Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - Original Soundtrack Soundtrack Review
Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is my second favourite Trek symphony. The top slot is a crowded double-whammy occupied by both Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent and awe-filled Star Trek: The Motion Picture and James Horner’s electrifyingly exciting and profoundly moving ST II: The Wrath of Khan scores. For me, both of those scores completely embody all the magic, the splendour, the action and the character of Gene Roddenberry’s iconic creation like nothing else and, together, set the benchmark for other films in the series and for other composers to follow. The music for the rest of the “original” crew’s adventures tends to riff on, and play around with the motifs and fanfares created in these foundation stones, throwing in some new themes and a lick of modified personality here and there – especially Leonard Rosenman’s much shorter work for The Voyage Home which is altogether more light-hearted and buoyant– and Goldsmith turning in an elegiac and wistful romance for The Final Frontier, but the score that makes the greatest deviation, and is all the more striking and memorable as a result, is Eidelman’s for this sixth trip boldly going where no man has gone before.
The film’s director, Nicholas Meyer, was the man who helmed the perennial fan-favourite Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, climbing back into the Captain’s chair after William Shatner relinquished command after the fifth and somewhat disappointing film, and Nimoy having stepped down from the fun-filled, time-travelling, whale-saving caper of IV. Having written that frothy comedic Voyage Home for Nimoy, Meyer was now able to concentrate on a grim detective yarn that sifted through the cosmos like an interplanetary Sherlock Holmes adventure. Bedecked in subterfuge and political skulduggery, this even-numbered instalment laboured under the storm clouds that swelled in the threat of all-out intergalactic war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire – something that we’d long anticipated. After a terrible calamity befalls the Klingon Empire with the sudden destruction of their primary moon, Praxis, the warrior-race discovers they have good reason to come to the negotiating table with the Federation. Reluctantly going along as peace envoys to welcome a Klingon delegation, Kirk and his equally distrustful stalwarts, become involved in a dire political incident that could spell disaster for everyone. When several of the Klingon statesmen, including their esteemed Chancellor Gorkan (David Warner), who was lobbying for peace, are assassinated by hit-men who have beamed aboard their ship in Starfleet uniform, Kirk and McCoy are made scapegoats and sentenced to life imprisonment on the dreaded penal colony of Rura Penthe. As they battle to escape their dire and dangerous captivity, the steadfast crew of the Enterprise, under the command of Spock, endeavour to unravel the cosmic mystery and reveal the true culprits behind the atrocity. And, lurking all the while in the shadowy background, is Christopher Plummer’s eye-patch-wearing war-monger, Klingon General Chang … but it soon transpires that he has people working for him on the inside as well, meaning that Spock is going to have to watch his own back, whilst attempting to rescue his friends and derail a hideous plot to cause further carnage.
With its Shakespearean taunts from Chang, its Holmsian insight from Spock, clever references to Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as paying homage to John Frankenheimer’s paranoid classic, The Manchurian Candidate, and casting observations upon the ever-simmering racial disharmony that afflicts the world and acknowledging the growing call for détente with the then-Soviet Union, Meyer’s hugely successful second Federation flyby was supremely literate and culturally topical. Plummer made for a terrific villain, playing his part with considerable relish. The pivotal massacre was audaciously and bloodily perpetrated in zero-gravity. The frozen penitentiary was a wonderful set-piece that allowed for great physical comedy with brawling aliens and snogging shapeshifters as well as severe tension. Kim Cattrall’s duplicitous Vulcan Lt. Valeris was the recipient of a very controversial mind-meld that bordered on Spock’s psychological rape of the woman. And the film built to a tremendously exciting, ticking-clock climax as the Enterprise hurtles across the galaxy to prevent another assassination. It mixed action and mystery-solving with great alacrity and offered fans something that they hadn’t really seen before – a Star Trek whodunit.
