Home > Reviews > STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME – Leonard Rosenman


February 22, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Coming off his directorial success with Star Trek III, Leonard Nimoy again assembled our iconic crew for a thoughtful eco-story that spoke to humanity’s poor stewardship of the Earth. The film opens with a massive space probe of unknown origin en route to Earth. When it arrives it delivers a cryptic message in a language that seems unintelligible. In addition, its power system neutralizes the Earth’s power grid and begins to vaporize its oceans. The exiled Captain Kirk and his fugitive crew correctly determine that the message is directed not to humanity, but instead to an extinct species, the Humpback whale. As such, they resolve to time travel back to late 20th century Earth to recover two humpback whales, hoping to bring them back to the future so they can respond to the probe’s message. Set in 20th century urban San Francisco, this new adventure was comic, light-hearted and proved to be a huge commercial success, earning profits of more than five times it’s production costs.

First time director Nimoy was very candid that he wanted to employ his friend Rosenman for Star Trek III, but was over ruled by Paramount executives. After delivered on Star Trek III, he had sufficient gravitas to have his way with Paramount the second time around and so hired Rosenman. In discussing Rosenman Nimoy related” He was a wonderful intellect, full of great information and a passion for movies and music”. Rosenman said he was eager to take on the film stating, “I had always wanted to take a crack at one of these hardware pictures”. One notices immediately a shift in the tonality of both the film and score from the dark, dramatic and operatic narrative of the previous two films to a lighter and more upbeat sensibility focused on social commentary.

The score is multi-thematic and features four primary themes. The first is the heroic Kirk’s Theme replete with Rosenman’s customary vaulting horn figures. This energetic major modal theme, carried by horns, just abounds with unbridled optimism. It perfectly captures the bold and confident heroism of “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, which defines the Star Trek universe. It’s A phrase features a primary trumpet line with contrapuntal horns and potent percussion, while the B phrase is lyrical, string carried and adorned with sparkling glockenspiel. The theme speaks to our higher selves, is emblematic of our hero James T. Kirk and animates the film. The second theme is the ingenious and wondrous Whale Fugue, which was written in 12/8 time and imbued with a flowing waltz-like sensibility meant to express the whales musically. The third theme is the contemplative Spock’s Theme, which opens with a mysterioso violin sustain that transitions to a repeating four note line that shifts from French Horns, to trumpets, until finally closing with a plaintive woodwind diminuendo. Lastly, we have the dramatic Probe Theme, an ominous, tonal and repeating ascending four-note line with contrapuntal horn play and potent percussive force.

“Logo/Main Title” opens with ethereal strings and harp, which play against the Paramount logo. This ambient prelude ushers in a sterling horn fare declaration of the iconic Star Trek Theme by Alexander Courage. A bridge transition serves to launch Rosenman’s Main Theme, here expressed fully with both its A and B phrases. This cue features an extended expression of the theme in all its resplendent and unbounded glory, which plays against the backdrop of a bright and colorful nebula. Most importantly, it fully supported Nimoy’s vision to begin his film with music that emoted fun and adventure. I just get so inspired with every listen of the heroic theme.

We next begin a quaternary cue, which I will explore sequentially. “Starfleet Command” opens the sequence and takes place in the Federation Assembly Chamber. The Klingon Ambassador is seen railing against a video that displays the ‘murder’ of a Klingon crew by James Kirk who self-destructed the Enterprise. There is great irony here in that the Klingons were stealing the Enterprise! The cue opens with an ascending dramatic horn line that gives way to repeating ominous chords, which support a forceful bass line with suspenseful woodwinds and tremolo strings. At 0:28 we shift scenes to Vulcan and segue into “On Vulcan” where ethereal strings and textural flutes evoke a sense of mystery. Continuing on, at 0:49, we hear a forlorn Kirk’s Theme stripped of its vital energy as he addresses his exiled crew. At 1:02 in “Spock”, Spock’s Theme is introduced as Kirk sees a hooded Spock in the distance. The theme is well conceived and perfectly attenuated in that it imparts both mystery and separateness as Spock struggles to regain both his faculties and his place in life. At 1:23 we conclude the cue with a scene change in “Ten Seconds of Tension” as we see the massive probe approach the Star Ship Saratoga. This is a textural cue carried by eerie tonal strings and woodwinds. With “The Probe”, we see the probe incapacitate the Star Ship Saratoga via a complete energy drain. Rosenthal provides his forceful horn carried Probe Theme with an introductory array of complex string writing that features pizzicato, tremolo and sul ponticello techniques. Woodwinds join this tonal writing, which serves to raise the alarm as the Saratoga struggles to survive. This cue is really nicely done.

