This post is part of the Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central so check out the amazing music posts that others have already contributed. When I first heard about the blogathon, I wasn’t sure that there was much I could add to the discussion, since most people seemed to be focusing on the original Star Trek series, The Next Generation, and their movies. However, I decided to shine a spotlight on the musical moments in my favorite series in the franchise: Voyager.
For those who don’t know, Voyager is Star Trek‘s incarnation of the Odyssey. Two crews are hurled into the unexplored Delta Quadrant, 70,000 light-years from home: the Federation starship Voyager led by Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and a Maquis ship of rebel freedom fighters, led by Chakotay (Robert Beltran). After their initial encounters with the native aliens leave them stranded, the two crews band together to make the long journey home. Like Next Gen, the somewhat stiff early episodes yield to better and better seasons, and it’s truly gratifying to see all the characters grow into a family. Many episodes rival the very best that Star Trek has to offer, but we’re not here to discuss every little thing I love about this series; let’s talk about the music.
One of the most obvious musical achievements is the opening theme song. While Next Gen recycled Jerry Goldsmith’s incredible score from Star Trek: The Motion Picture for its opening theme, Goldsmith provided an original theme for Voyager, which won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music. The soft trumpet and drums immediately set a mood of spacey grandeur, and the brass and strings mingle together as the essence of audible majesty, complemented by lofty shots of the title ship swooping through stellar phenomena. Between the music and the visuals, I firmly consider it the best opening of all the Trek series.
So, that’s the theme. What about the music in the series itself? All of it is excellent, but the most memorable new theme was introduced in the season 3 finale Scorpion, which was a turning point in the series and could be considered Voyager‘s “Best of Both Worlds.” The Voyager crew find themselves in the middle of the Borg’s losing war against an unbeatable super-race known as Species 8472. The music by Jay Chattaway is loaded with bombast, reminding the ear of the high stakes, and the seven forceful notes mix with the background music for a terrific small-screen action piece. You can hear it for yourselves here.
In addition to the instrumental scores, music played a special role in several episodes, particularly for the holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo), who developed a passion for opera. In addition, both Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine and Tim Russ as Tuvok showed their singing chops on occasion, and Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim periodically played the clarinet. Here are some of the most notable musical highlights:
- In the season 2 episode “The Thaw,” Harry Kim and Tom Paris debate where Harry should practice his clarinet without disturbing his neighbor.
- In the season 2 episode “Innocence,” Tuvok is stranded on a moon with three alien children and soothes them to sleep with a Vulcan “lullaby” of sorts called Falor’s Journey.
- In the season 3 episode “Remember,” Janeway is telepathically taught to play an ethereal-sounding new instrument.
- In the season 4 two-parter “The Killing Game,” a hunter race called the Hirogen brainwash the Voyager crew and make them take part in historical holographic violence. One holodeck is set in Nazi-occupied France, and Seven of Nine is a crooning serenader in a French bar.
- In the season 5 premiere “Night,” Voyager travels through a vast area of starless space, and in his boredom, Harry performs his own concerto called “Echoes of the Void” while on the bridge.
- In the season 5 episode “Counterpoint,” a paranoid, anti-telepath race repeatedly boards and searches Voyager, and its charismatic inspector flirts with Captain Janeway while blaring Mahler’s First Symphony during every inspection.
- In the season 5 episode “Bride of Chaotica!,” the show indulges in the classic cheesiness of the old Flash-Gordon-style science fiction and the exaggerated score reflects the over-the-top histrionics.
- In the season 5 episode “Someone to Watch over Me,” the Doctor tries to teach Seven of Nine social skills and seems to realize his attraction to her while they sing “You Are My Sunshine” together. During the poignant final scene, the Doctor also sings “Someone to Watch over Me,” alone.
- In the season 6 premiere “Equinox Part II,” a reprogrammed evil Doctor performs surgery on Seven of Nine, sadistically making her sing “My Darling Clementine” with him.
- In the season 6 episode “Barge of the Dead” (probably the worst episode of the series), we get to hear a traditional Klingon drinking song.
- In the season 6 episode “Riddles,” Tuvok becomes mentally damaged, and Neelix plays him a Vulcan funeral dirge, as well as jazz, which Tuvok surprisingly enjoys.
- In the season 6 episodes “Fair Haven” and “Spirit Folk,” the crew enjoy a holodeck program of a quaint Irish village, with accompanying Celtic background music.
- In the season 6 episode “Virtuoso,” the Doctor becomes a celebrity when he introduces music to a race that has never heard it before. Lots of opera in this one.
- In the season 7 episode “Homestead,” Neelix dances to some classic rock ‘n’ roll, and eventually Tuvok indulges him with a parting dance step.
- The series finale “Endgame” also won Jay Chattaway an Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition For A Series. Here‘s a taste of the underscore from both the pilot and the final episode.
There you have it. Star Trek: Voyager excelled at utilizing music both in the score and the storylines, continuing the musical legacy of The Original Series and Next Gen. I leave you now with the funniest musical moment from the series in which the Doctor’s operatic daydreams take a comical turn in Season 6’s “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy.”