star Trek feature films. Goldsmith's record will take some beating, of course - he scored five, including all of the Next Generation outings after the cast-meld of 1994's Generations, for which Dennis (Deep Space 9) McCarthy handled the scoring duties. His return to Roddenberry’s universe was never in question as far as the composer/conductor was concerned, and there can be no doubt that he relished revisiting the themes that he made synonymous with Trek back in his seat-of-the-pants days as an eager young hopeful with dreams of making the A-list. Having made enormous strides since his enthusiastic and trendsetting work on Roger Corman’s Humanoids from the Deep and the exultant Wolfen from Michael Wadleigh, Horner became a major player with Brainstorm, Krull, Something Wicked This Way Comes, 48 Hrs and Uncommon Valour (all scores, bar Brainstorm, I have reviewed separately). And, with these titles under his belt, he had already found a uniquely personal and immediately identifiable sound that would forever establish his voice with audiences. Anvil-clashes accentuating spiralling primal horns would become both his hallmark and his stigma. Detractors would grow to hate his self-plagiarism and this all-too-swiftly summoned battle siren, in particular. But this predilection is something that his fans would continually lap up ... because Horner didn’t simply rehash earlier material, he skilfully wove such themes and motifs into richly complex and diverse scores that managed to combine and blend searing emotion with cathartic, clarion-calling blood ‘n’ thunder. Braveheart and Legends of the Fall deftly entwined the tragically elegiac with the arcanely defiant and courageous, whilst ebullient fun and awe would characterise things like Cocoon, The Rocketeer and Honey I Shrunk The Kids. The success of such senses-galloping finesse can certainly be traced back to his work on Treks II and III. Detractors, again, have a field day with the lifts and nods that Horner frequently makes to classical music. In The Search for Spock, he quotes thematic elements from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, namely during the theft of the Enterprise and the NCC-1701’s glittering, falling star sacrifice. But such foundation-stone inspiration is not something to criticise as far as I am concerned. John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith (still my all-time favourite composer) would also reach back into the vaults of historical symphony to provide their own work with resonance. And, let’s be honest, for men who have studied the form from an early age it would be impossible to believe that they wouldn’t incorporate material from past maestros into their own work, even unwittingly at times.

    Yet, together with those two scoring titans, James Horner has his own distinctive style that embraces and enhances great films, and works damned hard to improve those not-so-great.

    Commencing in Prologue with a majestic flourish from harp, rolling drums and thunder-sheet, Horner provides a melancholic ode to play over the stylish recap of the final events of Star Trek II, wistfully drained of colour and steeped in visual rhetoric, designed to remind us of Spock’s sacrificial farewell to his friend Jim Kirk after saving the Enterprise from the Genesis Wave. Horner establishes a core theme of sadness and loss with a lament from the French horn. Although this lengthy piece also brings in a beautifully slow and elegant rendition of the Alexander Courage main theme that gently floats and flutters like a Starfleet logo-shaped feather during the track’s second part, Main Title, the emphasis is on noble grief and on coming to terms with the mortality of loved ones, as opposed to contemplating your own. As the camera wanders through the lush foliage of the Genesis planet to locate Spock’s galactic coffin, vague impressions of hope and optimism – moving what-ifs from strings and horns – delicately hint at what may come to pass. After a brief reflection from celli for the damage borne by the Enterprise, herself, in her Khanian skirmishing ,the track plays out with Spock’s theme from Wrath.

    Such mysticism, the ethereal qualities of Vulcan spiritualism, played a brief part in Wrath of Khan, Horner providing a delightfully otherworldly cue for Spock’s meditative attitude. But the Vulcan’s own theme was exquisitely moving, particularly during his final moments. Horner is able to develop this alien, almost angelic phrase much further with part III. A mercurial and glacial ascension of violins greets us as Kirk discovers McCoy in Spock’s Cabin (track 3), Bones possessed by the spirit of the Vulcan and insisting that the Admiral “climb the steps of Mount Seleya.” Horner drafts-in Spock’s delicate and sinuous theme for a viola pulse and Jupiter 8 emulator, the ambience distinctly cool and calming yet tinged with the scalpel-sharp essence of an uncompleted circle, of a mission not yet undertaken. We hear Spock’s theme again during the first part of track 9, Spock Endures Pon Farr, as Lt. Saavik helps to ease the reborn Vulcan’s “growing pains” when his rapidly maturing body convulses with the seven-year urge to mate. Here, the theme is softened and warmed with vibraphone, rub-rods, harp and ocarina until it takes on a soothing, velvety texture. Although the implication is one of lovemaking, the scene and the cue provide it with a morphic status that transcends the physical. Horner is careful not to overly humanise the theme, as the gentle wine-glass rubbing squall ensures.

