Latest reviews of new albums:
Star Trek: Discovery
  • Composed by Jeff Russo
  • Lakeshore / 2017 / 53m

It felt like we were long overdue a new Star Trek tv show when Discovery was announced – there wasn’t some innate problem with Star Trek which led to ever-reducing viewerships in the previous couple of shows, it was just that they weren’t really very good.  I was very surprised that the creators decided to make it a prequel (rarely a good idea), but it’s turned out to be a success and much better-received than Enterprise ever was.  While the Star Trek films have always been well-served musically, that’s not really true of the tv shows – the original series had some great music of course but it was the exception rather than the norm during the generally bland scoring of the Rick Berman era.  With the modern way of things being generally for a single composer to tackle a whole season of a show, it felt like Discovery offered a real opportunity for a composer to make his or her mark; and I was pleased when Jeff Russo was announced as that composer, having been so impressed by his distinctive, brilliant work on Fargo in particular.

It was therefore a complete shock when his main title theme for the show was unveiled – bland, colourless and unmemorable except for the completely jarring insertion of the familiar Alexander Courage fanfare, it did not bode well.  It’s grown on me a bit (funny how repetition can do that to you) but I still couldn’t hum it to you.  Unfortunately, the rest of the score follows suit.  While Russo is able to develop pieces over longer durations than McCarthy, Chattaway and co were generally able to do, the style is disappointing – somewhat generic orchestral gestures dominate, melody does not.  There’s only one track of particular note on the album, which is the brilliant electronic-dominated “Persistence”, clocking in at just a shade over one minute.  There’s a bit of energy to some of the action music, but only a bit – the choppy ostinato style is so well-worn and without any tunes to go with it, it’s just boring.  I have to admit that Russo’s own style is certainly present throughout, but it sounds like he was told to dial it completely back, and the lack of any really successful attempt to create emotional connections is a big disappointment (“Watch the Stars Fall” is one track that shows there was effort made to do so, but it just doesn’t go far enough; “Weakened Shields” is easily the best, with the shackles removed a little from the action music before some real emotion is finally heard).  It’s a bland, completely inoffensive album and it provides gentle support to the show, but surely Star Trek could get so much more (and Jeff Russo is certainly capable of providing so much more).

Bland, forgettable music is a big disappointment | |

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  1. J.B. (Reply) on Sunday 31 December, 2017 at 02:07

    It’s deeply dull. And virtually invisible in the show itself as it’s mixed so low.

    • Ad de Nijs (Reply) on Monday 8 January, 2018 at 11:50

      I’d like to be a bit of a devil’s advocate in this. First: it came out in the same week as Stars Wars:
      the last Jedi what drops a big shadow over all other releases. Second: Once you listen to it as stand alone album (as I always do) you can hear much more subtle themes and use of previous motives. And if Jeff had orders by the director to wind down on the eluberate scoring he did a great job. And yes, maybe listening to the full album in one session is a bit much to accomplish but tracks do well when programmed on radio.

  2. Dennis Music (Reply) on Sunday 31 December, 2017 at 03:57

    Worst Star Trek soundtrack ever, except for maybe the track Torchbearer which I quite like. Most of the rest of the album is much lower quality.


    Maybe Giacchino can do season 2?

  3. Solaris (Reply) on Sunday 31 December, 2017 at 13:52

    I really, *really* don’t like this show and, for once, this dislike carries over to the Score. First of all, I really don’t want to support the direction ST had taken with this Show in any fashion, and secondly, the music really isnt all that good. Bland, unostrusive (and fake sounding) wallpaper. In hindsight, by comparsion, Dennis McCarthys’ scores had a lot more personality and emotion to them.

  4. J.B. (Reply) on Monday 1 January, 2018 at 05:01

    Yeah, it’s kinda unsettling that Russo’s work here makes me nostalgic for McCarthy and Chattaway.

  5. Solaris (Reply) on Monday 1 January, 2018 at 11:40

    I look back on especially the Action-Music McCarthy has provided for previous Series (check out the Music for Episodes like “Way of the Warrior”, “What you leave behind”, “Year of Hell” and “Twilight” (‘Showdown’ kicks ass!)) and there is nothing comparable in Russos’ score for Discovery. Its not even close.

  6. J.B. (Reply) on Tuesday 2 January, 2018 at 06:24

    And Chattaway’s equally dynamic action music for Enterprise. Russo’s music in in the generic RC mold, with no (or limited) woodwinds, heavy on the electronics and plenty of chugging strings.

    (I suppose we should at least be fortunate they ponied up for an orchestra, despite its small size.)

  7. Solaris (Reply) on Tuesday 2 January, 2018 at 12:23

    By the way, have you heard the Score for the Voyager-Episode “Dark Frontier” by David Bell? That one is pretty darn great, too. I wonder what became of Bell, he abruptly left the Franchise midway through Enterprise’s second season and hasnt scored anything since.

    Although, to be honest, I think the most capable of the Star Trek-TV-Composers would be Paul Baillargeon.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 2 January, 2018 at 14:18

      I haven’t heard that one…

    • James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 2 January, 2018 at 14:18

      I thought the music on Enterprise was actually a big improvement from the other modern series.

    • J.B. (Reply) on Tuesday 2 January, 2018 at 22:32

      Enterprise’s music is certainly far more dynamic. The only downside is when the budget cuts started to affect it in later seasons and samples were brought in.

      I think Bell retired.

  8. Daniel Henderson (Reply) on Sunday 21 January, 2018 at 11:38

    The Bermanizer that removed all things interesting from Star Trek music started to dial back considerably in 1996. All of the recent 4 Disc sets from LaLaLand Records have been fantastic. I don’t we’ll see any of them reviewed here, but they are worthwhile purchases from fans. As for whatever this thing is called, there’s nothing that The Orville can’t do better, including the music. Here’s hoping we can get a good set of music from Bruce Broughton and others soon.