- Composed by James Horner
- Film Score Monthly FSM 80129-2 / 2010 / 116:42
After the brilliant second installment of the Star Trek film franchise ended with one of the most beloved characters’ death, the third one (rather unsatisfyingly) brought him back to life. This “reset button” is one of the most frequent criticisms aimed at the franchise and it’s certainly a genuine complaint here; though it’s understandable why the producers wanted the character back. Leonard Nimoy’s condition of returning to the role was that he be able to direct the film; and so he did. It’s a relatively slight affair but enjoyable enough for a Trekkie like me.
James Horner had been working for a few years before he scored Star Trek II, but that film was his real breakthrough (and remains in my opinion his finest score) so it was great news that he came back on board for its sequel. He takes some of the fine themes from the earlier score, explores them in more depth and adds some great new material too – a perfect way of scoring a sequel. While I had for some years considered this score to be a very enjoyable, but somewhat inferior, rehash of its predecessor, this new album from FSM – presenting the entire score for the first time – reveals that it’s actually a lot more than that.
This is probably the most overtly emotional of all the Star Trek movie scores, particularly the variations on the Spock theme from the earlier score and (improbably) a knockout version of the familiar Alexander Courage theme for the finale – it’s never sounded so good. The swashbuckling, nautical-feeling main theme from the previous score is of course back as well and receives some good variations. The most notable new theme is for the Klingons, Horner taking a similar approach to that used by Jerry Goldsmith for the first film in the series – a brassy theme playing over exotic percussion. It’s very similar to something he previously used in Wolfen (one of his earliest scores) and he liked it so much, he used it again for Aliens a few years later!
The best set-piece cue is undoubtedly “Stealing the Enterprise”, a witty and sophisticated 8:39 track that also accompanies the film’s most satisfying scene. The familiar album version of the piece opens with rapid, running strings (a nod to Prokofiev) which don’t appear in the film; this album presents for the first time the film version of the cue without them. The piece takes a journey around many of the score’s main themes, and is full of adventurous spirit and – at times – humour. For my money it’s one of the great pieces of 1980s film music.
This album presents about 15 minutes of brand new music on its first disc, the complete score as heard in the film; four of the pieces are different from those which appeared on the original album. To ensure everyone’s happy, that original album is then presented on disc two. I’m sure everyone will have their own preferences – mine is a mixture of both albums, in fact. The score works very well in complete form – there’s a lot of depth to it which is revealed for the first time by listening to it in this way. But the original album versions of the four pieces I find generally more satisfying than the film takes – so I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s created a custom playlist. The sound quality is stunning – again revealing previously-hidden facets to the music. This is a brilliant album – and while the score isn’t quite on the level of its predecessor, it really is very fine indeed. **** 1/2