Music Album Review: ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Music from the Original Soundtrack – 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition’

(C) 1979, 1999 Columbia/Legacy Records (Sony Music Entertainment)

On January 26, 1999, Columbia Records and its Legacy sub-label released Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Music from the Original Soundtrack – 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, a 2-CD album that combined a an expanded compact disc reissue of the soundtrack album from 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture (the abbreviated version soundtrack was first issued in this format in 1986)and a first-time-on-CD re-edited version of 1976’s Inside Star Trek.

At the time of this 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition’s rollout, composer Jerry Goldsmith had returned to the Star Trek franchise to contribute the themes to Star Trek: The Next Generation – which melded Alexander Courage’s intro to his “Theme from Star Trek: The Original Series” and Goldsmith’s Main Title from Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Voyager, and the then-recent feature film, Star Trek: Insurrection. (Before his death in 2004, the Oscar-winning composer would compose the score for the final film starring The Next Generation’s cast, Star Trek: Nemesis.)

Originally released in 1979 in two formats – LP vinyl record and cassette, the original version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Music from the Original Soundtrack was a modest soundtrack album with less than an hour’s worth of the Oscar-nominated score composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Thus, to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of director Robert Wise’s film, Sony-owned Columbia and Legacy decided to expand the compact disc’s musical content by adding eight tracks chosen personally by Goldsmith.

(C) 1979, 1999 Columbia/Legacy Records (Sony Music Entertainment)

Accordingly, the 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition contains nearly 65 minutes’ worth of music, presented in an order that reflects Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s chronology.

CD 1: Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Music from the Original Soundtrack Track List

  1. Ilia’s Theme (3:01)
  2. Main Title (1:25)
  3. Klingon Battle (5:27)
  4. Total Logic (3:44)
  5. Floating Office (1:03)
  6. The Enterprise (5:59)
  7. Leaving Drydock (3:29)
  8. Spock’s Arrival (1:58)
  9. The Cloud (4:58)
  10. Vejur Flyover (4:57)
  11. The Force Field (5:03)
  12. Games (3:41)
  13. Spock Walk (4:19)
  14. Inner Workings (3:01)
  15. Vejur Speaks (3:50)
  16. The Meld (3:09)
  17. A Good Start (features Alexander Courage’s Theme from Star Trek) (2:26)
  18. End Title (3:16)

Goldsmith’s Academy Award-nominated score – which is perhaps the one positive element of the 1979 film that fans and critics single out for almost unanimous praise – is a mix of neo-Romantic classical music symphonic themes a la John Williams and James Horner and Goldsmith’s affinity for experimental, often eerie and discordant compositions. Goldsmith is on record as saying that he saw Star Trek and its score in Romantic terms – the vastness of space and the bold explorers of the USS Enterprise were akin to the various seamen and explorers of Earth’s Age of Discovery in past centuries.

He also believed strongly that the score for Star Trek needed a mix of Star Wars-like symphonic motifs and Bernard Herrmann-like atonal and odd-sounding atmospheric music to represent the mystery of Vejur (V’ger).

Per the 20th Anniversary Collector Edition’s liner notes:

Three musical ideas constitute the cornerstones of this important score. The first is a sweeping motif that represents the epitome of the Star Trek philosophy, used chiefly for the Enterprise and its commander, Admiral Kirk (“Main Title,” The Enterprise,” “A Good Start”).

As I noted earlier, the other two ideas were the Herrmann-like atmospheric tracks which feature “unsettling brass and percussive arrangements” that resemble the music from Robert Wise’s 1950s classic sci-fi film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. These tracks are all related to the film’s plot-driving Vejur (or V’ger) and are listed here as “The Cloud,” “Vejur Flyover,” and “The Force Field.”

For that last Vejur-related track, Goldsmith went beyond his trademark technique of “peppering his scores with a variety of unusual musical effects.”  In “The Force Field,” musician and former child actor Craig Huxley (who years earlier had appeared under the stage name “Craig Hundley”in two episodes of Star Trek) contributed “spectacular unearthly sounds” with a unique 15-foot-long instrument Huxley dubbed “The Blaster Beam.”

Because the film needed to be completed before its December 7, 1979 premiere, several Hollywood composers and arrangers assisted Goldsmith in arranging and orchestrating his score, including Star Trek: The Original Series composers Alexander Courage and Fred Steiner. (The third collaborator was Arthur Morton).

CD 2: Inside Star Trek

(C) 1976, 1999 Columbia Records (Sony Music Entertainment)

The second disc in this 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition – which, as I write this, is itself 21 years old – is a re-edited version of a September 8, 1976 recording titled Inside Star Trek. Mostly taped in front of a live audience at two separate Star Trek-related events – one in May, one in July of 1976 – Inside Star Trek featured a “first-time ever” behind-the-scenes look at the birth, life, and death of Star Trek: The Original Series from the perspective of series creator Gene Roddenberry, cast members William Shatner and DeForest Kelley, as well as an interview with Spock’s father, Ambassador Sarek  (Mark Lenard, in character).

In this slightly-over-an-hour-long program, fans new and old hear the late “Great Bird of the Galaxy” give his version of how Star Trek was created, the struggles Roddenberry and his creative team had with NBC, the network on which the show aired for three seasons between September 1966 and July of 1969, the battles with the TV censors in regards to such things as the gender mix aboard the Enterprise (According to Roddenberry, the original concept was that the crew would be 50% male and 50% female. The network nixed the idea. When Roddenberry asked an executive at Standards and Practices why he couldn’t state that the crew was 50% men and 50% women, the reply was, “Don’t you see that people will think there’s a lot of fooling around up there.”), and the reason why the network vetoed the original female first officer (Number One) played by Majel Barrett in the first pilot episode, “The Cage.”