The original album release, which contained 45 minutes of music all specially arranged by Eidelman, was the first of the Trek scores to jettison vinyl. This 2-disc platter from Intrada, which includes a cleaned-up presentation of that 1991 album on its own disc, comes gorgeously packaged with extensive, illustrated notes on both the movie and the score from Lukas Kendall, the introduction from director Nicholas Meyer that adorned the original album, and Tech Talk from the label’s own producer, Doug Fake. Whilst we still await the full score from the Motion Picture, we have had very impressive releases for Khan and The Search for Spock (both from FSM) and The Voyage Home (from Intrada), The Final Frontier (from La La Land) and this robust and marvellously full-blooded presentation, newly transferred from a 7-roll set of 32-track digital Mitsubishi tapes, contains conductor Armin Steiner’s live two-track master mixes of the 86-piece orchestra sessions.
It may not be entirely unique for a space adventure, but Eidelman channels Gustav Holst’s The Planets – and most pertinently of all, Mars The Bringer of War – to spellbinding effect in order to create a score that is dark, brooding and ominous and full of slow-burn menace and mystery. Meyer had actually wanted to utilise Holst’s original symphony when both Goldsmith and Horner turned down the project, but after listening to Eidelman’s demo-tape on the recommendation of a friend, he found just what was he was looking for. The inspired thing that Eidelman does, that also goes against the grain of how every other composer has dealt with the Trek universe, is to make his Klingon theme all-pervasive and the glue that binds the entire score together. This massively changes the traditionally fanfare-led and charmingly heroic tone that most of the other films had in abundance. This was inspired by the fact that Meyer’s second directed Trek film was altogether more sombre and more serious than the rest of the series. The story was politically and racially charged and it dealt with bigotry and betrayal and reluctant redemption in a manner that was far less comically imbued than its immediate three predecessors and much less devoted either to the magic and wonder of space that flavoured the first cinematic Enterprise outing, or the cliffhanging derring-do of its barnstorming second. As a Trek devotee, this swing-shift in mood came as a wild and unexpected thunderclap … but a very welcome one at the same time. Eidelman’s music is powerful, heavy with danger and thickly redolent with unease and suspense. It meets the galactic requirements of the genre and the story’s immortal characters, but it seems generated by a deeper, graver and more frightening pulse. There is considerably less of the “fun” that had begun to creep into the scores for the prior two films. It seemed to raise the bar, enforcing the notion that when Trek was being serious, it was tackling some fundamental issues that couldn’t be reduced to the knockabout farce of Scotty clanging his head on a low ceiling. Thus, even at its most orchestrally grandiose, Eidelman’s music retains a sinister aura of treachery and Machiavellian string-pulling, and the ever-burgeoning threat of impending doom is never very far away.
Eidelman commences things with a Track 1’s heavy, portentous Overture. This plays over the opening credits, bravely eschewing the traditional Alexander Courage Star Trek fanfare in favour of a combination of Igor Stravinsky’s intro to his 1910 ballet, The Firebird, and Holst’s heart-stopping Mars march. It is dark and thrilling and powerful. This is what will become the Klingon theme, and although not the exotic tribal, horn-calling rhythm that we have grown familiar with since Jerry Goldsmith first hailed their destruction by V’ger in The Motion Picture, this is wonderfully chilling and full of grand tyrannical menace that rolls and churns and gathers momentum and weight until reaching a stark and viciously militaristic pageantry. A new flavour to Trek’s musical universe is the addition of a male choir, whose wordless voices murmur with gothic inhumanity. Later on, they will take on an Omen-esque quality. A little more reflective of Goldsmith, perhaps? The Overture builds with tumultuous brass and percussion, capped by cymbal clashes, then reaches a plateau for brass with trombones intoning the fade of this imperious, dreadnought-like Klingon anthem and the introduction of an exciting action motif, all scissoring strings, fast-paced horns and brass and in a delightful touch, a jabbering piano that is reminiscent of the musical play-along to a frantic chase-scene in a silent movie. It comes together to make a furious rhythm that lends voice to frantic, last-ditch heroics in which every second counts. More cymbal clashes and emphatic brass and percussion bring the Overture to a resounding close, but this has certainly set the tone for the symphonic intensity to follow.
