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Galaxy Quest
  • Composed by David Newman
  • La-La Land Records / 2012 / 53:07

A warm-hearted Star Trek spoof, Galaxy Quest sees a group of has-been actors living off the success of their 1980s sci-fi tv show by attending conventions and the like.  But when a group of aliens mistakes their tv show for a chronicle of real historical events, they find themselves in all sorts of pickles.  It was well-done (better than the real Star Trek films from that time) and featured good performances from its cast, with Alan Rickman in particular in fine form.  

For the music, director Dean Parisot turned to David Newman, veteran of a number of comedy films by that time.  Newman found the perfect tone for the film, essentially playing it straight and writing something that most of the time sounds like it could be a real Star Trek movie score, but just overemphasising the absurdity of certain situations in the finest Elmer Bernstein comedy scoring tradition.  Newman was a close friend of Jerry Goldsmith and, while he doesn’t go directly close to his work on the space franchise, he certainly manages to capture a similar sense of optimism and wonder, occasionally putting in some distinctly Goldsmithian action music.

David Newman

The score is anchored around the wonderful theme Newman wrote for the clip of the tv show itself – it’s only real fault is that it’s just too good to have really been the theme from such a show!  A fluid, vaguely nautical melody, its appearances through the score are frequent but never to the point of it outstaying its welcome.  The composer manages to find all sorts of uses for the theme – whether taking motivic fragments to use as building blocks for his action, presenting a lovely, warm arrangement for the ship launch sequence, even a really emotional piano solo arrangement for “I’m So Sorry”, the scene in which Tim Allen has to explain to the aliens who enlisted the heroic crew to help them that they are, in fact, only actors.

The action music is generally wonderful – occasionally Newman pushes it slightly over the edge with the addition of a choir, but even then it’s wonderful.  “Rock Monster” is straight from the Goldsmith textbook; the entirely straight face of “Red Thingie, Green Thingie… Run!” actually turns out to be one of the finest action pieces of the composer’s career.  The score’s latter stages are dominated by action, culminating in the wonderful “The Battle”, where Newman brings out all his tricks.  Of course, the excellent theme returns for “Happy Ending” and even finds itself in a new version for even bigger orchestra in “The New Galaxy Quest” at the end of the album, intended as the theme for a new follow-up show.

Synths don’t play a particularly overt role, but just occasionally they do grate a little; and while there are 22 cues on the 53-minute album, in fact most of these are pasted together from a series of much shorter ones, which does occasionally give the music a slightly piecemeal feel.  (Most of the cues have ridiculously convoluted track titles – for example “Big Kiss / Happy Rock Monster / Dying Thermians / Quellek’s Death / Into Reactor Room / Push the Button / A Hug Before Dying” – seriously, I don’t think anyone would have minded if you’d just called it “Big Kiss”).  But those are small issues with a score that is genuinely warm-hearted and extremely enjoyable, one of the composer’s finest in fact.  In common with most of Newman’s scores, it was unreleased at the time of the film (though there was a “promo” widely available at the time) and this new release from La-La Land is very welcome.  ****

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