REVIEW: Star Trek The Ultimate Voyage is a Must-see Orchestral Experience

“Star Trek The Ultimate Voyage” is the final frontier of the concert hall experience.

It’s a franchise that changed popular culture, spans 6 (+1) series and 13 films, and claims one of the most dedicated fanbases of all time. Is there truly a fully encompassing way to celebrate the legacy of 50 years of Star Trek? That’s precisely what “Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage” tries to do, and it succeeds through a fantastic, emotional, and beautiful orchestral experience.

On a Thursday night, I made the drive up the Peninsula from my workplace in Menlo Park to the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in the heart of San Francisco. As the home of Starfleet HQ, what better place to celebrate 50 years of Trek?

Despite the fact that I am an amateur classical musician (who doesn’t practice nearly enough), I hadn’t been to the concert hall in many years, so I was excited to don a tasteful dress, put on some fancy shoes, and hit the town. I didn’t quite know what I was about to see when I walked into the Hall, which was adorned with hangings written exclusively in Klingon. I’ve heard Star Trek music performed by a live orchestra before. It was fantastic, but I’d been bracing myself for something a bit more exciting after hearing all the rave reviews for “The Ultimate Voyage”.

“I guess they are going to use that big screen to show clips from Star Trek,” I thought. “Neat.”

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Boy was I wrong! Well, no, I mean they did show clips. But, it was so much more than that.

Act I opened with Jerry Goldsmith’s overture from the main titles of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra was on point, hitting every note, every musical cue, every sound effect just right. I was truly blown away.

From the moment the orchestra sang its first note, the hairs on my arms were standing straight on end, and they stayed that way pretty much throughout the two hour show. The orchestra reproduced perfectly the music from the films and television series’, but they did it live in a concert hall whose acoustics made the music wrap around you.

The accompanying imagery up on the big screen is a key part of the show, too. It’s not random clips, the video is timed to go perfectly with what the orchestra plays, an effect that was achieved much in the same way as is done when scoring music for films and television. The conductor had a screen in front of him keeping time and highlighting important parts of the music (in orchestral parlance, hits and cue streaks). This makes the film and music go hand-in-hand for a fully immersive experience.

Michael Dorn (Worf) narrates the show, introducing each series by listing off the characters each revolved around. A lot of time is spent with fan favorites from TOS and TNG, but DS9, VOY, and ENT get plenty of love, too. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Voyager, which was highlighted mostly through the episodes “Caretaker” and “Year of Hell” (the “Year of Hell” scenes and accompanying music were amazing and made me want a Year of Hell series even more!). But, I was pleased at how much screen time was afforded to Enterprise, which often gets left out.

One other nitpick I have is the repetition of a few key scenes. It seems to me that, with 50 years of material, there would be no need to use any one clip or moment more than exactly once.

Act I ended and went to intermission on perhaps one of the best cliffhangers of all time. The orchestra played Ron Jones’s “Captain Borg” from the Next Generation episode “Best of Both Worlds, Part I” along with clips from the episode reminding us of when we learned for the first time that Captain Picard had been taken by the Borg. The song ended and intermission began as Riker gave the order, “Mr. Worf… fire.”

Act II highlighted some series-defining moments, particularly for Deep Space Nine. The orchestra played the enchanting and eerie “I Can Live With It” by David Bell along side clips from “In the Pale Moonlight”.

Perhaps the most charming and emotional part of the night was the medley from TNG’s “The Inner Light”, which featured a spot on Ressikan flute solo along with some very touching scenes up on the screen.

From Enterprise, two key moments were featured from the show: a touching scene between Archer and Mayweather after the ensign learned that his father had passed away, and the beginning of the United Federation of Planets.

There was plenty of love for the Kelvin universe, too, with visual tributes throughout plus Michael Giacchino’s “Enterprising Young Men” from Star Trek 2009. Some of my favorite moments were when some clever editing blended the Prime and Kelvin timelines together. Prime Kirk is in a fight and, as a fist is flying toward him, a ninja edit lands that fist on Kelvin Kirk’s face.

All in all, I couldn’t recommend this experience more. It’s truly unlike anything you’ve seen before, and it makes you feel that sense of wonderment that you felt when you saw your favorite episode of Star Trek for the very first time. My rating: 5 stars, and ALL the goosebumps.

You can see where the traveling performance is headed to next and buy tickets at the official website.

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As a trained classical musician and lover of Star Trek I promise you don’t want to miss this. It was a great concert and wish I could go again!

I attended this orchestral experience when it was in Fort Lauderdale, FL and I have to agree, this is not to be missed. Truly a fantastic musical experience. I did get the CD’s because the selections are really excellent but being there and listening to it live is a must.

I really hate that I missed this when it came to Detroit, it looks most excellent. The only consolation is I got to listen to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra play a few Star Trek themes during the fireworks this year and I see that The Ultimate Voyage sells a CD compilation on their website. Hopefully they’ll come back around someday.

Will this be eventually put on DVD or blue ray?

Did they play dialogue from the video clips over the music? My only complaint when I saw the concert in Montreal was that the dialogue actually drowned out the music at times. I would have much preferred hearing the music alone.

