Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE – Jerry Goldsmith



Original Review by Craig Lysy

The rebirth of the science fiction genre with Star Wars in 1977, and the continued success of the Star Trek series in syndication, convinced Paramount Studio to begin work on a feature film. In 1978, Paramount assembled the largest press conference held at the studio since the 1950s to announce that double Academy Award winning director Robert Wise would direct a $15 million film adaptation of the television series. The film in the finest tradition of Star Trek is a classic morality play, which speaks to a universal and transcendent yearning shared by all cultures, namely La Ricerca di Dio – the quest for God. The story line reveals the menace of a massive energy cloud of enormous power on a set course to Earth. Admiral James Kirk reassumes command of a newly refitted Enterprise and leads a desperate mission to save humanity. But all is not as it seems as we see Kirk discover that he faces a first contact encounter with an entity of insurmountable power programmed to a singular purpose – to find its creator. By maintaining fidelity to the fundamental Federation principles of seeking out new life forms in the spirit of peace and understanding, Kirk, using his usual guile and experience, is able to overcome technological, linguistic and conceptual challenges and establish a dialogue. With Spock’s assistance, he ultimately succeeds in potentiating within the mechanistic alien entity a spiritual epiphany, which catalyzes a breath-taking transformation, thereby saving the Earth. The film was slow paced, cerebral and ponderous, yet never the less became a huge commercial success. It earned Paramount three times its production costs, there-by setting the stage for a second film. Goldsmith was also honored with Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for best score. Regretfully, he failed to win.

Goldsmith’s science fiction credentials and success as a composer made him a natural choice for the rebirth of the Star Trek franchise. But the compositional journey was very difficult and tested his skills as a composer. Production delays as well as failures in special effects imagery forced him to compose conceptually without the benefit of screen imagery. He was also forced to adapt his modernist style to embrace a more forthright and thematic expression after Wise rejected the crucial “The Enterprise” cue. At one frustrating point he asked Wise to replace him. Despite these challenges, Goldsmith’s rose to the occasion and demonstrated his genius by providing us with a multiplicity of wondrous themes and motifs whose notes will echo through time. First and foremost is the iconic and rousing “Star Trek March”, which is propelled by heraldic horns eroica that capture the unabashed and indomitable human spirit to explore the unknown. He also provides a more noble expression of the theme, which I will refer to as The Enterprise Theme, which speaks to Kirk’s unwavering love for the Enterprise. Next is the Klingon Theme, which is a fierce, primal and aggressive power anthem that speaks to the hunter-warrior archetype of the Klingon species. This music abounds with ethnic percussive angklung textures, rhythmic pizzicato and col legno string work, and features a magnificent parade of the melodic line through the orchestra from oboes, to English horns to bassoons, to tenor saxophone and finally bass. Goldsmith said he wanted “a battle cry for them”, and did he deliver! Ilia’s Theme is in reality the film’s Love Theme and speaks to the yearning between Ilia and First Officer Decker. The lush theme just sweeps one away and elicits quivers. The lyrical A phrase is performed by twinkling piano that is joined by sumptuous strings for a stirring statement. Its more reflective B Phrase reveals the piano taking up a new melodic line with strings in accompaniment. In its extended versions Goldsmith also uses fleeting echoes of his Enterprise Theme as he felt that humanity’s exploration of the universe was at its core romantic. The entity V’Ger has two expressions, one is thematic, the other motivic. Both are perfectly conceived and a testimony to Goldsmith’s genius.

