“First Contact” (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)
Jerry Goldsmith scored humanity’s first meeting with an alien species with a cue that ranges from nearly religious awe to heartfelt, Aaron Copland-esque sentiment in a matter of minutes.
As the glowing Vulcan scoutship descends through the clouds (more modestly than but not altogether unlike the “mothership” in the John Williams-scored Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Goldsmith gives us numinous strings beneath hesitant variations on phrases from the film’s main theme in the brass.
When Earth’s Vulcan visitor first appears in the scoutship’s open hatch, a cymbal crash accompanies bolder brass. Like Zefram Cochrane, Lily Sloane, and their fellow post-apocalyptic humans, we sense we are in a truly otherworldly presence. Not until Cochrane walks forward to meet the Vulcan does the movie’s main theme re-emerge, from the French horns, fully formed—humanity embracing its destiny.
In their liner notes for GNP Crescendo’s 2012 issue of the movie’s complete score, Jeff Bond and John Takis say this of Goldsmith’s “first contact” theme:
"After its introduction during the main title, the composer holds this theme in reserve for moments of special significance, where it anchors the story’s lofty ideals. Its placid motion and warm harmonics suggest the grand moment in human history depicted at the film’s conclusion."
Another crash of brass and cymbal punctuate the Vulcan throwing back his hood, but the score doesn’t stay with dramatic grandeur for long. It returns into simpler, humbler lines as Cochrane, unable to return the Vulcan salute, offers a humble but genuine handshake.
Like his TMP score, Goldsmith’s First Contact score is full of memorable moments. But this music at its finish never fails to give me thrills.