Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan - Expanded Original Motion Picture Soundrack Soundtrack Review

by Chris McEneany
Movies & TV Review


Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan - Expanded Original Motion Picture Soundrack Soundtrack Review

At last, we can chuck out Crescendo's disc and all those “extended” bootlegs because FSM's Retrograde Records have released what must surely be the definitive edition of James Horner's massively influential and ceaselessly exciting score for Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. And what is the icing on the cake, then? Well, the surprising thing is that this release does not appear to be limited to a run of the usual 3000, or even less. Still, having said that, if you are a fan of either Horner or simply Trek, itself, then you should waste no further time and order it immediately. This is one of the perennial favourite scores since the Silver Age.

However, if you are still unsure and feel you need a little more persuasion ... you'd best stick around, because I'm about to take you on a musical tour through the Mutara Nebula, by way of Ceti Alpha V, outpost Regula I and, of course, “round the moons of Nibia, round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition's flames ... before I give up."

I think you know already that this won't be a quick jaunt, don't you?

Now I've spoken at length about both the Star Trek films and James Horner's scores on this site already, so I don't propose to go too much over old ground. But Horner's musical contribution to the franchise is second only to Jerry Goldsmith's. And, coming in at the second and third movies in the series after Goldsmith had created what many still consider to be the best scores that the entire phenomenon has to offer - his magisterial work for Star Trek: The Motion Picture is, indeed, a towering achievement regardless of your opinions about the film it serenades - his work would receive adoration just as long-lasting and cement its then-young composer's name at the forefront of Hollywood's go-to list. Combine this determined, original and gifted new voice with the equally next-generation vigour of director Nicholas Meyer who, with only the sci-fi thriller Time After Time (see separate review of Miklos Rozsa's score) to his name, was just as much of a gamble to helm a project as big and as hugely anticipated as this. Yet together they ensured the everlasting appeal and popularity of what is justifiably cited as being the best, and most enjoyable saga in the Star Trek cinematic cannon.

Meyer wanted action and heart to come first. He got that - in spades. Horner wanted to rouse, terrify, inspire and move - and nobody could claim that he failed to deliver on any of those counts. The composer also wanted to develop a nautical theme for the voyages of the USS Enterprise and her crew. Goldsmith had embraced the universe with his music - alien concepts, star-spun mysteries - and the transcendental beauty of space, the final frontier. Star Trek II demanded aggression and suspense, battles aplenty and the musical incarnation of a hate so intense that it could tear the fabric of the galaxy apart. With only a handful of memorable scores behind him - The Hand, Wolfen, Humanoids From The Deep and, anchoring a firm foundation for the intergalactic, Battle Beyond The Stars - he was still what could be considered small-time and virtually unknown, especially after Jerry Goldsmith. But instead of panicking under the shadow of such a widely loved and critically lauded composer, Horner found the environment one that was strangely liberating, and one that allowed him to express himself with no shadows, ghosts or former selves trying to lead him astray.

Horner's Main Title, Track 1, doesn't just respectfully acknowledge Alexander Courage's esteemed TV theme, it incorporates it and allows it to evolve into his own rousing standard. After a barrage of almost patriotic brass - a flared solo trumpet calls out across the stars before amassed trumpets and trombones take up the charge - a long-lined melody for soaring strings entices the main theme out. The maritime spirit of adventure is clear and highly charged with pomp, energy and optimism - and more than a little wit, as well. Touches of Kirk's ineffable charm suffuse the theme with a boisterous, slightly playful flavour. Cellos and basses hail the sub-theme for the Enterprise, herself, adding a welcome texture of familial harmony. These two themes will run side by side, over and under and back-to-back throughout the movie and the score, emphasising the symbiotic relationship of the ship to its captain. Is is as grand a statement as Goldsmith's? No, I don't think so. But it is a more human one, and one that has greater scope for variation within the set-piece structure of the film's action-heavy narrative.

