- Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
- Varèse Sarabande CD Club / 2013 / 115m (score 86m)
The Patrick Stewart generation of Star Trek films staggered to an end in 2002 in Star Trek Nemesis, a film which isn’t nearly as bad as many make out – in fact its problems are similar to the problems with the other films featuring the Stewart cast, and its plot is eerily similar to the phenomenally successful J.J. Abrams reboot a few years later. The problem was probably just that people were bored with it all by then. Jean-Luc Picard and co had never permeated popular culture the way Kirk and Spock did so there was never much of a mainstream audience for this cast’s films; and even the diehards were about ready to give up by this time.
Very ill at the time, but returning to the Star Trek universe for one last adventure, was composer Jerry Goldsmith. Nemesis would end up being his penultimate film score. His regular self-effacing dismissals of his Star Trek music (“I never understood it”) were obvious baloney; if truth be told, he seemed to understand it rather better than most of the other major contributors to the last couple of films in the series he worked on. His magnificent, soaring main theme gets it in just a couple of minutes – elegant, stately, optimistic. Impressively, he managed to give each of the five films in the series on which he worked a unique sound of its own while remaining within the same sonic universe; for Nemesis he wrote the series’ darkest, most aggressive score but still found room for a couple of beautiful musical subplots.
The soundtrack released at the time of the film was a relatively generous 50 minutes in length and featured the majority of the highlights, but was widely-dismissed at the time (not by me, I hasten to add) as a much weaker entry compared with its predecessors. It’s been over a decade now since Goldsmith was lost and I don’t think we have seen anyone come close to matching his skill in that time – you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and with Jerry Goldsmith we had an outstanding composer, an outstanding dramatist, someone who instinctively got what the film needed and managed to rise to the challenge – time after time – with music that was so brilliantly-constructed it usually fit its film like a glove and usually stood alone as pure music without any difficulty whatsoever. Star Trek Nemesis is hardly one of his greatest scores (the bar is just so high), but I imagine the passing of time has allowed the music to become rather more widely-appreciated by more people than it was when it was first heard. This new album from Varèse Sarabande’s CD Club features the complete score – almost twice as long as the original album – along with a handful of alternate takes and mixes.
The extremely malleable new theme for the score (effectively for the villain, Shinzon) is transformed to an astonishing degree through the film. In the opening cue “Remus”, after the familiar Alexander Courage fanfare, Goldsmith presents it in hard-hitting action guise, a twirling, descending motif heard on this occasion in the strings, with strident synth percussion accompaniment. The action continues in “The Box”, a clever hint of the Shinzon theme heard in the lowest brass registers giving way to a period of brooding suspense before the cue’s explosive finale.
By contrast “My Right Arm” features a very warm version of “The Barrier” theme previously used in both Star Trek V and First Contact; then the brief “Star Field” presents the score’s first airing of Goldsmith’s familiar main theme for the series. “Positronic” is a subtle version of Shinzon’s Theme now in its main form for the first time, mournful and strangely beautiful. “The Argo” combines the motif that famously introduced the finest piece of music the composer wrote for the franchise (“The Enterprise”) with a new fanfare-type theme that is very similar to one he used previously in Executive Decision, a film which was also directed by Nemesis‘s Stuart Baird.
“Odds and Ends” is a piece of dark action/suspense, Shinzon’s Theme flitting in and out of some muscular action music in the familiar later-career style from the composer who did it better than anyone else before or since. The way he uses his main theme in this way is so impressive, binding the whole score together. “Your Brother” is a much gentler piece, a calming version of “The Barrier” theme which leads into another airing of “The Enterprise” motif in “Course Plotted”, a passage which culminates in a dynamic burst of the Star Trek march. New age synths open the lengthy “Repairs”, pleasantly echoing Total Recall, sandwiching the Barrier Theme and then leading into a particularly warm arrangement of the march before action returns to the fore with a set of dark, dark hints at Shinzon’s Theme. “The Knife” is a much more low-key suspense track, but there’s a captivating feel to it which is very effective. The atmosphere continues in “Perfect Timing / Allegiance”, a growing sense of calm before the storm – you could cut the tension in “Secrets” with a knife. A partial release finally arrives in the more urgent “The Mine”, before one of the score’s standout non-action pieces, “Ideals”, which features a stunningly downbeat version of Shinzon’s Theme, absolutely full of sadness.
