Stephen Barton and Frederik Wiedmann’s score for the third season of Star Trek: Picard is utterly brilliant, and a spellbinding showcase of what the music for the show frankly should have sounded like in the first place. Gorgeous thematic reprisals and rich stylistic callbacks are amazingly abound in this two and a half hour Star Trek music extravaganza, and it’s just utterly captivating as a result. Stellar, even.
So the third season of Star Trek: Picard has been leaps and bounds better than seasons one and two, with one of the most enjoyable aspects being the music. Stephen Barton and Frederik Wiedmann have taken over compositional duties for this season – replacing Jeff Russo – and above all else seem to have brought an immense love and affection for all things thematically Star Trek to the series’ new music. Jerry Goldsmith, Alexander Courage, James Horner, Dennis McCarthy – they’re all here and here in spades, and the music just sounds so immense, so full of life, so fundamentally… Star Trek as a result. Take the first few cues of the album here for instance; ‘Old Communicator’ kicks the thematic reprisals off quietly with a gently serene rendition of the classic Alexander Courage Trek theme on strings, before ‘Hello Beautiful’ then harkens back to the musical style of James Horner – complete with flurrying strings and bold brass notes – while also teasing Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme, or The Next Generation (TNG) theme as it essentially later became.
The classically titled ‘Leaving Spacedock’ then brings the score to its first emboldened orchestral crescendo, with the TNG theme playing loudly and proudly on flourishing brass to start. As the track continues however the composers then introduce a brand new theme of their own making; an eight note motif for the U.S.S. Titan, the primary starship of the season. Now it’s a pretty memorable theme just by itself, but the absolutely exquisite use of a very James Horner-y musical style to essentially ‘launch’ the ship is what makes this track absolutely incredible overall, and ultimately sells this new Titan theme in about the most musically impeccable way possible as a result. I must say as well, Stephen Barton certainly proved a knack for emulating classic film composer styles with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (in emphasising John Williams) and he certainly seems to be doing so again here to amazing effect with Horner. What a track! Subsequent cue ‘I Like That Seven’ then briefly breaks the epic-ness with a quietly solemn rendition of the new Titan theme on strings, before ‘Breaking The Beam’ then kicks off the score’s first major action setpiece. Thunderous brass and frenetic percussion occupy the majority of the track’s four minute runtime, with tensions rising and the pace quickening throughout until the track then comes to a pretty dramatic finishing crescendo.
‘The Shrike’ then introduces a motif of sorts for the villainous Vadic and her supremely powerful titular ship. The music here plays quietly and ominously for much of the three minute cue, with quiet strings and moody electronics dropping hints towards a theme before loud brass then crashes out the track. ‘Picard’s Answer’ then continues the frantic action kick-started by ‘Breaking The Beam’ with loud bursts of brass hinting back toward that classic Jerry Goldsmith-esque Star Trek sound with short renditions of the Titan theme playing infrequently throughout. An absolute plethora of action cues then follow this excellent introduction, with ‘Call Me Number One’ kicking things off with frenetic strings and emphatic percussion, ‘No Win Scenario’ then building to crescendo with the Shrike motif held villainously high, ‘Blood In The Water’ hitting dramatically back with the Titan theme on loudly thunderous brass, ‘Let’s Go Home’ building tension again with increasingly frenetic orchestra and finally ‘Flying Blind’ then bringing it all to dramatic conclusion with the Titan and Shrike motifs locked in vicious orchestral combat togehter with several James Horner-isms until the track then closes on a particularly tense crescendo. All-in it’s got to be said, for a lengthy series of similar-sounding action cues this section of the score is actually a pretty entertaining listening experience, with the way the new motifs are fleshed out and the composers’ excellent use of orchestra being particularly standout.
A brand new theme is then introduced in ‘A New Family’. The track starts with a particularly victorious flourish of the Titan motif followed by a brief reprisal of Goldsmith’s TNG theme, before said new motif is then introduced at the 00:57 mark; it’s a rather gorgeous piece of music overall – played on simply luscious-sounding strings and brass – and it gets a happily lengthy introduction here, with the absolute cherry on top then being another playthrough of the TNG and Titan themes to crown off the pretty stellar track. Thematically though, this is only where the fun begins for the next couple of cues; subsequent piece ‘Klingons Never Disappoint’ for instance reprises none other than Jerry Goldsmith’s Klingon theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture amongst a frenetic action orchestral spread (complete with thunderous brass and percussion), with ‘Legacies’ then bringing thematic cameos galore with loving reprisals of Alexander Courage’s Original Series theme, Dennis McCarthy’s main motif from Deep Space Nine and even Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful theme for Voyager, and the new Family theme then bringing the track to a gentle strings-based close. A rapid pace then kicks into gear with action cue ‘Invisible Rescue’, with frenetic strings and worrisome brass locking the Titan theme and James Horner’s classic danger motif in frantic orchestral battle for the majority of the track’s three minute runtime.