After the film's music-less opening scenes, Horner then brings on the deeply disturbing stuff that will capture the threat from the plot's antagonist, the superior intellect of Khan Noonian Singh. And he does this with the following terrific three-track sequence for Chekov's and Captain Terrell's deadly discoveries on the wrong dust-ball planetoid that they have just been scanning. Beaming down to the arid, sand-choked desert that has been home to the renegade superman, Khan, and his devoted tribe since Kirk left them marooned there many years previously - blighted now that its sister planet, Ceti Alpha VI, which the Starfleet officers erroneously believe they are on, exploded, the men soon wish they'd stayed in their bunks. Discovering their mistake when Chekov recoils in horror from a strap in a ramshackle living pod bearing the name Botany Bay - the vessel that Khan was abandoned in - the two attempt to escape but find themselves surrounded, instead, by the gypsy-like people of Khan and his followers. Track 2, Surprise on Ceti Alpha V, is brief but beautifully mysterious rising statement of pure dread. There is an element of what sounds like a male voice moaning and wailing in the background which is very unnerving, and a deliciously spooky pan-pipe warble, faint but enough to spike the hairs on the back of your neck. This ghastly wind-like warble, in actual fact, is something that John Williams would take to a much more detailed and aggressive level in the opening of his fabulous Temple Of Doom cue from the score to Indy's second cinematic outing.

Horner then introduces Khan to us via a slow, metronomic pulse that seeps through the next track, Khan's Pets (actually, this title is slightly incorrect, as his beloved, though dreaded Ceti Alpha Eels do not appear until the next track), bleeding tension out of a scene that Ricardo Montalban (as Khan) simmers with regal rage and burns with the intoxicating notion of a new and twisted plan for vengeance. Stacked brass and dark, unearthly strings form a frightening sort of execution cadence. Horner would revisit such a disquieting combination of anguished, though strangled trumpet, and coiling, cyclonic violins in Aliens to denote the Marines searching through the abandoned xenomorph-harvested colony to a more extensive degree, but the effect is profoundly creepy even here. He folds low-register notes around a churning motif that nudges deeply under the skin, signifying a level of insanity that the Trek universe has not encountered before. Jeff Bond's notes for this release make reference to Nicholas Meyer requesting that his composer place a glistening militaristic phrase for echoing solo trumpet in the piece to depict Khan's wistful recollection of former glories, something that he had loved from Jerry Goldsmith's amazing score for Patton. And, yes, perhaps never sounding as clear as it does here, the haunting element is beautifully woven in.

The third piece of this tense triumvirate centres around the vicious little alien critters that claimed the life of Khan's wife, gruesome, slithery sand-eels that burrow into the cerebral cortex of their victims - in this case, the unfortunate hosts are to be Chekov and Terrell - rendering them, ahem, “very susceptible to suggestion.” Horner uses one of his favourite flourishes from his early decade of scoring (and even going right on up to Titanic, in fact) with intense, clangorous anvil strikes that have you recoiling with their sudden metallic stabbings. The cue, entitled simply The Eels of Ceti Alpha V, then descends into an eerie tonal wall of sliding, sinuous textures as Khan describes what use he will put the eels to before subjecting his captives to their nestling, brainwashing influence. More anvil clangs resonate sharply as both Chekov and Terrell have their minds invaded. But, to radically shift our focus from this grisly development, Horner then moves into a second cue found in Track 4, Kirk in Space Shuttle, that delightfully combines his own new theme for the Enterprise and Kirk with Alexander Courage's familiar old fanfare for the TV show. Both are entwined with light, airy strings and joyful brass, the music becoming reassuring and regal - a beautiful ship of the line coming into view for the doting Captain. Admiral Kirk is coming home.

Track 5, Enterprise Clears Moorings, is one of those epic main theme renditions that makes true Trek-fans go all misty-eyed. Truly this is heart-stirring stuff, and it is incredible how faithful to the nautical phraseology he desired for the film that Horner is able to be. This would be just as fitting for an old 17th Century warship setting sail as it is for the 23rd Century's refitted starship Enterprise. Brass pays homage to the new mission, glistening harp and xylophone adding trinkets of galactic zest, a faint conjunction of Kirk's refrain and Spock's own, ultimately tragic theme bob up and down on the seafaring jubilation of the main thrust of the piece. But Horner makes sure to end the track with a rousing, propulsive fanfare that exactly mimics the courageous optimism of the classic maritime scores of Korngold.

