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 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 12:44 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

In celebration of Film Score Monthly's *superb* complete releases of both scores, I figured I'd stir some (hopefully more interesting than usual) controversy here. Star Trek II for YEARS has been considered the superior score by general consensus, with Star Trek III being thought of by many as merely a retread of its predecessor. Thanks to FSM, I think the latter statement has been conclusively proven as false, and I'd like to argue against the former as well. After all, Horner himself preferred his score to Star Trek III, calling it "a much more beautiful and emotional score than Star Trek II." * I happen to agree with him for a number of reasons which I will articulate here in the hopes causing others to reevaluate his fantastic sequel score.

When I started collecting film music (largely thanks to Star Trek and the Trek scores were some of the very earliest in my collection) I wasn't active on the boards and my first introduction to the wider world of film music online was FilmTracks (there was even a feature on all of the Star Trek scores at the time). From just listening in the films themselves I always thought Star Trek III was an improvement by Horner on his previous (still excellent score). Its emotion, maturity, and arc (smooth and effortless development) really blew me away (I will admit at the time I was unaware of the two major Prokofiev riffs, only one of which was in the film by the way).

The original album, while certainly not bad, did not do the score justice nearly as well as the Wrath of Khan album did. Wrath of Khan had one really shocking omission to the story arc musically: the death of Spock (and the aftermath with Amazing Grace). Even that in my opinion is musically eclipsed however by Sunset on Genesis, Spock Endures Pon Farr, A Fighting Chance to Live, and Genesis Destroyed. Even smaller cues in Search for Spock like Spock's Cabin early on have strong structural significance to the score (in this case the first appearance of the motif for Vulcan mysticism which culminates in The Katra Ritual and actually adds a lot of import to that cue rather than it just coming off as "the boring track"). Compare this with the smaller cues left off the original Khan album, which were primarily menacing underscore variations on Khan's material. Yes, I freaked out to have them when the album came out, and FSM's superior sound quality did wonders for them and the previously released Khan's Pets (which used to be my least favorite track on the album but love now in large part to FSM's efforts), but I don't feel too sad or guilty when programming them Thor-like out of my Star Trek II listen.

I think the way I would describe it is that Star Trek III has more depth to it. While Star Trek II still has a lot more depth and emotion than many composers' works (it's just one of Horner's strengths, frankly), much of it is really on the surface. Even the kick-ass central action cue, Surprise Attack -- it's playing things much more on the surface as compared with Stealing the Enterprise. Of course both cues are working externally *and* internally, but to varying degrees: Stealing the Enterprise seems to be dealing *more* with the emotion of the characters (ie. will we make it out of the spacedock doors?) and less underscoring the actual events, whereas Surprise Attack builds up the suspense more externally (from the viewers point of view) and then underscores actions like shields going up, phaser fire, etc. I'm not trying to say this is black and white here (there are many moments in STII which play to underlying emotion and moments in STIII which just match what we're actually seeing), but Star Trek III seems to much more achieve Horner's ideal of scoring the emotional depths of scenes.

This comes out even more with the aforementioned "smaller cues". Star Trek II = threatening Khan music, or it even applies to the beautiful music when the Genesis cave is revealed (it feels like its underscoring the beauty of the imagery more than some internal feelings of the characters). Star Trek III = that aforementioned Spock's Cabin cue, overlooked by many when discussing the new complete release but absolutely VITAL to the scores development and very much addressing what Kirk and McCoy/Spock are going through internally at that point (not the spookiness of the dark cabin so much).

One aspect of the score which I once considered a weakness was the Klingon theme. I didn't care for it much, probably because I was directly comparing it with Goldsmith's masterpiece. Some people I know have trouble liking it because they hear Aliens (which of course was actually composed later). On its own terms, however, it works well and I actually love it now, particularly how it's presented on FSM's release with the drastically different film version of "Klingons". The album version was almost a completely different composition (and an entirely different recording) and IMO was a bit too abrasive and in-your-face with the material. In the film version however there is much less of the theme, and it doesn't emerge until the Klingon ship itself does (from cloak). The complete score makes the use of the Klingon theme much more balanced and it doesn't feel as if its pounding you in obnoxious fashion. I guess it's still my least favorite part of the score (same with the Khan material in STII) but I have new appreciation for the nuanced ethnic instrumentation (thanks again FSM for the amazing sound quality). It's also put through some incredible variation in the expanded score, particularly at the start of "Sunset on Genesis", where it segues to a beautiful wavering string line (one of my favorite parts of the score and works great with the visuals in the film) which finally settles on a variation of Spock's Theme -- BRILLIANT cue!