Dramatic villainy arrives in the eight minute atmospheric setpiece ‘Dominion’; a rather eerie piano kicks off the cue, with serene strings then gradually picking up the pace for the first few minutes. As the track continues more and more instrumentation then starts to join the fray, all the time getting louder and more intense with emboldened brass eventually taking over the musical charge until a particularly malevolent crescendo is then reached to bring the cue to a emphatically villainously grand finale. The heroic counterattack then begins in the subsequent ‘Lower The Partition’ with the Titan theme building amongst hopeful strings and brassy bursts abound, before ‘Get Off My Bridge’ then unleashes the Family theme in a thunderously victorious rendition at spectacular volume to start, and then brings in the Titan motif once again to close out the track on a fist-pumpingly heroic finish. Another wondrous thematic reprisal then occurs in ‘Family Reunion’ as Goldsmith’s TNG theme finally plays again in full, gorgeously orchestral form (though still not for long enough) with Courage’s classic Star Trek motif reprising in similarly upbeat style in ‘Frontier Day’ on celebratory brass and strings.
Thankfully though we don’t have to wait around too long for the TNG theme to appear again. Action track ‘You Have The Conn’ for example teases it slightly with a short heroic rendition, but it’s subsequent and standout cue ‘Make It So’ where things then really get cracking. Courage’s classic Star Trek theme kicks off the track, with gently upbeat strings hinting toward things to come as the music then slowly starts to build. A little hint towards Dennis McCarthy’s Star Trek: Generations overture plays at the two minute mark, with brief reprisals of Goldsmith’s TNG and Courage’s classic themes following on initially quiet brass. From here though the track then just starts to go, with orchestra building, volume increasing and intensity reaching fever pitch until the TNG theme is then utterly unleashed in about as gloriously heroic a rendition as you could possibly get, I mean seriously. It’s absolutely. Utterly. Outstanding. You can tell the entire score so far has been building up to this one musical moment, and oh boy was it worth it. And the best part? This is only the beginning. From here the action finale of the score then properly begins, with track ‘Annihilate’ for example thundering along with frenetic brass and strings until a loud and very First Contact-esque rendition of the TNG theme plays right as the track crescendos. ‘Trust Me’ then pulls Courage’s Trek theme into the fight with a pretty spectacularly heroic rendition towards the end of the track.
As the album starts to draw to a close, the rather beautiful ‘The Missing Part Of Me’ slows things down in its first half with a rather downtrodden orchestral take on the Family theme before then building back up in the back half to loud orchestral epic-ness. ‘Must Come To An End’ then picks up where this leaves off with the orchestra now at grandiose fever-pitch, and from here until pretty much the end of the score now it simply doesn’t let up. ‘A New Day’ for instance reprises the Courage Trek, Family and Titan themes in loudly hopeful form on strings, with ‘Legacy And Future’ then lovingly bringing back Dennis McCarthy’s ‘To Live Forever’ motif from Star Trek: Generations alongside the Titan theme. ‘Names Mean Everything’ then grandly closes the chapter on the Titan’s epic story with the loudest, most thunderously triumphant rendition of its theme yet on fist-pumping brass, and to finish up the composers then have one last treat in store with final track ‘The Stars – End Credits’. The Titan motif makes a brief appearance at the start of this wonderful cue, but it’s the TNG theme that then takes centre stage as it reprises in its longest playthrough of the score on typically heroic and very Goldsmith-sounding orchestra. In essence, it’s a full new playthrough of the theme akin to the Trek movie end credits tracks of old, and so naturally is about as amazing a finale as you could get here really. Just brilliant.
Overall, Stephen Barton and Frederik Wiedmann’s absolutely astounding score for the third season of Star Trek: Picard is, quite honestly, exactly what the music for the entire show should have sounded like in the first place. Let’s start with the themes; there is a very clear love for all things musically Star Trek displayed throughout this utterly sublime two and a half hour album – complete with very Goldsmith-inian and Horner-esque stylistic quotes throughout – but it’s the way the themes are used, both iconic old and spectacular new, that are the absolute stars of the show here. Barton and Wiedmann expertly use all the classic themes you’d expect them to to stunning effect, teasing Goldsmith’s Next Generation theme in particular – the one they know we all want to hear – throughout the score until finally unleashing it in all its glory towards the end, and it sounds so utterly immense as a result. ‘Make It So’, ‘Annihilate’, ‘The Stars – End Credits’ – every time it appears, it just excels, and it appears in full as well, not just in tiny little cameos. We also hear a ton of other thematic material from Goldsmith, as well as motifs from Dennis McCarthy, James Horner and Alexander Courage of course, and the music just sounds so rich, so utterly Star Trek as a result. It’s truly spellbinding. The new themes too – Titan and Family being the standouts – also fit with the classic material here impeccably well, altogether weaving this immense thematic tapestry which combined with the excellent orchestral style make the composers’ work here an absolute triumph, from enjoyable start to impeccable finish. What a send-off!
Standout Cues: 32. Make It So/45. The Stars – End Credits
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One thought on “Star Trek: Picard (Season 3) – Soundtrack Review”
My favorite score of the year so far! And best Star Trek score in years (one of the best ever). Love all the call backs, but some of the cues enhance the originals. Love “Make it so” track! Thanks for the review.