The Ron Jones Project, a massive box set of every Star Trek: The Next Generation score written by the series' best composer. Now the company has taken things one step farther by releasing the real Holy Grail of Star Trek Music -- Star Trek: The Original Series Soundtrack Collection.
Returning to all the original master recordings from the 1960s, this 15 CD collection offers every note of original music ever composed for the three seasons of the original Star Trek series. Every. Note. That includes numerous alternates and outtakes, and all the sound effects that were created by means of musical instruments. (Did you know that the iconic transporter sound was originally conceived of as the background noise of an alien planet's atmosphere? I didn't!)
Star Trek was a series on a small budget, and so their contracts with the composers allowed for the reuse of music in other episodes besides the ones for which it was originally created. Out of 79 episodes produced, only around 20 received complete original scores. Another handful had "partial" scores, a few minutes of original music created to supplement the "library music." But the majority of the episodes were scored with reused tracks from other episodes. It saves this from being a 50 or 60 CD collection, and also accounts for why so much of this music will be familiar to you.
And I guarantee, it will be familiar. Even if you've only caught a few Star Trek episodes here and there, you'll have heard some of the iconic themes that cropped up again and again. Some of them, like the famous "Star Trek fight music," seeped into popular culture, being parodied in other movies and TV series. Even if all you know is the theme song, this collection will make you realize how many subtly different versions of it were recorded over the run of the show -- versions emphasizing the soprano vocalist, a cello, and more.
I had always associated two composers most strongly with the sound of Star Trek. There was Alexander Courage, who wrote the theme and composed for the earliest episodes, and Fred Steiner, the most prolific of the series' composers, who even worked on one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This soundtrack collection has made me realize that it's actually the work of other composers that I was enjoying most in the show.
The real rock star, in my newly reformed opinion, is Gerald Fried. He's the one who scored "Amok Time," creating both that famous fight music I mentioned, and the distinctive bass guitar theme for Mr. Spock. His music for "Catspaw" was also often cited throughout the series, and his work on "Shore Leave" was a standout of the first season. If you can hum any bit of music from classic Star Trek other than the theme, I can almost guarantee you it's the work of Gerald Fried.
I also came to appreciate the work of Sol Kaplan. He worked on only two episodes, "The Enemy Within" and "The Doomsday Machine," but in those episodes he created some of the most intense and exhilarating music of the series. His music for the latter was particularly effective, and in fact so strikingly similar to the John Williams' later score for Jaws that you have to wonder if some subconscious copying took place there.
If Star Trek's lighter moments were your favorites, then you'll probably recognize the work of Jerry Fielding, who scored "The Trouble With Tribbles." Or if Star Trek makes you think of brazen, romantic (and yes, a bit over the top) strings, you're probably thinking of Joseph Mullendore's work on "The Conscience of the King," or George Duning's scores for "Metamorphosis" and "The Empath."
In all, nine composers wrote for Star Trek, and they're all represented here. I have found the box set a wonderful addition to my iPod; virtually every track that comes up on the shuffle is a winner that takes me back instantly to a moment from an an episode burned into my memory. It's a collection no Star Trek fan should be without. That said, it's a collection some Star Trek fans may have to be without, because it doesn't come cheap. Remastering some 15 hours' worth of music from 45 year old tapes was a massive undertaking, and was done without cutting any corners. As such, La-La Land is charging $225 for the set. That comes out to a not-unreasonable $15 per disc, but it is a hefty sum to shell out all at once.
Still, I'm here to tell you that if you remember this, or this, or this, you want this set, now. There are a few tracks that I find a little too sedate to listen to outside of an episode itself, but I'd still give the set an A- overall.