Home > Reviews > STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT – Jerry Goldsmith

STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT – Jerry Goldsmith

startrekfirstcontactexpandedMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As is consistent of the ethos of the Star Trek universe, we are again treated to a classic morality play that speaks to obsession and the powerful, yet ultimately self-destructive drive for vengeance. The script purposely draws upon classical references of Herman Melville’s great novel “Moby Dick”, which lends a potent gravitas to this latest voyage. The story reveals a bold attack by the Borg to destroy humanity by conquering it not in the present, but instead by destroying its past. Through use of a temporal vortex, the Borg time travel backwards to 21st century Earth, which lays vulnerable having been decimated by a third World War. Their plan hinges on destroying the Phoenix, Earth’s first warp capable ship. History reveals that its inaugural flight elicited a first contact encounter with the Vulcans who happened to be exploring the Terran system. This first contact laid the seed from which arose the United Federation Of Planets. Captain Picard follows the Borg back through time and must overcome his personal demons having been once assimilated by the Borg, as well as his obsession for revenge to save humanity’s future. The film was a critical success earning many awards as well as the most profitable Star Trek film of the franchise.

Producer Rick Berman and director Jonathan Frakes determined very early in the creative process that Jerry Goldsmith would be hired to score the film. His legendary scores for the franchise made his selection inevitable. But challenges arose, as his scoring of “The Ghost And The Darkness” suffered production delays that encroached into the four-week window provided for him to score First Contact. As such he recruited his son Joel to score approximately one third of the score, specifically, the Borg dominant cues. Jerry relates “I picked the certain scenes I thought would be more apropos for him to do and that’s the way we did it”. For the film, five primary themes were provided, three adapted from earlier Star Trek films and two new creations. The First Contact Theme defines and underpins the score. It has reserved nobility and a poignancy that is both stirring and profound. It speaks to the animating ethos of Gene Rodenberry’s vision of humanity seeking out new life and new civilizations in friendship. Juxtaposed to this is are two Borg Themes; the first, the Borg Collective Theme, is a cold, sterile and electronica infused four-note minor modal statement that speaks to a race that has surrendered all feeling for their brutal and unrelenting quest to achieve the purity of a perfect homogeneous communal order. The second is the Borg Menace Theme, an ominous five-note horn carried statement that speaks to the brutality and fear engendered by the Borg. The competing narratives spoken by these three primary themes are brilliantly conceived. The three returning themes include the Klingon Theme from “Star Trek I”, which is used as a leitmotif for Lieutenant Worf. There is also the spiritual Quest Theme from “Star Trek V”, which speaks of hope and underpins the crew’s valiant struggle to save humanity from a dire fate. Lastly, there is the “Star Trek: The Next Generation March”, which is emblematic of the Enterprise and her crew.

As the opening credits play, the “Main Title” opens with homage to Alexander Courage’s Main Theme stated nobly on French horns. A reprise by trumpets leads to a stirring crescendo flourish from which arises the First Contact Theme. Opening on French horns with woodwinds counters, the theme is reverential and evokes a nobility of purpose. When the melodic line reprises it swells gloriously in the strings, which elicits both quivers and a tear. Its concluding statement is profoundly moving and fittingly ends with noble horns. This is a score highlight and why I love film scores. We segue harshly at 2:47 into “Locutus”, which reveals Captain Picard in a hellish nightmare, reliving his brutal assimilation by the Borg. A string sustain and flutter-tongue horns rise to a trumpet lead horn crescendo as the camera pans out revealing the cavernous hive interior of a Borg ship. A cold, metallic and mechanistic line propelled by timpani with electronica accents introduces Joel Goldsmith’s horrific Borg Collective Theme, which amplifies Picard’s nightmare. A respite of his waking on gentile strings and harps is shattered by an orchestral crash, which reveals a Borg implant springing from his face, thus revealing a nightmare within a nightmare.

