Star Trek: Insurrection (1999)

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith

After witnessing a cinematic showdown with the Borg in First Contact, audiences were let down by Insurrection. The plot of Insurrection revolves around an idyllic village where the human-like inhabitants are blessed with perfect health and, as it turns out, extended lifespans. Working with the alien So’na, a Federation admiral plans to relocate the people so they can tap into the planet’s properties and extend its gifts to its own citizens. Not happy with this forcible removal of people from their homes, Picard and the rest of the Next Generation characters defy authority and seek to protect the villagers while uncovering a conspiracy. If this sounds like a run-of-the-mill episode from the series, then you’ve figured out one of the issues audiences had with the film. Worse, this film came out at the same time the Federation was locked in a galaxy-spanning war with the Dominion on Deep Space Nine. Why the famed Enterprise would focus its efforts on a few hundred villagers instead of fighting on the front lines is anybody’s guess. Also, the moral messaging of the film is undone by plot holes and the ongoing context of the Dominion War. It’s perhaps the dullest and most uninteresting film of the entire franchise, though one would not guess it if he or she were to first listen to Goldsmith’s exciting score.

Goldsmith’s work on Insurrection is not as, how shall I put it, innovative as his previous forays into the series. The plot doesn’t have as much alien elements to work with. However he still takes out the electronics for some unique atmospheric segments. For the most part the score is traditionally orchestral. The primary theme is the Insurrection motif, which usually appears as a rising four-note action signature. In some of its lengthier iterations it almost sounds like Goldsmith’s main theme form The Mummy (which came out the same year). This motif appears in just about every action cue, to the point that it will definitely stick in the listener’s mind. It’s introduced in the midst of the Alexander Courage fanfare at the opening. It frequently appears in counterpoint with a piano rhythm motif that represents the suspense and action. These two motifs are good, but are perhaps repeated too much, producing a potentially tiring listen.

More satisfying is the more romantic material representing the people of Ba’ku. The Ba’ku Village theme graces the opening credits in “Ba’ku Village,” representing the idealized community right before alien antics disturb their lives. It’s a tender, innocent piece on strings and woodwinds. Despites its prominent place in the opening titles and ending credits, this theme makes little impact on the in-between score itself. Instead Goldsmith relies on another, equally idyllic Ba’ku theme, this one doubling as a love theme for Picard and one of the village women. It first appears in “Warp Capability” and is showcased wonderfully in “How Old Are You/New Sight.” There are two phrase to the theme. The first phrase is a more simple romantic melody. The second part of the theme is a more defined melody that is a variation on the previous films’ Quest theme. While the music leans towards the action, the Ba’ku themes prove to be the best parts of the score.

The weakest thematic addition is the So’na motif, a generic villain motif over a six-note beat (3:04 in “Ba’ku Village”). It’s so simple and short that its identity as the villain theme is lost, though the six-note beat often serves as a building device in the action cues. Also almost lost is Goldsmith’s main Star Trek theme, which outside of the end credits has only one short appearance to reintroduce the Enterprise. An electronic motif that I believe represents Data and his friendship with a boy is also introduced near the end of “Ba’ku Village.” Finally there is the Klingon theme which is also reduced in appearance, coming up for a couple brief moments to represent Worf’s actions. While the theme had its place in First Contact, I feel that Worf’s role in this film is so negligible after the opening act that it’s really uncalled for.

“Ba’ku Village” is the first choice for any Star Trek compilation. The Alexander Courage fanfare and Insurrection motif weave around each other for the opening before the track launches into the Ba’ku Village theme. Halfway through the action kicks off as Data appears in the village and causes mayhem. The Insurrection motif and adjoining action motif go through the first of many workouts, with electronics adding some alien spice. Data’s motif sets up Goldsmith’s Star Trek theme. “Out of Orbit/Take Us In” mixes the beat of the So’na motif with the Insurrection motif. “Come Out” and “In Custody,” like most of the action, revolve around the Insurrection motif. The second of these is shorter, but awesomely furious as Worf and Data duke it out.

“Warp Capability/The Planet/Children’s Story” introduces the Ba’ku theme. At 0:39 ethereal synthesizers back up more of the theme to represent the spiritual nature of the Ba’ku. At 1:14 a peaceful electronic lullaby kicks off another ethereal moment with snippets of the Ba’ku Village theme. “The Holodeck” kicks off with some odd electronic material as well as a rare peaceful woodwind iteration of the Insurrection motif. At 0:54 the motif repeats with more power as the heroes make a discovery. This is followed by eerie ambience which climaxes on a sour note (2:22). The ambience resumes with more purpose, leading to the Insurrection motif in action mode. “How Old Are You/New Sight” is a lengthy, gorgeous exploration of the Ba’ku material. It’s a lot of beautiful strings, with some noble horns and sparkling electronics adding more layers in the second half. A fanfare and the action rhythm do come up at the end.