It’s straight back to the tension in the brief “Options”, which leads into the dynamic “Bed Time / Transport”, but the subdued feel returns in “Blood Test”. “The Mirror” has more life to it, particularly (perhaps surprisingly) from the synth accompaniment to the orchestra early in the piece, which creates a great sound, then later in the piece there’s some vintage Goldsmith action, the xylophone bringing back pleasant memories of all those outstanding 1970s thriller scores. This is followed by probably the best action piece in the score, the thrilling “The Scorpion”, a breathlessly exciting piece which culminates with a glorious action version of the Star Trek march (the first and only time it was ever used in such a context?)
“His Plans / Data & B-4” is a more reflective piece, featuring some shimmering, almost elegiac strings perfectly in keeping with the fairly sombre mood which permeates so much of the score. “Battle Stations” introduces a new theme, heard nowhere else in the score, and it’s a beauty – a full-bodied, dynamic, adrenaline-pumping anthem of heroism. In “Attack Pattern”, the action begins to develop again, with a real purpose to it, as the brass and percussion pound away with real intensity. The beautifully-titled “The Invitation / True Nature / Let’s Go to Work” doesn’t add much until it nears its end but it leads into another action frenzy in “Lateral Run”, a great piece which sees the whole orchestra given a workout, leading to a series of pounding variations on Shinzon’s Theme. The first disc ends with the extremely brief “The Viceroy” and then there’s a return to the suspense style which dominated earlier portions of the score as the second disc begins with “Engage”, but it’s not long before the action returns in the second half of the piece. The thrills continue in “Full Reverse”, another well-rounded piece of action, before a brief respite comes in “Not Functional”, a brooding piece of dramatic underscore.
The score moves into its final act with “Final Flight”, a glorious piece which opens with just a hint of The Blue Max, a brief feeling of thrilling aerial combat which quickly moves into this score’s signature action sound. There’s an added sense of desperate urgency to the piece, as one beloved Star Trek character’s journey reaches its end. “Firing Sequence” offers a brief reprise of Shinzon’s Theme, then there’s a beautiful version of the Barrier Theme in “A New Friend”, which echoes of its frequently lovely use in First Contact. A gorgeously warm version of the Star Trek march makes up “That Song” before a lovely heroic melody in “An Honour” leads into the end titles, “A New Ending”, a couple of bars of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” (makes sense in context!) leading into the Courage fanfare and then the magnificent Goldsmith theme. The version of the cue on this album is the film version, which edits in the most thrilling portion of “Final Flight” before one last piece of Goldsmith magnificence graces the world of Star Trek, a full-bodied elegiac version of Shinzon’s Theme which is quite outstanding. Of course, the credits end with a reprise of the wonderful march, the fifth and final film to do so.
Jerry Goldsmith wasn’t just a master – in terms of Hollywood film music he was the master. I’ve lost count – as, I’m sure, have you, the poor reader – of the number of times I’ve harped on about expanded albums making lesser listening experiences than the more considered originals. But there’s something about Goldsmith – the technique, the attention to detail – that makes listening to his scores in complete form almost always a pleasure, far more than any other film composer. Those little touches, the way themes are developed – it’s just breathtaking. Star Trek Nemesis is far from being one of his very best scores, but even here there is so much to explore, so much to discover. There’ll probably never be another Jerry Goldsmith – so let’s be thankful that he left behind such an extraordinary body of work. There was still one more film to come, but really I see this score as his swansong, his last chance to work on the series with which he was so associated, his last chance to amaze us with his incredible action music, his last chance to develop those themes. A serious re-evaluation of this score’s merits is surely called for, and this deluxe album offers the perfect opportunity. Here’s to Jerry Goldsmith, whose surname could hardly have been more apt.