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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Composed by Leonard Rosenman
  • Intrada / 2011 / Score 40:06 / Bonus 32:32

Considering the number of devoted fans it has around the world, the Star Trek films have rarely been true box office smashes (of course, all the merchandise and home video sales made up for it).  With Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – “the one with the whales” – the filmmakers finally found a formula that led to a much wider appeal, which was bringing the crew back in time to the present day for a classic fish-out-of-water tale full of comedic gems, and it remained the most financially successful of the films (by a pretty wide margin) until J.J. Abrams came along with his 2009 revamp.

Musically, the series has been blessed with a really impressive bunch of scores from a variety of composers, the first two films being amongst the career high-points of Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner respectively.  Horner, who had scored the second and third films, did not return for the fourth; it needed something of a very different tone and director Leonard Nimoy brought on board his namesake and friend Leonard Rosenman – far from an obvious choice for the most lighthearted film of the series, given the intensely serious nature of much of his music, but it turned out to be a wise move, with the composer providing stellar accompaniment which, for whatever reason, has never been as well-liked as most of the other scores in the series; for my money it’s right up there, different by necessity from the other scores, but then Goldsmith’s original score was completely different from the music of the original series and Horner’s scores for the next two films were completely different again.

Leonard Rosenman

The score opens with Rosenman’s delightfully upbeat main theme, which has the requisite amount of heroism but also a delightfully deft, light feel to it, reflecting the nature of what is to come.  Saying that, the composer does manage to work in his trademark complex brass writing through various points in the score, including some fantastic suspense and action music, notably in the very dramatic “The Whaler” and then particularly “Crash / Whale Fugue”, one of the undoubted highlights of the score and indeed of Star Trek music in general.  The piece is so well-constructed, the earlier parts featuring an air of desperation to them which gradually gets cranked up as the tension rises, before the triumphant finale with a brief rendition of the score’s main theme ushering in an absolutely lovely new theme for the whales themselves.  It’s really terrific stuff, described by Nimoy in the liner notes as being balletic – he’s not wrong.

Two of the score’s most popular sections have always been the delightful (but brief) scherzos Rosenman wrote for a couple of the most overtly comic sequences.  In “Chekov’s Run”, the composer channels Tchaikovsky to underscore the Russian’s attempt to escape from the “nuclear wessel.”  Even better is “Hospital Chase”, described by Rosenman as being like “circus music” – it’s certainly music with a smile on its face, a smile which quickly passes to the viewer of the film or in this case the listener to the album.  Smiles shouldn’t be too far away either in “Home Again / End Credits”, which features a very warm rendition of the familiar Alexander Courage theme before the wonderful end title suite with the main theme and the whale theme.

There was a fine Star Trek IV album available for many years but it’s been out of print for a while, and Intrada’s new album takes the chance to fill in the few minutes of score music which had not previously been included (the highlight probably being “In San Francisco”, a combination of a series of very brief cues which were ultimately cut from the film but which feature new takes on familiar themes).  Of perhaps greater interest are some of the bonus cues, including Rosenman’s first take on the main title, which was actually a stately arrangement of the Courage theme.  The right decision was made in the end to replace it with Rosenman’s original music, but it’s terrific to hear it.  There are excellent liner notes from Jeff Bond and the sound quality is a quantum leap forward from the original album.  This is a fabulous album which affirms the music’s right to be considered alongside the classic material which went before (and to a lesser extent after) it in the Star Trek series.  ****

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  1. elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Sunday 29 January, 2012 at 15:10

    That was unexpected… I heard so many bad things about this score, that I never tried to listen to it, being also unfamiliar with Rosenman’s music. But now I’ll have to check it out.

  2. Roman Martel (Reply) on Monday 30 January, 2012 at 16:29

    Nice to read a positive review of this score. I actually enjoy this one quite a bit (but nostalgia plays a big part in that).

    I keep reading reviews and hearing comments that Rosenman wrote a parody score here – and I don’t hear it. It sounds like a lighter score sure, but not a parody of any of the previous Star Trek music. In fact it sounds quite a bit closer to the music from the television series than either Goldsmith or Horner wrote. I suspect that was Nimoy’s intent, especially after reading the liner notes on the new CD.

    Anyway, glad to know I’m not the only one who appreciates what Rosenman did with this score. It’s not my favorite Star Trek score (can’t top “The Motion Picture”) but its a worthy entry in the franchise.

  3. Christopher Avis (Reply) on Monday 30 January, 2012 at 21:51

    The Intrada release has really changed my opinion of this score for the better. I still don’t think it’s quite the classic that some of the others in the franchise are, but it’s a pretty decent listen. I’d give it about 4/5.

  4. Richard Reese-Laird (Reply) on Friday 2 March, 2012 at 00:21

    Well, after reading this review and the accompanying comments- I’m gonna take a chance on the Intrada release. I tend to listen to film scores as stand-alone pieces, and most of my most recent favorites are from movies I have no intention of seeing, so this was the kind of critique I was looking for. I wonder why Filmtracks’ review was so scathing, when he is usually a pretty level-headed reviewer…

  5. Roman Martel (Reply) on Friday 2 March, 2012 at 16:11

    I don’t think CC is a fan of Rosenman’s style. He rated Rosenman’s version of “Lord of the Rings” fairly badly too, and I feel its a solid score for the movie it was written for. And much like LOTR, CC basically spent much of his review comparing the score he was reviewing to similar scores, instead of judging it on its own merits. In a way thats understandable, but the reviewer should not let that affect their overall grade. As I mentioned I enjoy Horner and Goldsmith’s work in the franchise a great deal more than Rosenman’s. But I also feel he wrote a good score for the movie, just like he was asked to do. Anyway, that’s my perception of it.

  6. Richard Reese-Laird (Reply) on Friday 2 March, 2012 at 16:48

    Thank you, Roman. I’m going to pick that Intrada release up today- just wanted another opinion!
    By the way, I think CC is spot-on 85% of the time, but you’re right- sometimes we let our preconceptions cloud our critiques. Heck, perhaps Nimoy’s loyalty to Rosenman is causing a preconception of my own… But I do enjoy an occasional well-executed lighthearted score.

    I just discovered movie-wave, and I think Southall’s reviews will be my permanent “second opinions”. His background is so completely different that CC’s, and I’m glad he’s doing a professional site! (I use CC’s reviews- and now Southall’s- as a purchasing guide, simply because there are so many releases, and I, alas, am not a wealthy man).

    And, yes, Mr. Southall- I will try to link from your site to make my purchase.