Twenty seconds of shivering, tense discord pulsates during the first half of Track 6, Chekov Lies. Khan has got him doing his dirty work and, now in control of the USS Reliant, is speeding towards the research outpost, Regula I, to obtain the mysterious life-creating missile of the Genesis Device. The second half of this short track seeks to provide us with more reassurance by beating its chest with glorious Federation brass, returning us to the relative calm and safety of the Enterprise. A distant tuba takes up the Courage theme, the overall score now playing veritable tit-for-tat with Khan and Kirk as musical pawns in Horner's grand orchestral conflict.

With Track 7, called Spock, Horner takes an effective stab at embracing the Vulcan aspect of the enigmatic First Officer with a tritone-based theme composed for panpipes and recorder. This, however, was not the idea that Horner had initially envisaged for his Vulcan theme. Originally, he had wanted the spectral qualities of the ondes Martenot - which creates a unique sound akin to the Theremin - but, unbelievably, could not locate such an instrument in the United States. Perhaps he should have asked Elmer Bernstein, since he had just used one for his terrific score for the animated SF anthology film, Heavy Metal (see separate score review). With a delicate melody modulated from the harp, Horner has his panpipes played slightly off-key to effect an appropriately glassy dissonance. As required, the theme is spectral, thoughtful and reflective. Clearly mournful, too, this is wonderful stuff that combines a profoundly “alien” attitude with a sense of warmth that its subject, himself, has difficulty understanding.

This glacial theme is repeated at the start of Track 8, as Spock advises his commanding officer, and best friend, that he should assume command of the Enterprise now that a situation has developed - something ghastly is about to occur at the Starfleet research base at Regula I - and the ship's supposed training mission must be diverted. A brisk militaristic drum section then ensues, stepping up the pace and bristling with “go get 'em” bravado as the Enterprise makes ready to jump to warp speed. But this heroism isn't allowed to gather too much steam, as a sinister final cue of the three that make up this track, He Tasks Me, comes in to assume grim command. Khan refuses the chance of just getting away after the slaughter he has committed on the peaceful research station, opting, instead, to lie in wait for Kirk. Echoplexed effects spice up the cue with cold-blooded relish.

So far there have been many cues that had never been heard outside of the movie, but the next one comes as a complete delight - especially for fans of Christopher Young's tonal weirdness for Invaders From Mars.

This new element that provides Wrath Of Khan with an intriguing and genuinely sci-fi quality is Craig Huxley's bizarre tonal and ambient synth-work for the Genesis Project. Heard in full on Track 9, entitled, appropriately enough, Genesis Project, this supremely glacial, ethereal and twinkling star-swoon is vaguely reminiscent of softer, more languid Vangelis. A low moan of electro-wind swirls in the background, whilst little fizzes, flutterings and synthetic synapses dance about. Huxley had worked on, and even appeared in episodes of Star Trek and, of course, was the man who created the famous Blaster Beam effect that Jerry Goldsmith incorporated so brilliantly into his stately score for The Motion Picture. He brings the Beam into play for Horner, as well, but this track is composed of textural landscapes that mould, shift and undulate with that quintessential deep-space eeriness that a hundred other galactic operas seek to emulate. Unusual and emotionless, this is a stark juxtaposition to the alleged powers of the Genesis Device - a creator of life and the symbol of rebirth. Edited down by over a half in the film, this cue has only ever appeared on one of Huxley's own experimental albums before now,although Star Treks III and IV would utilise the same movie segment.

