The score to season two of Star Trek: Discovery is bold, adventurous and filled with many a Trek thematic reference, not to mention being leaps and bounds better than season one’s.
Having seen the second season of Star Trek: Discovery a few months ago, I was rather looking forward to this album release. A number of different musical moments had caught my eye as I’d watched it (particularly that of the season finale) and despite my lack of enthusiasm for the first season’s rather dull score (in my opinion, anyway) I was quite excited to hear what Jeff Russo had in store for season two’s soundtrack release. Having now listened to it throughout, I can safely say that my anticipation was very much justified.
The album begins with The Final Frontier, starting with light and somewhat ominous percussion before then diving deeper into ambience with low strings and apprehensive vocals. At about the three minute mark things start to cheer up a bit as the strings sound out the album’s first rendition of Russo’s Discovery theme, a motif first introduced in the two score releases for season one of the show. Said motif is then followed rather rapidly with several quietly hopeful notes from the original Alexander Courage Star Trek theme before the track then draws to a somewhat sinister-sounding close. Christopher Pike is up next, and despite its name I found it quite a challenge to pick out a discernible theme or motif for the character here. Russo has the mood down for sure (lighthearted with epic brass in the background, which I think represents Pike rather well) but there’s a definite lack of memorability in terms of a series of thematic notes, which is a shame.
Lost Communication is the first of the album’s action tracks, and a fast pace breaks out immediately as the track begins with rapid percussion, frantic vocals and particularly dramatic-sounding brass. This rapidity continues all the way through the cue’s two-and-a-bit minute runtime without stopping for breath, and that combined with several loud and heroic brass statements makes this one of the better tracks on the album. I’m Coming Back then continues in a similar vein, with the frantic percussion returning jointly with the bold brass for a sadly short but still highly enjoyable ninety seconds of pure epic action. There’s even a excellent rendition of the Discovery theme at the end.
It became clear quite quickly as I first listened through this album that Russo’s compositional strengths lie in creating epic musical moments, and The Hull is no exception. Unlike with the previous two action tracks, this one injects a bit of tension into the mix with some rather perilous strings, and there’s a brilliant moment about two minutes in where said strings mix with the Discovery theme for a few seconds, and it simply sounds fantastic. The composer then channels a bit of Zimmer with the very Interstellar-esque Airlock, using an organ and the Discovery theme to create a rather epic but very tense two minute action cue. Things then slow right down for the concluding Ariam In Space, where the heroism is replaced by solemnity with slow strings and a much more pensive organ, and a piano plays a particularly mournful rendition of the main theme.
The action then returns in full force with Two Minutes, the rapid percussion kicking off straight away in tandem with several particularly epic brass-based renditions of the Discovery theme. In the final minute the music then takes a turn for the darker, with ominous brass and menacing strings taking over from the main theme to deliver a much more sinister tone. This is then continued in Failure, which starts with a rather frantic and worrisome strings-based opening minute before then moving right back into dramatic territory with loud percussion and near-heroic brass to perform the track’s very grandiose and “hope is not lost”-esque final minute.
The action-centric finale of the score then begins with standout cue Pike On The Bridge, a rather emotional and inspirational piece that utilises heavy strings in combination with low brass statements and fairly upbeat vocals to create a truly remarkable and very epic piece of music. And as if that wasn’t enough, we are then treated to the the icing on top of the cake as Russo expertly mixes the Discovery theme in with the continuing instrumentation towards the end of the track, making a fantastic piece of music somehow even better. With the inspiration delivered the composer then dives right back into the action with Ready, a loud, brass-and-vocal-heavy piece that quite simply goes all out in the most grandiose manner possible. It’s clear that Russo is pulling out all the musical stops for this finale, and as a result it sounds absolutely mind-blowing.
Time Traveler then slows the pace right back down, opening with very ominous vocals in tandem with loud and dramatic percussion before then moving into darker and more solemn territory with slow and pensive strings for the track’s middle minute. The tone then switches up again for the back half with the rapid percussion of previous tracks returning in full form in combination with a rather tense rendition of the Discovery theme. Goodbye, Pike then continues where the previous track left off, utilising a similarly anxious tone but this time injecting climactic strings and powerful brass to finish the action-heavy side of the finale.
Slow and pensive strings then open Spock’s Personal Log, which then gradually build up over several minutes with brass starting to appear in the background before we are treated to another fantastic rendition of the original Courage Star Trek theme. Percussion then joins the fray for the final minute as the Discovery theme is shown off once again in all its glory. To close up the album Russo has one final treat in store with Star Trek Discovery End Credits, a minute-long musical wonder that expertly combines both the original Star Trek and Discovery themes for a particularly epic thematic victory lap.
Overall, Jeff Russo’s score to season two of Star Trek: Discovery is simply phenomenal, and a marked improvement over the first season’s score. The main Discovery theme is used just enough to feel like a properly utilised main theme without overstaying its welcome, and that combined with several truly mind-blowingly epic action cues and some fantastic emotional moments makes the album a highly enjoyable musical experience. One criticism I do have is that the score could perhaps have done with a bit more thematic content (a villain theme or a proper motif for Captain Pike perhaps) but that doesn’t take away from the fact that overall, the album is truly great, and one that is well worthy of the Star Trek name.
Standout Cue: 30. Pike On The Bridge