The Naked Now #103
The Enterprise encounters the science vessel Tsiolkovsky adrift with a dead crew—victims of a mysterious virus. Soon the virus infects the Enterprise crew, causing erratic behavior, and young genius Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) must maneuver the ship away from an exploding star while his mother, chief medical officer Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), works on a cure. “The Naked Now” was a bumpy shakedown cruise, dependent on the plot points of the original series episode “The Naked Time,” which naturally invited comparisons between the two series. In this case, The Next Generation suffers, as it lagged behind its predecessor in terms of character development, resulting in fewer interesting revelations for the personality-baring virus to unmask. At least one plot turn, however, did pay off later in the series: the “fully functional” sexual rendezvous of android Data (Brent Spiner) with security officer Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby).
With its viral disease mystery, the suspense of a star about to go nova and the strange behavior of crewmembers succumbing to the virus, Ron Jones’s score for “The Naked Now” owes more to the original series than many of the later episode scores. The composer not only incorporates Alexander Courage’s fanfare into several cues, he often inverts the theme in the same manner some of the composers for the original series did to create alternate—but still very “Trek-ish”—melodies, and he punctuates scene transitions and play-outs to commercials with percussive, brassy stings. “It was melodramatic,” Jones acknowledges. “But a lot of the first season was melodramatic because the original show had been melodramatic.” Jones remembers being told from the outset that Jerry Goldsmith’s movie theme was going to be used for The Next Generation’s credits, but for whatever reason he only made use of Courage’s theme in his first episode score—although he would soon after utilize the Goldsmith theme as well.
For “The Naked Now” Jones had at his disposal one of the smallest orchestras of any of the episodes he scored: 8 violins, 3 celli, 1 bass, 1 harp, 3 French horns, 3 trombones, 2 trumpets, 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 1 clarinet, 1 bassoon, 2 keyboards and 3 percussion (31 players total). For his next episode, “Where No One Has Gone Before,” Jones realized he needed a larger orchestra to create the complex, intricate soundscapes of the Enterprise’s super-warp journey to another galaxy, so he lobbied for—and got—a 40-piece ensemble. The orchestra thereafter stayed that size (or larger) throughout the first three seasons (excluding two budget-saving episodes). Consequently, “The Naked Now” features a thinner orchestral sound with a higher reliance on synthetic percussion than later scores.
Jones remembers his first creative difference with the man who would run all Star Trek productions for nearly two decades: Rick Berman. A Paramount television executive selected by Roddenberry to help produce The Next Generation, Berman rose from supervising producer to co-executive producer to executive producer as Roddenberry phased out his involvement prior to his death in 1991. Berman correctly realized that Star Trek had to move beyond its ’60s television origins in order to become a contemporary success, an important element of which was avoiding any music that might sound corny, sentimental or dated. As early as “The Naked Now,” Jones found himself encouraged “to boldly go” by Robert Justman—who had hired him, and loved traditional scoring—yet chastised by Rick Berman.
“I did this cue [‘Needing Love’] when Yar was coming unglued and it was this big emotional thing and after I did it everyone said ‘bravo,’” Jones recalls, but it was dropped from the finished episode—as was a wistful piano melody (“Horny Doctor”) that would have transformed a discomfiting comic scene between Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Dr. Beverly Crusher into a moment of bonding. Jones remembers, “The next week Rick Berman came in and said, ‘Can’t you write anything non-emotional?’” It would be the first of many such exchanges between composer and producer. (Around the same time, Dennis McCarthy remembers Berman so loathed his romantic, yearning score to “Haven”—McCarthy’s first hour-long episode—that he was sure he was going to be fired.)
Jones established his trademark approach to action on the show with “The Naked Now” in cues like “Exploding Star”: pounding, Holst-inspired orchestral showpieces that were rhythmically complex and unusually sustained for television scoring. “For this meter stuff everything was in fives and sixes—in fact when we’d have these long five-minute cues I’d write in sixes because I could get more done in less space and I could pick up two beats every bar, so I could write a phrase and just use these loops and stretch it out.”
