It was a strange, syndicated world in 1987 when a brief quote of Alexander Courage’s inimitable melody launched into Jerry Goldsmith’s theme from ST –TMP– a bold announcement if there ever was one that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was going to launch a whole new franchise of Roddenberry-based shows. But as opposed to the kind of bold melodies by the likes of Sol Kaplan, Gerald Fried and George Duning that distinguished the scoring of classic TREK, producers Rick Berman and Peter Lauritson went for a more sleekly homogenous route. While the show and its spin-offs wouldn’t get outrageously distinctive soundtracks on the order of “Amok Time” or “The Doomsday Machine,” there was still more than enough quality work done to fill up the three CD’s here that make up La La Land’s first volume of Next Gen music, a well-assembled voyage that gives a true musical arch to Picard and crew’s seven-season mission
Where FSM’s gigantic box set of Ron Jones music chronicles his lengthy stint on the show, La La Land primarily devotes itself to the scores of Jay Chattaway and Dennis McCarthy, whose first CD is the set’s best. Arriving with more of a big-screen approach, McCarthy’s suite from “Haven” captures the eccentric magic of Lwaxana Troi. Majestic paradox mystery suffuses “Time Squared,” while “The Survivors” offers a chilling music box theme. And have scored the pilot, McCarthy gives the show a noble send-off in “All Good Things.” Chattaway’s undoubted highpoint, as well as arguably the best episode of New TREK, is the immensely moving “Inner Light,” where a “Ressikan” pipe, gentle folk strumming and poignant orchestra take Picard through an entire existence of a lost planet’s culture. Disc three offers impressive work from two major composers-to-be, with THE MATRIX’s Don Davis providing gripping, escalating suspense for the Romulan intrigue of “Face of the Enemy,” while John Debney shows his feature-worthy chops for The Federation’s ominous bad behavior as they try to grab the cloaking device of “The Pegasus.”
While most of these orchestral scores were designed to be cohesive to avoid the often-tracked sound of classic TREK, it’s the truly out-of-the-box TNG scores that really stand out in this collection, from the Victorian adventure of McCarthy’s “Elementary, Dear Data” to his bizarre electronic effects for the infamous, head-bursting episode “Conspiracy.” But perhaps the oddest, and most, and interesting duck is original show composer Fred Steiner (“By Any Other Name”), who applies that old-school, exotic-military sound to the imperious alien culture clash of “Code of Honor” – the episode’s brass and mysterioso strings making you think that Kirk and Spock are back on board kicking Klingon ass. Steiner’s approach is hopelessly, and wonderfully outdated, as alien to TNG’s new musical direction as McCoy was to 1930’s New York. Adding even more fun to this set are show bumpers, along with polka, Jessica Rabbit jazz grind, and the scoring team’s A Capella versions of the Courage theme. Better yet, old and new STAR TREK music expert Jeff Bond is back, with his liner notes doing another yeoman job of breaking down the scores’ continuing missions.
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