Friday, September 7, 2018

Score Sample: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

When it comes to the music to the Star Trek films you actually have a great pool of music to enjoy. Of course my favorite work comes from Jerry Goldsmith and his scores for five of the films of the series (up to 13 films as of this writing). But you have a lot of other excellent composers chiming with some top notch work. Lately we've had Michael Giacchino giving us a thrilling new theme of for the Enterprise, as well as some propulsive action tracks.

One composer who really put his stamp on the series was James Horner, who unleashed an amazing score for The Wrath of Khan. This was early in his career and the young composer knocked it out of the park, creating some of the most accessible and engaging music of the film series. It was no wonder that the producers brought him back for the third film, The Search for Spock.

Horner revisited his heroic main theme, created some new material for the Klingons and evolved the sound he created for Spock into a vulcan motif for this film. The Vulcan material goes in the opposite direction from Goldsmith's "logical" approach. There is tremendous feeling and mystery in the Vulcan music in this score, and it creates one of my favorite tracks from the series called Returning to Vulcan. The film version covers our heroes return journey to the planet with the body of Spock to reunite his spirit with the flesh. The film version is excellent, but I love the additional emotion that Horner crafts in the concert suite version on the album.

So here is Returning to Vulcan from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock composed by James Horner. Enjoy!


  1. Hidden emotional depths are the point of the Vulcans, aren't they? Nietzsche speculated that Socrates was an emotional mess who dared not trust his instincts, and so was forced to be logical at all costs as a matter of personal survival. That describes the Vulcans perfectly: they must be logical at all costs. It makes sense that their music would express what lies beneath the surface.

    1. Nietzsche's take on Socrates is interesting, and yeah that perfectly describes the Vulcans. Goldsmith commented that when he created the theme for Spock in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" the director asked him for "un-emotional music" and Goldsmith found the request, dare I say it, illogical. In his mind, music by its very nature as human expression has to contain some kind of emotion. He really struggled with the Spock material and was ultimately unhappy with it. I think it is pretty interesting stuff, but I admit that Horner's theme is much more interesting and impactful. But I don't think Horner had the same constraints for that score.

      And it is no surprise that most composers tackling Spock or Vulcan material going forward use Horner's model even borrowing some of the instrumentation and style.