“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.”
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.