Home > Reviews > STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER – Jerry Goldsmith


January 20, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Original Review by Craig Lysy

Star Trek V is at its heart a mystical quest film concerned with a question that has aroused humanity’s curiosity for millennia. It explores our search for that sacred omphalos from whence we arose – the Garden of Eden. In metaphysics Eden symbolizes primordial perfection, the source of all life and the state of perfect communion between humanity and God. It is from this inner longing, this yearning that the saga which is Star Trek V unfolds. William Shatner lobbied very hard to direct the film and although he managed to win the directorship, he regretfully would not enjoy critical success. Production and financing problems forced a dramatic scaling back of the movie’s climactic scene where he had planned a dramatic display of immense stone gollums and the earth opening up to reveal scenes of Dante’s ten levels of Hell. It suffices to say that the lack of resources served to mortally wound the story’s narrative and resulted in what many believe to be the weakest film in the Star Trek franchise.

Turning to the movie, the starship Enterprise’s shakedown cruise is interrupted by an urgent rescue mission. An altruistic Vulcan named Sybok (Spock’s half brother) who has rejected his Vulcan upbringing and embraced emotion, has taken Klingon, Romulan and Terran ambassadors hostage on the planet Nimbus III. As Kirk and a competing Klingon Commander seeking glory move to rescue the hostages, Sybok upends their plans, captures the Enterprise and propels it on his religious quest to regain Sha Ka Ree (Eden). The Enterprise successfully crosses the great fiery galactic barrier to reach ‘Eden’, and yet the quest is for naught as they find not God, but instead a powerful alien entity masquerading as God. After Millennia of imprisonment the entity desperately seeks release from its eternal prison at any cost. Through slight of hand and other plot contrivances Kirk and crew again prevail.

Jerry Goldsmith was recruited to continue the Star Trek journey and took up the assignment with relish. He conceived warmer themes that spoke to the film’s two narratives; one mystical and one of friendship. The heroic Main Title Theme and Klingon Theme from Star Trek I are reintroduced with great effect as well as new themes related to the enduring friendship among the crew and the mystic quest to regain the Devine. Interestingly enough Goldsmith related that the mystic Quest Theme was needed to create a “Puccini moment” in the film given that Sybok’s tragic and misguided quest was central to the film’s narrative.

So let us begin our journey to Sha Ka Ree… The opening cue, “Nimbus III”, which was excised from the film, is a simple repetitive motif. It begins with a pulsating bass statement that is augmented with an ethereal sounding and repeating quadruplet tenor counter from a synclavier, an early digital synthesizer. This repeating four note statement will serve as a leitmotif for Sybok. Soon trombones playing in their lowest register and wood block percussion enter, the tempo increases and a sense of rising danger is felt as we see in the distance a horse borne hooded figure (Sybok) riding ominously toward a pathetic and destitute miner called J’Onn. The cue is well conceived as we hear Goldsmith contrast the temporal and mystical qualities embodied by the two men.

Sybok’s Theme is referenced throughout the score; in “Well Done” it is warm as Sybok greets his brother Spock; in “No Harm” it is pensive as Spock reveals to Kirk and McCoy that Sybok is his brother and in “It Exists” it is grand and weaved with a mystic synergy with the Quest Theme. In “Mind Meld” ethereal high tenor statements by the synclavier play over a series of bass chords. At the 0:53 mark a harp introduces the ethereal Mystic Theme carried by synclavier that is emblematic of Sybok and his capacity to free men from their inner pain. This film passage is poignant, profoundly moving and testimony to Goldsmith’s genius. As Sybok relates his quest and need for a star ship we hear a muted statement of the Star Trek I Main Title Theme carried by French horns and trumpets. The cue ends with ethnic woodwinds, synclavier and percussion providing an exotic reference to Nimbus III.

We now come to “The Mountain”, which serves as the film’s main title. The cue opens with a homage fanfare statement of Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek theme that segues into the equally iconic and rousing Star Trek March created by Goldsmith for Star Trek I. As the march subsides an evocative, pastoral Coplandesque string prelude establishes the tranquility and beauty of the Yosemite Valley. Goldsmith then presents a quintessential Americana theme that will serve as a leitmotif for the deep friendship between Kirk, McCoy and Spock. This nine note Friendship Theme opens with a gentile solo flute playing over its kindred woodwinds. Glockenspiel chimes signal the transfer of the melody to solo trumpet and violins that is in turn taken up by full woodwinds for a full and sumptuous orchestral statement. The cue closes as deep bass chords, synth pulses, percussion, and strained violins portend danger and speak to Kirk’s precarious hold on the mountain. This Friendship Theme is heard throughout the score with different expressions; in “Not Alone” it is reflective, in “Let’s Get Out of Here (Part 2)” it is warm, while in “Cosmic Thoughts” it is carried by a tender solo oboe.