    This alien mysticism is furnished further in Mind-Meld, when Spock’s father gleans his son’s last thoughts and intentions from the traumatised Kirk. We hear buzz-marimba, tuned gongs, bass vibes and rhythm logs creating a tingling eloquence of awe. The rhythm logs echo distantly, and evoke memories of Goldsmith’s Vulcan material. The concept is a weird one – to have your thoughts examined by another. The mind-rape of Lt. Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country totally captures the immorality of this unsettling notion, with Cliff Eidelman’s accompanying music cue a tremendous highlight in his score. Horner doesn’t overplay things here, though. This is an act of mutual benefit and a merciful mental interrogation. When Spock’s theme enters on contrabass clarinet and contrabassoon, we are reassured, though saddened by Sarek’s unfulfilled enquiry and poor Kirk’s now painfully reinforced grief. Horner reserves the full extent of all this exotic Vulcanism until the hypnotic finale of Spock’s home-world rebirth.

    You might have thought that Horner would relish the opportunity to furnish the Klingons (track 2) with his own crafted theme but, to maintain thematic continuity, he takes onboard elements of Goldsmith’s iconic battle motif for the galactic pastie-headed warmongers, with a scintillating array of rare and exotic percussion, and elaborates upon its tribal rhythm with a deliriously outrageous hooting from a Tibetan Horn that, depending upon how you imagine things, sounds like either some cosmic Viking blood-fanfare, or a goose farting in the fog. What works so well about this rather loopy element is that it provides a hint of playful mockery that aids in lightening Lloyd’s crusade – here, he destroys a smuggling vessel with his own spy and lover still aboard it - and providing a perceptibly derisory comment upon his determinedly vicious mentality – something that actually enables his vitriol and violence to become more shocking as a consequence. On the one hand, he and his crew in their admittedly awesome Bird of Prey are belittled to the point of Benny Hill panto-villainy, the hoot-call giving them a similarly daft aura of petulant hostility as the Black Widows motorcycle gang in Eastwood’s much loved punch-ups, Every Which Way But Loose and itssequelAny Which Way You Can. Yet, on the other, this aspect, aided and abetted by such a glittering battery of unusual instruments – the bamboo ang-klungs, rhythm logs and boobams from Goldsmith’s depiction in The Motion Picture, and now cluster chimes, tam-tams, thunder-sheet, timbales and the ubiquitous Horner device of the anvil – becomes gloriously ripe and toe-tappingly sadistic. The horn-wail is definitely reminiscent of the lone howl in the theme for Wolfen, and a variation upon it would be heard in Aliens, and others. The beat is steady and relentless. Low strangled brass gains vitality in repetitive surges that crawl remorselessly nearer.

    For the new movie, Michael Giacchino takes a smart new move with the Klingons, by totally enveloping his theme for them inside a vast action cue, and adopting an unstoppable fusillade of driving intensity, coupled with stabbing choral interjections of a decidedly Middle-earthian brogue. It might seem more generic at the end of the day, but it still works. Plus, it gives him room to manoeuvre when it comes to creating the fuller version for what will surely be their greater impact in the stories to come. We’ll look more closely at this when I review the score for Into Darkness, although, as yet, we are unable to hear his theme in anything other than a truncated motif in the film and on the album, itself.