The V’Ger Theme is innovative, complex and simply stunning. It features recurring ostinatos first by harp and later by piano. Ethereal horns, religioso pipe organ and mesmerizing arpeggios that resound as the mechanistic power of the blaster beam and rumbling bass underscore V’Ger’s staggering enormity and power. The tonal V’Ger Motif uses ominous electronica, expressed powerfully by the renowned blaster beam to illustrate the non-organic and mechanistic nature of V’Ger. Goldsmith modernist style translates well for the Total Logic Theme, which he plays with a stark, tonal and otherworldly sounding ambiance. Most ingenious is how Goldsmith employs the theme. He employs it for Spock who seeks to purge himself of all emotions so as to achieve the purity of logic, as well as the mechanistic V’Ger entity, which is the embodiment of pure logic. Next we have the note rich Starfleet Motif, which simply sparkles with an ostinato of high register cyclic glissandi and twinkling electronica. The theme is versatile and Goldsmith renders it in a multiplicity of expressions; with a wondrous lightness of being, with kinetic energy or militaristically.

“Overture” is in reality a prelude. Preludes were often used by composers of the golden age when movies would be preceded by a set piece, which established the mood of the film. Goldsmith used his romantic Ilia’s Theme to set the film’s tone after Wise became enraptured by its melody. The cue features a sumptuous violin rendering of the A Phrase of Ilia’s Theme that just brings a quiver. The exquisite lyricism of this piece fills us with a yearning, and sets the stage for the wondrous rebirth that Star Trek fans had to long waited. “Main Title” features the iconic march that gains Goldsmith immortality. Filled with the spirit of adventure, abounding with the indomitable human quest to explore, Goldsmith’s music resounds with the noble and forthright optimism of Gene Rodenberry’s vision. Propelled by trumpets eroica, this piece launches the Star Trek rebirth with a glorious and inspiring optimism not often felt. Cues such as this are why I love film music – bravo! As the vast energy cloud fills the screen, an ominous tonal statement by the blaster beam bridges segue into “Klingon Battle”, which features a Klingon battle squadron aggressively attacking the cloud in a fierce uncompromising defense of the homeland. The Klingon Theme is propelled by woodwinds and horns barbaro and countered by statements of the V’Ger Theme against which it battles. A scene change interlude reveals the Federation Epsilon 9 station, which is supported by the Starfleet Motif expressed by high register sparkling electronica and wondrous cyclic glissandi. The battle ends with a defiant last sounding of the Klingon Theme, which is extinguished by an all-consuming energy bolt. The cue concludes with the menacing V’Ger Motif, which resounds with thunderous power.

In “Total Logic” we switch scenes to the fiery desert landscape of Vulcan where we see an ascetic Spock undergoing the Kohlinahr ritual, whose passage would affirm his mastery of logic through the complete purging of all emotion. Regretfully, his emotional response to the V’Ger entity is exposed to the elders who reject his efforts and counsel him to seek his answers elsewhere. The cue taps into the duality of his nature and well as his life long inner struggle between reconciliation and repression. Goldsmith plays to this struggle with a fine interplay between the Total Logic Theme and the V’Ger Motif. The ethnic and alien sounding music features a deep, low register rumbling resonance, rattling angklung and slit drums. Doloroso strings and textural percussion speak to Spock’s inner pain as a man trapped between worlds, still struggling to reconcile his Vulcan and Human selves. Anguished horn blasts at 2:43 declare his failure and humiliation. This cue is well conceived and nicely done! We conclude the cue powerfully with the Star Trek March, now enhanced with sparkling electronica as we switch scenes to Star Fleet Command on Earth. “Floating Office” reveals Kirk beaming up to an orbital complex. It features a refulgent rendering of the Federation Motif, this time infused with a sparkling string and woodwind glissandi, which swirl around a low register cello line. This brings us to “The Enterprise” where we see Kirk traveling by shuttle to regain his greatest love, his destiny – the Enterprise. This cue is for me the score’s apogee, a masterpiece cue which gains Goldsmith immortality. For six minutes we bear witness to an astounding interplay of the Enterprise Theme, the B Phrase of the Star Trek March and Star Fleet Motif. First performed con riverenza, the melodic line slowly, yet inexorably gains increasing emotional potency as an intent Kirk approaches the Enterprise – his manifest destiny. As we revel in the interplay of the March’s B Phrase and the Starfleet Motif, the music swells and becomes celebratory, as Kirks will soon realize his dream. We conclude with the Enterprise Theme heard as an amazing danza gioiosa, which carries us to a rousing and glorious finale! Bravo!

