Michael Giacchino’s third musical contribution to the Star Trek franchise holds a solid and greatly enjoyable middle ground in his Trek trilogy; it’s better than one, but doesn’t quite reach the same heights as the other.
Star Trek Beyond is above all else a thematic experience, as it introduces a multitude of new themes to the Star Trek musical universe while at the same time making excellent use of the previously established motifs from both the original and “reboot” movies. This aspect of the score is introduced straight away in opening cue Logo And Prosper, which (in a similar manner to the previous two Giacchino albums) begins with a low and hopeful brass-based rendition of his usually thunderous Star Trek theme. This then breaks away into slightly more ominous-sounding territory with darkening strings before then moving back into said theme for the last few seconds of the track’s hundred-second runtime. As openings go it isn’t quite as strong as Into Darkness‘ (a pattern that will repeat itself a lot on this album) but it serves as an enjoyable and quite intriguing start all the same.
Thank Your Lucky Star is up next, and it’s here that we start to hear some of the new thematic content that the composer has lined up for us. Light and hopeful strings open the piece before seguing nicely into a rather peaceful rendition of the new Star Trek theme, played first on said strings, then again on piano before switching up to the usual brass and strings combination. Towards the end of the track the strings then move away from the Trek theme and start playing something entirely new; the Yorktown theme. It’s an elegant and rather wondrous motif composed to represent the visually stunning Yorktown space station in the movie. The theme gets a short introduction in this track before being fleshed out considerably in subsequent cue Night On The Yorktown, where dramatic vocals, rapid strings and deep brass give it the full showing off it deserves.
The score then starts to move into action territory with A Swarm Reception, kicking things off with loud, fast-paced percussion and particularly intense brass. This musical ferocity plays throughout the opening minute of the cue before then pausing for breath with a rather worrisome-sounding strings moment before then diving right back into the brass for the back half of the track. Hitting The Saucer Hard is where things really get interesting, as the composer treats us to a full six-minute-long action cue. The new Star Trek theme opens the piece in particularly dramatic form before the orchestra then gives us a surprisingly brief introduction to another of the album’s new motifs; Krall’s theme. As villain themes go its sadly the weakest of Giacchino’s Star Trek ones, but it’s still an imposing and (importantly) recognisable piece, so props to him for that. The motif appears sporadically a few more times in the track along with the new Trek theme, and these combined with the incredibly intense orchestration and a rather emotional finale make the track overall a pretty fantastic standout cue.
The last of the new thematic content then presents itself in Jaylah Damage, and unlike with the other two themes I honestly really struggled to pick it out here. Recognition-wise it sadly isn’t a particularly strong motif, however it does sort of make up for that by being very emotionally illustrative; essentially, through orchestration (primarily tribal-sounding percussion and solemn strings) it really captures the essence of Jaylah’s character, so I suppose that’s the important thing. The new Star Trek theme then returns in rather upbeat form in Franklin, My Dear, where it appears quite substantially first on strings and then moving into brass later in the track. If I’m not mistaken, Jaylah’s theme then appears once again on strings in the last thirty seconds or so, this time in a slightly more upbeat and hopeful manner.
Motorcycles Of Relief then kicks things right back into action with a particularly heroic rendition of the new Star Trek theme, this time played on brass with dramatic percussion backing it up. Things then take a slightly darker tone about midway through the track before the percussion begins to creep up again, strings emerge from the background and the brass reappears for a rather grandiose finish. Crash Decisions then increases the musical intensity considerably with several loud and powerful brass statements that almost sound like a theme of their own, which then intertwine with renditions of both the Krall and new Star Trek themes. Ominous vocals then start to appear towards the end before the track closes out with a victorious performance of the latter motif.
The action then takes a bit of a break before returning in full brass force towards the end of Shutdown Happens, before then culminating in (sigh) Cater-Krall In Zero G. Credit where credits due, Michael – you really do love your puns. Krall’s theme makes a rather moody appearance at the start of the cue before strings, vocals and dramatic brass then unleash a torrent of intense action for much of the piece, which then concludes in particularly heroic fashion with a startling rendition of the Star Trek theme. Things then calm right down for Par-Tay For The Course, which reintroduces the wonderful new Yorktown theme on piano before then moving into the new Trek motif, first on light strings before a loud and conclusive rendition to introduce the album’s final cue; Star Trek Main Theme. Aside from a few percussive and tempo-based changes this is pretty much just a re-recording of the main theme track from Into Darkness, but that doesn’t stop it from being both highly enjoyable and a pretty fantastic way to end the album.
Overall, Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek Beyond is nothing short of wonderful. Once again he utilises themes to great effect, bringing back his new Star Trek motif in glorious form while at the same time introducing us to a multitude of new ones. Of particular note is the Yorktown theme, a rousing and rather inspiring piece that never gets any less enthralling no matter how many times I listen to it (I should point out as well that it gets a full performance on this score’s deluxe edition in Yorktown Theme, which is also well worth checking out). While the album doesn’t quite reach the same heights that Into Darkness‘ score did, the new thematic content in combination with some truly remarkable action setpieces and many a heroic moment makes Star Trek Beyond a great addition to Giacchino’s Trek scores, and hopefully it won’t be the last.
Fingers crossed for a fourth movie.
Standout Cue: 6. Hitting The Saucer A Little Hard