“Battle Watch” reveals the bridge crew listening to the Borg defeat an intercepting Federation fleet. This cue introduces an ominous and militarized variant of the Borg Collective Theme. The cue is dark and carried by growling bass and menacing timpani, which are joined by militaristic snare drums. In “Red Alert” Picard violates his orders and orders the Enterprise back to Earth. We hear the Quest Theme sounding with horns, which then flows into a bold and determined rendering of the Star Trek March as the ship engages its warp drive. At 0:17 a scene change reveals a frantic last defense by Federation ships in Earth orbit. Picard assumes control of the fleet and orders a concentrated attack on the Borg cube. Powerful low register horns and drums emote the awesome power of the Borg Menace Theme, now rendered as a slow and horrific marcia dell’inferno. Yet Worf, now commanding the Defiant attacks, propelled by a ferocious rendering of the Klingon Theme! Soon the Star Trek March joins as the Enterprise rescues the Defiant crew as their vessel is destroyed. The cue concludes atop a tense repeating line of horns and drums as Picard coordinates and then orders a withering attack by the fleet on the Borg cube, which ends in a shattering cascade explosion. This is really exciting action writing.

In “Temporal Wake” we see a Borg sphere emerge from the exploding cube and begin a rapid descent into low Earth orbit through a temporal vortex. Picard orders a hot pursuit, which brings the Enterprise into the temporal vortex where we see, an alternate reality – Earth now displayed as an enslaved Borg world. Goldsmith sows tension with an eerie metallic percussive ostinato that is soon joined by the Klingon Theme as Worf rejoins the bridge crew. A crescendo at 0:49 reveals the horror of the alternate timeline created by the Borg. As they continue back through time a twinkling echo of the Quest Theme interplays with the dark ostinato Borg rhythms – nicely done! In “Shields Down” we see the Borg sphere firing at a specific target on earth. Picard immediately orders its destruction with a volley of torpedoes and then commands an away mission to assess damage to the timeline. We open powerfully atop the Borg Attack Theme and pizzicato bass. Trumpets sever the theme and herald the Enterprise’s arrival. Yet the Borg Theme continues with the tenses ostinato like bass pizzicato until the Borg sphere’s destruction.

“39.1 Degrees Celsius” is really a standout cue that features excellent interplay of themes as well as tense and dramatic writing. Eerie rumbling piano supported by harp and vibraphone play as crew assimilation continues. Percussion supported bass ostinato reveals Picard sensing that all is not well with Data and him beaming back to the Enterprise. Rising string statements join the ostinato serving to raise the alarm. At 1:13 ominous horns sound as Picard confirms a Borg infiltration of Engineering. The militarized Borg Collective Theme first heard in “Battle Watch” returns, underscoring the crew’s growing terror. At 1:57 the music shifts gears and gains vital energy as the crew arms and mobilizes for battle. Strings, animated woodwinds, muted horns and snare drums propel the action, perfectly contrasting the Borg Theme. “Retreat” is a score highlight that features superb tense writing. Joel Goldsmith creates an eerie ambiance with an otherworldly emoting of the Borg Collective Theme on synthesizer as the crew travels to the hive entrance in engineering. The Borg presence is amplified by use of low register horns joined with metallic mechanized effects. This interplays with the search motif of cyclic woodwinds and snare drum percussion, which support the crew. When the crew reaches the hive entrance at 1:37 the Borg line begins a crescendo ascent in the strings until all hell breaks loose at 1:54 atop trumpets and a string ostinato. The Borg Theme drives forth atop bass and percussion with Federation counters in the upper register. Eventually it becomes an unrelenting marcia di torrore as the tide of battle turns with Data’s capture announced by blaring horns at 2:32. The Borg Theme now augmented by snare drums, declares a Federation route with interplay of the string ostinato and Klingon Theme as Worf covers the escape.

We shift gears with “Welcome Aboard” where Picard wins Lily’s trust and welcomes her to the Enterprise. Goldsmith supports the moment with a beautiful interplay of an ethereal Quest Theme and First Contact Theme emoted by warm muted French horns. At 1:42 we shift scenes to the Borg hive in engineering as we see the Borg queen descend as a detached upper torso with a metallic spine, which is fused into a lower humanoid torso. The fusion is both hideous and grotesque, and Goldsmith supports the moment with the mechanistic Borg Collective Theme emoted on metallic chimes over tremolo strings. A shimmering synthesizer descent in scale, which ends with a muted horn declaration, mirrors her decent and torso fusion. This is really nicely done and perfectly attenuated to the film imagery! “Getting Ready” features Picard leading an away team to the ship’s exterior to foil an effort by the Borg to transform the deflector dish into a beacon so as to call for 21st century Borg assistance. We open with French horns and strings performing a reserved Quest Theme, which interplays with a dark and chilling low register emoted Borg Collective Theme. We close upon a dark string sustain.