“Malfunction” features Kirk witnessing a transporter malfunction that kills two of his crew. Goldsmith uses a mournful melodic line carried by strings lamentoso to convey his pain and the tragedy of the loss. “Goodbye Klingon” opens a ternary cue, which features the crew watching on a big screen the annihilation of the Klingon squadron. The V’Ger Motif resounds with a dark and brutal power as the Klingons are vaporized while an organ sustain echoes in the void. At 0:34 we segue to “Goodbye Epsilon Nine”, which lies helpless in the path of the cloud. Again the V’Ger Motif sounds with a sharp staccato line of horns and snare drums as the station is consumed. At 1:42 we conclude with “Pre-Launch”, which offers a more militaristic rendering of the Starfleet Motif as the Enterprise prepares for departure. “Leaving Drydock” is an epic cue, which features the Enterprise’s grand departure for its rendezvous with destiny. We are treated to a fine interplay of the Star Trek March rendered con maestà and an energetic Starfleet Motif. Goldsmith’s music inspires and fortifies us with hope! “TV Theme” opens a binary cue, which features a solemn Kirk as he prepares to order a dangerous jump to warp speed while still in the Terran System. A reserved rendering of Alexander Courage’s Star Trek Theme underscores the scene. At 0:22 we segue into “Warp Point Eight” where the Enterprise launches into warp speed to an energetic horn driven rendering of the Starfleet Theme.

“No Goodbyes” features a private chance meeting of ex-lovers Decker and Ilia, which clearly alludes that the final word between them has not been spoken. Goldsmith offers us a tender rendering of Ilia’s Theme to score the scene. “Spock’s Arrival” opens a binary cue, which reveals McCoy rebuking Kirk for his behavior towards Decker. A plaintive solo cello line underscores the tense scene. At 0:15 we change scenes for the arrival of Spock’s shuttle with the Enterprise. Goldsmith scores the scene with the Total Logic Theme rendered as a danza misteriosa, replete with chirping woodwinds, mandolin, sparkling metallic accents and shifting string lines. It is amazing how Goldsmith can make a mundane shuttle docking so exquisite! Nicely done! In “TV Theme”, thanks to Spock’s assistance, the engines have been balanced and are ready for warp speed. Once again we are treated to Courage’s Star Trek Theme, which is rendered with reserved confidence. We segue at 0:41 into “Warp Point Nine” as Kirk orders warp speed and the Enterprise launches into warp speed. Timpani, horns and snare drums add dramatic tension as we see Sulu pushing the speed towards warp 7. As warp 7 is achieved at 1:21 a celebratory Starfleet Theme resounds, yet has a diminuendo as everyone realizes what lies ahead.

“Meet V’Ger” is a complex cue, which features the Enterprise’s first contact with the massive energy cloud. We open dramatically and with alarm as a repeating horn statement escalates the tension as the Enterprise is attacked and struggles to establish communication. The cue introduces the ominous V’Ger Theme, initially performed powerfully by blaster beam and two massive blasting orchestral notes, and then fully at 2:05. A pipe organ adds a religioso ambiance to the music and alludes to V’Ger’s quest for its creator – nicely conceived! We conclude with the Total Logic Theme as he establishes telepathic contact with V’Ger. “The Cloud” is one of the score’s highlights and a favorite of the composer. It reveals the entry into the cloud by the Enterprise, which proceeds on a path from which it may never return. Goldsmith had to speak to the mystery of the cloud and he succeeds on all counts. The cue features and interplay of the V’Ger Theme, which provides both an ethereal and religioso ambiance. This is juxtaposed by the V’Ger Motif, which through use of the blaster beam speaks to the mechanistic nature of V’Ger. The drifting piano and harp ostinati along with huge air whooshes, mesmerizing tonal arpeggios and pipe organ all serve to create a surreal experience. This cue never ceases to amaze me! In “V’Ger Flyover” we see the diminutive Enterprise dwarfed by the enormity of the V’Ger vessel as it does a fly over. Goldsmith provides us with a stunning rendering of his V’Ger Theme now expressed with unbridled power. The return of the ostinato, first on piano and then violins, which are augmented by a counter horn line and air whooshes creates a wondrous interplay. Beginning at 4:00 the music introduces a complex and note rich accelerando lead by woodwinds, which ushers in a grand statement of the V’Ger Theme now augmented powerfully by pedal pipe organ. Wow!.

