Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage is part of the franchise’s 50th anniversary celebration, and the multi-media tour stopped by Montreal on Friday the 19th at the Symphonic House. It’s not easy to distill down 5o years of music into a two hour show that has to cover 5 TV series and 12 movies, but the creators of this Ultimate Voyage have done a great curating job to make sure that all the important pieces of music were covered. For sure, die-hard fans will complain about omissions, but every piece of music in the show deserves to be there.
Each series gets its own spot starting with its theme (except for the much maligned Enterprise’s pop rock theme) with at least an additional sequence covering a key moment in its run accompanied by the relevant footage on the big screen. For example, they chose the classic episode “Amok Time” with its percussive score accompanying the fight between Captain Kirk and Spock on Vulcan, to represent the classic series, and the Next Generation segment uses the reveal of Locutus from “Best of Both Worlds”, cleverly using the famous cliffhanger as lead-in for the intermission.
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Other tracks are played over compilation clips, mixing up footage from all the different incarnations. Strangely enough, the segment presenting Michael Giacchino’s music for the rebooted movies was shown without any footage from those two movies. Narration is used throughout the show to link the segments together, sometime by presenting the different series, but most often by waxing poetic about the spirit of Star Trek and its utopian future where the human spirit triumphs over all obstacles.
For me, the show would have worked better with fewer video projections. Granted, many of those pieces were written to support the images they accompany, but this music is good enough to stand on its own. Maybe they feared people wouldn’t sit through two hours of orchestral music? But I often found myself paying more attention to the projection than to the music, which is a shame. I also would have appreciated if each piece had been identified and more importantly its composer credited. While it’s easy to remember the movie contributions of Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner or Michael Giacchino, most of the composers for the TV shows are not well known and the likes of Ron Jones and Jay Chattaway deserve recognition too.
The orchestra is top notch and played the music perfectly. The small ensemble gave a more intimate feel to the more majestic pieces like the themes from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” or “Deep Space Nine”, but the amazing acoustics of the hall helped the music soar when needed, whether to underscore a Borg attack, a confrontation with a Klingon Bird of Prey or more introspective moments with Captain Picard from “The Inner Light”. The suite from “The Wrath of Khan”, arguably the best piece ever written by the late James Horner, was another personal favourite, especially with the images of Spock’s death (can one spoil a 33 year old movie?), in light of actor Leonard Nimoy’s passing almost a year ago.
As an encore, Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek theme was played in a jazzy concert arrangement that unfortunately felt flat. While close to the original, it probably would have worked better if they’d stuck to the end credit arrangement. Still, the crowd (that skewed towards an older demographic) deservedly gave them a standing ovation. I expected the scene to look more like something out of Comiccon, but for the most part it looked more like regular symphony patrons. That one guy in his Starfleet uniform must have felt a little out of place, but good on him for embracing the spirit of the evening.
Clearly, the music of Star Trek will live long and prosper. It’s about time that more movie music is brought to the concert stage.
Jean-Frédéric Vachon also writes for his blog Diary of a Music Addict