We begin another complex cue, which features extensive interplay of the Probe Theme and Kirk’s Theme that I will explore sequentially. In “The Probe-Transition” the Probe Theme continues on woodwinds as we transition to Vulcan where Kirk’s Theme enters as the crew begins preparations to return to Earth and face a summary court marshal. At 0:24 in “The Take-Off” we see the “Bounty” lift off and ascend over the Vulcan landscape. We hear Kirk’s Theme, now refortified, announced by solo trumpet and then taken up by lyrical strings. With a scene change at 0:50 we see the probe enter Earth orbit and incapacitate Star Fleet’s orbiting space docking complex. Again Rosenman employs dissonant woodwinds performing the Probe Theme replete with tremolo strings to create an ominous soundscape. At 1:11 in the “Menace of the Probe” the Probe Theme continues to dominate, raising the tension as it begins to vaporize the Earth’s oceans. As we cut away at 1:52 to the Bounty, Kirk’s Theme sounds on trumpets as they approach the Terran System. At 2:04 in “Clouds and Water” as the oceans continue to vaporize; eerie tonal violins join a dark rumbling bass line serving to further escalate tension. Trumpets lead a shift change to charged atmosphere at Star Fleet command. At 2:38 in “Crew Stunned” ominous tonal chords sound and evoke deep apprehension as Kirk and his crew hears a planetary distress call. This cue expertly supported the film’s narrative evoking growing alarm and desperation with a fine interplay of Kirk’s and the Probe’s Themes, which are strikingly dissimilar.

“Time Travel” features the Bounty warping into the Sun’s gravimetric field so as to propel itself into time warp. This is a discordant and tonal cue, which opens with tremelo violins and agitato trumpets joining to raise a growing tension as the crew journeys to an uncertain fate. As the slingshot point nears Kirk’s Theme tries to break out on trumpets but never succeeds. At 0:25 dark rumbling bass and groaning horns emote the surreal film imagery of the crew’s facial images as the Bounty succeeds in returning to the 20th century. At 0:45 sharp discordant tonal strings usher in an orchestral chord and ambient textures as the crew slowly awakens. This avant-garde cue was well-conceived and bold in its application.

“In San Francisco” is a complex, multifaceted cue that musically animates each of the three-team missions created by Kirk. We open with a fine tête-à-tête between Kirk’s Theme and Spock’s Theme replete with muted snare drums as they attempt to navigate San Francisco and locate Humpback whales housed in the Cetacean Institute. As the scene shifts at 0:23, so does the musical flow as we hear playful woodwinds and a groaning bassoon imitate Scottish bagpipes as Scotty, Sulu and McCoy pursue their mission. At 0:54 we switch to Ohura and Chekov whose mission is to locate a nuclear reactor. Their comic melodic line is infused with a faux Russian flavor by use of a clarinet and bassoon. At 1:07 we switch scenes again as Kirk and Spock disembark at Sausalito. Carefree strings usher in their themes, which again interplay as they enter the Cetacean Institute. We conclude with a cue intended to support a later covert infiltration of Mercy hospital as they seek to rescue Chekov. Militaristic snare drums and comic woodwinds support their efforts. Although comic in tone this cue features some very creative writing. “Chekov’s Run” features his ill-fated escape from imprisonment aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. This wonderful cue is a spritely scherzo infused with a classic Russian sensibility. The dark chordal ending underscores Chekov’s fall and mortal injury.