“The Force Field” opens with the V’Ger Motif on blaster beam as we hear combative interplay of the Starfleet Theme carried by strings and militaristic stopped horns, against the V’Ger ostinato as the Enterprise is caught in a tractor beam. Most interesting is the shift of the ostinato to harp and flute as the Enterprise is pulled into the chamber. A grand orchestral statement at 3:18 heralds the closure of the chamber doors. To conclude the cue, Goldsmith weaves an eerie ambiance as we hear modernist textures, air whooshes and echoes of the V’Ger Theme as a trapped Enterprise scans the chamber. “Micro Exam” features V’Ger’s probe, now fashioned in the guise of Ilia, interacting with Kirk and the crew for the first time. We are treated to interplay of V’Ger’s Theme on waterphone and harmonic strings and Ilia’s Theme, as it would seem some of her identity resides within the probe. This approach is nicely conceived.

“Games” opens an extended binary cue and features Decker trying to awaken vestiges of Ilia in the probe to help him understand V’Ger’s intent. Goldsmith offers interplay of a reserved Ilia’s Theme and V’Ger’s Theme to underscore their interaction. The ebb and flow of this cue is nicely done. At 3:42 we segue into “Spock Walk” where Spock dons a space suit and a rocket pack to propel him through the orifice into the interior of V’Ger where he hopes to find answers. The cue builds tension through use of modernist textural writing including the use of eerie slithering string effects, bass flute, ambient percussion and dark bass, which are interspersed with sharp intrusions of the V’Ger Motif on blaster beam. Tonal high register synth effects and rumbling bass amplify the tension as a prelude to Spock igniting the rocket pack at 5:59. The rocket propels him on an astounding journey into the digital imagery of V’Ger’s mind where the sum of its experiences is displayed. Folks, at this point just hold on to your seats! This cue is a tour de force and a score highlight as Goldsmith demonstrates his genius. The V’Ger Theme dominates but is rendered with a faster tempo, amazing ornamentation and with increased kinetic drive. As Spock approaches the massive image of Ilia we hear her theme rise upon horns, ultimately culminating is a thunderous crescendo as they mind meld. The cue ends with a diminuendo as Spock drifts back to a waiting Kirks arms. Wow!

“System Inoperative” reveals V’Ger firing plasma weapons into synchronous Earth orbit as a prelude for its annihilation when it receives no response from its query to the Creator. The cue features the V’Ger Motif, which interplays with a grave rendering of the Total Logic Theme. In “Hidden Information” Kirk plays his last card by bluffing V’Ger that he knows why the Creator will not respond. This elicits an invitation to V’Ger’s inner core where Kirk promises to deliver the answer in person. We continue on with the dark low register tonal writing of the Total Logic Theme. As V’Ger’s illuminated central core is visualized at 3:10 a more intimate and emotionally accessible rendering of the V’Ger Theme is heard, which suggests a kernel of hope remains. “Inner Workings” reveals Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Decker and the Ilia probe walking outside the ship towards the central core where V’Ger resides. We hear dark tonal expression of V’Ger’s Motif by blaster beam that is augmented with waterphone, bass flutes and progressive statements of V’Ger’s Theme by low register strings. The passage culminates with a blaster beam strike as they behold with astonishment V’Ger itself – revealed as the lost Voyager 6 probe. Most remarkable beginning at 2:05 is the revelation that the A Phrase of the V’Ger Theme and subsequent plaintive expression of Ilia’s Theme are in fact one and the same! This is brilliantly conceived and testimony to Goldsmith’s genius! The cue concludes as it began with bleak tonal writing.