I really can't understand how anyone would consider this a rehash of Star Trek II in any way. There isn't a *single* cue that sounds like one from the previous score with the exception of the End Titles (and that's only if you ignore the first 50 seconds of the track). The "Kirk" theme from Khan, so central and dominant in that score, is almost completely absent from the body of this one (because Kirk lost so much of himself when Spock died, perhaps?) It is saved only for special moments, like when the Enterprise is escaping from spacedock. What makes up the remainder of the score? Well, the Klingon "villain" theme replaces the Khan "villain" theme pretty neatly, but the real highlight of the score is all the fantastic development of the Enterprise/family theme (whatever you want to call it, it's melancholy but tinged with hope -- it was more of a B theme or bridge for the main Kirk theme in the previous score). Here it really gets to shine, being much more prominent in the main titles, taking center stage when the Enterprise limps into spacedock (4:11 in "Klingons"...a great development of it), and it's particularly heartbreaking when just the first two notes of it are played at the end of "A Fighting Chance to Live".

The other recurring theme that receives fantastic development here which it couldn't really enjoy in Star Trek II is Spock's theme, at turns small, intimate, and haunting (ie. Spock's Cabin, The Mind-Meld, Sunset on Genesis, Spock Endures Pon Farr) and sweepingly symphonic and epic (ie. the Prologue and Returning to Vulcan) to a level it never attained in the previous score. Certainly not a "retread". Additionally it is further developed into a separate theme for vulcan mysticism (previously mentioned in regards to its first appearance in Spock's Cabin, but also prominent in other cues like "the Mind-Meld") -- the moment when they culminate in The Katra Ritual is another overlooked highlight of the score and all Star Trek music.

FINALLY in addition to all this new material and drastic development of old material undeveloped in the previous score (in that way it really reminds me of Legend of Zorro, another Horner sequel score I prefer to its predecessor for similar reasons) there are a lot of new standalone bits like the sad theme that plays as the film opens on the Enterprise with Kirk's narration, the threatening textures in "Klingons" before the Klingon theme actually appears, the meditative textures heard early in "The Mind-Meld" and central to "The Katra Ritual" (not talking about the new Vulcan mysticism motif), the stuck-up motif for the Excelsior and its captain in "Stealing the Enterprise", and my favorite of all, the aforementioned wavering string line that makes up the bulk of "Sunset on Genesis".

Forgot one more (actually recurring) motif that I just noticed. You can hear it starting at 3:24 and 4:00 in "Klingons" and 15 seconds into "Genesis Destroyed" ... never heard anyone comment on this one before or what it's about, but then again until FSM did a complete release it was hard to notice it was anywhere except for "Klingons" I guess.

I guess you can see I could go on longer about the merits of Horner's Star Trek III but as this post is already so long I will pick one more issue to illustrate its superiority to Star Trek II: the repeated brilliant and seamless use of Alexader Courage's Star Trek theme. This score uses it more than any other Star Trek film score, including the prominent examples at the end of Rosenman's Star Trek IV and Giacchino's Star Trek. And far from being a mark of unoriginality, Horner's use of it is very creative and original. He started the ball rolling with Star Trek II of course, and there is some brilliant use of it, particularly in the previously unreleased cues Kirk in Space Shuttle, Kirk Takes Command, and Spock (Dies). All of these (as well as Chekov Lies, its other appearance) were not on the original release so we have to thank FSM profusely because the previous album only had it in the first and last track.

Still, that's only 6 cues out of 23, versus 7 cues out of 15 (roughly one fourth as compared with one half) for Star Trek III. And in keeping with my previous paragraph its usage in Star Trek III seems to be less superficial (Spock's Death from STII excepted) and more *essential*. Example: 3:10 into Stealing the Enterprise has the descending opening of the theme as all of our beloved main characters resolve to stick together on their course of action, ending in the fanfare itself at 3:51, which builds and crescendos starting at 4:05 as they start to leave spacedock without looking back. (Don't even get me started on how perfect the quotation of the full theme is at the end of the film after Spock is reunited with his shipmates.)

So in closing I'd like to ask people to actually LISTEN to the complete scores for both II and III back-to-back (they're a great listening experience that way anyway) and see if they don't prefer Star Trek III after all. I'm curious to know how many people then agree with me and how many disagree (and why -- I will concede that Star Trek II has a unique youthful energy to it that Star Trek III lacks).