Tracks 10 and 11 rank, together, as one of the best action/suspense set-pieces that a composer has ever graced a film with. Right up there alongside Max Steiner's King Kong cavalcade, Jerry Goldsmith urging Rambo onwards through the jungle for First Blood Part II, John Williams tumbling alongside Indiana Jones as climbs on top, underneath and all around a speeding Nazi truck in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and even John Barry's taut and brazen 007 theme for whenever early Bond did his thing. With the hijacked USS Reliant drawing an unwitting Enterprise within range, Khan licking his lips at the prospect of getting even with his “old friend” and Admiral James T. shifting uneasily in his chair, James Horner begins a momentous to-ing and fro-ing between the main themes for the two arch enemies. Khan's theme commences the wild double-act with its incredible tribal squall, percussive anger and ethnic vibrancy, a rhythmic charge that sounds both bloody and inspired. Instinctual. There can be no doubt that this is an evolution from Horner's music for the wolf-pack in Wolfen - sharp, primal and jarring. Immaculately, this then blends into the Enterprise-cum- Kirk theme, with its long, slow, nautical lines of tongue-in-cheek nobility and soaring heroism. With the two diverse voices coming together in such a way, the music tells its own story even away from the visuals. We know who is gaining the upper hand, who is back-pedalling in an instant. Those clamorous cymbal-clashes of Khan's decorate the cue with heart-snatching immediacy. Percussive click-clacking, wood-blocks, chimes, glockenspiel and blasts of brass assail us. A frantic plucking of the harp and Horner's terrific orchestral simulation of whirling wind strike up before a tempest of almost insane activity once Khan drops his pretence and fires on Kirk's ship, wreaking havoc and death. Horner electrifies every corner of his vast 91-piece ensemble, commanding a veritable armada of sound. He puts in so much detail and colour that every incredible slice of musical action - be it ominous brass, shrieking strings, clocking piano notes, brave woodwinds or that infernal anvil - plays its own part in the resulting engagement like regiments moving into combat on a massive battlefield. The Enterprise is blasted about and Kirk's bridge bears witness to the tumbling bodies of many an old TV episode, the Kobayashi Maru Test coming real in way that no-one aboard thought possible.

Then, in one of the SF genre's greatest sequences of perfect editing, visuals, direction and, naturally, music, this set-piece then turns the corner. Enterprise, battered and helpless, is hailed by the Reliant, Uhura breaking the unthinkable, unimaginable news that Reliant's Captain is requesting to discuss the terms of Kirk's surrender. Shatner excels in his stunned shock when his old enemy's face appears on the view-screen, Horner greeting the moment with a plaintiff, wounded rendition of the main theme, almost like a dying lament, the wind dropping from Enterprise's sails. But what follows, in the exultant Kirk's Explosive Reply, turns the tables with consummate ease, our blood beginning to surge once again, only this time with an ebullient sense of victory. Kirk's old eyes gleam from behind his antique spectacles - there's still a few tricks left up his red serge sleeve - and instructs Enterprise's computer to order the Reliant's shields to lower. Ostinato-driven and wickedly covert for the first half, Kirk's theme slyly shifts into position as he has Khan wait impatiently for the details regarding the Genesis Project to be sent over. Our gut tells us what is going to happen, and we can't wait for it, but Horner teases and taunts us with this steady, surreptitiously pulsing climb.

That build-up ... man, it gets you somewhere inside, gradually increasing in tempo, rising in cahoots with little refrains of the main theme, the speed of the musical clock ticking like a time-bomb about to go off. Part of this cue is revisited in Aliens' awesome cue, Bishop's Countdown, but the giddy sense of adrenalised anticipation was first realised here. When the strings screech in terror and surprise you know that Khan has just grasped the fact that he has been had, but is powerless to intervene and, as the Enterprise strafes him with phaser-fire, Horner gives us a delirious scream of vengeful Federation brass. The cue features a wonderful retreating phrase of Khan's theme, still angry, still murderous, but forced to flee into the background, just as the treacherous Reliant roars up and over the Enterprise and then away into the star-field, unable to continue the fight for the time being. Kirk's theme howls triumphantly at Khan's flight, but the moment is cut short when Scotty arrives on the bridge with his mortally injured nephew in his arms. This cue, incidentally, goes on a little further here than it does in the film with an anguished, embittered orchestral wail to signify the shock and dismay that the entire encounter has caused.

