Composer Austin Wintory Shares Story And Demos From His Attempt To Land ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Gig

Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory, best known for his work in video games and in particular for the award-winning PlayStation game Journey, has revealed he was in the running to score Star Trek: Discovery. Writing on Medium, the life-long Trek fan revealed what he called his “amazing experience” tying to land the Trek gig which eventually went to Jeff Russo.

Three demos

Austin Wintory says after learning that Star Trek was returning to TV he implored his agent to get him in the running. They decided the first step would be for him to develop a theme which could be presented to the Discovery team back in 2016. So Wintory quickly developed an idea and hired an orchestra to perform what he called “a sort of love letter visual montage to the legacy of Star Trek,” which you can see and hear below.

As noted in his account, Wintory knew that without any experience working in episodic television, his chances were long, however the demo piqued the interest at CBS and he was asked to pitch an idea for the music for what would become the SDCC 2016 teaser, featuring the USS Discovery coming out of the dock. You can listen to that demo below.

Another composer was selected, and Wintory moved on saying “I was STOKED. I had had my hat in the ring on a real Star Trek show!” However, a few months later he was surprised to again be approached because “things hadn’t worked out with the composer they’d hired, and they were once again looking.”

This time he was invited in to speak with co-creator and showrunner (at the time) Bryan Fuller. Wintory describes the direction he was given to develop what would be his third demo in attempt to land the Discovery gig:

Bryan also told me something immensely exciting: “for the new demo, please don’t hold back. Give us full, unreserved Wintory. We want something musically aggressive and unique.” (and, as a side note, they hinted a quasi-religious, almost ‘spiritual warrior’ concept for the Klingons in the show, which was a great musical leaping-off point).

You can listen to that last demo titled “Another New Frontier” inside Wintory’s Medium post.

Shortly after recording the third demo Bryan Fuller stepped down from Discovery, but Wintory was asked to still submit the demo. In early 2017 he was told he wasn’t selected as the composer, but he had no regrets and was happy to be “seriously considered for a major show, one with massive childhood and personal significance.”

Wintory’s tale has some parallels with Star Trek VI composer Cliff Eidelman who revealed late last year he also was in the running to get the job for Discovery. There are likely more composers out there who were up for the job before Jeff Russo eventually was chosen, and maybe they too will come forward and share some of their music for what could have been.

Star Trek writer is a fan

After Wintory revealed his story on Medium, Discovery staff writer Bo Yeon Kim had a fangirl moment, showing her excitement over having the Journey composer pitching for Star Trek.

Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on the Space Channel and is available on Netflix everywhere else.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.

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Have they hired only one composer? I like Jeff Russo’s work a lot, but each Trek show had multiple composers to work on the individual episodes. Have they abandoned that policy entirely?

The first season has just concluded.
Lets see how the music evolves.

Bear McCreary was the one behind BSG’s score, and I liked that it was his vision and added such a consistency to the series. I guess having multiple composers would be fine, per tradition, but with a single story running the length of the season I’d want some consistency in the music

It’s think it has become more common to have the same composer write the music for the whole show. This gives a more consistent musical feeling. Changing composers from episode to episode also makes less sense with the serialized nature of Discovery.

@Garth Lorca — don’t be fooled, Russo is hardly the ONLY composer. He’s just the guy they hired to oversee the team of ghost writers who work for him. And to be fair Russo might actually give some of them credit on the cue sheets, if not the screen — heck he might actually write some of the music himself.

I appreciate the share. This sets aside ego and includes us into the process. Many good choices have to be put aside in whichever direction is chosen, so it’s very interesting to hear Wintory’s offerings, which are pretty cool!

Wish it had gone to Cliff Eidlemann.

Why? Out of nostalgia for his amazing Star Trek 6 score? I didn’t think very much of what he demoed for Discovery

I wish Jerry Goldsmith was still alive and it had gone to him. Not only the best Star Trek composer of all time but the best movie composer of all time.

Am I the only one hearing Ron Jones’ “Starfleet Academy” score in the main leitmotif?

No, I get it as well.

Yes, and the “Another New Frontier” clip has bits reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s Planet of the Apes….

I enjoyed hearing his stories and all the great musicians in the studio pulling it off. I can especially relate to “thanks, but we’ve decided to go another direction”.

