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STAR TREK: GENERATIONS – Dennis McCarthy

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Original Review by Craig Lysy

This seventh film in the franchise was conceived as a vehicle to pass the baton from the original series cast to the Next Generation cast. Set in the late 23rd century, we witness the maiden voyage of the Starship Enterprise B. Members of the original crew, Pavel Chekov, Montgomery Scott and James Kirk attend as honored guests. The maiden voyage quickly turns to disaster as an unseasoned captain and not fully functional ship are forced to rescue two transport ships from a destructive energy ribbon. The Enterprise B manages to save a handful of the ships’ passengers, including a scientist called Soran, but with heavy costs as Captain Kirk is lost when a destructive bolt breeches the hull. Seventy-eight years later, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D seek to defeat a now obsessed scientist Soran who is destroying entire star systems in an effort to regain the alternative reality of the Nexus energy ribbon. In a truly heroic battle, Picard and Kirk join forces to stop Soran before he destroys yet another civilization. The film was a commercial success, earning three time its production costs.

Dennis McCarthy was well known to Producer Rick Berman and Director David Carson, having composed nearly half of the Star Trek TNG series scores. They believed him to be a natural choice to introduce the new crew to the big screen. For their film they asked him to bring a larger and more heroic sound that also spoke to the alternative reality that was the Nexus. McCarthy eschewed using leitmotifs for each captain, instead choosing two heroic themes, which he used interchangeably with each captain. The Captains Theme 1 features a long lyrical melodic line replete with pulsatile bass and sparkling accents, while the Captains Theme 2 is a heroic power anthem, which conveys to the nobility and heroism of Star Fleet. We also have the Nexus Theme, which speaks to the otherworldliness reality that is the Nexus. For this realm, McCarthy imparted an ethereal ambiance by joining a synthesizer, angelic chorale and shifting strings colors. I must say that it perfectly juxtaposes the more robust hero themes of the real timeline. Lastly, we have Soran’s Motif, a four-note figure, which rumbles and shifts darkly in the lower string register, imparting a frightening and twisted malevolence.

In “Main Title” the films opens with a champagne bottle rotating in space, which eventually impacts and explodes upon the hull of the Enterprise B. McCarthy departs from Star Trek tradition and foregoes the usual heroic anthem to launch the film. Instead the scene features a complex interplay of malevolent Soran’s Motif and the ethereal aura of the Nexus Theme, whose wordless chorus imparts an otherworldly mystery. At 1:18 from out of these textures a matrix of harp and keyboard give birth to a noble solo trumpet, which introduces the Captains Theme 1. Slowly, inexorably the angelic voices of the Nexus Theme build to a wondrous crescendo crowned with a thrice repeating of the A Phrase of Alexander Courage’s Star Trek Theme. In “Past Glory” Kirk and his crew behold the wonder of the Enterprise B as they realize their time has passed. McCarthy continues the ethereal ambiance upon harp glissandi, but also imparts a bittersweet quality as we hear the Star Trek Theme play over sparkling synthesizer. The Captains Theme 1 joins and gives way to a beautiful statement by woodwinds, which concludes upon a French horn. I found this scene and cue very moving.

“Distress Call/Harriman and the Ribbon” features the bridge receiving a distress call and Captain Harriman’s initial reluctance to respond. The music of this cue is dark and ominous. A portentous variant of Soran’s Theme is heard as he and Guinan are beamed to safety aboard the Enterprise. The music builds slowly to a crescendo crowned with a culminating plaintive trumpet call. “Kirk Saves the Day/Deck 15/HMS Enterprise” is a potent and exciting action cue. As the Enterprise is buffeted by energy bolts from the Nexus, Kirk races to deck 15 to restore the deflector. We open slowly before taking off in a powerful and dramatic display of the Captains Theme 1. Propelled by fierce drums and horns bellicoso this cue just delivers! A plaintive rendering of the Captains Theme 1 and fragmentary echoes of the Star Trek Theme illustrates the apparent tragic disappearance of Kirk. At 4:11 we segue 78 years into the future to the holodeck in “HMS Enterprise” where we see Picard and his crew sailing a 19th century British ship of the line in celebration of Worf’s promotion. This marks the first introduction to the Captains Theme 2 performed by horns solenne. “Picard’s Message” features a devastated Picard reeling from news of his brother and nephew’s death, which effectively ends the continuity of the Picard family line. McCarthy provides somber music, which features an oblique reference to the Captains Theme 1, which is forlorn and perfectly attenuated to this tragic scene. At 2:17 we segue into “Raid Post Mortem” where we see the Enterprise D responding to an observatory’s distress call. Dark bass and ominous horns play Soran’s Motif, which transitions to a glittering yet discordant line by synth, strings and rumbling bass as the away team discovers the carnage.

