Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond (CD Edition) – HQCovers

Composed by Michael Giacchino

After Star Trek Into Darkness J.J. Abrams moved on to Star Wars. Justin Lin filled the director’s chair and actor Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, took a large role in writing the script. Star Trek Beyond sees the Enterprise go on a rescue mission from the space station Yorktown. It turns out to be a set-up and after a big space battle our heroes crash on the planet Altamid. Separated into small groups, the various characters unlock the mystery around the villains, led by Krall (Idris Elba). Since this is New Trek, Krall is motivated by revenge and plans to use a superweapon to attack the Federation. While by no means great, Star Trek Beyond was a big improvement over Abrams’ film. There’s still too much emphasis on laser battles and the antagonist is another generic vengeance-hungry villain. However, the film shines in the second act when the characters split into small groups and the actors play off of each other. There is even a sense of planetary exploration, albeit one in the confines of uncovering the mystery around Krall rather than any deeper themes or concepts. Michael Giacchino took his music in a slightly different direction that distinguishes his third contribution to the franchise.

Once again Giacchino’s music went through both a single-disc release and a complete Deluxe Edition. This time the first release was longer at an hour’s running time. What is immediately notable is that Giacchino puts more effort into imbuing some character outside space heroics and action. This is fitting as Star Trek Beyond actually has its characters exploring new environments as opposed to sitting in space battles (though there are a couple of those). There is a lot of glassy or primal percussion that, while never reaching the heavily alien sounds of Jerry Goldsmith’s work, adds a unique flavor to the scenes on Altamid. Giacchino makes more use of piano and woodwinds, somewhat evoking Goldsmith’s classical sensibilities for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There’s also a fair bit of patriotic trumpets and snare drums, fitting into the villain’s motivations and the ideals of the Federation.

What’s also different this time around is that the themes are more difficult to identify, unusual for a Giacchino score. There are three major new themes, at least ones that garnered a suite on the Deluxe Edition. The weakest of the three, more through its implementation than the main melody itself, is the identity for Jaylah, a tall, alien female warrior. Her theme is usually heard in brief snippets amidst dense action. Tven with the help of the expanded edition’s suite I have great difficulty picking it out. It appears briefly in “Jaylah Damage” (1:19), “Mocking Jaylah” (0:52), and “Motorcycles or Relief” (as an action rhythm at 0:52) It only gets a sustained appearance in “A Lesson in Vulcan Mineralogy.” “Jaylah’s Theme” from the Deluxe Edition is a gorgeous string-based piece that briefly turns into a horn and choral fanfare at the end. It’s a shame that Giacchino barely utilized this fuller version into his score as it’s quite a lovely melody. More identifiable is the music that surrounds her theme, primal percussion that represents her status as a staff-wielding warrior. Perhaps the reason that Giacchino mostly used the theme in small increments is because, aside from one reflective scene, the lovely cello melody just did not fit the character’s onscreen actions.

Krall’s sinister theme is much easier to identify and is indeed the most quoted of the new material. It’s simple, but shares some startling similarities to the Giacchino’s Enterprise (Main) and Spock themes. This hints at the villain’s origins. It makes its dramatic introduction near the start of “Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard” (0:34). “Krall Things Considered” puts it into a suite that, thanks to the theme’s simplicity, repeats it over and over with ever-increasing malice and intensity until over the halfway mark. The villain’s sense of betrayal is then portrayed with a solo horn and rising choir. Krall commands a fleet of swarm ships that are represented with dense and frenetic rhythms and pounding brass (“A Swarm Reception”).

The third major theme is the best and also least referenced. The Yorktown theme is for a massive space station that represents the unified diversity of the United Federation of Planets. The incredibly optimistic melody brings to mind some of Goldsmith’s music for the franchise in that it conveys the best of mankind and its aspirations for the stars. It makes its debut in “Thank Your Lucky Star Date” (1:34), but its real moment of glory is the first three minutes of “Night on the Yorktown.” Here the already sweeping theme is accompanied by gorgeous piano and then heavenly choir. It’s a long sequence that further brings to mind Goldsmith’s long classical style sequences from The Motion Picture. Since the film goes away from the Yorktown station and then spends its time on an action adventure, the theme largely disappears until the climax in “Par-tay for the Course.” For those wishing for more of the theme, the Deluxe Edition has a four and a half minute suite. Star Trek Beyond also features two new motifs for the heroes. The first is a motif for the stranded ship Franklin. It’s a five-note repeating motif that appears at the end of “Franklin, My Dear” and wonderfully fits into the catalog of Star Trek themes. The other is an all-new heroic identity for Spock that’s more chipper. For some reason Giacchino uses less of his original Spock theme despite its successful inclusion into action cues in Star Trek Into Darkness. Said original theme is reserved for piano appearances.