Another one of Horner's grim and disturbing “search” cues comes next, one of his specialities from his earlier years. Kirk, McCoy and Kirstie Alley's Lt. Saavik beam aboard the Regula I orbiting outpost and discover to their horror the ravaged bodies of the research team, who have been tortured to death by Khan. Horner magnificently arranges dark and terrible textures with waterphone, strings and brass to essay the creepy shadows and the nasty surprises they contain. He carries on this skin-prickling approach with the next two tracks, as well. In Brainwashed, Track 13, we experience the hypnotic ambience associated with the Ceti Alpha Eels and their unfortunate hosts of Chekov and Paul Winfield's Captain Terrell after the Enterprise team stumble across them. Once again, but with the accompaniment now of the motif from He Tasks Me, Khan's demented and singular theme returns, pulsing with villainous poison. This segues directly into Track 14, Captain Terrell's Death, which then ramps up the tension as he and Chekov, under the painful influence of the eels, turn their weapons on Kirk. Khan's theme revels in the suspense of the situation, climbing towards a climax of chaotic strings and shrill, raucous brass - but the violence and death that Khan, who is listening over an open communicator, expects is not that of his nemesis.

Yet Horner is not finished with this darkness. With Terrell having killed himself to avoid hurting Kirk, and Chekov having been saved at the last minute, the group, now joined by Kirk's son, David (Merrit Buttrick) and old flame, Carol (Bibi Besch), who are the last survivors of the Regula I massacre, Khan settles back in the macabre comfort that he has, at least, marooned them all in the bowels of a supposedly dead planet - and poetic justice rules Track 15, Buried Alive. His villainous theme throbs away, grinding at the senses.

The film, and the score, then shift into the third and final act. Track 16, The Genesis Cave, proves with its abundant awe-struck chords of ethereal splendour that the planet they are trapped within is anything but dead. Shimmering beauty and evocative, glimmering chords, wrapped in tinkling chimes and bells, swoon and glide over images of an Eden-like cathedral of Genesis-created (un)natural wonder. But, as the eternal game of cat-and-mouse continues, we are then blasted with a harsh wallop of violent, twisting discord, reminding us that Khan is still out there and now hunting for the Enterprise.

And so begins the longest track of the score, Battle In The Mutara Nebula, in which all the main themes come crashing together once more. Kirk, as is customary, cheats death again and proves how cunning he can be when he and his party are suddenly beamed back aboard the Enterprise amidst swift preparations to confront Khan in one final battle. Whilst this enormous cue of musical sparring is exhausting and endlessly enjoyable, it needs little passages of nerve-twanging suspense to separate it from the two classic battle tracks earlier on. As both ships enter the swirling blue and purple and red bruise of the nebula, Horner weaves his themes around shots of each vessel seeking out the other. Shrill blasts of either Kirk's valiant motif, or Khan's rippling, savage theme vie for supremacy. The set-piece is outstanding in its wild playfulness, its bash and crash leap-frogging of personification, and its simple musical storytelling. At one point, Horner literally flings both the Enterprise theme and Khan's trilling signature at one another, creating a mesmerising symphonic tussle that the orchestra must have loved playing - fanfares and guttural counter-attacks jostling around us. Huxley's Blaster Beam warps through the proceedings, awkward , jangling piano notes and echoplexed brass combining with electronics to create the spectral dislocation of the mesmerising vortex. Instances of quiet are deceitful lulls in the action, the WWII submarine chase that Meyer and co. were after for the sequence making full use of such frighteningly surreal tranquillity. This, simply put, is a track that has everything.

In a cue that has never been included on album before now, Track 18 deliver the orgiastic frenzy of Enterprise Attacks Reliant, the final pulverising onslaught on Khan's renegade ship. Mini-triumphs peal out via chordal brass and exultant string slashes as phasers and torpedoes tear through Reliant, laying waste to Khan's dedicated, but doomed people. A short cue, but a devastating one.