    Horner’s shuffling tribal cadence reappears several times, and in various forms of warrior workout. In track 4’s The Klingon Plan it is playfully butted-up against the Courage fanfare, juxtaposing the good and the bad in a rather more overt, though slightly less compelling fashion to how he jockeyed between Kirk and the Enterprise theme and Khan’s approach in the hijacked USS Reliant in Wrath (which we hear in Surprise Attack), as we cut to the USS Grissom in orbit around Genesis, with David and Lt. Saavik (now played by the alarmingly wooden Robin Curtis) onboard and detecting an animal life-form on the surface. Wonder who that might be, then? In track 7’s Grissom Destroyed the logical outcome of Kruge’s surprise decloaking becomes shockingly apparent as the Klingon warlord blows the unprepared Federation starship to flaming shards, Horner pounding the atrocity home with clangourous anvil blows that sound positively Cimmerian. This is then trailed by a more ominous passage of low brass, marimba, viola and woodwinds as Kruge’s ruthlessness is examined a little more deeply when he executes his gunner for doing more than merely targeting the Grissom’s engines. Kruge had wanted prisoners, not just debris.

    Next, we hear a mysterious interpretation of the Klingon theme in Sunset on Genesis (Track 8) as Kruge and his landing party begin to search for Saavik, David and the newfound Spock. Accompanied by bassoons, Kruge has some fun tussling with a writhing snake-like creature that Genesis has evolved from a casket-hugging microbe. And then, quite thunderously, it comes a-barrelling-in during the second phase of Track 9, in complete retaliation to a slyly hopeful reminder of Courage’s fanfare, beautifully bludgeoning its way through with an irresistible boo-hiss swagger.

    “You’re suffering from a Vulcan mind-meld.”

    “That green-blooded sonofabitch. It’s his revenge for all those arguments he lost.”

    As with any Star Trek score, standouts cues are numerous, but Track 6’s versatile set-piece showstopper, Stealing the Enterprise, is particularly memorable. Horner would become infamous for writing hugely marathon cues and this track is one of his first truly grand offerings. Telling a musical story that plays magnificently even sans visuals, Horner produces the sort of epic track that orchestras must lose weight performing, with a mixture of blood, sweat and tears. With peaks and troughs, flurries of action and apprehensive plateaus, and an ever-growing core of tick-tocking suspense, he layers a succession of mini-victories and edge-of-the-seat dilemmas, building all the while to an exultant finale of chest-beating euphoria. He is the master at such large-scale symphonic narrative – you only have to experience his work on Titanic, Avatar and rather more acutely, The Perfect Storm, with its outstanding Coast Guard Rescue sequence, to understand how jubilantly structured Horner can be. Within this cue has got to lay the genesis of such leviathan compositional strategy.

    Outwitting Starfleet personnel left and right, Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and Uhura manage to get McCoy from the brig, board the Enterprise and pilot her out of Space Dock, and leave the much-vaunted USS Excelsior (commanded by a stuffy James B. Sikking) sputtering to a sabotaged halt in the process.

    Horner capitalises upon themes and motifs from Wrath, each new act of Kirk and Co.’s mutiny greeted with his former fanfare of nautical endeavour, brass and strings rising and crashing like the bow of an old sailed warship stridently ploughing through a rough sea. The crescendo that we all know is coming is drip-fed to us, marvellously chapterised as the classic crew assemble and make the Enterprise ready for her illegal voyage. Strings are high and airy, providing a spritely sense of mischief. Little percussive phrases bolster the escalating excitement as Starfleet becomes aware of the theft in their midst and attempts to thwart it. Xylophone-like bone-tocks add a skeletal frisson, although knowing Horner, this will have been achieved with some form of exotic Tahitian wood-block, or something equally unusual and rare. We can hear the gradual countdown Kirk’s Explosive Reply from Wrath, teasing us with its underscore of growing confidence and cavalier rug-pulling. Horns ripple out, percussion rattles with grinning intensity. Fanfare flourishes make continual statements of brazen defiance until a final triumphant blaze acts like an intergalactic raspberry to the close-minded bureaucrats in Starfleet ... and, in the midst of all this, there’s Craig Huxley on theBlaster Beam again with its impossibly sizzling boom-buzz. As much as anything from Courage, Goldsmith and Horner, this infectious sound epitomises Star Trek. By the time that the Enterprise escapes – and Horner amusingly lets the cue fade out as the Excelsior sits dead in space - we have been on the sort of musical ride that many composers couldn’t muster for an entire film, let alone just one track.

    “You Klingon bastard ... you killed my son!”

    Come on, Kirky ... kick his Klingon ass!