The Main theme itself is liberally applied, but appears mostly in altered forms or fragments. This is a wise choice on the part of Michael Giacchino. As with John Williams in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and David Arnold in the Bond film The World is Not Enough, Giacchino makes sure that the main heroic identity plays an important role, but usually breaks it up and references it in smaller pieces so it doesn’t grow unbearably repetitious. Even when Giacchino makes fuller references to the Main theme, he works hard to distinguish its appearances. “Thank Your Lucky Star Date” sees the theme played on softer instruments such as piano. “Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard makes consistent use of it, yet its constantly altered to convey danger and intruded upon by perilous strings and brass.

The opening in “Logos and Prosper” is mostly a reprise of the previous two openers, with the Main theme rising. Giacchino does distinguish this particular track by including the first two notes of Alexander Courage’s classic theme. “Thank Your Lucky Star Date” establishes the film’s specific tone. The Main theme appears on horn and then on piano. The Main theme alters into a rhythm accompanied by some striking woodwinds and we are introduced to the Yorktown theme. “Night on the Yorktown” spends a good three minutes exploring this theme, climaxing with a heavy dose of choir and sweeping strings. After more subdued but deeply emotional material, Spock’s theme appears on piano (4:41). The adventure begins with “The Dance of the Nebula.” The Main theme appears amidst a determined brass rhythm. The Yorktown theme makes a brief iteration and the future danger is heralded by glassy percussion (a recurring ingredient in this score). Rising, perilous strings accompany the percussion.

“A Swarm Reception” is a dense, frenetic action cue with overlying pounding rhythms. “Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard” starts with perilous fragments of the Main theme. At 0:53 Giacchino lets loose with a high-pitched horn motif to underscore the mounting danger. For the next couple minutes the Main theme finds itself in constant conflict with perilous strings and brass. At 2:52 the track shifts gears. Krall’s theme triumphantly appears as the villains take over the ship (3:07). Snare drums and tragic flourishes underscore the impending crash of the Enterprise. About 4:30 the Main theme goes into mourning mode, joined by lamenting choir. The heroes are now separated on the planet of Altamid. “Jaylah Damage” conveys this environment with primal brass thumps and savage percussion joined by horns. Jaylah and Krall’s themes make brief appearances, followed by primal but peaceful gassy percussion. “In Artifacts as in Life” utilizes woodwinds and an alien sounding choir, along with other effects, to create some alien ambience.

“Franklin, My Dear” has a playful style that extends to its use of the Main theme and I believe Jaylah’s theme as well. The tone grows more heroic with the introduction of the Franklin motif. “A Lesson in Vulcan Mineralogy” starts with more of the glassy percussion. After a portion of moody villainous underscore (1:32) Jaylah’s theme makes its fullest non-credits appearance (2:28). Around 3:40 the new Spock theme and the Main theme’s rhythms prepare the listener for a string of action and suspense cues. The first of these is “Motorcycles of Relief,” a frantic but somewhat light-hearted action cue with pieces of the Main and Jaylah themes. “Mocking Jaylah” is a more serious piece with a clanging percussive intro and a chorally backed iteration of Krall’s theme (0:55). The music gets primal for a bit before a fragment of the Main theme creates a heroic outburst. Jaylah’s theme appears with choral backing (2:38), followed by lined-up chants and percussion. The track ends with a brief merger of the Main theme and the Franklin motif.

“Crash Decisions” is a true action highlight, from when Krall gets to Yorktown with his superweapon. After one of Giacchino’s trademark action rhythms, Spock’s new theme takes over for a while. At 1:11 Krall’s theme intrudes, only for the heroic identity to return along with one of the Main theme rhythms. At 2:07 Krall’s theme gets a stronger performance with the help of choir and metal clangs. A hope spot for the heroes is scored with the Main theme and Franklin motif. “Krall-y Krall-y Oxen Free” and “Shutdown Happens” are both four minute suspense pieces, surprisingly subdued for a climatic section. The first of these is mostly growling underscore and horror textures. Krall’s theme appears for a short time on piano (2:57). “Shutdown Happens” is more lively with a faster if not loud rhythm. Snare drums and a horn fanfare accompany it for the first minute. It features a calm interlude around 1:25 with a melancholy string performance. “Cater-Krall in Zero G” starts with more of that glassy percussion and a sad horn variation of Krall’s theme. Around 0:50 a long choral note brings in the last action section with primal flair. Kirk’s victory is represented by the Main theme (1:37), but the solo horn gives Krall a send-off as well. The Yorktown theme makes its welcome return on piano in “Par-tay for the Course.” This is followed by reflective woodwinds (with a brief appearance of the Franklin motif) and a wrap-up with the Main theme. “Star Trek Main Theme” is mostly a reprise of the same-named track from Into Darkness and is really there to finally give the theme a full-on appearance.