With The Incident, the Klingon moon and power-source, Praxis, explodes. A slow, menacing underscore cements the dreaded implications of this catastrophe as Captain Sulu, aboard his command of the Excelsior, monitors the event and offers assistance to the pastie-heads. After a gorgeously economical two-chord wave for strings, in Spacedock, that reflects the seriousness of this incident to the Federation, Eidelman turns this grave development on its head with what will turn out to be one of only a handful of moments when this score burns a little brighter and more optimistically. In the second of the two cues that make up Track 3, Clear All Moorings, a solo trumpet introduces the new and much slower, more time-worn theme for the Enterprise as Kirk and Spock make ready to head for the rendezvous with their age-old enemies. No Goldsmith or Horner-style fawning over the vessel’s superstructure, no glorious welcome aboard. This “heroic” theme is punctuated by a very slight, almost subliminal rendition of Alexander Courage’s famed Star Trek fanfare on solo horn which, once again, is indicative of the passing of an age. In full maritime mode, strings and horns denote the ship leaving Spacedock and heading off to a date with destiny. Again.
Eidelman pays his respects to James Horner’s ethereal Vulcan lament with synthesizer and suspended cymbal in Track 4’s glassy, soul-teasing Spock’s Wisdom. Profoundly eerie, this variation upon the spiritual serenade for the Vulcan that was first heard in Wrath of Khan actually sounds very like a moist finger moved around the rim of a glass of water. It has that wet, folding voice that you almost feel the vibrations from. Spock discusses the mission and its implications with Lt. Valeris, revealing the differences of opinion that they both have towards this cultural epoch. Eidelman’s darkens the mood as the Kronos One, the vessel bringing the Klingon Chancellor Gorkon to the rendezvous, pulls alongside the Enterprise. Now, the Klingon theme, with woods, bass and horns, which will come to denote the traitorous General Chang and his Bird of Prey, begins to undulate with all the appropriate menace that this uneasy truce implies. Strings slide with sly, gruelling finesse. The cello undercuts this with a macabre sense of dread.
In Guess Who’s Coming, trumpets and snare drums make for steady military suspense as the Starfleet men await their Klingon guests, having invited them to dinner aboard the Enterprise. A short, brisk cue, this ramps-up the innate mutual hostility of the situation, playing about with top brass courtesy and barely concealed resentment. Dinner with the Klingons is awkward and the two factions part company with the stark realisation that both races still have a long way to go before they reach common-ground. But then the heinous plot to sabotage the peace process kicks in as photon torpedoes, apparently fired from the Enterprise, herself, slam into the Klingon ship, disabling their gravity system and leaving their crew floating helplessly as two magnetic-booted killers beam aboard and commence their Assassination of the delegates, going especially for Gorkon. Xylophone adds colourful impetus. Drums and blurting brass combine to affect a driving rhythm, and the male choir delivers a swollen accusation of the dastardly deeds being committed. Eidelman’s use of rattling percussion in a furious tumble is reminiscent of John Barry’s jungle chaos for King Kong. He also has panpipes fluting-in the wayward sense of zero gravity. This is a great track that follows the on-screen action with clever use of all the doomed tones and rich instrumentation that he has, thus far, concocted and all superbly enmeshed into one continuous barrage of outrage.