In “Gillian Seeks Kirk” Gillian arrives at the institute and is devastated to find that her whales had been released into the wild without allowing her to say good-bye. Tense strings and woodwinds set the scene as we hear a plaintive oboe emote her pain of loss. After a bridge passage we hear Kirk’s Theme sound on woodwinds, a reflection of Gillian’s inner thoughts, which now impel her to seek him out so as to save her whales. This use of Kirk’s Theme to emote her inner emotional state is well conceived. As she speeds away, restless strings take us to a scene change at 0:50 where horn fare and strings join Kirk’s Theme as Sulu lowers the transparent aluminum from his helicopter into the Bounty’s hold. A new line emerges propelled by pulsatile timpani, pizzicato strings and a dolorosa bassoon as Gillian cries out for Kirk to help her. His theme sounds on muted trumpets as she is beamed aboard. Comic woodwinds play as Gillian takes in the ships interior. Well, this brings us to the most comic cue of the entire score, “Hospital Chase” where Kirk, McCoy and Gillian madly wheel Chekov on a gurney evading the police as they seek escape from the hospital. Rosenman described this cue as a “Charlie Chaplin” approach and damn of he delivers. He perfectly captured the spirit of that era with crazy woodwinds going up and down their scales, mad-cap strings and oompah tubas driving this silly piece to a grand conclusion with their elevator beam out declared by a concluding triumphant chord.

“The Whaler” is a tense and energetic rescue cue that plays as the Bounty accelerates on an intercept vector to harvest the whales before a pursuing whaler can harpoon them. The piece drives forth in an aggressive staccato rhythm propelled by horns, which sound Kirk’s Theme. As tension mounts, we hear interplay of Kirk’s Theme with aquatic ambient textures alight with glockenspiel as the scene shifts to and from underwater shots of the whales to the Bounty. This cue is nicely done and perfectly attenuated to the film’s imagery. Well, this brings us to “Crash” where Rosenman’s score culminates with a dramatic and fulfilling statement. We begin with the Bounty crash landing in San Francisco Bay, having successfully returned from the past. Rosenman begins with a tense staccato line led by trumpets sounding the alarm as the Bounty begins sinking. A discordant repeating ascending horn line sounds over the bass staccato amplifying the tension as Kirk orders Gillian and Scotty out of the ship’s hold. At 0:45 the Probe Theme returns with a scene change. The string carried staccato line continues as Kirk resolves to dive underwater in order to reach the release valve that will free the whales. At 1:55 trumpets sound over tremolo strings with xylophone accents as he begins his effort. A crescendo at 2:23 leads to Kirk’s Theme on trumpets, which signals success as the Bounty’s hold doors blow and release the whales. A bridge passage plays as Kirk surfaces to rejoin the crew, awaiting a sign that the whales have been saved. Yearning strings with trumpets bring the cue to a satisfying climax as the whale’s surface. At 3:50 an abstract textural string line emerges with tonal coloring provided by the orchestral that underscores the undecipherable conversation between the probe and whales. At 7:08 the probe desists in its conversation and a triumphant Kirk’s Theme sounds with trombones and strings. We segue at 7:30 into “Whale Fugue”, a magnificent score highlight that features the wondrous Whale Fugue Theme. The cue opens in celebratory fashion with a joyous statement that lifts the tension as the probe departs and the crew revels in their success. The melodic string dominant line flows as a classical dance, replete with celebratory trumpets, twinkling glockenspiel and ends with a sparkling flourish.

“Home Again” opens with a rapprochement between Sarek and Spock, which is supported by a reserved rendering of Spock’s Theme. At 0:27 strings brillante replete with sparkling glockenspiel play as Kirk and his crew travel by shuttle to their new ship. As the new Enterprise A is at last seen, Alexander Courage’s original theme sounds and propels our heroes on a new adventure as they warp out to again go “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” At 1:48 an ascending series of bright chords ushers in the “End Credits”, a ternary cue, which opens with a resplendent version of Kirk’s Theme that segues into the Whale Fugue Theme before concluding with a bravado reprise of Kirk’s Theme! This is just an outstanding suite!