The following three cues are all kindred in that they create a soundscape with eerie synth tones. “Data and the Emotions” features Data struggling to adjust to his newly acquired emotions. This is a simple atmospheric cue, which features synth led colors augmented with shifting violins and a heavy bass sustain. “Time is Running Out” continues the ambiance with eerie shifting strings colors and ominous bass embellished with shimmering accents. “Data Malfunctions” completes this triad with McCarthy again imparting a dark ambiance of shifting string colors, rumbling bass and a rising discordance, which perfectly reflects the terror of Data’s conflicted inner state.

These next three cues are also thematic in that they feature Soran’s Motif. “Soran Kidnaps Geordi” is an exciting and robust action cue where Soran fires a missile that destroys the Amargosan star, and in the chaos kidnaps Geordi. We begin ominously with the dark malevolence of Soran’s Motif. Born within its dark low register depths rises an accelerando by violins from which explodes some potent kinetic action writing. We return to synth and tonal string ambiance with “Guinan and the Nexus” where we hear a variant of the Nexus Theme as Guinan explains to Picard the seductive power of the Nexus. “Torture” is a dark cue, which features interplay of synth colors and Soran’s Motif, which culminates with a plaintive trumpet call as we see Geordi tortured. In “Soran’s Plan Revealed” Picard and Data finally discern the horrific intent of Soran’s plan – destroying stars to divert the path of the Nexus to a planet where he could regain entry. The cue is purely ambient and opens with Soran’s Motif, which resonates in the low register as sparkling synth chords shimmer aloft.

“Prisoner Exchange” is a tense suspense cue where Picard negotiates Geordi’s release in exchange for him joining Soran on the planet. Geordi returns to the Enterprise with a camera that has been implanted in his visor, the goal being to visualize the Enterprises’ shield frequency. Pizzicato strings and subtle echoes of Soran’s Motif are woven into the line, which gains strength atop the Captain’s Theme 1 as Picard transports to the planet and Geordi beams aboard. “Outgunned” is one of the score’s finest action cues. Klingons Lursa and B’Etor’s treachery pays off as they finally see through his visor a display of the shield frequency. They immediate calibrate their weapons and open fire with lethal effect as their torpedoes slice through the Enterprise’s shield and begin shattering her hull. We begin slowly, and ominously with the repeating tones of the Soran’s Motif. Slowly tension rises in the violins, which are joined by snare drums as the Enterprise is pummeled. McCarthy uses an ever-shifting string ostinato to power this potent cue. Slowly we build to a classic crescendo that marks Lursa and B’Etors demise at Worf’s hand as he fires a proton torpedo. Wow!

“The Gap/Coolant Leak/Appointment with Eternity/Out of Control/Blasted/The Crash” features the film’s most dramatic sequence. We open hesitantly on strings as Picard tries unsuccessfully to appeal to Soran’s humanity in an effort to dissuade him from genocide. As Riker orders an evacuation of the crew to the saucer section, ominous strings surge to a propulsive marcia energico carried by horns bellicoso and driving snare drums, which interplay with the Captain’s Theme 1. An ambient interlude underscores Soran’s departure to fire the missile, yet at 2:54 the sharp string ostinato line resurges forcefully. Another interlude of Soran firing at Picard as he struggles to penetrate the compounds’ shields briefly halts the musical drive. Yet it resumes in earnest as we see the concussive blast wake of the warp core breech drive the saucer section into the planet’s atmosphere. The awesome cinematic crash landing is one hell of a ride!

“The Nexus” reveals the Nexus descending to the planet’s surface and consuming both Soran and Picard as the trailing wake of the stellar explosion destroys the planet. McCarthy provides the surreal shimmering synth textures of the Nexus Theme, adorned with horns dramatico to support the film’s startling imagery. “A Christmas Hug” is score highlight, which presents a full rendering of the ethereal Nexus Theme. We open with disquiet as a distressed wordless choir sings atop an ominous Soran’s Motif. Slowly, inexorably the music softens as the Nexus Theme fills our ears with angelic choir and twinkling metallic accents as Picard finds himself in a traditional English home. Adorned for Christmas, we bear witness to Picard’s inner idyllic longings, now realized due to the Nexus – a quiet life, a home, a loving wife and adoring children whom he has always wanted. McCarthy imparts a sense of wonderment, joy and contentment, which is beautifully performed by woodwinds, choir, synth and echoes of the Captains Theme 1. Yet, somber chords and angelic choir reveal Picard’s sad realization of the falseness of this alternate reality, for which part of him so desperately longs. At 1:51 we segue into “The Kitchen Debate” where Picard meets Kirk, who was swept into the Nexus during the Enterprise B disaster. McCarthy continues thematically with the Nexus Theme, perfectly reflecting Kirk’s joy in the idyllic realm.

