Monday, May 30, 2005

Star Trek: The Next Generation Digs It

posted by Todd T @ 3:51 PM

Speaking if space opera,

We bought a set of DVDs of one of the seasons of the original Star Trek. Kind of fun to watch, though of course all of the plot holes gape wider than ever before for us, the acting is of its era, and sure enough you can see the puppet strings, and etc. etc. it's not up to today's standards but one forgives, to a point.

What is most fun is watching Tory get turned on to it. Her critical senses are nascent, but she is really interested in the stories, asks a lot of questions about the social issues that sometimes got explored a bit, and mainlines the sensawonder. To my astonishment she predicted the climax of one episode, despite it's hinging on the fairly adult concept of a starship captain sacrificing himself to atone for his earlier fatal misjudgments. This sort of personal crisis does not occur on Doctor Doolittle or The Saddle Club. She's 11, older than I when I caught the Trek bug but not old enough to be cynical about it. I feel like we are initiating her into the secret mysteries. She went with us to Balticon this weekend and the the indoctrination may be too far along now to reverse.

I am surprised by how much I like the soundtracks (-treks?). Although each episode has its own score, they also pretty much had five or six tracks that they pulled out at predictable moments. After a few episodes, you can start humming the right one for the moment even before the music actually kicks in. But it's good stuff. A tad on the melodramatic side, sure, like the show - in fact I submit that if it weren't, it would be lost in the background rather than feeding the moods the show wants to evoke. It's not super-sophisticated or anything, but I find it very effective. No boring washes or low pulses. Instead, unexpected but fitting melodies and cascades of notes. The tense tracks are indeed quite tense. The pleasant social gathering track evokes that mood quite nicely.

I notice that there were several composers involved: Sol Kaplan, Alexander Courage, Gerald Fried. I don't know who did what, but I bet it can be found on the web somewhere. Never heard of any of them myself, but then I'm not a soundtrack enthusiast generally.

I have no idea what the world thinks of this. Perhaps the music is considered as quaint as the show. But I do like it.


At 11:31 PM, Blogger Tim Walters said...

I like the music on Star Trek quite a bit. Pre-Star Wars, science fiction gave soundtrack composers a chance to show off their weird stuff--other great examples are Planet of the Apes, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and Forbidden Planet, which is a genuine electroacoustic classic, far ahead of its time. The synthesizer wouldn't be invented for another ten years or so--instead Louis and Bebe Barron built circuits with life cycles, and recorded them burning out. The union wouldn't let them call it music!

After Star Wars, SF soundtracks regressed to the Thirties, along with the movies.

As for Star Trek itself, well, I watched The City On The Edge Of Forever a few years ago and decided to stick with my memories. I'm glad that Tory's digging it, though. One of us! One of us!

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I think Alex Courage wrote the theme song to Star Trek. I'm fairly sure the other guys did all the incidental music.

Elliott Goldenthal's score for Aliens3 is an exception to the Korngold/Straussisms of the Big Johns (Williams & Horner). Lots of Corigliani and Penderecki in this one, and I'm sure in others since. The real issue in film soundtracks is the assemblage of pop songs masquerading as a soundtrack; Scorsese and Wes Anderson both manage this deftly, but all other directors tempted to score with pop music should be interdicted.


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