26 years after the launch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, we look back at the music from that initial pilot episode, Emissary.
Chosen to bring musical life to Deep Space Nine was Dennis McCarthy, already a Trek veteran with a number of soundtracks for The Next Generation to his name. He scored that series’ pilot, too, so he seemed a natural choice to do the same for this latest interpretation.
Anyone familiar with the musical style of the Star Trek’s television output from 1987 to 2005 will be aware of its use as an underscore as oppose to being in the prominent role of the ‘unseen character’ that, I personally think, a score needs to achieve. Producer Rick Berman was quoted in a 1997 edition of Star Trek Communicator saying that he wanted music in the shows to be ‘wallpaper’ and this prevalent in the execution of melody and momentum.
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The score to “Emissary” does, sadly, fall into this same bracket and the soundtrack was released by GNP Crescendo Records on CD and cassette in 1993, with a CD single of the main title to accompany the album. As a ‘sit down’ listen, it’s not particularly comfortable on the whole and, ironically, is better served as background music while you’re doing other things! But, that being said, it’s probable that the wallpaper approach actually works in the context of the ethereal nature of the storyline.
McCarthy was given the opportunity to composed the main title and one cannot argue over its majesty. Yes, it’s a slow, melodic piece driven by brass (later seasons saw the introduction of a percussive rhythm) and and McCarthy takes the idea of a virtually isolated and vulnerable Federation outpost and turns it thematically into a place of hope and empowerment. It’s this theme that lifts the score itself above the standard fare and, while used sparingly, definitely gives highlight to proceedings. Both television and single versions are featured on the album and while the latter is welcome, out of context as a single, it lacks some of the grandeur it offers.
The action-oriented opening of the pilot episode itself recounts the epic battle of Wolf 359 – you know the one, where a certain starship captain was assimilated by the Borg and proceeded to decimate Starfleet’s greatest – but McCarthy doesn’t capture the excitement of Ron Jones’ score for “The Best of Both Worlds” and the result is somewhat flat although it tries hard to maintain the space battle premise.
The same can be said for the remainder of the score but, as already alluded to earlier, the otherworldly plot means that the penchant for discordant strings and brooding synthesizers give a good feel to both the Celestial Temple and to Sisko’s conflict of duty as a Starfleet commander with his designation by the Bajorans as their emissary to the Prophets, the beings named simply as the ‘wormhole aliens’ by the Federation.
Stand-out tracks here are unfortunately sparse but ‘Bajor/Jake/Saying Goodbye’ makes nice use of a blend of the Alexander Courage fanfare and the DS9 theme itself and there’s an eccentric synthesizer-only piece, ‘ Cucumbers in Space’, that was featured in scenes set in Quark’s bar.
Overall the score is mediocre, which is a great shame for a pilot, yet it does in its own way give familiarity and we know we are watching Star Trek, no matter that the uniforms are different, that the sets are new and the threats are coming to us (as oppose to us going to them). In all, this is a nice addition to any Star Trek soundtrack library but probably for completists only.
Next time: Star Trek – The Symphonic Suites