    We know that Horner does sweeping romanticism. He also does elegiac grandeur. He can create literally spine-tingling terror, too. And we can often hear all of this in the same score. Plus, to put the icing on the cake, he can certainly do exultant battle with oodles of dynamism, flair and adrenaline rush. What is so bright and shining about Horner’s action scoring is that his elaborate set-pieces tend not to forsake character and theme in favour of simply generic speedballing. His Wrath battle-cues were supremely agile, furiously Cro-Magnon and blisteringly intense, but they always maintained the thematic elements that spurred on the two warring factions, literally creating two musical opponents who clashed together in one maelstrom. Flash forward to Aliens, or Glory, or Braveheart, or Windtalkers, or Troy or, better yet, The Mask of Zorro, to see how brilliantly adept he could be at incorporating his main melodies into areas of wild bedlam. There aren’t many composers who can this with as much skill. Williams epitomises it with Raiders and Star Wars (not the SW prequels, though), and Goldsmith never failed to accomplish such feats throughout six decades. Horner’s skill lies in creating themes that he knows can be manipulated and adapted and twisted throughout any and all scenarios without compromising their core character and integrity.

    As the Enterprise approaches Genesis, they detect that something else might be there ... and it isn’t the Grissom. Seeing a vague distortion in space drawing near them, they suspect a cloaked enemy vessel and craftily pre-empt their attack by locking photon torpedoes on their energy signature ... and firing as soon as the Klingon Bird of Prey Decloaks. Much like the Battleships-style cat-and-mouse fight between Enterprise and Reliant in the previous film, Kirk and Kruge engage in a war of wits that will not only rock the heavens, but take on a brutal personal aspect down on the ravaged surface of Genesis. Track 10 draws on military percussion and martial rhythms, anvil and cimbalom battering against a tide of surging strings. Kirk’s initial photon strike scores an early surge of triumph, his own theme charging ahead with gutsy pride. The sense of give and take, ebb and flow is acutely delivered as the injured Bird of Prey regroups and comes about to attack, returning crippling fire on the un-combat-ready Enterprise.

    Listen out for a slightly different tone from that Tibetan Horn. Anybody recognise the way it has been used here? Okay ... Goldsmith-fans go and put on your Rambo III complete score (from Intrada) ... and there in the latter stages of the awesome track Night Fight, you will hear it booming down over the top of the action. That was a few years after Horner’s staggering use of it here, where it sounds equally as alarming and blood-freezingly cool. Where it can be playfully amusing elsewhere, it comes down at you, here, with a soul-snuffling death-grip from some pre-historic era.

    Track 11’s A Fighting Chance To Live is another sublime action cue that combines breakneck excitement with grave decision-making and the profound repercussions felt in the aftermath of one’s acts. In a desperate gamble, Kirk gives-in to Kruge and accepts that the Klingons board the Enterprise in victory. But, in the true tradition of the last-minute saving-grace that is James T.’s hallmark, Kirk sets the Enterprise to self-destruct and, alongside his trusty crew, beams down to Genesis as the enemy boarding party arrives on the doomed vessel in time to get blown to swarthy smithereens. Nimoy directs with speed and economy, the runaround deftly choreographed and the resulting explosion and falling star-show visually impressive. Sadly, such a huge moment in Trek lore falls flatter than it should do ... and we feel little of the weight and drama that we can clearly see in the eyes of Shatner, Doohan, Kelly, Takei and Koenig, who watch their galaxy-traversing home make a final swan-dive in blazing glory. Equally, I feel that Horner would have loved to have given this send-off the full treatment. As it stands, this remains a terrific track that combines fresh and edgy lines from bloodthirsty French Horns and strings, yet another of Horner’s patented countdowns, a rapturous eruption from thunder-sheet, tam-tams, bass drum and low gongs, and then gorgeous, glittering celestial eulogy for rolling timpani and romanticised strings.