Each ST:TNG episode was divided into a teaser and five acts, and for scoring purposes the teaser and act one would be grouped together in numbering: “M21,” for example, would be the first piece of music in act two, but “M14” could be the first cue of act one (if the teaser had three selections: M11, M12 and M13) or the fourth cue of the teaser. “The Naked Now,” as the first score recorded, used a slightly different numbering system that numbered the teaser and each of the five acts separately—making “M21” the first piece of music in the first act, not the second.
The second episode scored by Jones proved to be one of the program’s best, and perhaps the only first-rate episode derived from Gene Roddenberry’s original vision for the new series. All TV shows evolve based on the interaction of the actors and the production practicalities, which influences the writing, which influences the acting, and so forth into a (hopefully positive) feedback loop. The earliest batch of episodes, however, relies almost wholly on the creator’s vision, as they are written prior to production. In “Where No One Has Gone Before” (a title referencing the original series’ second pilot and well-known catchphrase), experiments to increase the Enterprise’s warp speed fling the starship into a different galaxy, where normal laws of physics do not apply. These wondrous—albeit dangerous—new realities coincide with the potential seen in young Wesley Crusher by the Traveler (Eric Menyuk), a being capable of interdimensional travel who is accidentally responsible for the ship’s predicament.
“Where No One Has Gone Before” offered Jones a rich canvas for music. The score features dynamic arrangements of the Jerry Goldsmith movie theme for the ship’s super-warp jaunts; spacey, beguiling textures for the bizarre visual environments visited by the ship; and a glistening but intimate theme for the Traveler, his relationship with Wesley Crusher and the emotional effects of the new galaxy’s environment on the Enterprise crew. Above all, the episode and its score possess a sense of wonder and boundless potential in the best Star Trek tradition—as Wesley muses, could it be “that space and time and thought aren’t the separate things they appear to be?” For Jones, it was an instant favorite.
“Somehow I always got these episodes where there are connections with children and this kind of [thing] going on,” Jones recalls. The Traveler theme gets a full reading in “Talk With Mom,” wherein Picard hallucinates a conversation with his dead mother in an Enterprise corridor: “‘Talk with Mom’ is one of my favorite cues ever,” Jones says. “I was using a lot of what was called pan-diatonicism. So you take a C major scale, there’s no chord, you’re just playing all of it. Like if they warp through space, I was doing different diatonic things in different tonalities against each other and not just all at the same time. Another way to say it is a cluster, but it’s a cluster based on the tonality that you’re using. So it might be in A minor but the bass will be a B. If you listen to the end of Appalachian Spring, that was kind of the gimmick I was using but in this space idiom. But we haven’t experienced space so we were all kind of imagining what that idiom might be. We were listening to Holst and Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams stuff, and we had one foot in what everyone thought it was and one foot in what we thought it might be.”
Inspired by the wealth of special effects and the episode’s emphasis on the massive new Enterprise and experiments on its warp drive, Jones began the first of several specific references to Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture score. “The Test”/“Double Warp” is very much in keeping with the propulsive space-travel cues Goldsmith wrote for The Motion Picture and Jones quotes Goldsmith’s theme several times over the course of the episode. At the same time, shots of the new Enterprise adrift in the glittering blue landscape of another galaxy called for shimmering textures both from electronics and undulating strings. The acoustic component recalled Goldsmith’s Vertigo-like string figures for the V’ger sequences in The Motion Picture, and Jones notes the connection to Vertigo’s composer. “I really took my cue from Bernard Herrmann as far as trying to build suspense, and also you’re in space so you don’t want it to sound like 1930s film noir and get into a tacky mode, so I really started using rhythm as a thematic thing too. Even those rhythms had a connection to what was going on dramatically, they weren’t just rhythms to get from here to there.”
The presence of glittering, ethereal tones and textures from synthesizers proved to be a trademark of Jones’s writing on the show and demonstrated a real attempt to move beyond the orchestral approach of the original series (and to a large extent the movies) and venture into a more experimental, futurist mode. “We used the Roland D-50 like crazy on that show, it seemed to be the Star Trek sound,” Jones says. “We had much more electronics going on because I was trying to portray something 300 years in the future and use those textures, and the other thing we were doing was these rhythmic layerings that are the big thing now.”