I really appreciate “Jumping The Ravine” where McCarthy treats us to a fine interplay of his two Captains Themes. The scene features Kirk horseback leaping a ravine as Picard pursues, yet he realizes the hollowness of this new realm when he feels no fear or triumph for jumping the ravine. We open with a twinkling variant of the Captains Theme 1 born by solo French horn from which arises the Captain’s Theme 2 born by French Horns nobile. The melodic line is joined by a choir carried Nexus Theme as Kirk at last realizes how unsatisfying are his current circumstances. In “Two Captains” Picard exhorts Kirk to join him on one last quest for duty and honor – to defeat Soran. We are treated to the Captain’s Theme 1 carried by a solemn solo French Horn and shimmering synth. Slowly the theme gains warmth and potency as Kirk realizes his destiny lies else where as the Star Trek Theme sounds. Wow, this is nicely done and very moving. At 1:32 we segue back in time to the dramatic music of “Crash Recap” as we again see the Enterprise saucer crash landing.

“The Final Fight” is an excellent dramatic action cue and a score highlight. The scene reveals Kirk and Picard jointly fighting Soran hand-to-hand in a bid to prevent him from destroying the star of this solar system, which would kill billions of people. In the end, to secure victory, Kirk sacrifices his life to give Picard a shot at disabling the rocket launcher. We open with the Captains Theme 1, which joins in interplay with Soran’s Theme atop a dark percussive march. McCarthy drives the action atop the march as the two themes wage a fierce war, rising and falling from disquieting interludes. We conclude with the final confrontation between Picard and Soran, where Soran dies when the rigged missile launcher explodes. In “The Captain of the Enterprise (Kirk’s Death)” we bear witness to an aftermath cue as Picard goes to a dying Kirk. McCarthy captures Kirk’s heroic sacrifice with a noble solo French Horn, which bears the Captains Theme 1 atop elegiac strings. Yet from out this tragedy is born hope atop tender woodwinds and strings, from which arises a perfect joining of the Captains Theme 1 and Star Trek Theme. We conclude with “To Live Forever” which features Data recovering his cat Spot from the wreckage. A gentle and very touching flute line conveys Data’s joy. As Picard and Riker ponder their mortal existence we hear solemn horns joined by a solo oboe perform the Captains Theme 1 as they beam back to a rescue convoy. We conclude with a final noble rendering of the Star Trek, with contrapuntal play of the Captain’s Theme 2. Simply glorious!

“Star Trek: Generations Overture” is just an outstanding cue! McCarthy delivers a magnificent full rendering of his Captains Theme 2! We open with heroic horns brillante, which usher in a refulgent rendering of the Captain’s Theme 1. From out this statement heroically rises the Captains Theme 2 now fully displayed in all its glory. We then segue into the ethereal angelic choral carried Nexus Theme, which provides a nice interlude. We then rise powerfully one last time atop the Captains Theme 2 to conclude gloriously to a heroic sounding of the Star Trek Theme. Bravo! In conclusion, there is not sufficient musical divergence of the OST release on CD 2 to warrant commentary. As for the many sound effects, I invite the reader to take the journey.

Pease allow me to commend GNP Crescendo Records, Ford A Thaxton, James Nelson and Mark Banning for this outstanding first-ever release of Dennis McCarthy’s complete score for Star Trek Generations. The sound quality is pristine and the inclusion of the original score release along with several sound effects cues provides a very satisfying and complete package. Folks, this underrated score is well worth revisiting. McCarthy provides two heroic themes for our captains, a wondrous ethereal mysterioso theme for the Nexus, all of which often interplay with the malevolent Soran’s Theme. My criticism however concerns the lack of a Klingon identity in the score as well as the under-emoted pathos provided for Kirk’s death. Surely the passing of such an iconic giant of a man warranted a far more poignant and powerful statement? In conclusion, while the score lacks the dramatic and evocative power of earlier efforts, I must say that there are some fine moments worthy of your exploration.

