It was the highlight of my time at FSM to issue the expanded releases of Star Trek II and III by James Horner, two of my all-time favorite scores. Eventually they went out of print, and I am glad La-La Land (Star Trek II) and now Intrada have picked up the licenses.
I understand their Star Trek III release will be a straight reissue of our masters—good! That means we didn’t mess anything up.
I have mixed feelings about Star Trek III. On the one hand, it has the classic cast in one of their all-too-rare theatrical adventures. “Stealing the Enterprise” is a fantastic sequence. The actual search-for and resurrection-of Spock is handled about as well as could be expected. There are some poignant and charming character moments. James Horner’s score is wonderful (though I wish he had written a new End Credits medley). And the destruction of the Enterprise still packs a wallop.
On the other hand, a lot of it looks cheap—all those stagebound Genesis sets—and, narratively, feels flimsy.
Star Trek II introduced so many new ideas that breathed new life into the franchise…and Star Trek III seems to go out of its way to destroy and “retcon” all of them.
From killing David Marcus (spoiler) to making the Genesis Planet a dud—even recasting Saavik with a less “emotional” actor—and of course unwinding what could have been an all-time great death of an iconic character…it’s just feels like, well, television.
It’s possibly due to this movie that it’s impossible to take the death of any character seriously in pop culture. Or maybe I’m just too old.
I have a lot of nostalgia for this era. I was born in 1974, and this was the first Star Trek movie I saw in a theater—I was about to be 10.
So this was prime time for me to discover and immerse myself in the things that, it turns out, would dominate both my professional and private life: thinking about Star Trek, and sci-fi, and film music and storytelling.
I mean, it’s 40 years later, and here we are.
I do remember, incidentally, even then thinking it was odd that William Shatner had thicker, curlier hair as a middle-aged man than in his youth. Haha!
Our twin girls were born in 2014 so it’s been interesting to watch them discover movies and storytelling—their mother reads Harry Potter to them every night—and, thanks to the calendar, compare it to my own childhood. So right now, for them would be the middle of what was my 1982.
There’s a lot of death and trauma in Harry Potter but they don’t seem troubled by it at all.
Whereas I was super-scared of Frozen Han in The Empire Strikes Back, and the earworms in Star Trek II, and the entirety of Alien—things having to do with body horror, it turns out.
But they take it all in stride. I hope this means they are healthier and socially better adjusted than I was.
For me—and I’m always afraid my mom will read this and get upset—I was quite lonely, and so I threw myself into Star Wars, Star Trek, Legos, the Red Sox, comic books and the Martha’s Vineyard ferry boats to escape reality. (I am not autistic, but I guess I have some of the social tendencies.)
That does remind me: the DC Star Trek comic books of this period are really terrific. They had an eight-issue “Mirror Universe” storyline, written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villegran, that I remember was an absolute page-turner. I re-read it as an adult and it was still really good. I picked up this CDROM years ago of all the Star Trek comics, to date.
One other piece of Star Trek news: you can now pre-order this Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan book by my friends John Tenuto and Maria Jose Tenuto, due out September 6, 2022, from Titan Books. I can’t wait!
The Tenutos are amongst the most thorough (and nicest) Star Trek researchers I’ve ever met, and I’m sure they’ve unearthed countless fascinating facts, stories and pictures about one of my all-time favorite films.
P.S. Star Trek III music trivia: In “Stealing the Enterprise,” there’s a suspenseful, dissonant passage at 2:57–3:11 that doesn’t appear in the film—which cuts directly from the “beam-out” music to the exterior shot of the Enterprise bridge.
As a kid, I always wondered, what was this for? Did they have some abstract VFX passage of the transporter effect? It seemed too weird for the crew beaming onto the ship.
Years ago, Ford Thaxton, who was at the recording session, told me it accompanied a few shots of Saavik and David Marcus going through a snowstorm on Genesis. These shots were either cut or relocated after the sequence was scored.
So there you have it!