Great Links: Deep Thoughts On TMP Score & TOS Minimalism + more

Often TrekMovie brings you links to the humorous trivial Trek, from LOL Cats meeting Trek to silly viral videos. Today we have links to some more serious takes on Trek. First up a recently unearthed and very thorough analysis and history of the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. We also link to an interesting look at the ‘minimalism’ of Star Trek TOS.



Analyzing Goldsmith’s TMP Score

Although Trekkies can debate the merit’s of the first Star Trek feature film, Star Trek The Motion Picture, few disagree that Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-nominated score was a triumph. Now our friends at Film Score Monthly have unearthed an interesting and detailed analysis of this score. FSM have published "Anatomy of a Film Score: Star Trek: The Motion Picture", 175-page undergraduate thesis (CLICK FOR PDF) by composer, orchestrator and violinist Cameron Patrick, written in 1986. It contains detailed breakdowns of the score’s history, instrumentation, themes, cues and more. FSM has also published a new introduction by Cameron Patrick, and a foreword by
FSM’s Lukas Kendall
. Here is just a tiny excerpt:

In the case of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the director Robert Wise and Goldsmith had previously worked together (in 1966 on The Sandpebbles), so a working relationship was already established. Wise came to Star Trek with wide experience the genre of screen musicals. Preston Jones relates this experience to Star Trek with the comment: "Goldsmith’s score …is such a prominent feature of Star Trek’s screen dramatics that the film might also be called ‘ Robert Wise’s third musical,’ after The Sound of Music (1965) and West Side Story (1960)"

Goldsmith describes working with Wise on Star Trek as follows:

Most directors find it really difficult to communicate with you in musical terms, but Bob is such a pro [and has] done enough films that he can express musically what he wants. It may take a while — we were going around in circles with each other for the first month or so — but then, after we got into the groove again, we could really get across to each other.

Read the full PDF of "Anatomy of a Film Score: Star Trek The Motion Picture"

The Minimalism of the original Star Trek

It can certainly be said that the look of the original Star Trek is unique. Now in a new essay at Bright Lights Film Journal, professor Mervyn Nicholson takes a closer look at the show, in context of other sci-fi and future Trek shows, and sees Star Trek as an example of the minimalist style, and not just in design. Here is just a quick snippet of the lengthy essay:

There is a word for the Star Trek style, and that is "Minimalism" — which I mean as a technical term, the designation of a certain style. Minimalism brings with it a complex of values that are also notable in the original Star Trek. There is no doubt that budget constraints shaped the style, but ultimately the Minimalist look has nothing to do with budgeting. The look of Star Trek is Minimalist through and through, even including the somewhat elaborate bridge set (with the "con"), where Captain Kirk issues commands and supervises the starship. Successor shows and movies, by contrast, could hardly be less Minimalist in their art direction, style, and lighting.

Go to the Bright Lights Film Journal to read the entire "Star Trek: Minimalist Magic" article.

More Deep Trek Thoughts:

Star Trek has inspired quite a lot of analysis down to the minutiae of ship layouts and up to the lofty themes and messages being conveyed. Two of my favorite Trek sites delve into each and although I don’t always agree with the conclusions, I always enjoy reading and being given something to think about. I recommend you visit these sites as well:

  • The Soul of Star Trek blog by William Kowinski offers thoughts on a wide array of Star Trek and sci-fi topics, often dealing with themes and meanings.
  • Ex Astris Scientia site by Bernd Schneider offers both a database of Star Trek ships and technology and more, along with regular updates with new analyses of every little nook and cranny of Trek.


Not Deep: O’Brien Photobomb

If you are not inclined to do any deep thinking on your Star Trek, then here is something simple for you. The ‘O’Brien Doesn’t Approve’ photobomb, which showed up this week at This is Photobomb.

Miles is not amused


Thanks to Lukas and Greg for links

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Minimalist = No budget

Big Budget = little interest in developing character or story

What’s this photobomb thing?

The mimimalist aesthetic worked pretty well, especially on such a tight budget. Lighting seems to be the key. TNG had great sets, but the flat lighting took a little bit away from it.