“Raid on Paradise” is an amazing staccato and kinetic action cue borne by wood block percussion, drums, shakers and furious strings overlaid by ethereal statements by the synclavier. As the city falls and the ambassadors are captured, an ethnic and darker rendering of Sybok’s Theme is heard. At the 1:39 mark we switch scenes to the Enterprise and segue into the rejected Star Trek I Main Theme that was replaced by the famous march. This melodic and more reserved eight note theme carried by French horns played over lush violins is just a wonderful statement that provides contrast to the cacophony that is Nimbus III. Soon sprightly woodwinds introduce a secondary friendship theme that interplays with the Star Trek Theme to impart the warmth of friends.

“Target Practice” reintroduces the renowned Klingon Theme from Star Trek I. The cue opens with a sustained bass chord with a rapidly ascending electronic turbine pulse. The pulse gives way to a potent six note heraldic trombone statement that heralds that the Klingons have arrived. This ethnic and primal theme which perfectly emotes the Klingon hunter warrior archetype abounds in a wondrous interplay of conventional horns, an electronic Ram’s horn, percussion and plucked strings.

The travel cue “A Tall Ship” speaks to Kirk’s return to the Enterprise. A prelude by sumptuous strings with glockenspiel accents leads us into a fanfare declaration of the first seven notes of the Star Trek March. From here woodwinds and strings ascend with reverence as Kirk recites “All I need is a tall ship and a star to steer her by” from John Masefield’s famous poem “Sea Fever.” As the shuttle prepares to dock we are treated to the nobly stated March Theme which is augmented with a wondrous display of brass, strings and harps. Kirk’s and his crews return to their love the Enterprise is always a moving moment in the Star Trek universe.

“Plot Course” is an energetic cue supporting the Enterprise’s departure to Nimbus III. Staccato bass and piano build tension for an urgent departure as strings counter and French horns raise up a determined rendering of the March Theme. An interlude of percolating woodwinds, synth and glockenspiel follows which then abruptly segues into and concludes with a restrained statement of the Klingon Theme.

“Approaching Nimbus III” is a suspense cue that relates to the rescue mission to free the hostages. Continuing thematically from “Plot Course”, a staccato statement of bass and piano with trumpet and snare drum counters raises the tension as a muted version of the March interplays with the Klingon Theme. The rhythmic on-going drum beat which is alternatively overlaid with woodwinds and strings serves to maintain the tension. Soon the March Theme becomes increasingly dominant and militaristic in tone as the crew prepares for their assault. But as a stealth approach is needed, the cue slowly subsides with woodwinds playing over synths.

In “Open the Gates”, a score highlight, we see Kirk and his disguised crew trick their way into the city. The cue opens with a string blast and settles into a repetitive synth pulse augmented with wood block percussion and sustained string chords. This is countered by Sybok’s Theme now carried by muted trumpets and synclavier. When their identity is discovered Goldsmith shatters the suspense and boldly declares that the battle has been joined. He infuses this action statement with great energy and kinetic power using his customary trademark 5/4 rhythms. We hear furious string writing with potent repeating quadruplet horn counter play that displays an incredible dynamism. As Kirk enters the saloon we shift gears and hear sustained strings with muted percussion that serve to heighten the suspense. As he is ambushed and fights, driving strings and horn counters return but then end with finality as he is captured.

“Without Help” is a most complex and rich cue that opens abruptly with Sybok’s Theme first played on jagged strings and then countered by synclavier. As Kirk and Spock refuse to aid Sybok’s cause he declares that he will take the ship without their help. French horns introduce the Star Trek March which in turn is then countered by the driving Klingon Theme that portends their imminent arrival at Nimbus III. A rapidly ascending electronic turbine pulse ushers in an extended suspense passage born by strings, woodwinds, muted trumpets and drums which underscore the danger posed to the shuttle as it seeks the safety of the Enterprise. The cue concludes with a powerful passage of the Star Trek March playing against the Klingon Theme as the shuttle is sighted, targeted and crash lands in the shuttle bay as the Enterprise warps out of danger.

“Pick It Up” is a tense cue that features the four note opening statement of the Quest Theme. As Kirk and Sybok battle for a rifle, the theme which reflects the fight, makes repeated harsh staccato statements with strings and horns. As Spock picks up the discarded weapon a synth pulse slowly builds and magnifies in intensity until Spock declines to shoot his brother. Flutes and violins now present a more intimate variant of Sybok’s Theme as the brothers confer. The theme shifting to horns signal that Sybok’s entreaty is for naught as Spock again refuses to follow him. As Sybok moves to take control of the ship trombones repeatedly play the Quest Motif over sustained string chords. The cue ends with a synth echo that supports Sybok’s mind meld with Uhura and Sulu.