    Then again, Horner knew that he would be embracing the spiritual, the cathartic and the moving for the film’s true climax set on Vulcan. For now, he still had another battle to score – between Kirk and Kruge on the disintegrating Genesis planet. To be honest, though, this is a disappointing tussle, and one that carries little of the grit that you would expect from someone who has just lost his son. The duel is actually largely unscored and this does definitely undermine the entire sequence as far as I am concerned. Once Kruge has been booted off a cliff into a pool of lava – “I ... Have ... Had ... E-Nufffff ... Of ... YOUUUUU!” - Horner’s music blooms into a dramatic and euphoric statement that serenades the end of Genesis and brings in the Jupiter 8 emulator (which sounds like it should be a Federation starship, doesn’t it?) to add a cosmic and elegiac gleam to Spock’s theme, reminding us of the twin-dilemma that the Vulcan and the new world faced – both were born and were dying in twin symbiosis. Thus, in Genesis Destroyed, wild brass makes a rugged, tumultuous statement as Kirk and his crew commandeer the Klingon Bird of Prey and flee the planet’s destruction, a thrilling and breathless fanfare that genuinely feels as though it has been through a trauma or two, and has only barely gotten away with it this time out. Thus, Horner exceeds the visuals, as is so often the case.

    Horner’s mysterious and quasi-religious motifs abound in Returning to Vulcan, with yet new variations on Spock’s theme and the Genesis material. Lyrical harp and yearning strings rise towards gargantuan swells of emotion as Spock comes home. The Tibetan Horn is joined by ocarina and Alpine Horn to wail out the tantric power and reverence of the forthcoming ritual in the temple at Mount Seleya. Horner even includes the sound of a didgeridoo played backwards to further augment this solemn, yet baroque ceremony for the reunion of Spock’s katra spirit with his reborn body. Composers like Hans Zimmer make big, self-congratulatory statements about scouring the world for unusual and exotic instruments and boast about the participation of renowned but hard-to-find percussionists in their scores, yet the fruits of such endeavours are frequently lost and drowned in the battering ram of mixing desk, bass-heavy smothering – meaning that such esoteric, primal and innovative creations are rendered meaningless. Amongst many other examples, his latter scores for the Pirates franchise, The Dark Knight Rises and especially Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows totally embody this disastrous ethic. (Please, God, don’t screw-up Man of Steel!!!!! I’ve heard twenty minutes of samples from a range of its tracks and, sadly, they don’t sound good. Although the now-famous track playing over the amazing third trailer is genuinely terrific.) But Horner completely embraces all the possibilities that such ethnic experimentation can offer. He seeks these instruments because of the unique sound they make, and the impression they will create in the score. Zimmer just seems to do it out of vanity and, mostly, you cannot hear them amidst his drudging cacophony. So what was the point, then?

    In The Katra Ritual, Horner has a very crucial role to play. With the regular cast simply looking-on as Dame Judith Anderson’s Vulcan priestess unifies Spock’s mind with his spirit via much alien mumbo-jumbo and lingering implied transcendence, he has to structure the pace and the mood and the euphoria of the moment so that we can all appreciate the splendour of what is happening ... without giggling. Rhythm-logs, tam-tams, Tahitian slit-log, bass vibraphone, tuned gong and boo-bams juggle and jostle with gentle, rumbling tribalism, affecting a measured climb to spiritual and psychological connection. Although the Vulcan creed eschews emotion, Horner’s cue is all about it ... because it embodies our feelings towards Spock and, of course, those of his friends too. I may wish for a greater battle between Kirk and Kruge and a more moving farewell to the Enterprise but, at the end of the day, the film, and its score, are all about this moment, and James Horner pulls out a mesmerising and proto-Messianic aura from his bag of tricks, layering the return of ol’ Pointy Ears with beautifully satisfying cloud of reverence, nobility and pure, honest-to-god otherness. As the classic character makes his confused greeting to Kirk, Horner has the presence of mind not to overplay things, delicately reinforcing the finale with statements of Spock’s and the Vulcan theme. With his immeasurable contribution, the finale is truly spellbinding.

    In full-bore symphonic manner and totally in-keeping with the series tradition, Horner then delivers his sweeping End Titles as a broad overture of Courage’s Star Trek Theme that segues marvellously and emphatically into his own final credits blast-through from Wrath of Khan, albeit tweaked with more jubilation. You couldn’t honestly ask for anything else. It is ebullient, passionate and devoutly heroic, a wide, all-embracing symphony of space-bound camaraderie that is immediately iconic and grandly confidence-boosting and life-affirming – which are precisely the core ethics of Gene Roddenberry’s creation.

