Into The Darkness: 4 Themes – music by Cliff Eidelman

If an unused cue from a TV or movie music score is the musical equivalent of a deleted scene, an entirely unused/rejected score (or, in this case, demos) are the musical equivalent to a completely different cut that never escapes the editing room. Such is the case with Into The Darkness: 4 Themes, a download-only EP by Cliff Eidelman, the composer who steered the Star Trek film franchise into dark, operatic territory with 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The four themes in question here are a four-track demo submitted by Eidelman to the producers of the then-yet-to-premiere Star Trek: Discovery, at their request.

What’s interesting about that request is that it didn’t come from Discovery creative consultant (and Star Trek VI director) Nick Meyer, but instead came from Discovery’s initial (and later dismissed) showrunner, Bryan Fuller. Reports have since emerged that Fuller had some very different ideas for launching a new Star Trek series for CBS, but had to rein some of his wilder ideas in. Eidelman’s track titles so specifically reference events in Discovery’s first two episodes that it’s clear that music was auditioned late in the process (as it usually is). “Battle Of Two Worlds” is a minor word swap away from Battle At The Binary Stars, the second hour of the series, and “Mutiny In Darkness” also references incidents in that second episode. So we can say with certainty that Eidelman’s music would have – if the composer had landed the assignment – accompanied a story very much like what actually played out on screen (with Jeff Russo’s accompaniment).

That being said, there’s something a bit less than pulse-pounding about the music presented here. It isn’t just that it’s a synth demo standing in for what was undoubtedly expected to be a full orchestra – I can cut it a break on that front knowing that it’s a demo – but it just doesn’t go anywhere. I’ve probably heard the actual Discovery theme as used on the show itself 20-25 times, and I can hum it. I’ve listened to Into The Darkness about as many times – and why not, when there’s no official Discovery soundtrack release as yet? – and I can scarcely remember Eidelman’s main recurring theme a couple of hours later. I do like his take on music involving the Klingons, as it gives a nod to the guttural, percussive brutality present in themes introduced for the Klingons down through the years by the likes of Goldsmith and Horner and Ron Jones, but that’s almost all I can remember of this EP later.

2 out of 4Scoring film and TV is a collaborative process. It’s entirely possible that even Jeff Russo didn’t hit it right out of the park on his first attempt at a theme, and that he received notes from the producers asking for either refinement or a from-the-ground-up rethink. It is, perhaps, unfair to judge Eidelman’s demos too harshly on the basis that they don’t represent a finished, polished product of that same collaborative evolution. I find the very idea of recruiting an experienced Trek composer fascinating in the extreme. But as a listening experience goes, Into The Darknes: 4 Themes shows perhaps too much restraint and not enough of the in-your-face brassiness that made so many of us fans of Star Trek’s music way back in the day.

Order this CD

  1. Into The Unknown (1:27)
  2. Battle Of Two Worlds (2:16)
  3. Mutiny In Darkness (2:13)
  4. Resolve (1:10)

Released by: Cliff Eidelman
Release date: October 20, 2017
Total running time: 7:06

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Newly Expanded Edition)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryThe only big-screen classic Star Trek sequel still waiting for its soundtrack to be remastered has finally gotten the deluxe treatment from Intrada. The release was inadvertently revealed by composer Cliff Eidelman early in 2012, a practice that the soundtrack boutique labels tend to avoid simply because they barely have enough time in the day to do what they do, let alone answer endless questions about upcoming releases and whether or not they can be pre-ordered. But that would seem to reveal a certain degree of pride on Eidelman’s part for his first major film scoring assignment – and listening to this expanded release, which finally puts every note of the movie’s music in fans’ hands, it must be said that any such pride is certainly justified.

Star Trek VI was a movie that almost didn’t happen. The William Shatner-directed Trek V bombed at the box office once word got out about its utterly goofy treatment of philosophical subject matter that had big implications, and it proved to be Shatner’s only directorial turn in the franchise, and the last stop for producer Harve Bennett, who, had turned the Trek films into a Big Deal with Star Trek II. But 1991 was the 25th anniversary of the premiere of the original Star Trek, and Paramount wanted to make a Big Deal out of that too, and so it took stock of the other driving creative forces behind Trek II and Trek IV, the series’ most successful films. A sixth movie would happen after all, shepherded to the screen by director Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy, surrending his director’s seat to produce the final film to feature the full original cast.

