3 best pieces of Star Trek music by Jerry Goldsmith

1/15/2000 Los Angeles, Ca Composer Jerry Goldsmith At Spago's Restaurant. (Photo By David Keeler/Getty Images)
1/15/2000 Los Angeles, Ca Composer Jerry Goldsmith At Spago's Restaurant. (Photo By David Keeler/Getty Images) /
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“Klingon Battle” (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979)

Viewers of TMP have already been treated to several minutes of Goldsmith’s music by the time TMP really gets going. His lovely theme for Ilia serve as the movie’s overture (TMP was one of the last Hollywood releases to have one). And the opening credits have rolled to the sound of Goldsmith’s brisk, martial march.

But then, as three dauntless but doomed Klingon cruisers attack Vejur, we are treated to a fabulous five-minute piece of music that not only enhances the onscreen action but also helped shape Klingon culture for the entire franchise.

The cue is full of percussive snaps and “clacks” against the orchestra’s pulsing string section, punctuated by a brash brass “hunting call” motif. It’s perfect music for a noble warrior culture. It’s so perfect, it would become the dominant Klingon theme for years. Goldsmith resurrected it for Captain Klaa in Star Trek V, and would feature it as a theme for Worf in the TNG movies he scored. And regular, early TNG composer Ron Jones all but quoted it note for note in his score for the show’s first Klingon-centered episode, “Heart of Glory.”

Amidst the drama and dread of the Klingon music, note how Goldsmith effortlessly transitions to a calmer, more ethereal style of music upon our first sight of Epsilon IX (00:02:43 in the clip above). The music reinforces the visuals’ notice that we are now dealing with the more serene and civilized Federation.

But as we see the Amar’s transmission on the Epsilon IX screens (00:03:29), the Klingon music returns. It’s briefly more subdued, but after a barrage of sound from the blaster beam gives voice to Vejur’s wrath, it returns full force, never letting up until the Klingons have met their doom.

Star Trek fans will often point to Goldsmith’s cue “The Enterprise” as TMP’s musical high point. And while the score accompanying Kirk and Scotty’s leisurely cruise around the Enterprise is exquisite, it can’t beat “Klingon Attack” for excitement, variety, and dramatic impact.