It’s back to the small screen this week, for a listen to Dennis McCarthy’s soundtrack of ‘Broken Bow’, the Enterprise pilot episode.
We’d had Star Trek on screen, week in week out, since 1987 and there seemed to be a permanent appetite for more adventures. The producers boldly went where they had never gone before and created a prequel series in 2001 that would chart the birth of both Starfleet and the Federation. It would on occasion share more with Star Trek: First Contact than any of the other iterations but would soon find its own identity in the four years it was running.
And it remains a series that polarizes a lot of fans. While I’m not here to review it itself, it is interesting that it has received more than a few nods across other areas of Star Trek, none more so than Star Trek: Discovery and the Kelvin Timeline. Oh, and it also carries a theme song than is either loved or hated.
So let’s start there.
In 1998, award-winning American songwriter Diane Warren composed ‘Faith of the Heart’ for inclusion in the rather sweet Robin Williams movie Patch Adams and was recorded by rock legend Rod Stewart. It enjoyed a warm reception by critics and Stewart fans alike and reached number 3 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts the following year. Country star Susan Ashton also recorded the song in 1999 but to unfortunately less success.
Then it was re-titled as ‘Where My Heart Will Take Me’ and sung by tenor Russell Watson doing his best husky Rod impression for use as the main theme for Star Trek: Enterprise.
It was a brave choice to use a song over the main titles as oppose to a specially composed orchestral piece (which had been the norm for Deep Space Nine and Voyager whereas The Next Generation had used a splicing of Courage and Goldsmith) and in context it seems to work. We are presented with actual and fictional footage of naval/astral exploration throughout the opening credits as Watson sings of long roads, of nothing getting in his way, of going where his heart will take him, of faith of the heart and of touching the sky. The lyrics are in fact very Star Trek in their hopeful vision and it’s clear why creators/producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga chose it to symbolize Jonathan Archer’s leap to the final frontier.
The album, released by Decca in 2002, features the full album version of the theme as well as the truncated edit that was used on-screen (the latter ending the CD).
After the album version, we head straight into Dennis McCarthy’s score, a composer who was certainly no stranger to Star Trek by this time, having racked up well over 200 episodes across the franchise as well as his stunning work for Star Trek: Generations.
It starts off quite promising with the track ‘New Enterprise’ potentially wiping away any concern that this would be another wallpaper soundtrack.
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There are strains of what would become ‘Archer’s Theme’ and gives a hopeful, reaching melody interlaced with a harmonica (an instrument that hadn’t been heard in Star Trek since 1968 for Spectre of the Gun) signalling a young Archer’s dream of reaching the stars. But it soon gives way to a synthesizer-enhanced percussive piece as a Klingon makes his way through a cornfield. Again, McCarthy is going against type here with an upbeat and exciting cue. It’s not easily recognizable as a Klingon-inspired track, however, unlike Ron Jones’ approach for The Next Generation‘s ‘Heart of Glory’ that immediately captured portions of Goldsmith’s ‘Klingon Battle’ motif. Then we’re back with more variations of ‘Archer’s Theme’ for ‘Enterprise First Flight’, and McCarthy uses it again for ‘Breakthrough’, the latter subtly layered with Alexander Courage’s original fanfare. It’s this building on a central theme that looks to give the soundtrack to Broken Bow a far superior stance than other standard Trek fare. It allows Enterprise NX-01 her moments of glory.
But it all becomes a blur with the main body of the composition and before long we’re quickly and unfortunately back into long-noted, non-melodic strings and brass, completely atypical of this era of TV Trek. It’s such a shame because there was much potential here, especially with the arrival of new villains in the Suliban and the beginnings of temporal shenanigans. McCarthy could have created a soundscape that emulated the new visual effects on-screen, but no, it was obviously still the producers’ remit to have the blandness ‘supporting’ the story as oppose to complementing it.
But we’re saved with ‘New Horizons’ which drops the nondescript cues (including among others ‘Klang-napped’, ‘Phaser Fight’ and ‘Temporal Battle’) for the sound of hope once more. Naturally, ‘Archer’s Theme’ makes a reappearance and we’re also treated to brief strains of Goldsmith’s theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and McCarthy’s own Deep Space Nine main title. Then, in a coda that becomes the highlight of the entire album, the fully-bloomed ‘Archer’s Theme’ establishes a stunning melody – and when such a melody can easily be remembered long after the track has finished playing (I’m humming it to myself right now!) then the composer’s work has been successful.
As alluded to towards the very top of this article, Captain Archer has left a legacy across the Star Trek saga and so it’s fitting that his theme is uplifting and finds its way weaved throughout portions of this score. It’s just a shame that the rest of the music for ‘Broken Bow’ is so expectedly turgid.
Next time: Telarc’s Symphonic Star Trek.