Saturday, June 09, 2007

Star Trek: The Music

By MATT WEITZ / The Dallas Morning News

One good thing, apparently, deserves another. A little more than a year ago, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra presented a program based on the music of Star Wars at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. That two-night show was such a resounding success that the symphony had to add a night.

Bearing that in mind...the DSO undertook its own presentation of the soundtrack to a sci-fi phenomenon: Star Trek: The Music, which saw its world premiere Tuesday night at a comfortably full Meyerson.

John de Lancie and Robert Picardo narrated the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's Star Trek program, which explored the history of the series' music.

The two hosts seemed quite comfortable within the confines of the show, joshing with each other and dispensing behind-the-scenes trivia. Did you know that the familiar theme from the first mid-'60s incarnation of the starship Enterprise's voyages actually existed as the tune to an unsuccessful initial (and Shatner-less) pilot?

The trivia – and the thrill of seeing familiar video faces live and in person – was one thing. The frisson of hearing music that normally comes out of a subpar TV speaker re-created in a world-class concert hall was another.

Erich Kunzel led the rousing performance... Better still was the chance to hear the music from all of the concept's manifestations presented in one place, to trace the themes and differences that tracked not only the mutation of the concept, but the warp and woof of the society that drove those changes.

Mainline geeks probably know that the theme from the first Star Trek movie reappeared, slightly altered, for TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation , but to the less devoted (and costumed) that realization brought a nostalgic smile.

Brian and I had tickets to go to Wednesday evening's performance. Our orchestra seats put us front and center, with a clear view of the two 'Trek' stars. Luckily, those fans dressed in costumes were "upgraded" to seats behind the orchestra in choral seats. Trying to see around an Andorian's attenna or sit comfortably next to a Klingon (have you seen those pointy shoulder pads??!) would have been next to intolerable. Picardo (who played one of Brian's favorite characters, the Emergency Medical Hologram on Voyager) and De Lancie (one of my favs, the omnipotent egomaniac from Next Generation) were a delight to hear. Their script was witty and well written, and they seemed to enjoy being able to perform in tuxedos and not in front of a stadium full of Trekkies.

The program featured themes from the show's pilot, all of the original-cast movies and Generations as well as chronologically-appropriately placed TV themes including Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Interesting trivia:
(typing from memory, so if I'm wrong let me know)

  • John de Lancie almost didn't play Q. He was in a theatre production at the time and actually ditched his first audition for the character. His agent had to call and harass him into going. Gene Roddenberry apparently loved his screen test so much he re-arranged Next Gen's production schedule so De Lancie would have time to wrap up a tour in Japan of his stage performance. Thanks to the international dateline, the actor wrapped in Japan, flew back to L.A., got a couple hours sleep and went in to shoot Next Gen all on the same day.
  • During the third and last season of the original Star Trek series, the show's budget was so tight producers started limiting how often viewers actually got to see the transporter in action. Originally created because of the small budget, the transporter was a quick way to get crew members down to the surface of a planet without having to build models and other special effects every time. By the third season, even the familiar sparkling lights were too expensive, so Gene directed the camera at Scotty's face and let the engineer's button-pushing fingers and the sound of the transporter carry the scene.
  • Gene Roddenberry originally hated the score to the fourth Star Trek movie, The Voyage Home. He said it sounded like a campy co-ed flick. The movie went on to be a huge success, the favorite out of all the movies for some fans and proved that even-numbered movies are almost always the best.
  • Composer James Horner got his first shot at composing the score for a big-time movie with the Wrath of Khan. He would go on to write the scores for perennial favorites The Land Before Time, Field of Dreams, An American Tail and Titantic (among many others).
  • The character Spock was originally killed at the end of Wrath of Khan at actor Leonard Nimoy's request. Nimoy was tired of playing the logical Vulcan and said he would do so only if two things happened: Spock died at the end, and Nimoy would direct the third Star Trek movie, assuming another one was ever made. Two years later the studio decided it did want another installment, and Nimoy was brought on to direct. He also decided he was OK with playing Spock again, and thus came about The Search for Spock. To quote John de Lancie, "So Spock was never really dead, just 'movie' dead."

    To see a clip of fans at the DSO performance and audio of the symphony, click here.