Meyer’s original musical idea was to adapt either Holst’s The Planets or Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite – basically pulling a Kubrick and scoring the movie with existing classical music. Composer Cliff Eidelman, chosen for his strong classical background, got a break when Holst’s estate refused to allow The Planets to be licensed or altered without a gigantic price tag: he would get to compose an original score with hints of both Stravinsky and Holst’s stylistic trappings. The result was something far darker than anything the Star Trek films had been graced with before, including the first use of choir in the Trek movies. Only fleeting references to prior scores in the film series would be made; Trek VI happened further in the future than any of the previous films and would have a stand-alone sound. A scary and glorious stand-alone sound, too, with Eidelman not holding back on playing up the implications of impending war between the Federation and its enemies, and the willingness of almost all parties to sacrifice Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy as pawns in the rapidly escalating hostilities.

The second disc of this two-disc set features a remastered edition of the original 1991 soundtrack album, which we covered back when The Undiscovered Country was a relatively recent arrival in theaters. The first disc presents the music as heard in the film itself, which sometimes means entire pieces of music that haven’t been heard before, and sometimes means subtly different versions of the pieces you’re already familiar with. It may not hurt to listen to this version first, so it’s easier to spot the missing material added to the complete score on disc one. Some of the missing material flies past pretty quickly, but as always, it encompasses key moments that weren’t incorporated into the original soundtrack release. Scenes that were on the original soundtrack but weren’t heard in full include the Excelsior crew receiving a message about a Chernobyl-like “incident” at a Klingon power plant, Kirk receiving his orders to attempt peace with the Klingons, and Kirk’s trial on a brutal Klingon prison planet after he’s accused of assassinating the Klingons’ leader at that peace summit.

Fans of the original soundtrack and the movie know by now that the original CD’s “Battle For Peace” track – an eight-minute orchestral assault – left some stuff out, including, ironically, silence. The expanded version of this lengthy battle scene is now complete, including those conveniently-timed pauses for Kirk and Sulu to issue their respective orders to destroy the pesky Klingon Bird of Prey whose commander is fighting to keep both worlds at war.

The most interesting and showy material among the previously unissued tracks center around the Enterprise crew’s search for evidence to lead them to the real assassins. In the movie, this search took the form of several vignettes as planted evidence was repeatedly found, leading to the wrong suspects, but it’s surprisingly good music that shows no ambitions toward low-key subtlety. The other new and interesting material is music that isn’t from the movie at all. Star Trek VI was the first and only Star Trek film to this day to have custom-scored trailers. Earlier films tended to rely on mashups of music from earlier Star Trek movies for their trailers, and even the very first Trek movie had trailers choppily scored with pieces of Jerry Goldsmith’s immortal music, often clumsily hacked to pieces in the editing room. For Trek VI, Cliff Eidelman scored his own trailers, offering the audience a preview of the music as well as the movie. Not edited together from the score, the trailers are custom-made creations that use the same themes in a kind of rapid-fire greatest-hits style. This is the first time that music has been released, and it’s pretty neat to hear.

Star Trek music expert Jeff Bond, who still needs to update his excellent 1999 book “The Music Of Star Trek: Profiles In Style”, and Film Score Monthly Trek music savior Lukas Kendall provide some of the best liner notes in the business, detailing the creation of both the movie and its music, rounding out the package. As with its Star Trek IV soundtrack, Intrada has wisely forgone its usual route of limiting this soundtrack to an arbitrary print run of 3,000 copies – there are enough copies for everyone who wants one.