The “TMP” score set the standard for Trek music. “TWOK” and “First Contact” were the other great ones. Michael Giccino did a good job for his first Trek score, but isn’t up there with Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner yet.

I disagree. Minimalist does NOT equate to no budget. If you read The Art of Star Trek (second time I’ve mentioned that this week), one the things Matt Jeffries wanted to take into account when designing the Enterprise was that everything should be accessible and maintainable from inside the ship, so you wouldn’t have to don a space suit to fix something. Hence the clean look of the ship exteriors and, eventually, the “Jeffries Tube”.

The design of the bridge hasn’t changed much in all of Star Trek’s time. Sure, the general aesthetic has been brought more up-to-date with each iteration, but the layout has remained much the same. And why would they change it, when various branches of the military have actually based their own, real-world designs on the bridge of the 1960s TV Enterprise bridge? There’s no better compliment than that.

Dig it. Dig it. Look forward to this TMP score article. Right up my alley. Plus the TOS minimalist story looks interesting. Let you know on both.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – THE GREATEST STAR TREK MOVIE OF ALL TIME !!!

As for ‘Trek scores, my personal favourite is Cliff Eidelman’s score for The Undiscovered Country (which is also my favourite film of the franchise), and my most disliked is the one from The Voyage Home. Every other score has been great, with the exception of the TNG-era movies, not that they’ve been bad. They’ve just been a bit more forgettable.

I love Giachinno’s work, especially his soundtracks for “The Incredibles” and “Speed Racer”, but was disappointed by his soundtrack for “Star Trek” – by his own admission, he was intimidated by this particular assignment, and didn’t even want to borrow from the original theme until the end of the movie when he had “earned the right”.

It’s interesting that he won the Oscar for his soundtrack for “Up”, though, and I wonder what the timing was on the writing of that soundtrack vs. the writing of the ST soundtrack, since both movies came out at nearly the same time – could his work on “Up” taken anything away from his work on “Star Trek”?

Speaking of Oscars, how weird is it that when ST finally wins an Oscar, it’s for “Makeup” – in a movie where the makeup really didn’t seem all that outstanding or unusual; I mean, the only really new thing we saw was the makeup effects used to show a beaten-up Jim Kirk. ;)

I don’t like Goldsmith’s Star Trek music too much. It’s rather pompous sounding. Nice music in and of itself, but way too reflective of certain people seeing Star Trek as something more than it is! I liked Horner’s work on STII and STIII a lot better.

P.S. Thanks Philip for reminding me about Eidelman’s ST6 score – I loved it too, and I can remember, as the theme first came on the screen how it filled me with a feeling of foreboding; it really evoked a sense of “this is the end of all things”. My now-ex-wife, OTOH, thought he was just ripping off the Batman theme from two years earlier.

Agree with you on Rosenman’s ST4 score as well – he’s a solid writer (he wrote the theme for the old “Combat” series, BTW, and if you ever watch an old episode of that, you can hear a lot of echoes of ST4 even back then) but it just didn’t mesh with Star Trek.

Finally, I think it’s significant that of all the themes, it’s Goldsmith’s TMP theme that survived all those years, from 1979’s release of TMP all the way through 2002’s Nemesis, with the TNG version of the theme mixed in there. His theme became as synonymous with Star Trek as Courage’s themes, which is saying a lot.

I don’t think Miles has a problem with what he’s seeing… and he’s certainly getting a good look at it!

one aspect of the new movie that sucked. the music.

The next Star Trek film will have the greatest soundtrack ever composed for a Trek film. Otherwise, why bother?

Jerry Goldsmith’s score is one of ST-TMP’s true triumphs. I agree that the main title overture/Enterprise theme may seem a tad overdone to some audiences, they still work very well overall. And his music for the V’ger cloud sequence is hypnotic. I received the 25th anniversary CD for a gift some years ago, and still play it quite often.