Yeah that was the only complaint I had, too. The audio could be a bit more balanced at certain points.

Saw it in Texas, and while it was a technical marvel, syncing perfectly with the screen, and the music was wonderful, the venue wasn’t well suited for an orchestra and the music and effects and dialog from the films sounded better than the orchestra itself. I felt it should have been the other way around. I don’t know if they should’ve put the orchestra on mics or what happened, but the actual orchestra seemed muted. Regardless, it was a great evening celebrating Trek’s musical history and I highly recommend it should it comes to a venue near you.

I gotta disagree on the experience for this. At best, I would say this was an average effort for something that is supposed to be a tribute to 50 years of Trek. My wife and I excitedly bought our tickets for this months in advance to see it at The Paramount theatre here in Seattle, WA. We got all decked out in trek-inspired dress clothes and listened to our favorite Trek soundtracks while driving there. The venue was decent enough (although seeing this at Benaroya Hall would have been immensely better), and we had the privilege of sitting next to an adorable tween girl and her mom, the former of which had just recently been introduced to Trek and was an instant die-hard fan whom we loved chatting with beforehand. When the concert started up, we took a deep breath and settled in with huge smiles for what we thought would be an amazing night. But the first problem became painfully clear seconds into it: It wasn’t the full orchestra we expected and the music suffered as a result. The second problem came up minutes later: Why was the music set to seemingly random clips of all the series and movies? It was extremely disjointed and while we picked up on some themes we could tell they were aiming for, it lasted brief moments before we’d be thrown into another clip that didn’t seem to fit the music at all. The musical sections were timed to go along with different… Read more »

I agree with the mash-up clip stuff. Those really took you out of the piece being played by the orchestra. I think they would have done just fine if they did not feel it necessary to have a video going the entire time. There were pieces that didn’t need it. I guess I was fortunate in that the SF Symphony arranged the pieces nearly flawlessly. There was but ONE moment where the music was slightly different. Everything else was a perfect rendition. Jealous you got Mr. Jones to come out. No such luck in SF last Friday. And as I said before, the screen blocked 1/3 of the orchestra. But had I spent more money and sat lower I’m guessing that wouldn’t have been an issue. But even with the issues we both shared my take away was that it was still a good night out.

i saw the concert a few months ago at the beautiful fox theater in detroit. i thought it was very good but not great. i had good seats. main floor, center-ish about 1/3 of the way back. for me the screen was too small for the stage. i could see just fine but the visual aspect seemed underwhelming. the re-hashing of certain clips throughout the concert was a bit bothersome as well. there’s sooo much film available to cull from it seems odd to repeat even one thing, let alone several. the orchestra seemed too quiet. they were mic’d so maybe it was just a mix issue. the overall balance seemed fine but it just lacked some sonic power. overall it was worth the money and i’m glad i went but it had a few things that could have been improved on. solid b+.

Stealing the Enterprise

I saw this back in February at the fox theater!!! It’s an absolute must see!!!!

It’s a fail for me because they never bothered to book a concert in Minneapolis – St. Paul, a metro area of several million people!

We regularly go to the Orchestra in our city and we attended this. I’ve seen a lot of live performances from movies and shows and although it was nice to hear the music of my favourite franchise, it was not a very good show compared to others. Everything that was said was from prerecording, the conductor walked on and walked off without saying a word and they didn’t even play the right clips from the right shows for the music playing most of the time. It was cool, but it could have been done better.

It looks like more of a chamber orchestra. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. I missed the show in Seattle and definitely regret it. I saw the Sci-Fi at the Pops concert back in 2011 which was MC’d by Jonathan Frakes. Lots of fun.

Ok so how many stops in the UK?

I was at this performance at Davies Symphony Hall that was reviewed and agree with Kayla – don’t miss it, it was exceptionally well done. The few problems that I had with it is that you could see the conductor but you couldn’t see the orchestra very well during the performance (I would have liked to see more of the musicians’ technique as they played) and The Original Series Theme was covered in the encore as they showed behind the scenes photos from all the series in black and white on the screen, using an arrangement that John Williams used in one of his SF compilation albums with the Boston Pops Orchestra, I would have preferred another version closer in tone to the original soundtrack.

Was good to see that Trek Fans still can fill a hall of Symphony priced tickets and long lines for the green screen “picture of me on the Bridge” booth!

I saw it when it was in New York City at The Theater at MSG. It was amazing!

I went to the 2nd performance in The City on Friday. My review was mixed. The orchestra, as usual, was incredible. I was not, however, a huge fan of the montages they showed on the screen. They included dialog and sound effects. Which took away from the orchestra. This works fine when playing the score to scenes. Which they did do some of. But not for the generic pieces. I was up in the cheap seats so that probably contributed to this next complaint… But the screen covered up about 1/3 of the orchestra! The horns and percussion sections were completely hidden. Not what I expect when I go to a symphony. I want to see the musicians and I enjoy watching what sounds are coming from what section. Perhaps that was my punishment for buying the cheap seats. But it would have been nice had the screen been about 10-15 feet higher than it was.

But it was still a nice event overall and in spite of those issues I am glad I went and enjoyed an evening in The City.

No stops in the UK.. hmph

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