Star Trek music fans have been graced with a wealth of re-releases and never-before-released material from both the movie and TV franchises in the past three years (like his movie or not, you can probably thank J.J. Abrams for raising Star Trek’s public profile enough to make that possible). Now, of course, everyone’s licking their lips and hoping for another re-release of Goldsmith’s music from the first film, hopefully this time in complete form. (I wouldn’t object if the next project was Dennis McCarthy’s criminally-underrated Star Trek: Generations score, 4 out of 4but I suspect I’m in the minority there; McCarthy has a small but loyal base of fans, of which I count myself one, while Goldsmith now has a cult of worshippers who’ll buy anything with the man’s name on it.) The ongoing expand-and-reissue project, however, has been nothing short of a delight for the ears, and Star Trek VI will keep me more than happy until the next re-release.

Order this CD

    Disc One: complete score

  1. Overture (3:02)
  2. The Incident (1:09)
  3. Spacedock / Clear All Moorings (1:59)
  4. Spock’s Wisdom (3:13)
  5. Guess Who’s Coming (0:49)
  6. Assassination (2:16)
  7. Surrender For Peace (2:48)
  8. The Death Of Gorkon (2:07)
  9. The Trial / Morally Unjust Evidence (1:13)
  10. Sentencing (1:02)
  11. Rura Penthe / First Sight Of Rura Penthe (4:09)
  12. Alien Fight (1:05)
  13. First Evidence / The Search (1:33)
  14. Escape From Rura Penthe (5:35)
  15. The Mirror (1:17)
  16. Revealed (2:48)
  17. Mind Meld (2:06)
  18. Dining On Ashes (1:01)
  19. The Battle For Peace / The Final Chance For Peace / The Final Count (8:15)
  20. The Undiscovered Country (1:07)
  21. Sign Off (3:16)
  22. Star Trek VI End Credits Suite (6:17)
  23. Trailer (take 10) (2:23)
  24. Guess Who’s Coming (alternate) (0:51)
  25. Sign Off (alternate) (3:31)
  26. Trailer (take 2) (2:20)
    Disc Two – original 1991 album

  1. Overture (2:57)
  2. An Incident (0:53)
  3. Clear All Moorings (1:39)
  4. Assassination (4:45)
  5. Surrender Dor Peace (2:46)
  6. Death Of Gorkon (1:10)
  7. Rura Penthe (4:22)
  8. Revealed (2:38)
  9. Escape From Rura Penthe (5:34)
  10. Dining On Ashes (1:00)
  11. The Battle For Peace (8:03)
  12. Sign Off (3:13)
  13. Star Trek VI Suite (6:18)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2012
Disc one total running time: 67:14
Disc two total running time: 45:!7

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI soundtrackI’m always happy when a Star Trek movie comes along and breaks free of traditional or overused treatments. James Horner, in two Trek movie outings, recycled the same handful of themes over and over (somewhat excusable, since the second and third films in the Trek catalogue were very closely intertwined); Jerry Goldsmith reiterated his famous Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme in no less than three movie projects (and we won’t get into how tired that theme got after seven years on TV with Star Trek: The Next Generation). So when someone comes along and completely sheds all nods to previous Trekkie fare – though Eidelman and later Dennis McCarthy made brief quotes of Alexander Courage’s themes in their respective scores – I’m all for it. The sixth Trek movie is graced by a dark, rumbling, near-operatic reminder of menace, extremely appropriate for the movie’s events which threaten to break down into certain doom for all involved. Some listeners and 4 out of 4moviegoers – particularly those fans who are far too set in their ways – couldn’t grasp this very different musical treatment of what seems to be everyone’s favorite fictional universe at the time, but I still encourage anyone interested to go and give this one a second listen.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (2:57)
  2. An Incident (0:53)
  3. Clear All Moorings (1:39)
  4. Assassination (4:45)
  5. Surrender for Peace (2:46)
  6. Death of Gorkon (1:10)
  7. Rura Penthe (4:22)
  8. Revealed (2:38)
  9. Escape From Rura Penthe (5:34)
  10. Dining on Ashes (1:00)
  11. The Battle for Peace (8:03)
  12. Sign Off (3:13)
  13. Star Trek VI Suite (6:18)

Released by: MCA
Release date: 1991
Total running time: 45:18