Panpipes, uneasy strings and ominous tones mark time over the aftermath of the killings in Surrender for Peace. Once the Klingons restore gravity to their ship, Kirk and McCoy beam aboard to help the mortally wounded Chancellor. Spock has placed a homing locator on Kirk, which will certainly come in handy later on. An altogether heavier and more brooding iteration of the action motif is briefly detailed as the two discover scenes of slaughter and chaos aboard the vessel. A terrifically low-key but hugely ominous introduction stretches chords of dread out over the scene of McCoy trying desperately to save the Chancellor’s life but, ultimately, he is unable to avert The Death of Gorkon and, with the brutish return of the Klingon theme for Chang and his Bird of Prey, the duo are placed under arrest. Icy strings and a strangled cry from synth complete the volatile picture of dangerous times ahead as Chang’s venom is realised. Anxious strings and horns denote the reaction of Spock and crew aboard the Enterprise with a delicate urgency and a sense of helplessness.
With literally cinematic warp-speed, the Starfleet officers are placed on trial in the Klingon high court, the dark opening appeal of the Overture, a la “The Firebird” begins track 9, before the now familiar Klingon motif, inspired by Holst returns to briefly accentuate the delivery of Morally Unjust Evidence. This glowering mood is continued in Track 10’s Sentencing, as the two men are handed life sentences despite the best efforts of Michael Dorn’s defence counsel as Worf’s great Klingon granddaddy.
Once Kirk and McCoy are transported to the frozen penal colony of Rura Penthe – epitomised by the introductory speech from the Klingon commandant that pays homage to The Bridge Over The River Kwai - Eidelman gets to work on a new and more aggressive theme. Three tracks chronicle the ordeal of the Starfleet officers, and their eventual escape from the prison-world, and they add terrific colour to a score that would, otherwise, run the risk of becoming too oppressively dour for many listeners. Although quite horribly set-bound at times despite extensive location shooting in Alaska, these sequences are terrifically atmospheric, and the music supplies most of the sense of jailbird menace and aggression. Although having German Shepherd Dogs bedecked in the guise of Klingon war-hounds helps a lot, too. In Track 11, the first cue, entitled simply Rura Penthe, he introduces a motif so deep and roiling with brimstone that you’d swear it was the sound of Satan clearing his throat. Percussion specialists Emil Richards and Brice Martin help to create a seriously primitive soundscape with a bellicose two-note repeating belch from tuba that is very reminiscent of Roy Budd’s similarly dark suspense motif from the 1982 SAS actioner, Who Dares Wins. Guttural and beast-like, this raucous snort becomes the signature motif for the penal mining colony. With all the quotes from Hamlet, The Tempest and Henry V gadding about the screenplay, I find it highly amusing that the male choir are allegedly singing “To be, or not to be” in Klingon, behind this savage and bleak ode to interplanetary gulag. All manner of intense and unusual percussion and pipes are brought into play, including shakahuchi PVC pipe constructions, and with piano and strings scratching just beneath the barbaric overtones, and sudden squalls from horn and woods. We see a convict freeze to death in seconds on the surface and then the new inmates are led below into the vast chiselled-out caves in First Sight of Rura Penthe, in which Eidelman Kirk is almost immediately set-upon by an alien thug who likes his furry coat, but he is saved (this time) from a beating by the intervention of Mrs. David Bowie, Iman, as the devious alien chameleon, Martia. Some sinuous lines from violins and synth add a sense of unnerving mystery to the environment. This is still dark and tremendously ominous stuff, but the exotic hint of aliens and the primal undercurrent of savagery make for a galvanising new flavour in the score.
But let’s get away from this swollen and oppressive atmosphere for a moment. How about some funky, percussive tribalism? Well, roll up your furry sleeves and put up your dukes alongside the Shat as he goes toe-to-toe with a humongous bully-boy alien. For Kirk’s furious dust-up with the blue and pink, horned entity, Eidelman lunges into a thumping ostinato that lurches swiftly and violently through a staggeringly addictive rhythm that cannot fail to get your foot tapping. I’m playing it now as I write, and grinning from ear to ear. There’s a certain comedy value to the piece in spite of its primitive violence. In the films it is always amusing to see the older Kirk getting embroiled in inter-species fisticuffs, and the relentless pounding on log drums and tam-tams and shaped melodrums that accompanies this skirmish gives the scene an energy that Shatner and big blue meanie, who unfortunately (for him at any rate) keeps his testicles in his knees, sans such percussive wallop, would struggle to achieve. Although only a short cue, and with a small, breath-catching lull about two-thirds of the way through, this is an instant smirk-inducer. Things speed up in the last phase with some sizzling work on the slap-sticks and an Indian tamboura that was produced on the synthesizer. I just wish it lasted for a minute longer.
