Michael Giacchino Talks Star Trek Into Darkness Score (& Movie) Details + Listen To Clip Of Harrison’s Theme From STID + more [UPDATED]

Speaking at the concert performances of "Star Trek Live" in Lucerne, Switzerland over the weekend, composer Michael Giacchino has talked in detail about his score for Star Trek Into Darkness including giving insights into the characters of the film. We have all the details below plus a short clip of music from this Star Trek Into Darkness score which was preformed at the event and an a bonus interview too! Beware of minor spoilers. [UPDATE: Added longer clip from STID]



Composer Michael Giacchino has been in Lucerne, Switzerland this weekend for a series of three concert performances of "Star Trek – Live To Projection" (see TrekMovie article with pictures and video from Friday’s performance). At each performance Giacchino has participated in Q&As. Video of these are online (and can be seen below). Here are some key excerpts from his talks about Star Trek scoring, including insights into the new movie. 

Into Darkness Over 100 minutes of music + Movie/Character Details

During the Q&A sessions on Friday and Saturday Giacchino talked about the score for Star Trek Darkness which he said has "over 100 minutes of music." Here are some key excerpts from what he had to say.

Giacchino on his score for Star Trek Into Darkness differs from the score for the 2009 Star Trek film:

It is a much darker film. I think [Star Trek 2009] has more of a sense of adventure going on, whereas [Into Darkness] is more of a sort of psychological danger that is happening behind the scenes. So the music is quite different. It is quite darker. It is more internal. It is not as celebratory as [Star Trek 2009] is in many moments. And the film itself speaks to themes of the world today–sort of the geopolitical situation in the world. And it also kind of leans heavily on what is happening in the world today to tell the story.

The composer goes into more detail on writing music for Benedict Cumberbatch’s character:

It was really interesting to get inside the head of the new characters. Benedict Cumberbatch is in the film and he is amazing…In watching the film I was able to get so much out of his performance. The first piece of music I wrote for was his theme–the villain’s theme. And I’m not going to tell you who the villain is–because I’m not allowed…But watching his performance gave me an idea and I couldn’t wait to sit down and write his music for the movie.

UPDATE: Here is a longer clip of Harrison’s theme from the score of Star Trek Into Darkness, which was performed as an encore. (thanks to Stefan von Schulerst).

Clip of Harrison’s Theme from "Star Trek Into Darkness"

Giacchino spoke about other new elements of his score for Into Darkness, saying:

[In addition to the "bad guy" them] there is a new theme for a new character–this Admiral that is involved [Presumably Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus]. There is some unspecified aliens that make a appearance in the film [likely talking about Klingons] there are themes for them. There is a bunch of new stuff.  

But he also talked about how elements of his score from the 2009 Star Trek film play in his score for Into Darkness:

Of course [for Into Darkness] I used some of the themes that are present in [Star Trek 2009]. Kirk and the Enterprise kind of share a theme. They are always meant to be together–the ship and the captain. So that main theme is there. There is also a variation on Kirk’s theme which is a more personal theme for him. [Into Darkness] really does delve more into the personal issues that he faces and where he is in his life. So it felt more appropriate to adapt that theme into something more emotional.

During the audience Q&A Giacchino was asked if he used any other themes from classic Star Trek, and Giacchino said there was a bit (thanks to Twitter!):

In [Into Darkness] I did sneak in one…there is a very short moment where I did sneak in one. The only reason I did that is that I had just finished writing and shut off my computer and said I’m done done. I went downstairs and went on Twitter and someone tweeted to me "Can you please use one of the themes from one of the old series in the new movie"…and I thought "OK, OK" and so I went back upstairs and there was one I always particularly loved…so that will be there for you to find.

