Home > Reviews > STAR TREK: NEMESIS – Jerry Goldsmith

STAR TREK: NEMESIS – Jerry Goldsmith

December 13, 2002 Leave a comment Go to comments

startreknemesisOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Jerry Goldsmith’s involvement with Star Trek now stretches back almost 25 years. He is as associated with the franchise as the USS Enterprise, “Beam me up, Scotty” and “Make it so”, and with the possible exceptions of James Horner and Alexander Courage, is the only composer to truly get to the heart of the Star Trek universe – even though he himself has said that he does not fully understand the phenomenon, or why his work is so well-loved. Having written so much classic music over the years, it is therefore somewhat disappointing to report that his work on Star Trek: Nemesis is pretty standard, uninspiring stuff. A few snatches of thematic familiarity, some exciting action material, and echoes of Total Recall aside, it’s actually a rather predictable, albeit enjoyable, sci-fi score.

The fourth outing for the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, directed by Stuart Baird, Nemesis finds Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew locking horns with the Remans, the supposedly weaker of the two species inhabiting the twin planets of Romulus and Remus. The Federation has endured an age-old distrust of the Romulans, but when the entire Romulan council is wiped out and usurped by a Reman named Shinzon (Tom Hardy), and following the wedding of Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) to Counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), the Federation sends Picard to negotiate a treaty. However, once in Shinzon’s presence, Picard discovers that the new Praetor has much more sinister intentions. Meanwhile, after making a stop on a barren planet en route to Remus, Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) discovers a disassembled prototype of himself named B-4, whom he takes under his wing and attempts to educate. But, unknown to all, B-4 has a more important role to play as well.

The main new theme, as set out in the second half of ‘Remus’ is the one for Shinzon himself, a strident piece replete with synthesized percussion, electronic effects, and a set of rolling, undulating horn triplets not dissimilar to those he used in The Edge, The Thirteenth Warrior and others. Cleverly, Goldsmith works the Shinzon theme into much of the underscore proper, weaving it into the fabric of many cues, alluding to the manipulative web of treachery Shinzon casts over everything. It lends an aura of terror and dread to ‘The Box’, is deconstructed to give a sense of foreboding to the end of ‘Repairs’, increases the tension in the slightly edgy ‘Ideals’, and explodes with unbridled intensity in ‘Engage’.

‘Odds and Ends’ is an exhilarating action track for the dynamic buggy chase across the desert planet, eventually exploding into a classic Goldsmith sequence with fluttery brasses underneath huge horn stingers and a sweeping string theme. ‘The Mirror’, too, eventually bursts into strident life towards the end, engaging in an unexpectedly effective sequence led by a glockenspiel. ‘The Scorpion’ continues the trend with some exceptional violin performances, while ‘Final Flight’ emerges as the showstopper: a dazzling cue to accompany Data’s space walk, all flashy string work, heroic brass calls interwoven with the Shinzon theme, and a sparkling march reminiscent of Goldsmith’s work on Small Soldiers.

As a standalone cue, ‘Repairs’ is interesting, pitching glassy electronic tones alongside a metallic motif for the Data/B4 relationship, a lamenting woodwind interlude, and high level synths offset by low cello chords. Running at almost six minutes, it actually sounds like it belongs to another score, such is its difference from the rest of the music, but certainly highlights Goldsmith’s undeniable – if a quite rare these days – brilliance.

As is often the case with Goldsmith sci-fi works, electronics play a large part in creating mood and tension, swooping and swooshing and blipping and generally giving the whole thing a futuristic feel. Even the classic “blaster beam” effect makes a guest appearance in ‘The Mirror’. Occasionally, Goldsmith has a tendency to use effects which are – for want of a better word – a little cheesy, which some listeners may sound unintentionally amusing. However, with predecessors such as Total Recall, Inner Space, Supergirl, and even the Gremlins movies, seasoned Goldsmith listeners will appreciate the little retro touches.

Finally, and most cleverly, Goldsmith touches base with a couple of the themes he wrote for previous scores: the Love Theme from Star Trek: Insurrection in ‘My Right Arm’ and the sentimental ‘A New Friend’, his own Enterprise music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the familiar Klingon theme as a leitmotif for Worf in ‘The Mirror’, Alexander Courage’s famous fanfare in the opening ‘Remus’, and his own re-orchestrated main theme from The Next Generation TV series as a brilliant, bold finale in ‘A New Ending’. These interwoven nods to the past lend Nemesis a place in the order, a thematic anchor, and allow the familiarity and affection for the previous Trek adventures to spill over into here.

However, and despite all the generally positive-sounding descriptive text above, I still feel that Goldsmith spent much of Star Trek: Nemesis working on autopilot, and that this is probably least-memorable Trek score of the entire series to date. Even Leonard Rosenman’s wholly inappropriate music for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home at least had a personality of its own, however misguided. Admittedly, I wholly enjoy listening to Nemesis, there are many moments of genius, especially during the florid action tracks, and some of the thematic drive is excellent. It’s just that… dare I say it? Goldsmith is 75 years old now, and has not been in the best of health lately. Perhaps he is simply running out of ideas, steam, patience, or all of the above? Perhaps it is time for Goldsmith to hand in his Starfleet badge and retire to a sun bed in the Gamma quadrant? I’ll probably get lynched for writing that, but I don’t really care.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Remus (1:58)
  • The Box (2:20)
  • My Right Arm (1:02)
  • Odds and Ends (4:37)
  • Repairs (6:26)
  • The Knife (3:09)
  • Ideals (2:15)
  • The Mirror (5:21)
  • The Scorpion (2:21)
  • Lateral Run (3:54)
  • Engage (2:12)
  • Final Flight (3:47)
  • A New Friend (2:36)
  • A New Ending (6:06)

Running Time: 48 minutes 31 seconds

Varése Sarabande VSD-6412 (2002)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Mark McKenzie and Conrad Pope. “Theme from Star Trek” written by Alexander Courage. “Blue Skies” written by Irving Berlin. Recorded and mixed by Bruce Botnick. Edited by Ken Hall. Album produced by Jerry Goldsmith.

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