Track 13 finds us making trips to both the Excelsior and then the Enterprise. After being woken up by a young ensign played by Christian Slater, Captain Sulu contemplates what it means that the Enterprise has defied orders to return to Spacedock – low strings darkly intone his apprehensive mulling-over, and then a small shining gleam from metal percussion helps him to realise that he will have to stand by his old crewmates. Back aboard the Enterprise, Spock demands the place is searched from top to bottom to find the blood-spattered boots that the assassins wore. Eidelman’s urgent cue finds pace from rhythmic strings, worried woods, with bleating interjections of brass and martial propulsion gained from snare-drums as the film indulges in a montage of hide-and-seek.
Escape from Rura Penthe offers a terrific combination of intriguing ethnic percussion and pipes with jangling piano to create the suspense of Kirk and McCoy and their shape-shifting guide making their way through the frost-carved mines in a bid to get to the surface and a location beyond the shield so that the Enterprise can detect the tracking patch secreted upon Kirk. Listen out for the glimmer of chimes that helps evoke the frigid setting. Solo trumpet cries out forlornly over the frozen wastes as the trio travel across the fjords in the endless sea of white. Sizzling synth and cymbal scrapes add shivers of cold webbing.
Discovering, unsurprisingly, that Martia was leading them into a trap all along, Kirk gets into another scrap in The Mirror, in which the alien cunningly adopts Kirk’s own image. Warding off McCoy with a vicious head-butt when he tries to help his friend. Martia gets her own tribal tussle courtesy of Eidelman’s percussive battery. A semi-playful cue ensues as the two Kirks hurl each other about, wooden percussion and scissoring strings making a variation upon the earlier fight scene, brass letting off a warbling cry like that of a distant elephant. The cue ends as the chaotic Kirks realise that they are under the watchful leer of the prison commandant and his men. As Martia gets vaporised and it appears that the Federation men are next in line to die, the Enterprise picks up Kirk’s beacon and transports him and McCoy out of danger. Kirk’s never satisfied though, is he? Scotty’s typically crackerjack timing has resulted in them escaping just before the commandant divulged who the lead conspirator was. D’oh.
However, all will be revealed in the next couple of creepy tracks.
With the discovery aboard the Enterprise of the two Federation assassins – both murdered – the Starfleet officers hatch a plan to unmask the one who pulled their strings and, ultimately, cut them loose. There is a subtle suggestion of Spock’s theme, as well as a commando-crawling reminder of the Klingon theme as we see Chang discussing Kirk’s escape with the Rura Penthe commandant, and then Eidelman moves into a marvellously smooth and suspenseful passage for cello and bass as it publicised that the two murderers are still alive in Sick Bay and are prepared to deliver a full statement about the conspiracy. A shadowy figure infiltrates the area as the lead conspirator aboard the ship attempts to silence them forever. Of course, this is a trap instigated by Spock, Kirk and McCoy … and the villain is soon Revealed as being Lt. Valeris, to a dark and dirge-like response of the Klingon theme.