Soundtrack to "Star Trek Into Darkness" available for pre-order on both CD and Vinyl at Amazon

Terrified to do Star Trek 2009

Giacchino also talked at length about developing the music for the 2009 Star Trek film. He spoke about how he struggled at first after getting the job:

It was both exciting and terrifying all at once. These guys were my heroes. Alexander Courage was absolutely. Jerry Goldsmith’s music is amazing and James Horner–I grew up listening to their music and it was a huge inspiration to me. When I got the job with Star Trek I thought ‘I should not be doing this movie – I have no business being in the same room with these guys, let alone in the same series with these guys. So it was very difficult. I spent a lot of time writing – ‘what is the main theme going to be? what is the main theme going to be?’ I wrote maybe 20 or so versions of the main theme and all of them sounded like Star Trek music – like big space opera music. And every time JJ and I would sit and listen to it JJ would say ‘it just doesn’t sound like our movie.’ And he was right–what we were trying to do was sort of break away from what Star Trek was and try to do something new with it–something different. Not just me but the costume people, the
visual effects people. Because with everything you had to just keep what was important about Star Trek but leave everything else behind. And I remember I was very frustrated with this and then Damon Lindelof–who I worked with on Lost–he said ‘why don’t we forget we are working on Star Trek…he ‘said just imagine you are working on a movie about two people who meet and are working together and become the best of friends.’ And I thought ‘that makes sense.’ That was suddenly a lot easier for me. I was able to focus on these two guys who become the best friends. How do they get to know each other and respect each other. That is what the movie is about. Once that happened I wrote another theme and JJ said ‘that’s our movie.’…That was theme for Kirk and the Enterprise. Interestingly the Spock theme is a variation of a theme I wrote for the main theme. But we liked that theme so we changed it a bit and it evolved into what became the Spock theme.

The composer was also asked about using Courage’s iconic Star Trek theme as part of his end theme, and why it was held to the end of the movie.

It could have been that we would use not any of it at all–Paramount said ‘do anything you want.’ But it was important to us to use Alexander Courage’s music. If you take everything else away from Star Trek, what you have left is that theme which is so recognizable and wonderful. We wanted to use it so the question was where were we going to use it. It can’t get used in the film very easily. If you know the film the storyline doesn’t allow for that–it is kind of a happy theme and there aren’t many happy moments–but the end we thought we could do it in a huge way like we have never heard it before. A celebration of the Star Trek franchise. So we chose to use it at the end as a sort of celebratory moment.

Giacchino goes into more detail on developing various parts of the original Star Trek soundtrack and his future plans. You can watch/listen to the Q&As below (via Kanal von Schulerst ):



MORE: An Interview with Michael Giacchino

In addition to his on stage Q&A sessions, Giacchino also did an interview with the Swiss site Owley.ch (which is in German), but the guys from Owley were nice enough to send over the original English transcript from the interview.

Your score for "Star Trek Into Darkness" marks the first time you write music for your "own" sequel. Was it easier to revisit the themes you wrote for the first one?
Yeah. It was much easier – I already knew the foundation, the characters and the world, so I felt much more comfortable. I was able to just get started writing and it was a very quick process for me, as opposed to the last time, which was really tough.

This isn’t your first project with Ludwig Wicki and the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, you were already here last year. How did these collaborations come together?
Well, I met them in Spain actually, at the Úbeda Film Festival, several years ago. They asked me then if I’d be interested in coming to a concert and told me that they wanted to perform my music, so I said "Sure!". We did that last year, in March. And over dinner one night, Ludwig, the conductor, who is an amazing conductor, said "I would like to do Star Trek!". So, that’s pretty much it.

He’s an amazing guy, who loves film music and loves what music does for the picture, and you know, what they’re doing here is amazing to me. I love Ludwig for bringing it to the people in a concert like this, that’s such a wonderful thing to see: An orchestra play to the picture. We don’t have something like that in the States…

Are there any plans for future "Live to Projection"-concerts?
Yeah, it would be great to do the next Star Trek movie, but we’ll see how everything goes. At the moment, there’s nothing planned.

Speaking of interesting collaborations: Christopher Ryan’s "LOST: Music from the Island for Solo Piano" is by far the most played album on my iPod. What led to this EP that you produced?
A friend of mine sent me the link on YouTube, and I just thought "Wow!". You see a lot of that stuff, fans playing and adapting your music, but his was really good. He came at it as a fan, and I thought his arranging skills were great. What he was doing on just a keyboard, I wanted support that. I thought the fans should be able to have this. So I just called him up – I never met him before – and I asked him, if he was interested in coming to Los Angeles to record this. And he came, and did a really wonderful job. It was fun to work with him. And I’m glad you like it – I’m sure Chris will be happy to hear that!