Rating: ***

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

Track Listing:

  • DISC ONE – COMPLETE EXPANDED SCORE
  • Main Title (2:54)
  • Past Glory (1:19)
  • The Enterprise B (0:42)
  • Distress Call /Harriman and the Ribbon (4:27)
  • Kirk Saves the Day/Deck 15/HMS Enterprise (4:50)
  • Picard’s Message /Raid Post Mortem (4:43)
  • Data and the Emotions (0:54)
  • Time is Running Out (1:11)
  • Data Malfunctions (2:29)
  • Soran Kidnaps Geordi (2:24)
  • Guinan and the Nexus (2:47)
  • Torture (1:37)
  • Soran’s Plan Revealed (1:49)
  • Prisoner Exchange (2:59)
  • Outgunned (3:22)
  • The Gap /Coolant Leak /Appointment with Eternity /Out of Control/Blasted/The Crash (5:43)
  • Coming to Rest (1:00)
  • he Nexus (1:32)
  • A Christmas Hug/The Kitchen Debate (8:03)
  • Coming to Rest (1:38)
  • Two Captains/Crash Recap (2:04)
  • The Final Fight (6:15)
  • The Captain of the Enterprise (Kirk’s Death) (2:45)
  • To Live Forever (2:40)
  • Star Trek: Generations Overture (4:13)
  • DISC TWO– ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK RELEASE
  • Star Trek: Generations Overture (4:13)
  • Main Title (2:54)
  • The Enterprise B/Kirk Saves the Day (3:13)
  • Deck 15 (1:41)
  • Time is Running Out (1:11)
  • Prisoner Exchange (2:58)
  • Outgunned (3:22)
  • Out of Control/The Crash (2:05)
  • Coming to Rest (1:00)
  • The Nexus/A Christmas Hug (7:07)
  • Jumping the Ravine (1:38)
  • Two Captains (1:34)
  • The Final Fight (6:15)
  • Kirk’s Death (2:45)
  • To Live Forever (2:40)
  • Enterprise B Bridge (3:13) – Sound Effects Track
  • Enterprise B Doors Open (0:13) – Sound Effects Track
  • Distress Call Alert (0:10) – Sound Effects Track
  • Enterprise B Helm Controls (0:16) – Sound Effects Track
  • Nexus Energy Ribbon (1:38) – Sound Effects Track
  • Enterprise B Deflector Beam (0:08) – Sound Effects Track
  • Enterprise B Warp Pass-by (0:14) – Sound Effects Track
  • Enterprise B Transporter (0:12) – Sound Effects Track
  • Tricorder (0:30) – Sound Effects Track
  • Hypo Injector (0:03) – Sound Effects Track
  • Communicator Chirp (0:06) – Sound Effects Track
  • Door Chime (0:07) – Sound Effects Track
  • Enterprise D Warp Out #1 (0:22) – Sound Effects Track
  • Bird of Prey Bridge/Explosion (2:51) – Sound Effects Track
  • Klingon Sensor Alert (0:08) – Sound Effects Track
  • Bird of Prey Cloaks (0:04) – Sound Effects Track
  • Bird of Prey De-cloaks (0:10) – Sound Effects Track
  • Klingon Transporter (0:12) – Sound Effects Track
  • Soran’s Gun (0:11) – Sound Effects Track
  • Soran’s Rocket De-cloaks (0:05) – Sound Effects Track
  • Shuttlecraft Pass-by (0:21) – Sound Effects Track
  • Enterprise D Bridge/Crash Sequence (3:21) – Sound Effects Track
  • Enterprise D Warp-Out #2 (0:09) – Sound Effects Track
  • Prisoner Exchange (Film Version) [BONUS] (2:59)
  • A Christmas Hug (Choir Only) [BONUS] (1:22)
  • Lifeforms (performed by Brent Spiner) [BONUS] (0:17)

Running Time: 138 minutes 18 seconds

GNP Crescendo GNPD-8080 (1994/2012)

Music composed and conducted by Dennis McCarthy. Orchestrations by Dennis McCarthy, William Ross, Mark McKenzie, Brad Warnaar, Dennis Yurosek and Bruce Babcock. Recorded and mixed by Robert Fernandez. Score produced by Dennis McCarthy. Edited by Stephen Rowe. Album produced by Ford A. Thaxton, James Nelson and Mark Banning.

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