As for any comparisons to James Horner’s Wrath of Khan music? It’s apples and oranges to me; two very different kinds of music for two very different kinds of movies. Comparisons between the two are irrelevant to me.

As for the Trek minimalism? Despite the low-tech, audibly tabulating, noisy computers (which are laughable today, I freely admit), I think the clean, uncluttered aesthetic still works (more or less) today because a lack of ‘overtaken plumbing’ in the scenes makes the show seem more clean and ‘future-proof’. It’d be interesting to see how audiences 25 years from now look upon the more recent Star Trek sets (hopefully, they will just as charitable, as the white plastic and icy-blue LEDs of the i-Mac look will no doubt seem quaint to audiences of 2035, I’d imagine)! ; )

In “Metamorphosis,” even Zephram Cochrane remarked on how much he liked the “clean, spartan” designs of the TOS technology. In the 1960’s, “simpler” was considered more futuristic – the less moving parts a device had, for example, the more advanced it was considered to be. TOS reflected this ideology, which seems to have completely reversed nowadays.


For once, I actually agree with you. Technology is going the way of minimalism. Look at the iPhone, it’s a black/white brick with a single visible button at first glance. I love it. Cleanliness, efficiency, it’s something I would think would become a standard in the future. “Less is more” and whatnot.

One thing that always bugged me was the useless LCARS buttons. What do they do? What do they mean? Yes, they’re numbers, but give them a FUNCTION.


11. My pleasure to remind you of that score! I, too, liked the darkness it conveyed. The movie was cut to Gustav Holst’s “The Planets Suite”, and you can hear some similarities with “Mars, the Bringer of War” – give it a listen at . I can recommend the rest of the suite, too, but this is easily my favourite piece from it. You’ll especially see what I mean about a minute-and-a-quarter in when it “peaks”.

As for the Goldsmith themes, I loved the TMP theme – I loved how “alien” it sounded, how slightly perverse everything was, and I thought it went with what we saw on screen so well. However, as an overture, I preferred how it worked in The Final Frontier, intermixed with the Klingon theme which we’ve now come to know quite well. That particular piece of music just suits the Klingons so well. Some would argue that the music for ST:V is about the best thing about the movie.

Just goes to show that if you have a good story and character development, there is no need for all the visual glossy stuff (JJ and Trek 2009 please take note).

I have read that Gene Roddenberry originally wanted Goldsmith to create the theme song for the original Star Trek TV series, but as he was busy Goldsmith recommended Alexander Courage for the job.

The guy who wrote the music piece had access to Preston Jones’ 1600 page TMP manuscript! GEEZUS, that is THE unavailable piece of trek journalism, I’ve been waiting to read that since hearing before TMP came out that it was supposed to appear (in shorter form) in CFQ in early 1980.

Screw this haynes guide business, give us THIS if you want to give us a real trek nonfic tome!

Goldsmith’s TMP score was great.

The minimalism of TOS is part of its timeless beauty.


Agreed. Apple seems to have taken a less is more inspiration from the TOS designs… or at least a revision of 60s futurism. While I think the company’s “Mac genius” culture is a breeding ground for today’s pompous, turtleneck-wearing metrosexuals, I do appreciate the clean lines of their products.

Don’t worry, this pompous, turtleneck-wearing metrosexual won’t take offence to what you just said.

“The minimalism of TOS is part of its timeless beauty.”

Well said.


Good boy, Phillip. Your tolerance for the stereotyping of the weaker segments of society is a credit to the new sensitive man. Now tell Steve Jobs and he’ll give you a low-carb biscotti.

The TMP music was the best.
“Life is a dream”, what a perfect title for the Enterprise theme. I loved the recycled TNG version. “Encounter at Farpoint” was the first Star Trek I saw.
Thanks to Deforest Kelley’s Admiral (McCoy) I fell in love with the ship as a character. That is one reason for enjoying the TMP Theme. I also love the honouring of Courage’s theme. The teacher honouring his pupil. :-)

@7: Apparently it was Roddenberry’s favourite too. Well, it seems he disliked the TOS-movies after that, because of their militaristic parts among other things.