Yavar

P.S. Thanks to my friend TerraEpon for inspiring this post in an effort to convince him it's worth his money even though four tracks are duplicated on disc 2. smile

*http://www.runmovies.eu/index.php?view=article&catid=37%3Ascoring-session&id=75%3Ajames-horner-on-star-trek-iii

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 12:51 PM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

obviously Yavar didn't read my memo warning against longgggggggggg posts
smile

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 12:53 PM   
 By:   Disco Stu   (Member)

"Star Trek III is better than Star Trek II": NO. Not the soundtrack and definitely not the film.

D.S.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 12:55 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

obviously Yavar didn't read my memo warning against longgggggggggg posts
smile


Hey, I made it as short as I could.

Yavar

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 12:57 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

"Star Trek III is better than Star Trek II": NO. Not the soundtrack and definitely not the film.


Wow, that's a well-reasoned argument you got there. This isn't about the film; it's about the score. And you seem to have ignored every single one of my points (did you even bother to read what I wrote, much less listen to both complete scores as I suggested?)

FREE your minds, people. smile You must unlearn what you have learned.

Yavar

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:01 PM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

The singular argument against your proposition, Yava, is that Star Trek III, as a movie, is nowhere near as good as Star Trek II. In fact, it's nowhere near as good as several of the other Star Trek movies, including the original.

The score may have been damned by association, I suppose.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:03 PM   
 By:   MikeJ   (Member)

And why does one have to be better than the other? I think they are both terrific scores and movies.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:04 PM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

obviously Yavar didn't read my memo warning against longgggggggggg posts
smile


Hey, I made it as short as I could.

Yavar


that's what's so tragicfrown



ahahahha!

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:06 PM   
 By:   Moonie   (Member)

And why does one have to be better than the other? I think they are both terrific scores and movies.

Agreed my friend.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:09 PM   
 By:   Jeff Bond   (Member)

Wrath of Khan is more linear--everything leads toward the final confrontation with Khan and the death of Spock, which is all brilliantly foreshadowed in the film and score. Trek III offers a lot more varied situations and Horner could create more varied musical set pieces. The first score also has the disadvantage of having to end on an unresolved note because of the hints that Spock might not be really dead--which Horner handled beautifully.
I like scores that kind of embrace each new situation on an individual basis--I feel the same way about Goldsmith's score for The Sand Pebbles, with its fantastic transitions and scoring of the landscape and vignettes as well as the arc of the Steve McQueen character. I don't see any reason to stack Trek II up against Trek III (although I've done so in the past)--I enjoy them both and love having the complete presentations available.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:09 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

And why does one have to be better than the other? I think they are both terrific scores and movies.

I agree with you. But one terrific thing can still be better than another terrific thing. Through my lengthy post I am attempting to state my preference for one terrific thing which is usually overlooked by others in their preference for another terrific thing (usually, I suspect, out of familiarity with the previous album presentations and ignorance of the complete scores). And I am hoping to inspire others to think about the matter for themselves rather than just dismissing it out of hand as one poster has. Perhaps I'll also inspire some people like TerraEpon to buy FSM's new Star Trek III release who wouldn't have gotten it otherwise.

Yavar

P.S. Ron, if people on the board insisted on judging a score by the film it's attached to, there would be far fewer Goldsmith fans around here.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:12 PM   
 By:   Moonie   (Member)

obviously Yavar didn't read my memo warning against longgggggggggg posts
smile


Hey, I made it as short as I could.

Yavar



Way Too Long (the post), you guys , if you want to make a long post start a blog, thats what blogs are for not message boards, no offense Yavar and Im sure you made some good points, Yes I have intently listened to both scores and I love them both for different reasons, just a suggestion smile

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:14 PM   
 By:   LeHah   (Member)

And why does one have to be better than the other? I think they are both terrific scores and movies.

Exactly this. The idea that "one is beter than the other" is pointless.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:16 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

Wrath of Khan is more linear--everything leads toward the final confrontation with Khan and the death of Spock, which is all brilliantly foreshadowed in the film and score.

I would make the same argument for Search for Spock. Everything leads to the final reuniting of both Spock's body with his soul as well as the Enterprise crew. It too is brilliantly foreshadowed in the score at least (I made a point of centering on the score itself in my post) -- the aforementioned "Spock's Cabin" cue.

I think what you're talking about Jeff is how the score to Wrath of Khan is more literal -- my word choice of "superficial" was poor.

Will you relisten to both complete scores back to back, try to divorce your bias film-wise from your perception of the music alone, and see if you agree with some of my points?