Lost: Music from the Island for Solo Piano is available on iTunes

You spoke of how 80’s soundtracks influenced you, and your music often reminds me of John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith. Do you think their music had an impact on you?
Yes, sure. But they write the way they write, and I have my style. What we have in common is that we all like composing in a thematic way. I always liked movies that contained melodies and themes that develop – and it wasn’t just John’s or Jerry’s movies, also Max Steiner, for example. When you listen to King Kong, to the themes Max wrote – they are so wonderful. So, naturally I would gravitate to that sort of score, those were the kinds of things I loved. And then later I started to get interested into more atonal and more strange music, which Jerry Goldsmith was a master at. He was fantastic at that. So for me I actually like blending the two together.

How likely is it to hear you composing for TV or for video games again?
Television is very difficult to do, week to week, especially when you’re working in movies as well. It’s a very grueling schedule. But I suppose if one of my friends did a show, Damon Lindelof or J.J. – those are people that I’d definitely do something for. But there is nothing specific at the moment. And it’s the same thing with video games: I wrote for "Medal of Honor" and "Call of Duty" and I’ve probably written more WWII music than anyone in the world. I think I did enough of that. Also, there’s a lot of guys writing great music for video games, so I’d leave it to them. But again, if a project seems interesting, maybe I’ll do it.

Does that mean, you will be onboard for the next Star Wars film, which J.J. Abrams is set to direct?
All I can tell you is that the thing, that excites me most about a new Star Wars film is the possibility of hearing new John Williams music. I would much rather hear John Williams’ Star Wars score than my music for Star Wars.

So can you tell us anything about your (other) future projects?
The next thing I’m working on is Jupiter Ascending, with the Wachowskis and then also Tomorrowland, with Brad Bird. I’m excited about both of them, because they are friends and it’ll be a lot of fun. Also, there is a project I cannot tell you about. And, a future Pixar thing. I can’t tell you about that either.

Michael Giacchino with conductor Ludwig Wicki and the 21st Century Orchestra for ‘Star Trek – Live To Projection’ – Lucerne, Switzerland April 12, 2013 (Photo: Kai Engelbrecht)

Thanks to Owley, Kanal von Schulerst and Kai Engelbrecht



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Giacchino is a genius. So pumped for the new score; wish I could’ve been to Star Trek Live.

First video is now private. :(

Darn it, “This video is private’. (the first vid…)

Ooh, never mind, it suddenly came back. XD

He did a fantastic job on the first soundtrack, beautiful music. He never disappoints. Can’t wait to buy this soundtrack!

That was fast fixin’, Anthony! Thanks!

I have to say, if this selection is from the heart of Harrison’s Theme, then I am completely underwhelmed???

Also, reading between the lines concerning his comments on this movie, it didn’t sound like he liked it as much as the first film.

This article and clip is throwing me for a loop. I’m not real happy with this clip or what I perceive as a bit of negative vibe from him on this movie.

MJ, I don’t see that negative vibe from him, in fact he is stating that he was more comfortable this time around

“Your score for “Star Trek Into Darkness” marks the first time you write music for your “own” sequel. Was it easier to revisit the themes you wrote for the first one?

Yeah. It was much easier – I already knew the foundation, the characters and the world, so I felt much more comfortable. I was able to just get started writing and it was a very quick process for me, as opposed to the last time, which was really tough.”

Hard to tell from 30 seconds, but there is a particularly menacing tone to Harrison’s theme. I just wonder how many minutes of this music will make it to the soundtrack CD? I’m still bummed that I missed the reissue of the first movie’s soundtrack with the extra music on it.

Liking the tragedy of it. Hoping Harrison’s grievance against the UFP is stronger than Shinzon’s.