In the painful and poignant “Free Minds” we revisit the ethereal Mystic Theme as Sybok explains to Kirk, Spock and McCoy “I do not control minds, I free them.” At the 1:09 mark electronics, synclavier and synthetic voices express the mind meld between Sybok and McCoy. Soon glissandi harps and strings full of pathos with woodwind accents played over sustained synth chords convey McCoy’s hidden torment as he terminates his father’s life support to end his suffering.

Next comes Spock’s test in “The Birth”, where Sybok reveals their father’s shame as we witness Spock’s birth with human ears. Here the ethereal tone of the synclavier is augmented with a four note bass statement of the Quest Theme. As the bass statement continues, it is countered by plaintive woodwinds and strings as Kirk and McCoy realize Spock’s hidden pain. Violins played over bass counters are heard as Spock overcomes Sybok’s attempt to convert him. As the Great Barrier appears in the view port French horns announce the Quest Theme which yields to a questioning synclavier as Sybok declares that his vision comes from God himself.

In “The Barrier” we hear the score’s most powerful statement of the Quest Theme as heraldic fanfare played against string counters and chimes heighten the tension of the dramatic crossing. As the horn statements of the theme continue, subtle woodwind interludes are introduced which add to the unease. At the 1:20 mark we hear the Sha Ka Ree Theme as the Enterprise crosses the barrier and we at last see the planet Sha Ka Ree. Carried by synclavier which adds an ethereal and mystical quality to the music, we hear violin echoes played against repeating quadruplet bass statements of the Quest Theme. I must say that Goldsmith perfectly supported the film’s imagery and narrative with this cue.

“A Busy Man” provides a sublime extended lyrical passage of the Quest Theme as Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Sybok depart in a shuttle for the planet. The theme is powerfully stated by two tubas, French horns playing in their lowest register, bass and celli. As the four disembark and proceed on foot we are treated to a truly wondrous extended passage of the ethereal Sha Ka Ree Theme. The music portends a grand meeting as the synclavier is played against lush strings with horn accents.

“An Angry God” is the most dramatic cue of the score, which opens with a portentous statement of sustained synth and violins chords. At the 0:54 mark escalating strings lead to a dramatic orchestral statement that announces the arrival of ‘god’. The synclavier introduces an extended statement of the ethereal Mystic Theme supported by lyrical strings to underscore the arrival of the ‘divine’ presence. Yet at the 3:00 minute mark, a prolonged violin chord augmented by bass and oboe signals a crisis of faith as Kirk discerns troubling flaws in ‘god’. Fragmentary statements of the Quest Theme slowly serve to heighten tension and raise the alarm that the entity is not what it proposes to be. At the 5:11 mark horn blasts by trombone and tuba declare that all false pretenses are dropped as the entity reveals its true nature by striking Kirk and Spock with electric bolts and demanding that it be given access to the Enterprise. Deafening and repetitive horn blasts of the Quest theme hit as Sybok sacrifices himself by melding with the entity. The diversion allows Kirk time to order a lethal strike against the entity with photon torpedoes.

In “Let’s Get Out of Here (Part 1)” we hear harsh tuba, trombones and percussion raise the urgency of escape as strings and woodwinds add additional tension. Soon the Klingon Theme declares the attack of the Bird Of Prey against the Enterprise. This cue drives forward with a most dynamic interplay of the Quest and Klingon Themes. In “Let’s Get Out of Here (Part 2)” we hear competing fanfares as the powerful Klingon Theme continues to play against the Quest Theme. As Kirk is rescued and the entity destroyed we hear a remarkable lyrical rendering of the Klingon Theme by woodwinds and lush strings. This in turn segues into a warm statement of the Star Trek March as Kirk and Spock are reunited.

Goldsmith just excels in writing end credit suites and “Life Is a Dream” is no exception. The cue opens with a fanfare statement of Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek Theme that segues into the rousing Star Trek March and then a more ethnic rendering of the Klingon Theme complete with electronic Ram’s Horn. The cue concludes with a reprise of the Star Trek March.

Disc two which features the 1989 soundtrack album with some bonus tracks. I will not explore it in great detail since it has inconsequential differences from the disc one expanded score. In cue fourteen, “The Moon’s A Window to Heaven”, Uhura dances and sings a siren song to lure enemy combatants into an ambush, while in “Vulcan Song/Row, Row, Row Your Boat” we are treated to some simple strumming by Spock on a “Vulcan Lute” which was created by Hammond Organ and Echoplex for the original television series. Eventually we segue into the classic “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” for which I will offer no critical commentary.