Yavar

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:16 PM   
 By:   David Sones (Allardyce)   (Member)

An interesting, well-written post, but I have no need to compare the two scores or stack one above the other. They're both stunning and beautiful and served the films perfectly; and, out of context away from the films, they're both wonderful, and I don't think I could say one is better than the other; I'd probably change my mind a thousand times. I DO think, however, that having the expanded Trek III was a bit more exciting to me because there are many cues that I've dreamed of hearing since 1984, and listening to the new album was a revelation. It also made me realize how accustomed I'd grown to the previous Trek III album and how not having those violins in Stealing the Enterprise was jarring at first.

I agree with your comment about how Horner utilized the original Trek theme more in this one than any other Trek score; that struck me right away, and man he did it wonderfully. The two cues regarding Grissom are gorgeous, and best of all for me was finally having the Genesis Destroyed cue. The rising and swelling of those notes is amazing, with that big, bombastic finish as the Bird of Prey takes off. Heaven. I really wish Horner had scored Trek IV; imagine what he could have done with that.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:20 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)


Exactly this. The idea that "one is beter than the other" is pointless.


It seemed perfectly accepted when people used to say all the time that Star Trek II was loads better than Star Trek III. I'm not saying we can't/shouldn't love both scores. I'm just trying to argue for Star Trek III as the more mature and developed musical work.

I'm wondering if anyone will actually follow my suggestion to listen to both complete scores back to back before posting their gut reactions to this thread...

Yavar

P.S. I didn't know there was any such rule about post length. I'd like to make up a rule excluding useless short throw-away posts which add nothing to film music discussion, because I have to wade through tons of them every day. Anybody with too short of an attention span is free to ignore my love letter to Star Trek III's score, but I don't see the point of posting here telling me not to make such a post.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:24 PM   
 By:   David Sones (Allardyce)   (Member)


I'm wondering if anyone will actually follow my suggestion to listen to both complete scores back to back before posting their gut reactions to this thread...


Well, many of us don't have to do that because we're intimately familar with both scores from start to finish (and for the record, I have listened to both albums back to back). You're assuming that people don't agree because they haven't listened to the albums exactly as you prescribe. They may disagree simply because, well, they have a different opinion. smile You may see Trek III as a more mature work. Well, I think Tootsie is one of FSM's greatest releases ever. Maybe 5 people agree with me and 2,000 don't. I don't have a need to convert anybody to my viewpoint though. If you frame something in a way that allows people to reach their own conclusions, you'll get more buy-in to the ideas you're promoting. Insisting that they "don't get it", or whatever the phrase is, won't help your cause. Just my opinion.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:30 PM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

And why does one have to be better than the other? I think they are both terrific scores and movies.

I agree with you. But one terrific thing can still be better than another terrific thing. Through my lengthy post I am attempting to state my preference for one terrific thing which is usually overlooked by others in their preference for another terrific thing (usually, I suspect, out of familiarity with the previous album presentations and ignorance of the complete scores). And I am hoping to inspire others to think about the matter for themselves rather than just dismissing it out of hand as one poster has. Perhaps I'll also inspire some people like TerraEpon to buy FSM's new Star Trek III release who wouldn't have gotten it otherwise.

Yavar

P.S. Ron, if people on the board insisted on judging a score by the film it's attached to, there would be far fewer Goldsmith fans around here.



My point I was going for was better stated in Jeff Bond's post. The Wrath of Khan as a film and score were so terrific that the Search for Spock, as a movie, was a letdown. and, I think the music-to-image association suffered by comparison. It's great that you feel The Search for Spock is a better score...or that Horner feels that way, too. I give more credence to your opinion of such matters than Horner's.

I was offering some thought as to "why" there is a perception that The Search for Spock score is a lesser one than the The Wrath of Khan.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:33 PM   
 By:   Moonie   (Member)

I look at it this way , and I know Ive said this before, Star Trek II and Star Trek III is one complete work by Mr Horner, so IMHO you cant pick one over the other. If this were a two cd set and Trek II and III were one film there would be no discussion. and to me thats what this project is, One Complete Work and should be looked at that way.

Peace everyone smile


and You can write a book if you want too and I dont think you should be little us that dont want to read long post, its easy to start a blog then you can link to it.

 
 Posted:   Jun 24, 2010 - 1:36 PM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

I really can't understand how anyone would consider this a rehash of Star Trek II in any way. There isn't a *single* cue that sounds like one from the previous score with the exception of the End Titles

Ummm, "Stealing The Enterprise" is FULL of rehashing from previous WOK cues. Namely Genius Countdown among others.

STIII as a score has grown on me a lot over the years and I am actually playing it more than WOK right now. (But Ive played WOK to death for the last 35 (25?) years.) So I'm not bashing the score, but I would freely bash the film. ;-)

It just can't compare to the complexity and depth of the WOK, IMHO of course.

 
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