I found Kirk and the Enterprise theme from the 2009 movie to be dour. The Spock theme was more of the main theme for me. That being said, Giacchino is a fantastic composer. His score for “Up” makes me cry. “Ratatouille” is very romantic and makes me think I’m in Paris.

Hmm. the Harrison theme doesn’t sound villainous at all. It’s kind of eerie. I mean John Williams theme for Darth Vader is an obvious evil march. Good stuff if the film is deeper as the Supreme Court wants.

I do hope that Alexander Courage’s fanfare and theme are in the movie. As a kid, I loved looking at the stars and hearing the bell tones of the series opening. There were worlds to explore.

The Harrison theme clip is too short. If I’m not mistaken MJ, that’s the start of the them not the heart of it. It has a quiet, menacing, but sad feel to it.

well that was nice…

@13. OK, let’s hope so. Because that was pretty mellow.

MG is a master of simplicity and balance. Therefore, I hope he displays these traits in STID via LESS repetition of, say, the rather disappointing main theme… his stuff from other films, and even LOST, I find to be better than his Trek score. Studio demands curtailing creativity? Wouldn’t be the first time…

I may be jumping the gun here, but honestly, I don’t need Harrison’s theme to be bombastic. He may be doing Earth shattering acts in this film, but he doesn’t strike me as a bombastic villain.

In the last film, Nero’s theme was more grandiose and bombastic because that’s the kind of villain he was: in your face and just gonna blow s**t up. It’s cool for that movie, but Harrison strikes me more as the snake rather than the bear for lack of a better metaphor. I envision for him what this clip of the potential theme is giving me.

Judging from that clip I can only conclude John Harrison has something to do with the Dharma Initiative.


You nailed it. If you remember “The Gathering” from Lost you’ll hear a lot of it during George Kirk’s heroic death flight in 2009 and again as the alien escapes from Earth at the end of Super 8. All composers are guilty of it (yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. Horner) and it can take you out of the movie.

MG has done some great stuff but his sci fi stuff tends to get s bit repetitive.

“I may be jumping the gun here, but honestly, I don’t need Harrison’s theme to be bombastic. He may be doing Earth shattering acts in this film, but he doesn’t strike me as a bombastic villain.”

I agree with this. However, that clip nearly put me to sleep, so let’s hope for a happy medium between the Nero them and this Serta Perfect Sleeper clip. :-)

@16 ” the rather disappointing main theme…”

I love the stupendous main theme from Trek 2009. And I am not the only one.

That short clip of Harrison’s theme sounds rather haunting. Very lovely!

I’m with MJ, LOVE the theme from 2009 and glad it’s coming back.

And MJ, I think we will see more. After all, we can’t get a GREAT impression in 30 seconds, much less 30 seconds from a camera shoot. I wanna hear this thing on the theater surround sound.

Also too, this may be a portion of the theme that scores a more quiet moment, such as the scene they keep showing of Kirk and Harrison talking to each other in the brig. You don’t want something too loud or distracting with a scene like that, you know?

About Harrison’s Theme…A couple of things come to my mind… Some intercues of Eidelmann’s TUC score, Gollum’s theme from LOTR:TTT and some later Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek scores. But it’s far too short and too faint to tell…

And it also reminds me of Goldfinger :-) Maybe Harrison is Goldfinger’s younger self, this time played by a proper Brit instead of a German who had to be dubbed to be understood LOL

Michael Giacchino did great music last time. “Enterprising Young Men” is one of the great current themes.

Of course, I’m going to be berated by this “GO” fella who will insist that MG is a hack.

I’ll sit back, sip on some Coca Cola, and wait for his response. :-)

My name is General Zod.
For some time your world has sheltered one of my citizens. I request that you return this individual to my custody.


That sounds super, man. Though I have no idea who you’re talking about.


Hey I think I am the guy who asked MG about incorporating a classic TOS theme somewhere in there!! Anthony had a q/a with him and asked for me.

Can’t wait to hear it!


Are you referring to John Harrison? :D

@27 Your voice would be so much creepier if you were voiced by OUR villain. Hahaha! Cool announcement video though. ;)


There’s quite a difference between repeating some themes (MG) and simply ripping off your own work wholesale (Horner).

