Music for Klingons, part three: Eidelman + Giacchino

The Klingons have been featured in 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 be on friendly terms, so this film — the last one to feature the original series’ entire primary cast, and the first one to feature an actor (though not any of the characters) from the later series — 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.

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Music for Klingons, part two: James Horner

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 that were scored by Jerry Goldsmith — whose work I profiled in part one of this series — gave him an opportunity to write some music for those characters. 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 Spock’s half-brother Sybok and his band of followers; 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).

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Music for Klingons, part one: Jerry Goldsmith

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.

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James T. Kirk and the mind-body-spirit relationship

“Kirk is a man of passion and emotion and follows his gut.” So says Chris Pine in a new featurette for Star Trek into Darkness. And to a certain extent, Kirk does indeed have these characteristics. But I wonder if that summary is as accurate as it could be; and I wonder if it reflects one of the subtle but significant changes that the new Star Trek films have made to the franchise’s original characters.

The way Pine speaks of Kirk’s “passion” and his “gut” reminds me of a point that John Granger made in his book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter, regarding how a number of successful franchises have revolved around three characters who represent the classic division of the human being into body, mind and spirit.

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Gods from outer space: the good, the bad and the silly

“He’ll be a god to them.” So says Jor-El, the father of Superman, as he sends his son to Earth in the latest trailer for Man of Steel.

In the immediate context, Jor-El seems to be referring primarily to the fact that his son will have powers that the other residents of Earth will not. But his voice-over, later in the trailer, goes on to speak in even more elevated terms of Superman as someone who will give humanity “an ideal to strive towards,” thereby allowing humans to “join [him] in the sun.” Lois Lane adds to the mythology, as it were, by noting that some people think of Superman as a “guardian angel”.

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Some of the many sci-fi films that Oblivion borrows from.

It’s difficult to review a movie like Oblivion. The film is such a wide-ranging pastiche of existing science-fiction movies that you spend most of your time thinking not about what’s actually in the film, nor about what any of it might “mean”, but of all the other movies that this movie reminds you of.

So, here are the movies that came to my mind during or immediately after my first viewing of Oblivion. Maybe, if I see the film a second time, I will find all the inter-textual references less distracting and will be able to focus on the movie for its own sake. Oh, and be warned: there are lots and lots of spoilers below.

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