“Fully Functional” is a ternary cue that opens with Data’s abortive escape, which fails when his newly acquired flesh is slashed, evoking a first time sensation of pain. The orchestra erupts with Goldsmith’s trademark aggressive action writing propelled by horn fare bursts, syncopated percussion and alternating time rhythms. The metallic Borg Collective Theme returns ominously in the low register as Data is subdued. Mysterioso synthesizer textures join the theme as the Borg queen attempts to seduce Data, now emoted by a solo flute, with the pleasures provided by his newly acquired flesh. We shift scenes at 2:14 to see the away team closing in on the Borg beacon contingent. We feel the away team’s trepidation as Goldsmith provides a dark interplay of the two Borg Themes, one of which features an ominous solo tuba. The cue closes with a final scene shift to Earth at 2:30 where Ryker and LaForge pursue Cochrane who has fled. The cue burst forth atop syncopated chase music replete with Goldsmith’s shifting time meters. We conclude the sequence with “The Dish”, the score’s longest cue, which features Picard’s team releasing the dish’s clamps and battling a series of Borg drones sent to stop their efforts. We are treated to an amazing extended interplay of the synthesized Borg Collective Theme and the Borg Menace Theme emoted either by horns or as a mechanized drum driven Marcia di terrore for drone attacks. Countering them is the Quest Theme emoted on trumpet and Klingon Theme, the last supporting Worf’s triumph in battle. The destruction of the beacon atop a French horn carried Quest Theme provides a very satisfying conclusion of the cue.

In “Objection Noted” an aggressive bass ostinato and horn fare raise the tension and interplay with the Borg Menace Theme as Picard insults Worf’s honor by calling him a coward. After both men depart to a diminuendo interlude, the ostinato line and interplay with the Borg Menace Theme returns in a subsequent tense encounter where and Lily argues for Dr. Crusher to challenge Picard’s flawed decision to fight on without weapons instead of self-destructing the Enterprise. “Not Again” is in my judgment the score’s most important cue; a hinge of fate on which all rests. It features the key moment of the film where Lily confronts Picard with his obsession and exposes his true motives – blood vengeance. In the aftermath of his reactionary naked fury he has an epiphany and realizes that he is indeed reenacting Captain Ahab’s self-destructive path, a path which will lead to the ruin of all. Goldsmith scores the scene with a dark rendering of the First Contact Theme. As Picard recounts his determination to fight the Borg the music ascends to an ethereal ambiance. His epiphany is marked by a warm and noble return of the Quest Theme, as we see him resolved that he cannot win this battle. We close the scene with plaintive strings, which capture Picard’s resignation that he must destroy the Enterprise. This cue is genius and testimony that Goldsmith is a master of the art of film scoring.

“Evacuate” is a most complex cue where Picard resigns himself to self destructing the Enterprise. We open with the propulsive aggressive bass ostinato and horn fare motif, which reflects the film’s drive towards the final confrontation. Goldsmith now demonstrates his genius by providing a complex interplay of a noble yet resigned Quest Theme and the Borg Attack Theme as the crew prepares to evacuate. We move onward with the First Contact Theme supporting Picard’s apology and reconciliation with Worf. The cue ends darkly, with Picard resolving to accept certain death with a futile effort to rescue his dear friend Data. “New Orders/All the Time” is a powerful cue! We see Picard relaying his final orders to Lily, who realizes the nobility of his decision to remain aboard and rescue his friend. Goldsmith again supports the emotions of the fateful scene with an amazing thematic interplay, which reveals the Quest and First Contact Themes emoting hope and nobility, juxtaposed to the Borg Attack Theme. We close with his capture and reunion with the Borg queen.