    A bonus track at the end of Disc 1 provides the Bar Source cues for the scene when McCoy tries to barter a ship to take him to Genesis from a wacky and somewhat unnerving alien smuggler, and gets arrested in the process. Although it is great to have every piece of music from the film, chances are that this smoky little trio of crooner favourites – That Old Black Magic, Tangerine and I Remember You – veer too far from the mood and the excitement of the score, and will sit unattended in most playlists. However, should you feel the need for a cigar and a cognac in order to help you reflect upon your years of Starfleet service, then I’m sure these tracks will strike up the appropriate ambience.

    Disc 2’s album presentation recalls the original Capitol Records release from 1984. There are some marked omissions in the line-up, which is surprisingly film-chronological, and some tracks are different takes than those heard in the film. This makes for quite a neat experience in its own right, as the instrumentation can differ, providing an alternate impression. Track 2’s Klingons, for instance, benefits in some ways because of the immediate entrance of the pounding tribal rhythm, the piece actually culled from later than the two cues that make up the film version. And both Stealing the Enterprise and Returning to Vulcan offer pleasing variations.

    Both of Horner’s scores for Star Trek are passionately rousing, shot-through with rhythmic action and nautical fervour (something that Gene Roddenberry always envisaged his saga as having), and are warmly engaging, utilising a beautifully strong blend of the orchestral and electronic flourish from start to finish. The series would never want for musical invention or a plethora of enjoyable themes, the stories and the characters themselves never failing to provide inspiration for each composer who would, in turn, bring something new and unique to the table. Goldsmith and Horner found the magical combination of mystery, heart and dynamic action that make their scores the richest and most endlessly entertaining though.

    FSM’s lavishly packaged release comes with a 20-page illustrated booklet of notes on the film and the score from Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall.

    For Star Trek fans and score-collectors, not to have this 2-disc set in their collection would be illogical, Captain.

    Full Track Listing

    Disc One

    1. Prologue and Main Title 6.31

    2. Klingons 5.59 – Irresistible!

    3. Spock’s Cabin 1.40

    4. The Klingon’s Plan 1.03

    5. The Mind-Meld 2.32

    6. Stealing the Enterprise 8.41 – the standout track, folks!

    7. Grissom Destroyed 1.03

    8. Sunset on Genesis 2.18

    9. Spock Endures Pon Farr 3.04

    10. Bird of Prey Decloaks 3.48 – Tibetan Horn!!!

    11. A Fighting Chance To Live 3.54

    12. Genesis Destroyed 2.43

    13. Returning to Vulcan 4.58

    14. The Katra Ritual 4.31

    15. End Titles 6.19

    16. That Old Black Magic (Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen)/Tangerine (Mercer/Victor Schertzinger)/I Remember You (Mercer-Schertzinger) (Bar Source) 10.32

    Total Time Disc One 69.45

    Disc Two

    1. Prologue and Main Title 6.29

    2. Klingons 5.56

    3. Stealing The Enterprise 8.34

    4. The Mind-Meld 2.31

    5. Bird of Prey Decloaks 3.46

    6. Returning to Vulcan 4.53

    7. The Katra Ritual 4.30

    8. End Titles 6.13

    9. The Search for Spock (Theme from Star Trek III) Produced by James Horner and Group 87 3.42

    Total Time Disc Two 46.57


    After the celebrated Goldsmith score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and his own glorious and action-packed music for Wrath of Khan, James Horner delivered an absolute belter for Search for Spock. He rocked the universe with his tribal fury and emotional weight with Kirk’s battle of wits with Khan, and there is a clear sense of the composer having settled down, relaxed and gone to town with his second Starfleet score. This is lushly confident and brilliantly assured. His Klingon theme is splendidly wry and full of spit and tempest and, better yet, a delicious sense of knowing fun. The nautical theme for the Enterprise and its chivalrous crew returns and enjoys immense new vigour with some glorious set-piece action. Mystery and spiritualism add a delicate frisson of the otherworldly for the Vulcan rituals and the beauty of Genesis, providing a gloriously alien and hypnotic antidote to the action and the valour.

    Horner is clearly having a great time revisiting his themes and developing them.

    The entire score is thrilling and addictive, but the propulsive swagger of Track 6’s grandiose Stealing the Enterprise remains the most impressive and show-stopping piece.

    FSM’s Retrograde follow-up to Wrath of Khan is just as immaculately produced and packaged. It is naturally wonderful to have it available here in its complete form, but the original album presentation has a lot going for it as well.

    Very highly recommended.

    The Rundown





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