Allow me to personally thank and commend La-La Land Records, Lukas Kendall, Mike Matessino and Didier C. Deutsch for the long awaited issue of the expanded score. This unabashed Trekker has waited for an expanded release for two decades! This quality product created from newly re-mastered first generation digital tapes offers excellent sound quality, in depth liner notes and an insightful commentary.

In Star Trek V we participate in a religious quest and so Goldsmith provides us with music that is more intimate, warm and contemplative than his iconic Star Trek I score. Several new exceptional themes are introduced along with the reuse of his Star Trek I Klingon and Star Trek March Themes. I would add that yet again we must bear witness to his Goldsmith’s genius of employing rare and innovative instruments as well as in constructing superb action cues by pitting one theme against another. The lyrical beauty of this score cannot be overstated and I highly recommend this two CD set for inclusion in your collection.

Rating: ****

Buy the Star Trek V soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Nimbus III (2:01)
  • The Mind-Meld (2:43)
  • The Mountain [Main Title] (4:53)
  • The Big Drop (0:26)
  • Raid on Paradise (2:43)
  • Not Alone (1:11)
  • Target Practice (1:52)
  • A Tall Ship (1:43)
  • Plot Course (1:46)
  • No Harm (2:13)
  • Approaching Nimbus III (2:59)
  • Open the Gates (3:01)
  • Well Done (1:16)
  • Without Help (4:55)
  • Pick It Up (2:31)
  • No Authority (0:30)
  • It Exists (1:47)
  • Free Minds (3:18)
  • The Birth (3:53)
  • The Barrier (2:52)
  • A Busy Man (4:41)
  • An Angry God (6:57)
  • Let’s Get Out of Here, Part 1 (3:42)
  • Let’s Get Out of Here, Part 2 (3:07)
  • Cosmic Thoughts (1:16)
  • Life Is a Dream [End Credits] (3:57)
  • The Mountain (3:50)
  • The Barrier (2:51)
  • Without Help (4:18)
  • A Busy Man (4:40)
  • Open the Gates (3:00)
  • An Angry God (6:55)
  • Let’s Get Out of Here (5:13)
  • Free Minds (3:17)
  • Life Is a Dream (3:57)
  • The Moon’s a Window to Heaven (4:00)
  • The Mountain [Main Title] (Alternate) (4:45)
  • A Busy Man (Alternate) (4:42)
  • Paradise Saloon (Source Music) (2:42)
  • The Moon’s A Window to Heaven (Film Version) (1:10)
  • Vulcan Song/Row, Row, Row Your Boat (Source Music) (1:33)
  • Synclavier Effects (1:54)

Running Time: 131 minutes 51 seconds

La-La Land Records LLLCD-1157 (1989/2010)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Arthur Morton. Recorded and mixed by Bruce Botnick. Score produced by Jerry Goldsmith. Album produced by Didier C. Deutsch, Lukas Kendall, Mike Matessino, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys.

  1. January 21, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I think this is an excellent score but I was surprised that I don’t think it’s particularly improved by the expansion, at least not in the way that Star Treks II and III were. In particular, those cues which were edited for the original album (I’m thinking mainly of Without Help and Let’s Get Out of Here) are much stronger in the edited versions than the film versions as heard on disc one. I think I’ll need to make my own “deluxe edition” by mixing some of the film and album cues together but part of me wonders if actually, the most deluxe of editions may just be the original album.

    • Craig Lysy
      January 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      Hi James,
      I was at work and rushed and so neglected to state – thank you for taking time to read the review. For a film score lover who runs one of the best sites on the internet to take such time is for me, quite moving. Thank you, and perhaps in another ten years I may yet achieve the high standard you have set as a reviewer.

      All the best.

  2. Craig Richard Lysy
    January 21, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I have to agree James, ST 2 and 3 really added a greater amount of content.

    By the way, I apologize to you and all the readership for an error – John Williams did not produce. It should read “Produced for La-La Land Records by Lukas Kendall, Mike Matessino, and Didier C. Deutsch” – A template reuse error. We will do better!

  3. January 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Another great review. I was really eager to see what you thought about this one. For my money this is an excellent score by Goldsmith. It’s got a more adventurous and action oriented feel, then “The Motion Picture”, but it has so many great themes and Goldsmith introduces, evolves and punctuates them so wonderfully. For me, that is why this extended edition is worth seeking out for fans of his work. It really gives you a journey via music.

    But as you and James point out, the highlights were included on the original album, so more casual fans of “Star Trek” or Goldsmith would probably be satisfied with that release. But for those of us who love Goldsmith’s ability with themes and instrumentation, this extended release was worth getting.

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to more of your reviews.

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