In Mind Meld, Spock uses his Vulcan powers to worm the names of the conspirators out of the traitorous Lt. Valeris, and Eidelman amplifies the horror of such intense cerebral violation in this disturbing scene with a menacing undercurrent from slowly sustained strings, stretching a line into a steady intravenous tone until it resembles the drone of some vast subterranean bee. The cellos then begin to nudge this sinew-taut line with a steady penetration, clawing ever deeper and deeper. Icy strings and glacial chimes then shimmer over the top, and together with suspended cymbals, combine to provide the unnerving sound of poison gas being leaked. In many ways, this is my favourite track of the score – there’s something so cold and isolating about its slow, scalpel-dragged tone. I love its subtlety and its severe, clinical determination to unhinge. We are literally seeing Spock doing the unthinkable to someone … but for all the right reasons. It is the only logical thing to do, but we know that nobody is comfortable with it. Eidelman allows the track to simply evaporate at the end … when it becomes clear that Valeris knows nothing more. Both she and Spock react almost orgasmically with gasps and moans, furthering adding to the unique discomfort. In the film, everyone, including the audience, feels distinctly uneasy during this scene, and the cue inspired by it is crucial to evoking the perfect mood of horrible disquiet and the necessary shame and guilt. All that we miss here is the thumping heartbeat that the film plays amidst the enforced meld. Incidentally, the Spock/Valeris story was continued in the novel Cast No Shadow.
With information as to the whereabouts of the secret peace conference that the separatists intend to destroy gained from Captain Sulu aboard the Excelsior, Kirk and Spock discuss the changing universe, and their place within it. Dining on Ashes retains the suspended cymbals but brings in the clarinet and the violins to procure a genteel and slow rendition of the heroic Enterprise theme. Once more, Eidelman resists any temptation to unleash the swagger of a fanfare, ending the track with a solo trumpet. This isn’t at all mournful, but its vaguely tired and elegiac nature is suggestive of an older, more reflective form of valour – a pretty accurate depiction of the condition of these now geriatric space-dogs, whose old values are now outdated.
The next track is an epic one that charts the Enterprise’s warp speed rush to the rescue of the luxuriously be-whiskered Kurtwood Smith’s Federation President at the secret location of the conference, Camp Khitomer (a fairly obvious reference to Camp David), before the conspirators assassinate him. But, in a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey, General Chang lies in wait in orbit around the planet. As the Enterprise closes-in, Chang cries havoc and let’s slip “the dogs of war” and rains torpedoes at Kirk, taunting him all the while in a manner not dissimilar to good old Khan. Eidelman lines up his orchestral battalions at the same time, and leads them into The Battle for Peace in three successive waves. His roiling brass-fuelled Klingon theme spearheads the charge, drums and bass gathering momentum. But this set-piece manoeuvre also contains a subtle variation, from eerie synthesizer and high strings, of Spock’s theme that glistens like a fresh wound in-between the dramatic cut and thrust of the heavier Klingon motif.
Taking plenty of damage from Chang, whose ship is able to fire even when cloaked, Spock and Uhura realise that the enemy can still be located by the gas emission from his “tailpipe”. Whilst Spock and McCoy load up a torpedo with a plasma-seeking device, Captain Sulu races to their aid, though all he can do once he arrives is provide another distraction for Chang’s target practice. And all the while, down on the surface at Camp Khitomer, another assassin makes ready to take out the Federation President. Eidelman juggles his action theme with that of the Klingons, with added brass fusillades and a heady wallop of Holstian might. In The Final Count, the last cue of this triple-whammy track, Chang’s sees his fate zeroing-in on him and his Bird of Prey disintegrates … leaving the Enterprise regulars, en masse, free to beam down and save the day. Kirk makes a spectacular dive that drops the President out of the way of the blast intended for his head, and Scotty blows away the Klingon hit-man. There’s life in these old space-dogs, yet. Eidelman has maintained the excitement throughout this set-piece with precision and power, and provided a pulse-pounding and rousing finale to the plot.
In The Undiscovered Country, Kirk and Co. are applauded for their galaxy-saving efforts and a fragile peace is announced as the other conspirators are rounded-up. Eidelman keeps things restrained, yet beautiful. The “heroic” motif reappears with warmth and a sigh of relief after high strings caress the stars, and the track majestically ends with that water-glass soothing version of Spock’s theme.
