STAR TREK: THE ULTIMATE VOYAGE

PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Keates

On a foggy, starless evening we found ourselves approaching London’s magnificent Royal Albert Hall. As we orbited the familiar gates of one of the world’s greatest performance venues, our eyes were drawn to one or two redshirts having a cigarette before they collected their tickets for Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage. We wondered if we were about to embark on an ill-fated away mission as befitted their destiny. But as we surveyed the not so alien landscape of Kensington, we didn’t need a tricorder to see we weren’t surrounded by the type of Star Trek fan that William Shatner may have once told to “get a life!”, but instead, a diverse collective of every walk of life with a passion and love for the music of Star Trek. Every now and then in the bars and box office, you couldn’t help smile hearing elderly men whistling the theme from Amok Time (brilliantly performed later that evening) or middle-aged women la la la-ing the Reliant battle motifs from Star Trek II (sadly absent from the set list). This wasn’t a geek fest, instead we were in a citadel for music lovers and as this evening would prove, how could anyone not appreciate the music of Star Trek?

Presented by CineConcerts, the evening warped through 50 years of well-chosen pieces of music composed for the Star Trek franchise, under the baton of conductor Justin Freer (CineConcerts founder and president), special guest composers Jay Chattaway and Ron Jones, and played to perfection by London Philharmonic Orchestra with several superb international guest players. Many would appauld the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, Dennis McCarthy, Leonard Rosenman, and Michael Giacchino as great composers of Star Trek and we feel it important to make a special mention to the late, great James Horner, who sadly passed away earlier this year. But, we’re sure none of these fine composers could have faulted the exceptional creative skill of everyone who brought both acts of this sensational music to life. 

From the moment the orchestra began to tune up, we knew we were going to be treated to an interstellar evening of sci-fi polyphony. Flutes trilled, trombones boomed, those familiar French horns came to life and finally the strings warmed around us in harmony with the entire orchestra ready for our epic voyage to the next musical frontier.

In one evening we were treated to a stellar setlist of twenty-nine pieces of music compiled from five series, twelve movies and even Ron Jones’ Opening from the first computer game to use a full orchestra, Starfleet Academy.

As each piece was played, an enormous 40ft screen would beam high definition montages from the history of Star Trek. The montages were occasionally affecting, particularly showing William Shatner climbing a cliff-face in Star Trek V juxtaposed with Chris Pine doing the same in the latest reboot played to Enterprise from ST: The Motion Picture. Sometimes we wished that the montages did not keep the booming sounds of starships passing or actors speaking during the numbers, as it would prove very distracting. We also wish the content was more relevant. It was irritating hearing the Deep Space Nine theme played whilst watching clips of Voyager. It didn’t seem right nor appropriate. A particularly moving montage entitled 2 B Human concentrated on Data and Spock, which with the recent death of Leonard Nimoy was particularly heartfelt whilst underscored to the magical Ba’Ku Theme from ST:Insurrection. Indeed, Nimoy was the last image we saw at the end of the performance, too. A beautiful touch. With so much of this music composed either for him as an actor or director, we found by the end of the evening the whole event had felt like it had been geared for us all to pay our respects and goodbyes to the great actor.

The least successful concept of the evening was between musical numbers, the screen would become a slow warping star field that would turn to different hideous shades of colour. Whilst watching this bad screensaver effect, we had no option but to listen to narration (who we believe to be by Michael Dorn, however he was not credited in the programme). These segments would be filled with contrived, over-egged aspirational speeches attempting to inspire us to believe in our dreams to captain the Enterprise and other such nonsense. There were some very heavy eye-rolls from the stalls. Each moment was written like a cheap Star Trek Christmas card, possibly made worse by the comparison of the breathtaking performances we had been enjoying compared to the speeches which would make an Enterprise script seem like Shakespeare in comparison.

The screen worked best of all when the producers decided to take a vignette of an episode or film and, instead of trying to cobble together contrived montages, allowed full moments to play out and give us a new dimension that we had certainly never experienced before on this scale, where we concentrated on the music and orchestra first and the action and dialogue second. This was brought to stunning dramatic life during Kirk’s “Risk is our business” speech from the Original Series, Sisco’s epilogue at the end of In the Pale Moonlight (DS9) and Janeway’s decision to stay about the doomed Voyager in Year of Hell (Voyager).

But the highlight of the evening was to have composer Jay Chattaway invited to the stage and play his suite from The Inner Light. To hear the entire piece played live by LPO, conducted by the great man who composed - what this writer feels - Star Trek’s most defining composition, orchestrated for a unique, haunting penny whistle to soar above and beyond the shifting, ever evolving currents of strings, piano and brass from major to minor; harmony and discord; The perfect metaphor for the music and ideals of Star Trek and indeed, this unique Star Trek experience. Set phasers to stunning and open hailing frequencies to book should it come around again.

STAR TREK: THE ULTIMATE VOYAGE begins a US and Canadian tour in January, see startrekultimatevoyage.com for details.


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