The Sound of Star Trek Part 13: The Best of Both Worlds


We are the Borg. This week, your musical distinctiveness will be added to our own. Objection is irrelevant. Other reviews are irrelevant. Resistance is futile.

For Part 13 of this continuing series we take a look at the score to the Emmy award-winning two-parter ‘The Best of Both Worlds’, composed by Star Trek: The Next Generation stalwart Ron Jones.

It’s incredible to think that this year sees the 30th Anniversary of the Borg debut. They first appeared in ‘Q Who’ in May 1989 but a precursor to their threat was felt in the 1988 episode ‘The Neutral Zone’, in which they were originally slated to appear. An impending Writers Guild of America strike that year meant their assimilation had to wait.

Nevertheless, their debut left fans clamoring for more and no one was disappointed when we were witnessed to the Enterprise-D’s Away Team beaming down to the Federation outpost New Providence and finding it had been scooped up like it was ice-cream. From that moment on, the stakes raised in virtually every scene right up until that end-of-season cliffhanger. Thirty years later it still gets me and my threat ganglia hits overdrive.

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Ron Jones started his career while studying at the Dick Grove School of Music, winning commissions with NBC and Hanna-Barbera to write themes and incidental pieces for various television series including The Flintstones and Scooby-Do. He found further exposure when he moved on to work for Mike Post and Pete Carpenter (two names that shined bright in my own 80s TV heaven) on The A-Team and Magnum P.I.

Jones had something of a fractious relationship with the producers of TNG. As noted elsewhere,  melodic scores for the series was something that Rick Berman avoided and Jones’ exciting, action-driven style was phased out from the fourth season onwards. I’ve always thought this was a shame. It goes without saying that TNG was phenomenally successful and is still very popular, so the fact that its music was on the whole pretty tepid had no bearing on that success. So what do I know?

GNP Crescendo have always done Star Trek proud and their two releases for ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ are no exception. Forming ‘Volume 2’ of their TNG range, It first saw the light of day 1991 and then as a remastered, extended edition in 2013, even though there is literally only a few minutes additional music featured on the latter.

The album opens with the TNG main title: a blending of Alexander Courage’s original fanfare with Jerry Goldsmith’s theme from Star Trek – The Motion Picture. It’s always sounded a little too much on the treble side for my ears and also a smidgen too fast, but having lived with it since 1987 it does have a wonderful charm all of its own, so all is forgiven.

Then we launch headlong into a chilling and thrilling escape into Borg territory. This isn’t an underscore, it’s a full-fledged pseudo-movie soundtrack. I have to say it’s not at the level of Goldsmith’s subsequent work on First Contact, but it really sets itself apart from the music for other shows of the era, especially that composed for TNG. To be  honest, that probably goes for the actual show itself, too. What comes to mind is Paramount’s other million-dollar baby, Mission: Impossible. That underwent a TV relaunch in 1988 as a sequel to the 60s original and it’s bloody awful. And the music? I think they gave it to the local kindergarten to play on their battery-driven Casio keyboards. Thankfully, the TNG guys took more care and paid more attention to the overall end result. That may also explain why TNG ran for a full seven seasons while M:I lasted just under two.

Anyway, back to Wolf 359.

We are introduced to a number of gentle motifs that play slightly with the atonal construct of the score. ‘New Providence’ and ‘Hansen’s Message’ are key to the menace that the Enterprise crew know is on its way and also emphasize Commander Shelby’s almost fanatical desire to push Riker out of the way to get to First Officer rank. It’s a nice subtle analogy to the Borg’s unrelenting desire to assimilate.

Jones utilizes synthesizers to bring voice to proceedings, which really underpins the fused nature of the Borg Collective itself when played in conjunction with the small orchestra.

And it’s these themes for the Borg where the score succeeds. ‘Borg Take Picard’, ‘On the Borg Ship’ (which was written for but not used in the episode) and of course ‘Captain Borg’ really get into the swing of the action and we have great use of the string and brass sections here. There’s a desperation to the music, certainly in the first half of the album, and for the scoring for ‘The Best of Both Worlds, Part II’ is as if the orchestra is coming down bad from a high. And that makes sense: we have an unreachable captain, an unbeatable foe and a devastated Starfleet in Sector 001, so the music isn’t exactly going to go all Mary Poppins on us anytime soon.

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We are more focused for Part II, more introspective and I enjoyed the thematic approach Jones uses here. With Ron Jones leading us into battle, we grow concerned that perhaps Picard won’t make it, that Patrick Stewart has actually hung up his spacesuit for good.

Even with the resolution that we do finally get, we know Picard has suffered and will continue to suffer.

Yes, after ‘Family’ and not until First Contact, Picard always straightens his tunic and makes it so. And not long after, the Cardassians put him through hell, probably more than the Borg Collective ever did – but it’s these two episodes here that put TNG on the map and took it far and away from anything TOS achieved.

The Borg truly were engaged and wouldn’t be as utterly and truly nightmarish again until Jonathan Frakes stepped into the director’s chair in 1996.

Related Story. The Sound of Star Trek Part 12: Varese Sarabande’s Star Trek. light

We have Ron Jones to partially thank for making them unique adversaries and with a TNG score as grand as this, resistance really is futile.

Next time: Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek – The Motion Picture.