In Sign Off, we are back aboard the Enterprise as Kirk and his crew receive orders to return to Spacedock for the decommissioning of their trusty ship. Bidding a final farewell to Captain Sulu and the Excelsior, Kirk wistfully orders an expectant Chekov to take the ship on a heading towards “the second star to the right … and straight on ‘til moring” and the Enterprise makes its final trip under Kirk’s historic command. Eidelman begins this poignant passage with solo horn and trumpet. He dutifully allows space for Alexander Courage’s fanfare to appear, soaring once again, and then his elegiac, maritime theme returns with added surges of heraldic brass and gorgeously accentuated chimes to help us wave the Enterprise off … and the ship disappears in the silver-white glow of a distant star. The track title is poignant in a couple of ways – it denotes the end of the old Trek voyages and also the lovingly rendered animated “signing off” of the main cast’s signatures just before the end credits.
Eidelman’s final cue of the full score is a glorious End Credits Suite that gathers in the glowering might of the Klingon theme and its various swelling variances, and traces the wistfully heroic motif through it like a fault-line in the shape of a half-smile. All the main themes reappear – heroic, Klingon, Spock, Holstian, action - capturing the darkness of the plot and the brief, but still rousing moments of heroism that have ultimately saved it.
Clanging bells peal out in a rays-of-dawn coronation. Chimes and percussion join in with the almost ecclesiastical verve of a hopeful new era. In possibly an even more eyebrow-raising turn, the score only barely bows out on a recognisably heroic salute. The times, they were a-changing, and reflecting the dubious peace that the thawing of the Cold War had brought about, Star Trek VI was not about to drop its guard. It observed that nobody could be trusted, and that patriotism could be its own worst enemy. Whatever optimistic and chivalric music Eidelman crafts for this story, it has been in earnest and shaped around the passing of an age. The film has been intended as the last cinematic ride for the original crew and even if the imagery on show didn’t quite live up to such a final send-off, Eidelman clearly wanted to greet the transition with a guarded quality of respect for the old guard and suspicion of what was coming with the arrival of the new. Once again, this is his marvellous use of subtlety. If Goldsmith or Horner had handled this changeover, then the score would have been completely different and sailed-out on a blissful symphony of cosmic euphoria and honour. Part of me wishes that had been the case, but I still adore how Eidelman handled such a challenging task.
This lavish presentation also contains some bonus material.
In what is still a unique move that none of Trek’s other composers have done, Cliff Eidelman wrote music for the film’s trailer, which debuted on American TV September 28th 1991 within the Star Trek 25th Anniversary Special. Recorded separately from the main scoring sessions, on September 1st at the Sony Pictures Scoring Stage, this was scintillatingly delivered by 61 instruments and a synthesized version of the men’s choir. After a whirligig tour through the main themes, it culminates in a bright rendition of the Courage fanfare. We hear this as Track 23, and we also get to hear Eidelman’s earlier, and slightly less emphatic and exciting take at the film’s trailer in Track 26, which runs for just a couple of second less.
The two tracks in-between offer us a couple of alternate versions. Neither is significantly different from those used in the final score, although this original version of Sign Off omits the Courage fanfare from the end. The version that Meyer and Eidelman actually went with is much more poetic and touching, as a result.
Disc 2 is given over to Eidelman’s original 1991 album presentation, with 13 tracks.
The fantastic music of the Star Trek series is a never-ending source of pure creativity and utter delight. There is literally never a dull moment. Goldsmith found magic, wonder and spiritualism in the stars for the first voyage and the fifth. Horner delivered action and thrills and nonstop excitement with his two trips. Rosenman went off on a more light-hearted tangent, but made terrific use of whale-song for his solo expedition. Dennis McCarthy had fun with the two crews in the baton-changing Generations, keeping things both fast-paced and elegiac. But Eidelman threw the wildest curveball of all. He refused to acknowledge Trek’s usual tradition by stripping out the rousing fanfares and paying only minimal respect to the Enterprise’s musical heritage and, in so doing, he paid absolute attention to the story at-hand and the tone that director Nick Meyer was after. As such, this is the darkest and most demonstrative of the Trek scores … and a definite classic in its own right.