Hmm..my comment got deleted because it had a link.
Well, to iterate what I had said, a tumblr user(soiron) who watched the Star Trek Live To Projection live said that:

“The music was very strong, imposing and dark. It’ll definitely go under your skin.”

She also said it was very freaky. Interesting.

@16: I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought ST09’s main theme (and thus, most of its score, which is largely the main theme on repeat) is disappointingly trite, *especially* coming from MG. I think the short clip above is encouraging, though, as long as he explores other new directions besides “main theme” and “bad guy theme” this time around.

@34. Shunnabunich

sad to read

I hope he will use the theme from The Undiscovered Country.

That score is my favorite amon ST music, Jerry Goldsmith’s Final Frontier is a close second though. Horrible movie, brilliant score.

The beginning of the “Harrison” piece has a little ring to James Horners “Khans pets” (don’t worry, I’m not in any way implying its Khan)

I loved the score to the last film and you can tell that Michael Giacchino LOVES Star Trek. In him, the scores to our franchise are in safe hands. I wonder if the “snippet” of an older theme he snuck in is the Klingon Battle music from TMP – I’d love that, especially if Kor is in this film as implied in the Countdown series

I guess I’m in the minority here as I was not particularly jazzed by the 09 score and hoped perhaps another composer would get the sequel. The 09 score was chronically tentative, although it had some moments. Oh, well, probably not fair to put it in the shadow of Goldsmiths seminal work. Unfortunately, the Harrison theme clip sounds just as brooding and tentative as before. Underwhelming.

Oh, well, keeping an open mind!

Sounds Mysterious!


Sorry, MJ, Trek 09’s score HAD no main theme. I remember sitting in the audience waiting to hear MG’s treatment of a Trek theme….And it just never came. Agreed, Enterprising Young Men was a nice track…..but the rest was manifestly meh.

I think It would be so cool if Micheal and John Williams both co-wrote/orcestrated the new Star Wars movie. That could be the passing of the torch much like haveing Leonard Nimoy in ST09

100 minutes is double the soundtrack for Star Trek (2009). That had only a soundtrack of 45 minutes. Can’t wait to hear it all.

@41 Oh, that would be great!

Lets hope they forgo the regular edition and release a deluxe ost for ID.

Yeah I can’t wait for the STID soundtrack. I’ve always bought the soundtracks on day one for Star Trek and Star Wars. I love to listen to the music b4 I see the movie. Great stuff!!!!!!

@42 The limited collector’s edition had 1 hr 40 m

I admit to being fairly disappointed with the Trek 09 score, compared with some of MG’s previous works (Ratatouille in particular), although I agree that Enterprising Young Men is very good. I also think the Original Series theme is tricky to orchestrate well without sounding slow and MG did a reasonable job of it.
I would very much like to hear the “20 or so versions” of the Main Theme that he wrote for Trek 09.

As for the clip from STID… well, it’s too short to judge, but really my air conditioning sounds more interesting…

Both Trek 09 and Prometheus ended up being films where the music used the trailers was (IMHO) better than was composed for the movie itself. Maybe Audiomachine should do the next one!

Seriously, that’s it? Then here are the lyrics to the new soundtrack: “Meh…Muh…”

The hype just keeps losing more momentum…

I personally enjoyed the ST09 score, listener to it a bunch that summer and it still finds a home in my rotation today. I felt it retained qualities of the ST music that came before without being derivative.

I agree w/ some others’ comments that what we’ve heard of Harrison’s theme definitely has an air of sadness to the otherwise eerie/ menacing piece. To me where Nero failed as a villain was he seemed to be your typical rage-fueled, revenge-seeking madman. I personally don’t think they played up his grief and despair enough, which would have made him more compelling. From what I’ve read and seen concerning Harrison (and now heard), it sounds like the Supreme Court is rectifying that mistake.

While I enjoy Giacchino’s music, I agree with him: I’d much rather hear new John Williams Star Wars music than anything he’d do for the new films.

That said, I eagerly await his STID score, even what I’ve seen of the film itself isn’t doing much to impress me now.