In “V’Ger Speaks” we hear dark, low register tonal expression of the V’Ger Theme as Kirk recognizes that the answer to V’Ger’s query lies with the old NASA transmission code. He orders the Enterprise to transmit it, yet V’Ger aborts the effort, instead insisting upon direct in-person communication by the Creator itself. As Decker and Ilia perceive the solution we hear at 2:45 the Ilia and V’Ger Theme begin a tête-à-têtes that will ultimately lead to their coalescence into a single cogent thematic identity. This new thematic identity portends V’Ger’s and Decker’s planned transformative joining. “The Meld” features Ilia/V’Ger and Decker mystical joining to become a unified non-corporeal entity. This remarkable transformation will serve to potentiate their transcendental passage to a higher realm of consciousness. The blaster beam opens the cue, where Goldsmith employs a passacaglia to portray the mystical and refulgent transformation unfolding on the screen. Slowly yet inexorably the new V’Ger Theme begins a glorious ascent, which culminates in a wondrous horn laden climax. From out this climax emerges a noble rendering of the Enterprise variant of the Star Trek March. Bravo! We segue at 3:13 into “A Good Start” upon French horns emoting the opening and closing statements of Enterprise Theme to bring this glorious adventure to a joyous conclusion. The “End Title” is expressed in Goldsmith’s customary ternary form where the Star Trek March brackets a sumptuous rendering of Ilia’s Theme!

I highly recommend an exploration of all the early cues, as there is much to be found. We will now explore three of the best early cues, which are in and of themselves quite beautiful. “The Enterprise”, which is expressed with his usual modernist compositional style, stands as one of the finest pieces Goldsmith has ever written. You will detect a nascent Main Theme that never seems to coalesce into a cogent thematic statement. While this early effort fails to achieve the glorious and celebratory power of the final version, it never the less demonstrates intricate, ornate and sophisticated modernist writing of uncommon beauty. “Leaving Drydock” constitutes an entirely different modernist approach to this crucial scene. While the film version of the cue features a bravado performance of the Star Trek March rendered con maestà and an energetic Starfleet Motif, this earlier cue instead provides a more lyrical nautical sensibility, which is supported by some exquisite, ornate and intricate writing. I just love this cue! Lastly we have “Inner Workings”, which I believe demonstrates greater sophistication and compositional brilliance. In this rendering Goldsmith alludes to what lies ahead, as the Ilia and V’Ger Themes begin a tête-à-têtes. As Kirk strives to connect intellectually with V’Ger we hear a music box rendering of the V’Ger Theme first by celesta, and then by a solo trumpet line with contrapuntal strings. This is just exquisite writing and I believe as good as the final film version.

In regards of the original soundtrack release, I will limit my review to one cue, “Ilia’s Theme” as it is the only cue that demonstrates significant enough variance for commentary. What I like about this cue is that Goldsmith provides us with a refulgent and full expression of the sumptuous Love Theme as a concert piece. This piece is expressed as a rondo using classic ABABA phrasing. The theme has uncommon beauty and offers enduring testimony to Goldsmith’s mastery of his craft. Bravo! Lastly, in regards to the Alternative Cues and Additional Music, I counsel that they are all worthy of your exploration.

I must thank Mike Matessino, Bruce Botnick, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys of La-La Land Records, Didier C. Deutsch of Sony Music and Paramount Pictures for this stunning reissue. This outstanding deluxe 3-CD reissue includes early and alternative cues as well as additional music, which provide a treasure trove for collectors. The expert analog conversion and transfer to digital 192 kHz 24-bit sound has resulted in unsurpassed pristine quality. Folks, I believe this score to be Goldsmith’s Magnum Opus as well as the best score of the Star Trek franchise. He provides a multiplicity of timeless themes and motifs, all brilliantly conceived and perfectly attenuated to the film’s stunning imagery. I believe the score transcends the film and ensures Goldsmith’s place in the pantheon of great composers. I highly recommend this score for your collection as an essential component of Goldsmith’s canon and great musical works.