Needless to say, Intrada’s thoroughly excellent, and happily unlimited release comes very highly recommended. Trek fan or not, this is powerful, majestic and exciting stuff.
Full Track Listing
DISC ONE: THE FILM SCORE
01. Overture 3:02
02. The Incident 1:09
03. Spacedock/Clear All Moorings* 1:59
04. Spock's Wisdom 3:13
05. Guess Who's Coming 0:49
06. Assassination 2:16
07. Surrender for Peace 2:48
08. The Death of Gorkon 2:07
09. The Trial/Morally Unjust Evidence 1:13
10. Sentencing 1:02
11. Rura Penthe/First Sight of Rura Penthe 4:09
12. Alien Fight 1:05
13. First Evidence/The Search 1:33
14. Escape From Rura Penthe 5:35
15. The Mirror 1:17
16. Revealed 2:48
17. Mind Meld 2:06
18. Dining on Ashes 1:01
19. The Battle for Peace/
The Final Chance for Peace/The Final Count 8:15
20. The Undiscovered Country 1:07
21. Sign Off* 3:16
22. Star Trek VI End Credits Suite 6:17
Total Time: 58:07
23. Trailer* (take 10) 2:23
24. Guess Who's Coming (alternate) 0:51
25. Sign Off* (alternate) 3:31
26. Trailer* (take 2) 2:20
Total Time: 9:01
Total Disc Time: 67:14
DISC TWO: THE ORIGINAL 1991 SOUNDTRACK ALBUM
Produced by Cliff Eidelman
01. Overture 2:57
02. An Incident 0:53
03. Clear All Moorings* 1:39
04. Assassination 4:45
05. Surrender for Peace 2:46
06. Death of Gorkon 1:10
07. Rura Penthe 4:22
08. Revealed 2:38
09. Escape From Rura Penthe 5:34
10. Dining on Ashes 1:00
11. The Battle for Peace 8:03
12. Sign Off* 3:13
13. Star Trek VI Suite 6:18
Total Disc Time: 45:17
*Contains “Theme From Star Trek (TV Series)” by
Alexander Courage and Gene Roddenberry
Ominous, dark and martial, Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a stunning piece of work that stands quite some way apart from the music serving the other entries in the series. Heard here in its entirety, it paints a far more serious and altogether deadlier canvas of the galactic badlands that the Enterprise patrols and the political machinations that override all those interstellar cowboy antics. Gravely imperious and shadowy, his score roils and churns with feverish discontent, swarming with treachery. A vast array of unusual percussion instruments keeps the nerves jangled throughout the Rura Penthe sequences, and the use of a male choir adds a level of gothic dementia to these already tense proceedings.
A special mention must go to both the wild tribalism of Alien Fight and the disturbingly icy and paranoid guilt-trip of Mind Meld.
Most remarkably of all is the comparative lack of heroic swashbuckling romance. There is surprisingly little to have your heart swelling or make you punch a fist into the air with pride. The film doesn’t require much of it, of course, but this would be both a godsend to Eidelman, in that he wouldn’t have to try to come up with a rousing theme to rival anything from Goldsmith or Horner, and something of a challenge in that he would still have to find a balance between the tense political distrust and prejudice of the plot and the space-opera antics that typified the colourful action expected of a Star Trek adventure. I think he succeeds admirably and this is definitely a classic score that pulls few punches along the way and has even fewer knowing-winks or chuckles.
Sinister and powerful, this is Trek at its darkest. Another spellbinding release from Intrada that boasts extra tracks, the original album presentation from Eidelman and a terrific 28-page illustrated booklet.
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