Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (Newly Expanded Edition) – music by James Horner

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (Newly Expanded Edition)Fresh from the spectacular success – in archival soundtrack release terms – of last year’s complete score from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Film Score Monthly (via its Retrograde Records imprint) did the “logical” thing and began work on a complete score release of the next movie in the classic Trek cycle, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Now, I’ve always been of the opinion that the Trek III score was less impressive than the music for Trek II by several orders of magnitude, but I began to wonder if perhaps that opinion was the product of poor choices made in the track selection and sequencing for the 45-or-so minute soundtrack release that’s been available all these years. Would the Trek III re-release, like that of its predecessor, reveal hidden depths that we’d been denied all these years?

The answer is a roughly equal mix of yes and no. As with Trek II, the original release of Trek III‘s soundtrack bizarrely omitted some of the movie’s most iconic moments. The destruction of the Enterprise (“A Fighting Chance To Live”) is a rather major event in Trek history, but the music accompanying that scene didn’t rate inclusion on the old soundtrack release. It’s a beautiful piece, Horner at his best, and at nearly five minutes, it’s not a piece that’s so short that you could blink and miss it (a frequent excuse for not including a prominent cue on a soundtracka album). Another scene that always struck me musically – accompanied by the track “Sunset On Genesis” – is also a long-lost treasure. It’s nice to have the film version (rather than an “album edit”) of “Stealing The Enterprise”, though the difference isn’t enormous.

Unlike some critics, I’ve always thought Horner’s unique take on a musical signature for the Klingons was appropriate, fitting nicely alongside the “Klingon Battle” piece from The Motion Picture, but even wilder. (In any case, Goldsmith’s Klingon music from the first movie was almost more of a theme for V’Ger, and didn’t gain its signature bombast – a la Horner – until 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.) It’s nice to hear Horner’s Klingon motif put through its paces (as in the track “Grissom Destroyed”).

Where things fall down is when the music slips into a single-high-note drone, mainly covering what could be called “Vulcan mysticism scenes”. They may have been appropriate for the film, but they’re extremely tedious as stand-alone listening. I would just skip these tracks and count off a few points, except that by the last third of the soundtrack, these tracks are so prevalent. Basically, after the Genesis planet is destroyed and Kirk & co. make off with their newly-acquired Klingon Bird of Pray, I tend to skip straight to the end. The first CD is rounded out by a selection of “source” music heard in the bar scenes as the Spock-possessed McCoy tries to wheel and deal for passage to the Genesis planet.

Due to contractual constraints involving the label that originally released the Trek III soundtrack LP, a second disc tags along with the first, replicating that LP in its entirety (although it’s been remastered, so it’s not a total loss). The second disc is essentially the same disc as what was released by GNP Crescendo in the early 1990s, and is the same as the original EMI LP released in 1984. The version of “Stealing The Enterprise” heard here differs slightly from the film version, but the real saving grace of the LP is the very dated, Meco-esque “Group 87” synth-disco cover of the theme music. Over-serious, dyed-in-the-wool soundtrack afficionados may hate it, but I’m glad to see it preserved here, even though it means a second CD that increased the price of the set.

3 out of 4Overall, the new Trek III soundtrack is a worthy upgrade, but that worthiness is sometimes a little harder to find than it was with the much more listenable complete score from Trek II. There are persistent rumors – which, interestingly, haven’t been denied outright – that Film Score Monthly isn’t done mining Paramount’s music vaults for Star Trek material this year, so hopefully more musical delights await us from the final frontier.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Prologue and Main Title (6:32)
  2. Klingons (5:59)
  3. Spock’s Cabin (1:41)
  4. The Klingon’s Plan (1:03)
  5. The Mind-Meld (2:32)
  6. Stealing The Enterprise (8:41)
  7. Grissom Destroyed (1:04)
  8. Sunset On Genesis (2:18)
  9. Spock Endures Pon Farr (3:04)
  10. Bird Of Prey Decloaks (3:48)
  11. A Fighting Chance To Live (3:54)
  12. Genesis Destroyed (2:43)
  13. Returning To Vulcan (4:58)
  14. The Katra Ritual (4:31)
  15. End Titles (6:19)
  16. That Old Black Magic / Tangerine / I Remember You (10:32)
    Disc Two

  1. Prologue and Main Title (6:30)
  2. Klingons (5:58)
  3. Stealing The Enterprise (8:35)
  4. Discuss it!The Mind-Meld (2:32)
  5. Bird Of Prey Decloaks (3:48)
  6. Returning To Vulcan (4:56)
  7. The Katra Ritual (4:31)
  8. End Titles (6:20)
  9. The Search For Spock performed by Group 87 (3:43)

Released by: Film Score Monthly / Retrograde Records
Release date: 2010
Disc one total running time: 79:39
Disc two total running time: 46:53