Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith

The Star Trek Next Generation films had an inglorious end with Star Trek Nemesis. The movie sees Shinzon, a Romulan attempt to clone Captain Picard, take over the Romulan Empire, an intergalactic power that has common ancestry with the Vulcans. He claims to want to affect peace between the Empire and the Federation, but soon is shown to have vengeful and ulterior motives. The movie has a very generic and non-unique plot, essentially being a rip-off of Wrath of Khan (just like Into Darkness a decade later) but without a previously established villain. Star Trek in general was approaching the end of its resurgent run and this film killed the film series until the 2009 reboot. In addition to just not being a good film, it was foolishly released in between a James Bond film and the second installment of the red-hot Lord of the Rings trilogy, severely reducing its box-office take. While many have rightfully criticized the recent run of Star Trek films and TV shows, Nemesis surprisingly exhibits many of the problems that have plagued New Trek, from emphasizing action to completely misunderstanding the themes and characters of the franchise. For example, it turned the famously diplomatic Picard into an action hero, walking down hallways and mowing down aliens whilst duel-wielding laser guns. The film score by Jerry goldsmith has also received its fair share of criticism.

Nemesis was the last Star Trek outing for Jerry Goldsmith, who would succumb to cancer a couple years later. The score is considered to be Goldsmith’s weakest offering, a disappointing conclusion to his association with the franchise. Indeed this score does seem to be less innovative, opting for more standard sci-fi action fare. This does reflect the film, which puts too much emphasis on action scenes (admittedly the lengthy space battle is neat, it’s just that audience investment is derailed by the plot). The complete score actually exceeds the space of one disc, a rarity in the pre-2009 film franchise. For those who find the score to be an average output from Goldsmith, this can be viewed as a slog. So how do I rate the last and most criticized Goldsmith Star Trek score? Continue reading

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Joel Goldsmith

First Contact is considered to be the only truly good film starring the Next Generation cast. The plot sees the Borg mount another assault on earth. This time Starfleet is able to destroy the Borg Cube, but Picard learns that it sent out a time machine. Following it back in time, he learns that the Borg seek to prevent earth from contacting alien life and thus eliminate Starfleet as a threat in the present. The Borg overrun part of the Enterprise and the two sides have a series of fights. On the character side of things Picard’s PTSD from his previous experience with the Borg starts to cloud his judgment as he focuses on personal vengeance. I have some issues with the movie, particularly with how it portrays earth’s first contact with an alien species, but it’s definitely the best of the four TNG films. One thing that definitely works in its favor is the permanent return of Goldsmith to the franchise. The composer would score this and the next two films.

The greatest positive of Goldsmith’s longer tenure is the cohesion of the themes. Now every film would have his Star Trek theme. He would actually use it less, preferring to focus on his newer material. There’s not much in the way of new variations of the theme, but this is more than made up for by both new and other returning themes. Of the new themes, the most memorable one is the First Contact theme. It’s a lovely optimistic melody, symbolizing humankind’s ascent to the stars. Doubtlessly not wanting to simply rehash the main theme again, Goldsmith lets this theme grace the opening credits in “Main Title” (0:38). As with the main theme Goldsmith doesn’t reference it that much, but when he does it’s to great effect. Most of its iterations conclude with a familiar motif. It’s the Quest theme from Final Frontier. Recognizing its reliable flexibility, Goldsmith began to frequently pull it out in his TNG scores. One of its main uses is as an ender for the First Contact theme, where its statements are tied together by two extra notes (2:29 in “Main Title”). Finishing up the heroes’ side of things is the Klingon theme. Though the Klingons are not present as a faction in the story, Goldsmith is still able to bring back this popular melody to represent the race’s sole representative, famed character Worf. One might find it odd that one member of the Enterprise gets a theme and the others don’t, but Goldsmith’s melody is so good that listeners won’t care. It helps that as a warrior in a more action-oriented Star Trek film, Worf is constantly called upon so the theme’s inclusion is appropriate. Continue reading