I too would love to see several composers involved. TOS had several that contributed to the sound catalog of Trek.

Better than what we got. His work on Journey is fantastic. I am very sad the gig went to James Russo. This music sounds very Trek like.

Clearly the producers wanted to go with something more contemporary so they gave us the bland and forgettable minimalism of the Russo theme. Actually, that music is so basic it barely qualifies as a theme. If you don’t believe me, try humming Disco muzak in the shower and you will notice there’s no there there, much like the show itself.

Say what you want about the Enterprise theme, but at least it evoked feelings in people, even if the negative kind!

The Discovery theme in comparison is a sleeping pill. But let’s call it “modern” and “contemporary” because that makes sh!t sound better! :D

This is very true. Today I only have positive thoughts towards it.

Journey’s soundtrack is incredible, such a neat game. I hope he gets to work on a future Star Trek project.

Discovery’s soundtrack is as generic as it can get. Not giving Eidelman the job was a missed opportunity.

Eidelman was Meyer’s child and Meyer himself seems to be completely sidelined since Fuller was fired. His input into the show must be well zero by now. Harberts won’t let anyone else play with his new-found toys…

Yeah, this is sad. I wonder if anyone bothered to talk with Mr Meyer about this situation, I usually find his interviews to be refreshingly honest, and I don’t think he would hold back his opinion on this situation.

In the first clip, I heard the Goldsmith TMP title and the Horner TWOK/TSFS titles, with just a hint of Goldsmith’s ST:FC theme. Derivative in a way that just makes for poor comparison. My ears weren’t fresh enough for the second clip, but I don’t think it merits revisiting.

Better luck with your other projects, Austin!

I would much welcome some competition to Russo’s sleep-inducing sonic wallpapers next season, and a replacement for the most ho-hum main theme since “Enterprise”!

But then again the current producers seem to follow the Rick Berman school where soundtracks are concerned…

Funny, I didn’t feel it was “sonic wallpaper.” The use of operatic vocals for some of the heartbreaking scenes with Stamets and Culber is definitely not “wallpaper.”

I really like Russo’s scores.

This would have been an excellent theme if the new Star Trek show was an episodic series like the classics, but I understand why the producers would want to go with more “contemporary” or “modern” sounds within a more serialized and “dark” setting.

Thing is, nobody likes it or at the most, very few. So it makes no sense at all.

I don’t like Jeff Russo’s themes too, it doesn’t get me into the show, instead it actually takes me out sometimes.

I had the good fortune to interview Wintory about a year ago when he was in town for some appearances with our symphony orchestra. The guy is an endless fountain of energy and creativity.

Others who commented on his allusions to Jerry Goldsmith are dead-on because Wintory readily points to the Hollywood legend as a huge influence. I really wish now I had asked his reflections on Alexander Courage’s work on TOS as I might have been surprised at some of his reflections.

I like the main title theme for Discovery even less than I like the one for Deep Space Nine, which I would not have thought likely. Neither is awful, but both go nowhere.

@BB — I used to think that about DS9, but the reality is, it actually works extremely well for an immobile space station anchored near a wormhole. Where a similar treatment failed was Goldsmith’s theme for VOY. That’s probably the worst application of a Trek theme for any of them. Such a complete antithesis of the actual Voyager saga.

DS9’s theme improved over the years. And it has the most interesting time signature, like WTF is it?

But the brass, et. al. sound so great, over that weirdly syncopated percussion. That may be my favorite ST theme.


I didn’t care for these samples…at all. I’m lukewarm on the existing music, but this seemed completely wrong for the tone of the series.

I agree that the tone doesn’t seem to match the tone of the series. To be fair, the composer probably didn’t know what kind of tone they were going for when he wrote most of that music. So I expect the score would sound differently if he had been hired.

Approximately 0:30 to 1:30 of the third demo would’ve been perfect for the “Star Trek: Discovery” opening credits theme.

If the series had been conceived as a horror show version of Star Trek, that is. The ghost of Bernard Herrman’s “Psycho” seemed like a huge influence on that demo track. Fascinatingly riveting music, to be sure, but not at all appropriate (imho) for the tone of the series that we just finished watching this season.

Lovely, light and upbeat. Unlike STD.

Good work, but I prefer Russo’s theme. This is more classic. Russo’s is more “modern”.