Star Trek: Borg – music by Dennis McCarthy

Star Trek: BorgComposed to accompany the 1996 CD-ROM game Star Trek: Borg, the music on this CD was recently released by Dennis McCarthy, who also composed more episodes of the various Star Trek spinoffs than anyone else. However, if you’re expecting more of that relatively sedate sound here, you may be in for a shock. Star Trek: Borg may have looked like a television episode, what with John de Lancie starring and Jonathan Frakes directing, but freed from the restrictions usually placed on the scoring of Star Trek TV episodes, the music is quite a bit more involved than you may be expecting.

While Borg lacked the restrictions of the TV series’ music, it also lacked the budget that the TV series – at least in 1996 – lavished on music. McCarthy relies on frequent-flyer collaborator Kevin Kiner to bring his orchestrated score to life, and if there’s really a weak point with the Borg soundtrack, that’s where it is, but more due to the state of synthesizer/sequencer technology than the talent involved. (McCarthy and Kiner collaborated on many future projects where their music had to be synthesized instead of played by a real orchestra, including McCarthy’s Stargate SG-1 scores and, ultimately, the reduced-budget final season of Star Trek: Enterprise.) The orchestral textures just aren’t quite “real,” though it’s no exaggeration to say that the technology to achieve this has improved by leaps and bounds since 1996.

The style is also very different from McCarthy’s usual Trek “house style,” with some of the short cues almost resembling some of Jerry Goldsmith’s “spacedock” music from the first Star Trek movie (including one cue explicitly labeled “Goldsmith Has Been Assimilated”). The synth-chorus as a signature sound for the Borg is also revived here as well. There’s a recurring “orchestral stab” sound also used in conjunction with the Borg, but without the accompanying visuals, this makes the music sound like a late ’80s/early ’90s horror movie score. There are a few hints of McCarthy’s trademark panoramic chords from his TV Treks, but overall it’s very different.

The final three tracks are comprised of music McCarthy created for the “Borg Invasion 4-D” ride at the Las Vegas Hilton’s Star Trek Experience, and there’s a huge world of difference here (then again, we’re talking about an 8-year gap). The Borg Invasion suites are some of the most invigorating music I’ve heard from Dennis McCarthy, sounding both more like his usual Trek TV music and less like it (with pulsating guitar samples and almost Matrix-y passages) at the same time. The series would’ve benefitted tremendously from allowing him to cut loose on the music like this.

One can only hope that maybe the composer can sneak out some of the better examples of his Star Trek TV music on CD in private pressings like this, though from a rights perspective, there’s probably a vast difference 3 out of 4in doing that with this material and music composed for TV shows that are still, on DVD at least, a going concern. There are quite a few I could nominate (namely “The Homecoming” / “The Circle” / “The Siege” trilogy that opened Deep Space Nine’s second season) but only time will tell if Dennis McCarthy will keep sneaking gems from the Star Trek music archives out of the vaults for us. At the time of this writing, Star Trek: Borg is still available from the composer’s web site.

Order this CD

  1. Main Theme (1:02)
  2. The Legend Of The Borg (1:24)
  3. Battle At Wolf 359 (2:58)
  4. The Battle Rages (0:58)
  5. Club Q (0:55)
  6. “I Am Berman Of Borg” (1:37)
  7. “Goldsmith Has Been Assimilated!” (1:37)
  8. “Welcome To The Collective, Cadet” (2:21)
  9. Searching The Borg Ship (2:21)
  10. Time Is Running Out (1:17)
  11. Escape From The Borg Collective (1:44)
  12. Borg Hell (2:03)
  13. “You Will Be Assimilated, Have A Nice Day” (2:21)
  14. “Resistance Is Futile, My Ass!” / Finale (7:28)
  15. End Titles (1:02)
  16. Borg Invasion Suite Part 1 (6:32)
  17. Borg Invasion Suite Part 2 (2:51)
  18. Borg Invasion Suite Part 3 (7:24)

Released by: DennisMcCarthy.com
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 48:21

The Best Of Stargate SG-1

The Best Of Stargate SG-1A collection of suites from the first season of the show, The Best Of Stargate SG-1 paints a picture of the show in its infancy – and before Joel Goldsmith had cemented his place as the franchise’s composer-in-residence. Though after listening to the CD several times, it’s just possible that a case could be made that this CD shows why Goldsmith became the solo voice of Stargate.

Naturally, the CD opens with Goldsmith’s main theme for the movie, adapted from David Arnold’s original Stargate score. The first few tracks, however, present us with a completely different sound than what we’ve grown accustomed to. First up is a suite from The Enemy Within, composed by Star Trek’s Dennis McCarthy and frequent collaborator Kevin Kiner (who McCarthy came to rely on heavily during the last season of Star Trek: Enterprise, when budget constraints forced that series to all but abandon full orchestral scores). This music also sounds synthesized/sampled, but even so, it bears many of the hallmarks of McCarthy’s Star Trek scores – it’s rather nice, and maybe a bit more colorful than McCarthy was generally allowed to be with his Star Trek music.

Richard Band, who began his film scoring career with Joel Goldsmith on the movie Laserblast, contributes a score to Cold Lazarus, but in places it suffers from some slight cheesy-sounding synthesized instrument sounds; that wouldn’t be so distracting, except that the rest of the suites presented here seem to be a notch above it. (To be fair to Mr. Band, however, while this may stick out like a sore thumb on CD, I don’t recall it detracting from the episode itself.) Kevin Kiner flies solo with the scores for two episodes, Emancipation and The Torment Of Tantalus, the latter of which is up there with the best scores that the series has had. Its music is truly varied enough to merit this suite being the longest track on the CD, with the 1940s “period” scenes getting a touch of saxophone.

Longtime fans won’t find the sound they’re used to until the next track, Thor’s Hammer, which introduces a series of suites by Joel Goldsmith. Thor’s Hammer has a chaotic chorus that livens things up, and some passages strongly reminiscent of sections of the music from the then-recent Star Trek: First Contact, on which the junior Goldsmith collaborated with his father. The Nox has some lovely thematic material for the Nox themselves, with some shades of First Contact again creeping into the scenes featuring the Goa’uld. Hathor and Tin Man both show a playful side to Goldsmith’s scoring. Within The Serpent’s Grasp stands as Goldsmith’s crowning achievement of the first year, however, with outstanding action and suspense sections, and as a season cliffhanger it’s practically required to kick ass, and Goldsmith delivers. That’s why he’s got the job.

rating: 4 out of 4Overall, it’s a nice little selection of music from some of the first season’s standout episodes, displaying a musical diversity that the Stargate franchise has since abandoned. Though I might criticize them on their own musical merits, I find all of the tracks here enjoyable, and I sometimes wonder why some of these other composers haven’t been heard from again (aside from these scores being recycled into virtual “library music” for the first two seasons, a la the original Star Trek) – not that I’m complaining about Joel Goldsmith, mind you. Even just from Goldsmith’s scores, I could rattle off a list of 10 or 15 scores off the top of my head which could comprise a second Best Of Stargate SG-1 volume, though whether or not there’d be enough of a market to support it would be another question.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (1:03)
  2. The Enemy Within (6:46)
  3. Cold Lazarus (6:10)
  4. Emancipation (3:36)
  5. Torment Of Tantalus (10:14)
  6. Thor’s Hammer (7:33)
  7. The Nox (10:02)
  8. Hathor (6:45)
  9. Tin Man (6:57)
  10. Within The Serpent’s Grasp (8:43)
  11. Stargate SG-1 End Credits (0:58)

Released by: GNP Crescendo
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 59:27