Sad, sad news. James Horner, who composed the music for well over a hundred films — winning two Oscars and co-writing hit songs like ‘Somewhere Out There’ and ‘My Heart Will Go On’ along the way — passed away in a plane crash yesterday.
James Horner, composer for Star Trek, Aliens, An American Tail, Braveheart, Titanic and many more, has passed away
The Klingons have been featured one way or another in every Star Trek movie produced to date — whether as actual characters or as starships on a monitor — but there is only one film in which the Klingons truly took centre stage. And that film happens to be one of the few Star Trek movies that was not scored by Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner, the subjects of the first two parts of this series.
The film in question is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), which served as a bridge of sorts between the original Star Trek TV series (1966-1969) and its follow-up, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). The latter series had shown that the Federation and the Klingons would one day get along, more or less, so this film — the last one to feature the entire cast of the original series, and the first one to feature an actor from the later series (though not any of its characters) — aimed to show exactly how the Cold War between these two powers had ended.
And one of the striking features about the soundtrack for this film, composed by Cliff Eidelman, is how up-front it is about its Klingon elements — to the point where it is the only film in the entire series that does not begin with one of the standard Star Trek themes but, instead, begins with a theme that was written for the Klingons.
Klingons have appeared in all but two of the Star Trek movies released to date. The only exceptions are Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009) — though even there, in both films, we do see simulated Klingon warships during the Kobayashi Maru training program. (And there actually was going to be a scene with Klingons in the Abrams film — parts of it were even shown in the movie’s trailers — but the scene itself was deleted in the end.)
So, not surprisingly, all five of the movies scored by Jerry Goldsmith — whose work I profiled in part one of this series — gave him an opportunity to write some music for the Klingons. However, as iconic as Goldsmith’s Klingon theme is, none of the films he scored featured Klingons in a particularly prominent role: in the first one, they get a single scene and are then pretty much forgotten; in his second film, they are secondary antagonists, and less important to the story than the religious cult led by Spock’s half-brother Sybok; and in the remaining three films, the only Klingon on view is Worf, who is more or less just one of the heroes.
There are two films, however, that revolve rather significantly around Klingon characters, and the composers who worked on those films brought some interesting elements to the table. This post concerns the first of those composers, James Horner, and his score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984).
It’s been a while — over 20 years, arguably — since the last time a big-screen movie composer had to write some new music to represent the Klingons, but the wait will soon be over, if the Star Trek into Darkness soundtrack samples that Michael Giacchino posted to his website last week are any indication.
The track titles on Giacchino’s scores tend to be a little punny, and the newest score is no exception, as one of the tracks from his latest Star Trek score is called ‘The Kronos Wartet’. This is an amusing reference to the four-piece string quartet known as The Kronos Quartet, but it is also a reference to the Klingon home planet Qo’noS, the name of which is apparently spelled “Kronos” in this film.
Before I comment on the sample itself, I’d like to take a step back to look at how the Klingons have been treated musically in previous films, going all the way back to the very first film in the franchise, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, released in 1979.
In the last few years, we’ve seen two prequels to The Exorcist and a remake of The Amityville Horror, so it was probably only a matter of time before someone got around to reviving that other popular 1970s supernatural horror movie, The Omen. The producers of this film had an especially timely marketing hook: a release date (6/6/06) that lends itself to ad campaigns with a mark-of-the-Beast theme.
In other ways, though, the remake of The Omen cannot help but seem as dated as the movie on which it is based. This is partly because the new film is extremely faithful to the original. Composer Marco Beltrami does not just emulate the style of Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning score for the original movie, he even re-uses some of its themes. And screenwriter David Seltzer does not adapt his earlier script so much as dust it off and tweak a few time-sensitive details; for example, where the first film speculated that “the Common Market” was the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Roman Empire — a key piece in the end-times puzzles of Hal Lindsey and others at that time — the new film refers to “the European Union” instead.