Miles doesn’t give two hoots about the chicks; he actually sizing up his chances of being able to purloin that bottle of beer without being caught.

26. And your ability to stereotype fits right in with the non-philosophies delivered by Microsoft: non-creativity, conformity, and general unreliability.

Also, it’d be nice if you could spell my name correctly.

The “minimalist” look of original Trek makes it look all the more futuristic to me forty years later than the steel plate/nuts and bolts look favored by Nick Meyer in the film series. The data discs, communicators, sets, and uniforms all foreshadowed today’s technology, without the gritty submarine look Meyer says was his influence.


Philly baby, spelling ain’t the issue you here. We’re talkin’ computers. Besides, I happen to be (drumroll) a Mac user. I mean, I may like the design and efficiency of OSX over anything coming down the Microsoft assembly line, but that doesn’t mean I have to CONFORM to the self-important Mac culture.

By the way, I agree with everything you said about Microsoft as well. Oh no! Now I’m the tolerant one.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Another comment from you that I completely disagree with.

Jerry Goldmsith was one of the best film compsosers ever and his music was excellent for Trek.

I am sorry but we seem to like always disagree.

Jerry Goldmsith and James Horner’s scores are better than Michael Giacchino’s score.

Personally, I hope “minimalism” doesn’t catch on, unless it truely IS a matter of limited budgets. The modern CGI era is simply too beautiful to leave behind. The sheer “look” of the modern sherlock holmes, & the wolfman movies was positively hypnotic.”Minimalism” would have destroyed those movies…Avatar too.

I think Avatar looks cruddy, personally. However, you’re right: minimalism doesn’t work for everything. It worked for Star trek. It wouldn’t have worked for another one of Ridley Scott’s movies: Alien. HR Giger’s style is pretty far from minimalism. It is distinctive, and it does look amazing, and that movie still looks great today.

Your modern CGI era is great for presenting whole cloth fantasy environments like afterlifes in LOVELY BONES and WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, but for selling a believable photorealistic futuristic environ, I’ll take the wealth of convincing detail presented traditionally in 2001 over it anytime.

The scarcity of consistent CGI and overreliance on same for nearly all effects shots instead of selective use for best effect, along with the trend to use too many shots to tell the story — which again decreases quality since your effort on making any given shot excellent is lessened — makes me think that whatever advances in rendering speed take place, that it won’t catch up with the idiotic demand for a greater number of cuts in a sequence.

As an aside, the lack of minimalism in the most recent Star Trek movie probably contributed to a lot of people disliking the aesthetic. Engineering based in a brewery? Fine if you’re going for a look reminiscent of the Titanic, but different to what was expected, and not at all what people liked. Bar code readers, spurious, unexplained added stations and perspex “tactical” screens? All appendages, unless you’re on a submarine, or the set of CSI, rather than a starship based 200 years in the future. In Star Trek’s case, the uncluttered look worked BECAUSE it was futuristic, not despite it.

What’s that dandelion-looking thing in the photo icon for this story? And why are Kirk and Spock looking/thinking about it?

I still think CGI will perform the best in full-scale representation of futuristic realism. Its’ performance of historical realism in sherlock & wolfman was convincing (to me anyway). True, there still has to be a “story” to tell, not just alot of frantic activity to fill up the screen & kill time.

I want to see a story that is set upon an earth as descibed by william michael mott (of underground dwellers fame) AND zs livingstone according to his discussion of the OAHSPE book. This would be a story of an upper/middle/lower earth involving MANY humanoid species besides mankind (some of which are our natural predators). This would be a world that more “primative” shamanistic cultures would readily recognize. CGI would DEFINITELY have to portray it.

something a bit “enticing” about the photo used in this article..It looks like something Kirk would enjoy…

ok trekkies,

here’s an article about the serious, deep side of the Star Trek you love, just so you can comment your meaningful thoughts and involve in lenghthy debates and show each other how intelligent you are…..

And then just to show you how short you attension span is here’s a bad quality pictures of some drunk people. have fun.