Buy the Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture (1:43)
  • Main Title/Klingon Battle (7:01)
  • Total Logic (3:54)
  • Floating Office (1:08)
  • The Enterprise (6:02)
  • Malfunction (1:30)
  • Goodbye Klingon/Goodbye Epsilon Nine/Pre-Launch (2:10)
  • Leaving Drydock (3:22)
  • TV Theme/Warp Point Eight (0:50)
  • No Goodbyes (0:53)
  • Spock’s Arrival (2:03)
  • TV Theme/Warp Point Nine (1:49)
  • Meet V’Ger (3:06)
  • The Cloud (5:05)
  • V’Ger Flyover (5:01)
  • The Force Field (5:07)
  • Micro Exam (1:13)
  • Games/Spock Walk (9:51)
  • System Inoperative (2:03)
  • Hidden Information (3:58)
  • Inner Workings (4:04)
  • V’Ger Speaks (4:04)
  • The Meld/A Good Start (5:37)
  • End Title (3:16)
  • The Enterprise (6:05)
  • Leaving Drydock (2:39)
  • No Goodbyes (0:55)
  • Spock’s Arrival (2:00)
  • Micro Exam (1:15)
  • Games (3:49)
  • Inner Workings (4:43)
  • THE 1979 ALBUM
  • Main Title/Klingon Battle (6:50)
  • Leaving Drydock (3:29)
  • The Cloud (5:00)
  • The Enterprise (5:59)
  • Ilia’s Theme (3:00)
  • Vejur Flyover (4:56)
  • The Meld (3:15)
  • Spock Walk (4:15)
  • End Title (3:16)
  • Overture (Long Version) (2:50)
  • Main Title (Alternate Take) (1:44)
  • Total Logic (Alternate Take) (3:49)
  • Malfunction (Early Take) (1:28)
  • Goodbye Klingon (Alternate Take) (0:35)
  • No Goodbyes (Alternate Take) (0:53)
  • Spock’s Arrival (Alternate Take) (2:01)
  • The Force Field (Alternate Take) (5:04)
  • Micro Exam (Alternate Take) (1:14)
  • Games (Early Synthesizer Version) (3:48)
  • Games (Alternate Take) (3:48)
  • Inner Workings (Alternate Take) (4:05)
  • V’Ger Speaks (Alternate Take) (4:03)
  • The Meld (Film Version) (3:16)
  • A Good Start (Discrete) (2:27)
  • Main Title (Album Take) (1:44
  • Main Title (First Raw Takes) (7:21)
  • The Force Field/The Cloud (Excerpts) (2:33)
  • Beams and Synthesizer for V’Ger (4:04)
  • Beams and Synthesizer for Ilia (0:59)
  • Synthesizer for Main Theme (1:44)
  • Main Theme From Star Trek: The Motion Picture (performed by Bob James) (5:24)
  • A Star Beyond Time (written by Jerry Goldsmith and Larry Kusik, performed by Shaun Cassidy) (2:43)
  • Ilia’s Theme (Alternate) (3:33)
  • Theme From Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Concert Edit) (3:25)

Running Time: 220 minutes 51 seconds

La-La Land Records LLLCD 1207 (1979/2012)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Arthur Morton. Theme from Star Trek composed by Alexander Courage. Recorded and mixed by John Neal. Edited by Ken Hall. Score produced by Jerry Goldsmith and Bruce Botnick. Album produced by Mike Matessino, Bruce Botnick, Didier C. Deutsch, MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys and David C. Fein.

  1. June 11, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Fab pick Craig. I listened to this score again last week. A classic.

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