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Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • GNP Crescendo / 2013 / 79m

After the success of First Contact, easily the best of the Star Trek films featuring Patrick Stewart and co, the filmmakers surprisingly moved away from the genuine cinematic scope of that film to go back in Insurrection to something that felt like an episode of the tv show stretched out to fill a movie time slot.  It’s not particularly bad, but its controversial theme of displacing an entire people in order to harvest the natural resources where they live is never particularly explored in any depth, the film instead just being a bit of a shoot-em-up with a fairly hollow love story tacked on.

Jerry Goldsmith was back, scoring his fourth Star Trek film.  It’s a solid score, but the film didn’t give him that much to really grab onto and so it feels a little more mundane and a little less distinguished than his three previous entries in the series.  While those three were very different scores – The Motion Picture an epic space fantasy with an extraordinary scope, The Final Frontier an energetic romp of an adventure reflecting the film’s high concept, First Contact featuring a theme of outstanding beauty and other music brilliantly capturing the claustrophobic ship-bound action scenes – they were all very distinctive in themselves, different from other music the composer was writing at the time and feeling entirely unique to their own films.

Jerry Goldsmith with friend at the Royal Albert Hall

Jerry Goldsmith with friend at the Royal Albert Hall

Insurrection by contrast is much more a score in keeping with those that Goldsmith was writing for more routine thrillers at the time, at least in the action music.  What does allow it to rise above that is the beautiful thematic material that weaves its way in between the action sequences.  The main theme – introduced over the opening titles in “Ba’ku Village” and then not heard again until it appears in the middle of the end title medley – is a sweet little thing, perfectly evoking the bucolic idyll of the film’s locale.  While nowhere near as striking as his other main themes for the series that found their way into that position in the end title medleys, that’s a pretty high bar I’m measuring it against and on its own terms it’s really very lovely.

Just as lovely is the pair of slightly more subtle melodic themes that do make their way through the body of the score, both appearing most notably in the gorgeous “New Sight”.  Romantic and ravishing in its way but never melodramatically so, it’s a really touching piece worthy of repeated attention.  At times it reminds me a little of the brilliant “The Trees” from Medicine Man, though admittedly it never quite soars to those proportions.  The composer uses synths very effectively in the piece to give it a slight new age hint (and indeed electronics figure more prominently in this score than probably any other in the series).

In terms of the action music (of which there is no shortage), Insurrection is essentially US Marshals in space.  The composer seemed to use the 1998 US Marshals (which is, I think, a hugely underrated score) as his template for virtually all the action music he wrote thereafter – there’s a certain sparseness to the sound that hearkens back to his 1970s scores (and indeed the very familiar rhythmic phrase from Capricorn One makes a couple of appearances here as well).  That’s the thing that makes this sound perhaps a bit less “special” than the composer’s previous work on this franchise – the fact that parts of it sound largely interchangeable with other scores.  Despite this, the action material is actually done with the typical Goldsmith aplomb (I’ve said it before and will say it again – no film composer has ever scored action as well as Jerry Goldsmith) – “Not Functioning”, “The Drones Attack” and “The Same Race” in particular are very fine.  There’s a certain sweep to it all in the climactic “No Threat” and “The Healing Process” (heard on the extended album in two different versions immediately after each other – which seems odd in theory, but works in the main programme surprisingly well).

The original 45-minute soundtrack album was a pretty satisfying selection of the score’s highlights.  About half an hour of new material is heard on this expanded collector’s edition.  I don’t think anyone could claim that any of the new music is as good as anything that was on the original album, but it proves to be a satisfying listening experience all the same, giving a more well-rounded listening experience in which the material is explored that little bit further.  (There’s one horrible moment, though, the synthy opening to the previously-unreleased “The Holodeck” being a horribly embarrassing few moments which is particularly disappointing because the cue goes on to become what is otherwise one of the more satisfying new pieces.)  I think on reflection this is probably the least satisfying of the composer’s five Star Trek scores – but it’s still satisfying.  The new album just brings the ideas out that bit more and should certainly be seen as an upgrade on the old one.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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  1. Chris Avis (Reply) on Wednesday 28 August, 2013 at 19:38

    Really? Only 3 1/2? I played this back to back with Into Darkness and it puts the latter score to shame. Into Darkness is a cacophonous, fragmented mess compared with this score which elegantly and organically develops its themes. Although viewed as a lesser work in Goldsmith’s canon, this would be a career best for most modern composers.


  2. James Southall (Reply) on Wednesday 28 August, 2013 at 19:47

    Well, I hate star ratings really. It’s 3.5 in the context of Goldsmith I guess.

  3. Jens (Reply) on Saturday 15 February, 2014 at 19:45

    I gotta ask, James, if there’s any more context you can give us about the picture of Jerry carrying a cardboard cutout of Jeri?

  4. James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 15 February, 2014 at 21:19

    I’ve always assumed it was some promotional thing for the science fiction concert he did. But now I’ve realised that was at the Barbican, not the Royal Albert Hall, so I must have been wrong all along. Conclusion: I haven’t got a clue.