Being one of the odd-numbered films in the franchise, Star Trek Generations has always had many people trash both the film and the score, and all in all it gets treated as one of the redheaded step-children of the series. To which I say: screw that, I love redheads. But while the film and music has been harshly treated in the past, there has always been a vocal set of supporters for it, all of which which are going to be tribbling at GNP/Crescendo’s new release of the complete soundtrack to the film.
In case you haven’t seen the film, Generations featured the on-screen pairing of Captains Kirk and Picard in an intergalactic tag-team match against a bereaved scientist intent on causing the death of millions just so he can get into an interdimensional nexus (welcome to Star Trek, folks). It’s a decent film, not brilliant but certainly not as bad as the usual “Worst! Trek! Ever!” crowd would have you believe. But it is very melancholy, and since much of it is about death in an overt and not entirely cheery way, it’s not your typical Trek flick/score. That said, I prefer sad melancholic Picard to action hero Picard, which is probably why it’s my favourite one out of the later films.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have any lighter moments, but many are tinged with sadness which, from a musical point of view, subsequently help to strike an interesting balance between the more cerebral cues and the action material, blended by the film’s new themes. It’s worth mentioning that despite its stature as the main theme for The Next Generation and its appearance in the trailers, Jerry Goldsmith’s “Theme From Star Trek – The Motion Picture” does not appear, although the score’s themes are good enough that we don’t really miss it.
Indeed, the music is phenomenal at times, and part of that is due to the three main themes; the two “captain’s themes” – a noble melody for the Federation (heard here kicking off the “Overture”) and a more overtly lush and heroic “riding” theme (check it out here); and the ethereal music for the nexus, which to paraphrase Whoopi Goldberg in the movie, you just want to wrap yourself in like a blanket and not come out (wrap yourself up here). There’s also a neat four-note motif for the villain, and all of these serve the score really well, especially in the kick-ass way composer McCarthy introduces them via the Main Title.
The title piece starts with the villain motif and a swell for the title card before segueing into the wordless choral material that makes up the nexus theme, which eventually has the the evil notes overlayed before a lovely horn rendition of the Federation theme. As the chorus returns we get a sense that we’re building up to something, which is justified when we’re battered around the head with a great reading of the Alexander Courage Star Trek fanfare to remind us just exactly where we are. It’s just a wonderful way to start the picture and the score.
The action material is appropriately intense, with McCarthy getting the best out of the brass section and doing well to either integrate the more dissonant and non-thematic music with the primary melodies (“Kirk Saves The Day”, “The Final Fight”) or produce single cues that not only work well within themselves but also fit perfectly into the main body of the score (“Outgunned”). The music for the nexus seems almost inevitable, with a wordless choir that is both beautiful and unsettling, with a mix of seduction and caution heard in “A Christmas Hug” as Picard is given everything he wanted, but with a thought at the back of his mind telling him something isn’t right.
As the score begins to draw to a close it brings out its aces, starting with “Jumping The Ravine”, an exciting piece that combines both captain themes in an echo of the overture with a thrilling opening section that leads to a quick pull-back as Kirk realises he is not only out of time but out of mind. This continues with the beautiful string work of “Two Captains” and a return to the tense action with “Crash Recap” and “The Final Fight”, the latter the big finale piece scoring Picard and Kirk’s climactic scrap against Soran. The bombast is then contrasted with possibly the score’s standout cue, “Captain of the Enterprise (Kirk’s Death)”, which scores the final passing of our finest space captain and his subsequent DIY burial.
It’s a tender piece, with a funereal reading of the Federation theme giving way to an incredible string motif signifiying his death, before an emotional oboe section segues back into a reprise of the previous theme before a final appropriate rendition of the original series fanfare. It’s an exceptional cue (and a brilliant scene in the film, with a wonderful crossfade as Picard stands before the makeshift grave he’s created) and provides a sense of finality before giving way to the finale, “To Live Forever”. Here everything is wrapped up amidst the wreckage of the Enterprise, providing us with a lovely rendition of the riding theme and a frankly awesome rendition of the original fanfare that swells to a massive crescendo to end the film. Following this is the “Star Trek Generations Overture”, an end title suite which uses the Federation and riding themes as bookends for the nexus theme, before climaxing with yet another a stirring reprise of the Star Trek fanfare.
For those who have been clamouring for a complete score release, this is a godsend. While the original album is by no means a poor assembly, there are some cues on here that fans have been after since 1994; I particularly am overjoyed to see the inclusion of “HMS Enterprise”, the lush rendition of the riding theme that introduces the Next Generation crew in the film. For fans of the original LP however it is here on the second disc, along with the fun sound effect library from the ’94 CD, as well as two alternate cues and Data’s “life-forms” ditty from the film. The score has been remastered and the increase in quality is worth the upgrade on its own, revealing more detail and depth in the recording.
So a brilliant score not only for Star Trek in its own right, with great remastered sound quality, a complete score presentation and the original album remastered? What are you waiting for? Make it so.
STAR TREK GENERATIONS – LIMITED EDITION is out now from GNP Crescendo
Words: Charlie Brigden