The Deluxe Edition contains of course the entire score plus extended suites for the three major new themes. Some of the new music was rightly left off of the regular commercial release but there are some things of note. Spock’s original theme gets more play, but still as a piano piece. Jaylah’s theme benefits. While none of the new variations outside the suite have much to them it is easier to recognize them thanks to more repetition. The initial action sequence is greatly expanded with “Krall Hell Breaks Loose” and “The Evacuation Variations.” The second of these is a neat piece which sets up the desperation of “Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard.” The best new action highlight is “Spock Speaks Hive,” with its woodwind-laden and glistening rhythms. “The Cost of Abronath” features a cool eerie choir in its last act. The most welcome additions are the further appearances of the Yorktown theme. Bright Light Big Velocity (part 1)” for example sees it appear in a short fragment as the space station re-enters the story. “The Dreaded Rear Admiral” gives a full reprise of the Yorktown theme with Main theme fragments around the halfway point. At 1:32 a harp ushers in the non-fanfare part of the Alexander Courage theme “Space, the Final Frontier/Main on Ends” is the typical end credits arrangement of the Alexander Courage fanfare and theme (this time with more jazzy percussion instead of one of Giacchino’s rhythms) and Giacchino’s own Star Trek theme.

Star Trek Beyond is a welcome third act. In fact with this film Giacchino became the second most recurring composer for Star Trek movies. Giacchino distinguishes it with more emphasis on different instruments: piano, woodwinds, patriotic horns, glassy percussion, snare drums, and occasionally alienish choir. The main drawback is that the soundtrack is a little hard to get into on a first listen. The Krall and especially Jaylah themes eluded identification by many film score buffs around the time of the film’s release. In fact my relisten for this review was a very different experience as I started to better identify the themes. I’d probably slightly rank this lower than the other two New Trek film scores, which grabbed the listener’s ear better on initial listens. However this is a rewarding score to return to and larger presentations of the Yorktown theme are among the best pieces of the franchise.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklistings

Original Album

  1. Logo and Prosper (1:47)
  2. Thank Your Lucky Star Date (2:15)
  3. Night of the Yorktown (5:36)
  4. The Dance of the Nebula (2:22)
  5. A Swarm Reception (2:30)
  6. Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard (6:10)
  7. Jaylah Damage (2:50)
  8. In Artifacts as in Life (1:51)
  9. Franklin, My Dear (2:50)
  10. A Lesson in Vulcan Mineralogy (5:17)
  11. Motorcycles of Relief (3:17)
  12. Mocking Jaylah (3:26)
  13. Crash Decisions (3:16)
  14. Krall-y Krall-y Oxen Free (4:23)
  15. Shutdown Happens (4:35)
  16. Cater-Krall in Zero G (2:17)
  17. Par-tay for the Course (2:46)
  18. Star Trek Main Theme (3:45)

Deluxe Edition

Disc One

  1. Logo and Prosper (1:47)
  2. Trick or Treaty (0:45)
  3. We Come in Pieces (1:17)
  4. Thank Your Lucky Star Date (2:15)
  5. Night of the Yorktown (5:36)
  6. To Thine Own Death Be True (3:32)
  7. We Make a Good Team (0:22)
  8. The Dance of the Nebula (2:22)
  9. A Swarm Reception (2:30)
  10. Krall Hell Breaks Loose (3:04)
  11. The Evacuation Variations (2:47)
  12. Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard (6:10)
  13. Scotland’s Worst Cliffhanger (0:23)
  14. A Hive and Kicking (3:30)
  15. Port of Krall (0:52)
  16. Jaylah Damage (2:50)
  17. No Enterprise for Guessing (0:37)
  18. In Artifacts as in Life (1:51)
  19. She’s One Hell of a Dish (1:26)
  20. Make No Escape About It (2:04)
  21. Eat My Thrusters (3:56)
  22. The Krall of the Wild (2:10)
  23. Spock’s Vulcan Grip on Death (1:31)
  24. Captain on Ice (0:42)

Disc Two

  1. Franklin, My Dear (2:50)
  2. Transporting Good Time (3:43)
  3. Krall Work and No Play (0:37)
  4. A Lesson in Vulcan Mineralogy (5:17)
  5. Te Cost of Abronath (2:35)
  6. Motorcycles of Relief (3:17)
  7. Mocking Jaylah (3:26)
  8. Jaylah House Rock (3:18)
  9. Bright Lights Big City (part 1) (0:57)
  10. Bright Lights Big City (part 2) (2:59)
  11. Spock Speaks Hive (3:10)
  12. Crash Decisions (3:16)
  13. Krall-y Krall-y Oxen Free (4:23)
  14. Shutdown Happens (4:35)
  15. The Root of Krall Evil (1:31)
  16. Cater-Krall in Zero G (2:17)
  17. The Dreaded Rear Admiral (2:02)
  18. Par-tay for the Course (2:46)
  19. Space, the Final Frontier (2:42)
  20. Jaylah’s Theme (2:36)
  21. Yorktown Theme (4:32)
  22. Star Trek Main Theme (3:44)
  23. Krall Things Being Equal (4:25)

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