Track List

  1. Star Trek Theme (1:34)
  2. Introduction; Nichelle Nichols (1:13)
  3. Inside Star Trek (1:04)
  4. William Shatner Meets Captain Kirk (9:12)
  5. Introduction to Live Show (0:25)
  6. About Science Fiction (0:40)
  7. The Origin of Spock (1:45)
  8. Sarek’s Son Spock (7:21)
  9. The Questor Affair (1:49)
  10. The Genesis II Pilot (2:34)
  11. Cyborg Tools and E.T. Life Forms (4:06)
  12. McCoy’s Rx for Life (6:14)
  13. The Star Trek Philosophy (4:40)
  14. Asimov’s World of Science Fiction (6:27)
  15. The Enterprise Runs Aground (1:50)
  16. A Letter From a Network Censor (5:01)
  17. The Star Trek Dream (Ballad I, Ballad II) (5:43)
  18. Sign Off: Nichelle Nichols (0:50)

My Take

When I was 15 years old, I signed up for membership with the Columbia House Records and Tapes Club. My mom, older half-sister, and I had just moved into our then-new townhouse in the Miami-area East Wind Lake Village condominium, which at the time was a sub-section of the larger Fontainebleau Park development created and owned by General Electric’s Trafalgar real estate division.[1]

If you have ever been a member of any of the Columbia House “clubs,” you know that the hook is that you order a certain number of items (be they records, tapes, CDs, videocassettes, or DVDs) for a low price all at once, but then you have to accept a monthly mailing of an order catalog/form that allows you to either order the Club’s featured item of the month or reject it in lieu of something else (or nothing at all), so long as you purchase X items at the retail price plus sales tax, shipping, and handling costs within a three-year period.

At the time, not only did we have a “family stereo system” we had brought over from our previous home in Westchester, Florida (a nice Zenith console with built-in turntable, eight-track deck, and an AM/FM radio which Mom rarely listened to but was permanently tuned into the “beautiful music” station WLYF [“Life”] at 101.5 on the FM dial), but my mother bought me a personal stereo for my second-story bedroom. That stereo, a Grand Prix set made in Great Britain, was smaller but had the same basic components as the family stereo in the downstairs living room.  

When I signed up for the Columbia House Record and Tape Club, I ordered various eight-track tapes as part of my introductory package. Among them was the original 1976 recording of Inside Star Trek, which I bought at the instigation of my late friend Raul Fonseca, who at the time was a Star Trek fan and was trying to get me to get over my disinterest in the TV show.

I didn’t listen to Inside Star Trek often in 1978; I did not warm up to Star Trek until I saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December of 1979. After that, though, Inside Star Trek was my go-to reference about the series’ creation, the difficulties of being a showrunner in the 1960s – which I am sure Roddenberry might have spun a tad to get the listeners’ sympathy in those days before the franchise’s renaissance – and the somewhat semi-mythical genesis of Roddenberry’s writing career.

My favorite parts? Well, Roddenberry’s three interviews with cast members William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, and Mark Lenard (who is in character as Spock’s Vulcan dad, Sarek) are a big draw for me. Shatner explains that although the character of James T. Kirk is entirely fictional and there is a line between the actor and the role, Kirk does have a lot of Bill Shatner in him simply because the nature of performing as a series lead is tiring and demanding, and thus, Kirk must come from somewhere inside Shatner. If only out of the fatigue that comes from working long days in front of the camera.

Kelley – or Dee, as his fellow actors and friends called the late character actor who passed away in 2000 – holds forth on how he played the Enterprise’s chief medical officer and expresses his opinion about health care in the U.S. in 1976. (Spoiler alert: What he said 44 years ago about how expensive medical care was back then still applies today.)  His segment reveals that Kelley was a warm, caring, and intelligent human being, not unlike Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy.”

There are quite a few other good bits, among them the hilarious Letter from a Network Censor, which pokes fun at the censors who bedeviled Roddenberry and his writers with memos and missives from the network Standards & Practices office.

The 1999 reissue in this 20th Anniversary Edition contains all of the material from that 1976 recording, but it now includes a new introduction and a “sign-off” by actor-singer Nichelle Nichols recorded in March of 1998 by producer Darcy Proper and his recording team. Taped nearly seven years after Gene Roddenberry’s death, Nichols’ closing is touching and respectful, although I would have preferred a less updated re-issue of the original Inside Star Trek.

Overall, while I would have preferred to get the complete score edition of Goldsmith’s music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the 1999 Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Music from the Original Soundtrack – 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition is the next best thing. This is considered to be one of the composer’s best scores, and it is the cornerstone of many of the late 1980s-early 1990s TV series and feature films of the Star Trek franchise.

[1] This meant that every unit in East Wind Lake Village had GE appliances when owners – or renters -first moved into their new homes. As I recall, the water heater, the washer, dryer, dishwasher, stove/oven, refrigerator, and air conditioner were all General Electric. By the time I sold the townhouse in late 2017, all of the original appliances had been replaced except the clothes dryer, either by my late mother, my older half-sister, or me. Last I heard, the new owner had replaced everything, including the less-than-three-years old fridge I had bought in collaboration with my half-sister in late 2014.  

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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