“Flight of the Phoenix” is a score highlight and the turning point of the film. Data deactivates the encryption code yielding full control of the Enterprise to the Borg Queen and then fires torpedoes at the Phoenix, which has soared heavenward on its historic voyage. We open with the dark resignation of the Borg Collective Theme as Picard realizes with Data’s disaffection that all is lost. At 1:09 we switch scenes to the soaring Phoenix, which is propelled with a wondrous bravado variation of the Star Trek March. Goldsmith builds increasing energy and potency to the melodic line, which interplays with the Borg Collective Theme as the Queen orders Data to destroy the vessel. At 3:14 tom-tom blasts sear Data’s betrayal into the Borg Queen’s mind as the torpedoes miss their mark and he smashes the toxic coolant cylinders, which flood the room with a flesh-consuming vapor. As Picard climbs upwards to evade death the energetic music also ascends with great urgency. When the Queen grabs Picard legs in a last ditch effort to save her self, Data intervenes and pulls her downward into the vapors, which consume her flesh. After venting the toxic vapor, Picard snaps the queen’s spine and her demise is scored with a final statement of the Borg Attack Theme. Sparkling strings, woodwinds and bell tolls restate the melodic line first heard in “Battle Watch” to conclude this epic cue.

“First Contact” is in my judgment the score highlight and the nexus of what this film is all about. Once again Goldsmith demonstrates his genius and creates a cue that will echo through time. We open with the sentimentality of English and French horns as Picard and Data share a quiet moment. As the Vulcan vessel lands and its crew disembarks, the melodic line transforms and radiates a profound mystical and ethereal energy, reflecting at last that moment long sought by humans throughout the ages, that we are not alone in the universe. Goldsmith emotes his First Contact Theme with a stirring and profound poignancy rarely realized in film. We close wistfully atop the Quest Theme as Picard and Lily bid a touching farewell. This epic cue is why I live and breathe film score music! As the crew beams up and the Enterprise departs we move into the “End Credits” where we are treated to yet another classic Goldsmith suite. The cue features a wondrous presentation of the scores’ four Federation themes; Alexander Courage’s bold Main Theme, the heroic Star Trek March, the mystical Quest Theme and the stirring First Contact Theme. Bravo! In conclusion, the bonus tracks are worthy of your exploration and offer subtle nuances of expression from the final cues.

I offer my sincere thanks to Neil Norman, Melanie Clarkson, Lukas Kendall and GNP Crescendo Records for this long sought expanded release of this epic Star Trek score. The sound quality is simply excellent and of the highest quality. This is one of Jerry Goldsmith’s finest Star Trek scores and offers enduring testimony to his genius as a film score composer as well as his innate understanding of the Star Trek universe. We are provided with a multiplicity of fine themes, which expertly support the competing film narratives and which are perfectly attenuated to its imagery. I believe some of the best cues ever written in the Star Trek franchise reside in this album. I highly recommend this score as an essential part of your collection.

Rating: ****

Buy the Star Trek: First Contact soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/Locutus (4:16)
  • How Many Ships (0:28)
  • Battle Watch (1:10)
  • Red Alert (2:13)
  • Temporal Wake (2:07)
  • Shields Down (1:45)
  • The Phoenix (1:00)
  • They’re Here (0:25)
  • 39.1 Degrees Celsius (4:45)
  • Search for the Borg (1:50)
  • Retreat (3:59)
  • No Success (1:31)
  • Borg Montage (1:02)
  • Welcome Aboard (2:40)
  • Stimulation (1:04)
  • Smorgasborg (1:28)
  • Getting Ready (1:33)
  • Fully Functional (3:19)
  • The Dish (7:06)
  • Objection Noted (1:54)
  • Not Again (2:41)
  • Evacuate (2:20)
  • New Orders/All The Time (3:49)
  • Flight Of The Phoenix (6:20)
  • First Contact (6:00)
  • End Credits (5:26)
  • The Phoenix (Alternate Version) (1:07)
  • Borg Montage (Alternate Version) (1:17)
  • Main Title (Alternate Version) (2:54)

Running Time: 77 minutes 29 seconds

GNP Crescendo GNP-8079 (1996/2012)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Jeff Atmajian, Alexander Courage and Arthur Morton. Additional music by Joel Goldsmith. Recorded and mixed by Bruce Botnick. Edited by Bruce Botnick, Ken Hall and Cliff Kohlweck. Score produced by Jerry Goldsmith. Album produced by Neil Norman, Melanie Clarkson and Lukas Kendall.

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