After some villainous material in “Lost Ship/Prepare the Ship,” Goldsmith frames more idyllic material with the piano action rhythm in “As Long as We Can.” “Not Functioning/Send Your Ships” is a desperate action cue with more of the Insurrection motif. It cools down with some plucking strings. “Growing Up/Wild Flowers/Photon Torpedo” goes back to the idyllic material with the Data and Ba’ku themes. “The Drones Attack” is the action highlight. Slashing brass, an electronic rhythm, and the Insurrection and action motifs make for a fast-paced exciting cue. In the midst of this the Klingon theme makes a brief appearance (2:25). In the last minute and a half the electronic rhythms start to take a more prominent role in the mix. At the end the So’na beat couples with somber horns.

“The Riker Maneuver” covers a battle between the Enterprise and So’na ships. The So’na motif accompanies the villains’ fleet. After some action, the track takes a deceivingly peaceful tone (1:47), only for the tension, backed by fragments of the Insurrection motif, to build to an abrupt halt. “Stay With Me” is a melancholic cue with the love theme emerging at the end. “The Same Race” and “The Collector” continue the melancholy with the So’na motif. The last act starts with “No Threat,” followed by “Tractor Beam.” It’s here that the Insurrection and aiding action motifs start to get a little repetitive on the ears. While complete scores are nice, sometimes an edited down album has its merits. Perhaps Goldsmith could have spruced things up with some references to his Star Trek theme or perhaps an action variation of the Ba’ku Village theme to show what the heroes are fighting for.

The complete score also has two versions of “The Healing Process,” a revised and an original version. The revised version is the shorter film edit. I will focus on the longer original version. The tension builds with the So’na motif, joined by the Insurrection motif on horns. At 1:14 the Insurrection motif yet again starts off the action with a militaristic drum beat and the action rhythm. After a suspenseful interlude the action picks up again. At 3:18 electronic rhythms and the Insurrection motif lead to the sole choral bit. A rising choir climaxes in a final blast of the Insurrection motif. Heartwarming music brings back the Ba’ku theme. The Ba’ku Village theme follows to show that the peaceful idyll of the people has been restored. Alexander Courage’s fanfare starts “End Credits.” Goldsmith’s Star Trek theme finally returns in full, as does a concert arrangement of the Insurrection and Ba’ku Village themes.

I’m not entirely sure where to rank this among the Goldsmith’s Star Trek scores. The romantic themes are gorgeous. The Insurrection motif is an effective signature, but starts to wear a little thin when the action tracks start clustering together The near-absence of Goldsmith’s Star Trek theme is not necessarily bad, but it could have been used to add more variety to the later action cues. Comparing Goldsmith’s esteemed TNG scores, Insurrection has more energy than First Contact, but First Contact had a little more of interest thanks to the Borg textures. I’d say it’s a tie. As for which album I’d recommend, the original is missing some interesting pieces while the expanded edition gets repetitive. Overall Insurrection is a good score attached to a mediocre film, a film which might have been more dismal without it.

Rating: 8/10

 

Tracklistings

Original Album

  1. Ba’ku Village (6:52)
  2. In Custody (1:14)
  3. Children’s Story (1:47)
  4. Not Functioning (1:45)
  5. New Sight (5:44)
  6. The Drones Attack (4:10)
  7. The Riker Maneuver (3:09)
  8. The Same Race (1:16)
  9. No Threat (4:12)
  10. The Healing Process (7:15)
  11. End Credits (5:25)

 

Expanded Album

  1. Ba’ku Village (6:53)
  2. Out of Orbit/Take Us In (1:44)
  3. Come Out (2:34)
  4. In Custody (1:14)
  5. Warp Capability/The Planet/Children’s Story (2:33)
  6. The Holodeck (4:35)
  7. How Old Are You/New Sight (6:14)
  8. Lost Ship/Prepare the Ship (2:39)
  9. As Long As We Can (1:40)
  10. Not Functioning/Send Your Ships (2:55)
  11. Growing Up/Wild Flowers/Photon Torpedo (2:55)
  12. The Drones Attack (4:15)
  13. The Riker Maneuver (3:15)
  14. Stay With Me (1:48)
  15. The Same Race (2:50)
  16. The Collector (1:10)
  17. No Threat (4:18)
  18. Tractor Beam (0:38)
  19. The Healing Process (Revised (5:04)
  20. The Healing Process (Original Version) (7:17)
  21. End Credits (5:30)
  22. Ba’ku Village (alternate ending)
  23. The Holodeck (alternate opening)
  24. Growing Up (alternate)
  25. Tractor Beam (alternate)

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