“Main Title (Alternate)” is the rejected first version, which Nimoy felt was too serious and lacked the fun and adventuresome spirit he desired. I fully agree. The following cues all provide source music; “Market Street” and “Ballad of the Whale” are performed by the Yellowjackets and designed to provide a jazzy modern urban ambiance. While “I Hate You” is hard-edged explicit rock that plays as an obnoxious punk is subdued by Spock’s trademark nerve pinch. The remaining alternate cues are worthy of your exploration and feature different instrumentation and emotive sensibilities.

I must thank Lukas Kendall, and Douglass Fake and Roger Feigelson of Intrada for this world premiere release of the complete score to Star Trek IV. The sound quality is again pristine and the inclusion of alternate tracks and source music is greatly appreciated. While this score does not have the dramatic operatic power of many of the other franchise scores, it does provide a multiplicity of themes that are perfectly attenuated to the film’s imagery and expertly support the story’s narrative. We are provided one of the best Main Themes of the franchise, the beautiful fugue, exciting scherzos and some wonderfully inspired comedic writing. This is a fun and enjoyable score and I recommend it as a worthy addition to your collection.

Rating: ***½

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

Track Listing:

  • Logo/Main Title (2:52)
  • Starfleet Command/On Vulcan/Spock/Ten Seconds of Tension (1:40)
  • The Probe (1:16)
  • The Probe—Transition/The Take-Off/Menace of the Probe/Clouds and Water/Crew Stunned (3:08)
  • Time Travel (1:28)
  • Market Street (written by Leonard Rosenman, Russell Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip, performed by The Yellowjackets) (4:38)
  • In San Francisco (2:01)
  • Chekov’s Run (1:21)
  • Gillian Seeks Kirk (2:42)
  • Hospital Chase (1:14)
  • The Whaler (2:00)
  • Crash/Whale Fugue (8:38)
  • Kirk Freed (0:44)
  • Home Again/End Credits (5:39)
  • Ballad of the Whale (Bonus) (written by Leonard Rosenman, Russell Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip, performed by The Yellowjackets) (4:59)
  • Main Title (Alternate) (2:56)
  • Time Travel (Alternate) (1:29)
  • Chekov’s Run (Album Ending) (1:19)
  • The Whaler (Alternate) (2:05)
  • Crash/Whale Fugue (Album Track) (8:15)
  • Home Again and End Credits (Alternate) (5:16)
  • Main Title (Album Track) (2:40)
  • Whale Fugue (Alternate) (1:05)
  • I Hate You (written by Kirk Thatcher, performed by Edge of Etiquette) (1:59)

Running Time: 71 minutes 24 seconds

Intrada MAF-7114 (1986/2012)

Music composed and conducted by Leonard Rosenman. Orchestrations by Ralph Ferraro. Original Star Trek TV theme by Alexander Courage. Recorded and mixed By Dan Wallin. Edited by Else Blangsted. Album produced by Lukas Kendall, Douglass Fake and Roger Feigelson.

  1. February 22, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Great review as always, Craig, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I have only heard this score once or twice on the original album, and in context in the film a few times, but am eager to check out the complete Intrada score. This certainly isn’t my favorite Star Trek score, probably at the bottom of the list. It certainly takes a very different musical approach from previous (and subsequent) films, and while I certainly like the more epic/operatic/darker scores, I think this music works in context of the film, which is certainly a lot lighter than the rest. Having now heard several of Rosenman’s other scores, which are often quite difficult, what bugs me most is how similar some of the pieces are to his other works, certain tracks sound like clones of his score for “LOTR” cartoon, for example. I want to give it another listen, and try to gain a little more appreciation for what Rosenman has done here.

  2. February 24, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Once again a great review Craig. That’s about the star rating I’d give it too. It was nice to read that you judged the music on its own merits and not comparing it to the surrounding scores (or what could have been if Horner had been kept on). You also pointed out a few items I’ve missed. Keep up the great work!

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