Minimalism. Not for the graphics-fanboys.

TOS has so much in common with stage performances, and the minimalist approach just accentuates it. It’s theater, through-and-through.

40 – can’t imagine twat you mean…

I also love the simplicity of the TOS sets: this was kept in TNG and to some extent DS9 – despite the much bigger budgets. I also agree with those who say that the weakest parts of Star Trek 2009 were probably set design and music.

Regarding set design, whilst Nero’s ship looked good, the Enterprise herself, a character in her own right, looked rather less good. The external ship was nice and somewhat reminiscent of the original; but I probably would have used a model: they just look (and are) more ‘real’. The internal ship was pretty weak. Instead of a towering, humming, warp core with masses of computers and technicians in white (a la TWOK) we got Scotty, by himself, in a brewery. Literally, in a brewery: not good. There were overarching library lamps and bar code readers on the bridge… Please get rid of these spurious additions for the next film, chaps.

Regarding music, the music was reasonable. The ‘Enterprising Young Men’ track was pretty good; it was, however, played too often. The soundtrack lacked variety. Horner told the story of the film with music throughout: Giachinno restricted himself (or was himself restricted) to certain moments, such as the death of George Kirk. The soundtrack was a little generic and lacked the ‘wow’ factor that Horner and Goldsmith delivered. Having said that, Giachinno’s score was not bad. And he had, perhaps, the hardest job of all. For there have seldom been great Star Trek films; but there have seldom been bad Star Trek musical scores. Giachinno, therefore, had more competition and higher standards of expectation. Speaking of music, let’s see more Trek themes in the next film. What about the TMP theme? Or the Klingon Theme (if relevant)?

To a certain degree, the sets and staging of TOS were like what goes on in a Radio drama, or a stage play. When you merely “suggest” something and lead the audience (“The act or state of HEARING” – Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary) to fill in the details, it can become far more “real” than anything you actually show them.

This is why, for example, the original “Star Wars” (Episode IV), comes across as more real to me than Episode III. III puts me in the scenery, while IV puts me in the STORY.

As far aqs budgets are concerned, they aren’t necessarily a valid reason for minimalism. But they ARE often the best reason for a film-maker to carefully examine his/her choices before putting something on film.

(And speaking of “suggesting” things, exactly who IS that standing behind Kirk and Spock?)

Jerry Goldsmith had the best Star Trek music. Unfortunately he scored some of the least popular movies, but his music was always one point people point out as a high point (The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, for example). He finally lucked out with First Contact, which was popular. I wonder, if he were still alive, would Abrams have tapped Goldsmith for Star Trek (2009)? I have no doubt Goldsmith would have provided an incredible score. I liked Goldsmith’s music in other movies as well, such as Planet of the Apes, Alien, and Poltergeist. He was not afraid of doing any movie genre. His music was always distinctive, yet experimental. No matter how different the score sounded, you somehow knew it was Jerry Goldsmith. In a lot of ways he reminded me of Bernard Hermann.

An ammendment to #39:

I should have said zs livingstone’s essay on Etheric Ice’s Influence on Climate & Weather. Sorry.

Goldsmith = genius= TMP score.
Full PDF here I come!

#44 – You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a model and CGI for the movie. It’s ILM, not some cheap fly-by-night outfit doing the CGI. THE FINAL FRONTIER (ST:V) used models and it looked worse than the original series!

49: That’s a bit unfair on ST:V. It didn’t look as good as ST:VI, but it seemed to be much moodier in how it was lit, despite having less of a budget than ST:V did.

44: Have to disagree with you on the Narada sets. To me, they were “stereotypical badguy domain” in design: bottomless chasm, criss-crossed catwalks with, inexplicably, no guardrails. It was even alluded to in the film, when Scotty said (and I paraphrase since I don’t remember the dialogue too well) “and common sense says this is where the bridge SHOULD be…”. There didn’t seem to be any distinct difference between one corridor of the ship and the bridge. An ergonomic nightmare! Especially compared to, say, the Romulan bridge in Balance of Terror.