The Genesis Countdown arrives when Khan, battered and bloody, held together only by spite, triggers the probe he stole from Regula I, a final act of defiance that will destroy all in its atom-reorganising shock-wave. With their warp drive damaged, the Enterprise crew fear they will not escape the colossal blast radius in time. Horner's frantic action relocates Kirk's furious ostinato from his Explosive Reply and, amid glorious brass cascades, the pace is accelerated as the ship hurtles through space as fast as it can to avoid the enormous death-wave already sweeping across the void towards them. We all know how they eventually manage to pull away in time, and Horner, totally in-tune with the grave sacrifice that one much-loved character will make, peppers the track with little snippets of Spock's earlier theme, highlighting with ghostly, prophetic phrases the fated gravity of the situation. The Genesis theme serenades the glowing orb of “life from lifelessness” that Khan has instigated, Kirk and his crew astonished that Scotty has been able to repair the warp drive just in time. Horner marvellously crafts this sequence with the faint, dying trills of Khan's theme, the pounding drive of Enterprise's hectic, star-zooming flight and delicately logical Vulcan refrain. But you know that he's going to have to switch on another gear in a moment when Kirk finds out what his friend has done, and, if there's one thing that James Horner does better than pulse-pounding action, it's moving, emotional intimacy. The heightening rendition of the Enterprise theme aches from the score as Kirk, in torment, runs to his comrade's side. It's funny how one minute you can be on the edge of your seat, blood pounding with adrenaline and then, in one deft turnaround, there is a lump in your throat and your heart just seems to have forgotten how to beat. This scene floored me as a kid, and does so just as much today. The crystallised tinkling of the Genesis theme becomes a yearning cloud-burst of violin-led anxiety, played so high and searingly that we, and Kirk, already know that it is too late.

By contrast, Track 20 Spock (Dies) is delicate, lonely and memorably subtle. The Vulcan theme calls out gently and without regret, Spock's last words, spoken through the transparent barrier that has sealed him in the radiation chamber to his doom, delivering the painful truth of his confounded logic. Although not, at this time, a “Trekkie”, Horner understands the epic nature of what is unfolding and treats both the scene, and the fans, with the utmost respect and sincerity. Beautifully, the Alexander Courage theme returns on lonely horn - elegiac, melancholic, and yet faintly optimistic.

Horner didn't want to do the “Amazing Grace” section of Spock's funeral and fought strongly against it, but the studio wanted both it and the bagpipes to feature in the moving sequence. In time, however, the somewhat bizarre and sweepingly sentimental gesture has become much-loved by fans and, to be honest, in a score that is so diverse, so willing to travel where no scores have gone before, this piece, ultimately, does not sound so out of place. Beautiful, ethnic and heraldic all at once, the bagpipes even seem to conjure up the vast possibilities of a glimmering universe, and the hope that it offers. Jeff Bond's notes inform us how difficult it was to get the pipes to blend in with the orchestra, but the result, although slightly anachronistic, is tremendously evocative. This cue plays out in full in Track 21.

Reconciliation and acceptance are the key themes for the Epilogue, as Kirk, Carol and their son, and McCoy gaze wistfully out at the new Genesis Planet forming in the ether. Kirk's theme hovers about, damaged but unbeaten and soon Horner sweeps up the story with the homely and reassuring return of the Enterprise theme, everything turning full circle and an already close-knit group growing somehow even closer. Lush strings complement the Vulcan lament and then the film takes us down to the surface of the new world to see the final (ish) resting place for Spock, all the themes coming together into a gently sweeping statement of pride, valour and sacrifice. After Leonard Nimoy performs the famous Star Trek narration, rewardingly taking the reins from Shatner - the speech is retained on this recording, too - Horner delivers his End Title, a playful, rousing and defiantly grand statement of all the main heroic themes, playing like a glorious, old school overture. Agreeably, he signs off with a final jubilant blast of the Courage fanfare.

I think what surprises me most about this extended score is the hefty dose of grim and edgy suspense music that Horner layers into it. So many of these freshly unearthed tracks border on being horror cues, typifying the vile deeds and homicidal zeal of Khan. Asides from the already magnificent action cues and fanfares that we know so well, this is a terrific element that enhances the movie, obviously, but now allows for a richer, more varied and much more mature score as a whole. Khan's electrifying music literally does “stab at thee” from “Hell's heart” making the listening experience that much darker and menacing.

A couple of bonus cues round out the album in Track 23, which supplies us with the original Epilogue and End Title, early versions that are really just the same as those heard in the final score, although missing out the ethereal splendour of the Genesis Planet, as these shots had yet to be filmed at the time of recording, and were only picked up much later.

