Star Trek: Discovery Chapter 1 – Soundtrack Review

Baz Greenland reviews chapter one of Jeff Russo's score to Star Trek: Discovery.

As we eagerly await the return of Star Trek: Discovery for its final run of season one episodes, Lakeshore Records has released ‘Season 1, chapter 1’, covering music from the first nine episodes.

Jeff Russo has taken on the daunting task of creating a new theme for a new iteration of Star Trek, and that is presented here, along with twenty other tracks from the first half of the season, including an extended version of the main titles to round things off.

The album is on general release now.

The Review…

Star Trek has had some great musical scores, from the triumphant horns of the first movie that became the theme to Star Trek: The Next Generation, to the epic, gothic score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and the beautiful opening theme to Star Trek: Voyager (which despite being one of the weaker incarnations, certainly has the best title sequence).

From the moment I heard the soaring opening titles to Star Trek Discovery, I was in love with the score. The visuals might not be traditional Star Trek viewing, (but reflect what perhaps Star Trek: Enterprise should have had instead), but there was no denying that main title score was both nostalgic and distinct in its own right. The ‘Main Titles’ that open that track are still perfection, the simple classic opening, leading into a beautiful, soaring, grandiose title track, before bringing it back with that classic movie-style timeless theme.

After this, we get ‘We Come in Peace, which begins with a dark forbidding rumbling beat, Russo creating a sense of danger and wonder with an emotional, simple string movement, while the heavier percussion has the harsh tone that digs into the Klingon themes running through the show. The third track ‘First Officer’s Log’ is a lot simpler, a beautiful piece with an elegant horn movement.

And then we come to ‘I’ll Go’; at almost eight minutes long, this has everything. A slow, ominous opening leads into a gritty drum beat and a rising military horn rising. Russo builds and builds, melancholy string movements intertwined with the beat build tension, that transforms into intense, soaring string movements, frantic and passionate. The track ends with a soft, mellow tone, filled with passion and sorrow and into a bold climax, the grand horn and sinister beat, full of danger and menace. Itr is certainly one of the strongest tracks on the album.

The fifth track, ‘The Day is Saved’ has a slow, emotional score that builds into something beautiful and melancholy; the haunting, slowed down version of the man theme is quite stunning. While ‘Torchbearer’ is dark and tragic, a low rumbling beat, and an eerie orchestral movement; the added choral chant perfectly encapsulates the feel of these new Klingons. Track seven, ‘PTSD’ is guttural, grim and haunting with an industrial-feel to the recurring beat. The themes Russo creates, encapsulates the darkness of Michael’s journey at this point in the show, while the rising orchestral movement at the end that feels hopeful, reflective of her journey to come.

‘Persistence’, the eighth track, is somewhat odd; it is as if the main theme is being played as an 80’s video game, with a weird electronic beat. ‘Stranded’ however, has a beautiful, rising score that is full of emotion and grandeur, a repeating beat and gorgeous horns and strings that capture the sense of wonder the show has. And the tenth track ‘Did You Mean by That?’ is almost playful, with short, sharp movements and ominous rumbling beat against a strained string movement. Track eleven, ‘I Can’t Dance is another sweet, slowed version of the main theme, one that feels more intimate and sad. The rising string movement is beautiful, with an intensity that rises throughout.

There is something almost gothic and dangerous to the twelfth track ‘Captain Mudd’, the grim string movements, and eerie, gothic horns, building into a fast paced, dramatic score, full of danger and menace. It is almost unsettling in its approach. ‘Stella’ meanwhile, is simpler, sweet and mellow, filled with emotion, with a lovely filmic rendition of the classic Star Trek theme at the end. And track fourteen ‘Facing Off’ is bigger, emotional and atmospheric; at almost five minutes, this track is given room to breathe. Russo makes great use of a lovely wind instrument amid the haunting orchestral background, mixing in a rising percussion beat, soaring string movement and guttural industrial sounds; this is relentless, fast paced and intense.

Track fifteen ‘Undetermined’ is another atmospheric and moody piece with a soaring end to the track  that is quite stunning, while ‘Watch The Stars Fall’ is a simpler piano piece backed by gorgeous string movements, this feels more intimate and packed full of melancholy beauty. Track seventeen, ‘Weakened Shields’ is faster paced and much more dramatic track, with big ballsy percussion and frantic strings. This is a terrific, intense battle score that is full of tension and peril, mixed with some quieter, more morose moments and epic grandeur that wouldn’t be out of place in James Horner’s The Lord of the Rings soundtrack..

There really isn’t a duff track on the soundtrack. Even ‘What’s Happening?’, the eighteenth track, manages to capture some intense emotion with a beautiful orchestral sweeps while being just a minute long. And ‘Personal Log’ and ‘The Charge of Mutiny’ are both beautiful orchestral pieces full of emotion and passion, the first having a simple repeating beat adding tension, while the latter mixes low rumbling sounds and slow string movements, that are haunting and create a sense of heavy dread.

The soundtrack ends with ‘Main Title (Extended)’. It is  another chance to hear that wonderful opening title, the rising string beat, the heavy wind instruments and the soaring majesty all with a little extra oomph; there is a moment half way through where the score rises high that is stunning and I almost wish was in the main version. The added thundering percussion beat adding the sense of drama and tension the series does so well.

Overall, Jeff Russo’s soundtrack to Star Trek: Discovery is a triumph, full of passion, intensity and grandeur. But it is also understated in its delivery; it may not wow fans looking for another James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith, but I think Russo has captured the feel of the series perfectly. I look forward to what he brings in chapter two…

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