Released on Atlantic's album way, way back in a 45-minute program that was later issued on Crescendo's CD, and long since deleted, of course, this full score benefits from numerous extra cues, such as the spooky Eel-stuff, the Genesis theme and the music for the Genesis Cave, the grim discovery of the Regula I's slain scientific team, the final battle and Spock's actual death and funeral laments. Working with Rhino Entertainment and Paramount Pictures, Dan Wallin's original 1982 three-track mixes for the complete score have been remastered in simply stunning clarity and richness. This full score has been eagerly prayed for by fans for a great many years and the resulting release is nothing short of magnificent. That it suddenly appeared on schedules without any advance fanfare is perplexing, especially considering just how back-in-vogue Star Trek is at the moment, what with the new movie from JJ Abrams and the release of the original movies on Blu-ray (reviewed separately).

And if FSM's release wasn't fantastic enough, then just cast your over the comprehensive and gorgeously illustrated 28-page booklet of notes from Jeff Bond. It is clear that an enormous amount of love has been lavished on this set. Detailed track-by-track notes go hand-in-hand with a hugely attentive chronicle of both the film and James Horner, with numerous qoutes from both director and composer liberally interspersed. If only all releases could be afforded such glories. Even the packaging, itself, is tremendous. The cover art is wonderfully evocative, the inside of the inlay card bestowed with atmospheric alternative poster concepts.

Full Track Listing -

1. Main Title* 3:06

2. Surprise on Ceti Alpha V

0:45 3. Khan's Pets 4:19

4. The Eels of Ceti Alpha V / Kirk in Space Shuttle* 3:53

5. Enterprise Clears Moorings 3:33

6. Chekov Lies* 0:40

7. Spock 1:12

8. Kirk Takes Command* / He Tasks Me 2:07

9. Genesis Project (Composed and Performed by Craig Huxley) 3:16

10. Surprise Attack 5:07

11. Kirk's Explosive Reply 4:01

12. Inside Regula I 1:35

13. Brainwashed 1:24

14. Captain Terrell's Death 1:58

15. Buried Alive 0:57

16. The Genesis Cave 1:09

17. Battle in the Mutara Nebula 8:07

18. Enterprise Attacks Reliant 1:29

19. Genesis Countdown 6:34

20. Spock (Dies)* 1:53

21. Amazing Grace 1:26

22. Epilogue* / End Title* 8:41


23. Epilogue (original version)* / End Title* 7:29

*Contains “Theme From Star Trek (TV Series)” by Alexander Courage

One of my all-time favourite scores, folks, arrives at Warp Speed from literally out of the blue and zooms, straight away, to the pole position of this year's already considerable releases. FSM Retrograde do it proud, as well, really cleaning up the once-archaic sound of the previous incarnations. The clash of themes is electrifying - Khan's tribal rhythms clawing at Kirk's proud maritime heritage, the icily beautiful shimmer of the Genesis Project meeting the warmth of its resulting creation, Spock's glistening alien cadence confronting the fateful agony of his own demise. James Horner has graced every genre going and always stamped them with his own unique hallmark. His voice is distinctive and familiar even when he is being at his most experimental. With Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan he took ideas with which he had invigorated earlier sci-fi and horror films and created a whirling tsunami of challenging and devoutly exciting action music, fanfares, suspense cues and iridescent cosmic voices. He had a tough act to follow. Jerry Goldsmith's original score for the first Trek movie is a bonafide classic, but in just the same way that he would with his follow-on from Goldsmith's Alien, with his own Aliens, Horner took the ideas and motifs and injected them with nitroglycerine and an amazingly agile verve.

The music of Star Trek peaked all too soon with the first two movies. Although both Horner and Goldsmith would return to the series, neither would ever again reach the tumultuous heights that they attained with their defiant, go-for-broke series debuts. This score is thoroughly remarkable and endlessly listenable, which makes it an all-too rare commodity these days. Horner would take his themes and ideas and run with them across the full filmic spectrum, but Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is certainly one of his greatest achievements.

Ten out ten suddenly doesn't seem enough.






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