Jones had 40 players on “Where No One Has Gone Before,” but he tweaked the recording and orchestration to yield a bigger sound not far removed from the massive big-screen orchestra of Goldsmith’s first Star Trek movie score. “There’s never enough bass in television because back then the speakers were little and the trick was to make little speakers sound like a big thing,” Jones recalls. “I would have one keyboard, and keyboard two or three would double the cellos and basses with a string sound which gave it a big feeling. And the ears listen from the top down so I knew I could get away with that. Then I loaded up the strings on the mid-range—I always had a nice French horn section, four or five percussion, timpani and all the things that add visceral energy and add sparkle in the room. When the percussion hits cymbals it creates reactions in the room that excite all the upper partials, so we were doing all kinds of things like that to get more meat out of a little plate. Then over time I was able to add more and more to the band.”
Again hearkening back to the original series, Jones’s score opens with the Alexander Courage fanfare playing against a windswept seven-note ostinato (“Log”/“Visitors”/“Fly-By”) that recalls some of the finest “fly-by” music of the original series. With the abundant usages of the Courage and Goldsmith themes, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” stands alone as an “alternate” version of The Next Generation—both the series and its music—that its creators never again attempted.
Lonely Among Us #108
Dorothy Fontana co-wrote “Lonely Among Us,” at first glance a take-off on her original series classic “Journey to Babel”—with its alien ambassadors (here the reptilian Selay and dog-like Anticans) feuding while traveling aboard the Enterprise en route to a diplomatic conference—until the ship passes through an energy cloud that possesses various crewmembers in turn, leaving the warring-species storyline to play as comic relief. The episode’s bifurcated plot provides an early example of the “A-story”/“B-story” approach that would dominate many entries in the series (as it had become a convention of contemporary television).
With numerous visual effects depicting the mysterious space cloud, “Lonely Among Us,” like “Where No One Has Gone Before,” conjures up thematic similarities to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but the storyline lacks coherence, a problem Jones often faced during the series’ first and second seasons as The Next Generation worked to find a consistent tone. “It didn’t feel like until season three that the show had a solid understanding of where it was going,” Jones says. “A lot of it was swimming—we were swimming around at the whim of the story and what the story guys were trying to do.” The cloud entity is not strongly characterized, while the comic approach to Data’s channeling of Sherlock Holmes—and especially the bloodthirsty habits of the alien ambassadors—undercuts the jeopardy. Pacing and believability present problems, as the Enterprise crew—after coming in contact with a strange cloud capable of faster-than-light travel—manages to avoid attributing various malfunctions, odd behavior and deaths aboard the ship to the phenomenon until the last possible moment.
Jones wrote a simple four-note motive (introduced in “What Happened?”) for the cloud and its effect on the ship, most often played electronically, lending it a crystalline quality. Meanwhile, a percussive, heartbeat-like pulse adds menace and momentum to the early sequences of the cloud possessing Enterprise crewmembers. Jones does not overplay his hand, treating even the sudden death of Assistant Chief Engineer Singh (Kavi Raz) as more mystery than shock (“Singh’s Death”). The composer even ingeniously plays the motive as an ostinato over an Enterprise fly-by shot (“Investigation”), indicating that the cloud has hijacked the ship.
Once the cloud presence takes over Picard himself, the score adopts an additional layer of weight and menace, and the cloud motive plays against subdued readings of the Courage fanfare (“Alien Influence”) to indicate the conflict within the Enterprise’s commanding officer. When Picard rebuffs a request from Dr. Crusher and Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) to undergo a medical examination, Jones underscores the captain’s new, threatening personality with eerie strings and waterphones (“Questions”). But the composer also adds complexity to the cloud motive in “Home Soon,” lending it a liturgical quality as Picard admits carrying the entity inside him. Jones underscores Picard’s long, expository speech (“Entity and I”) from the cloud’s point of view with ethereal statements of the cloud motive over long, low chords and trilled woodwinds, creating the sense of a complicated agenda. Once the danger of Picard’s message becomes apparent, the cloud motive quickens and intensifies over pulsing, agitated chords.
A second theme that becomes important late in the score is a signal-like motive based on a downward fifth, used for Picard’s attempts to break free of his possession by the cloud and communicate with his crew. (Jones would further explore the motive as an artifact of Picard’s memories in his next score, “The Battle.”) Jones introduces this motive in “Transporting to Energy”—a cry for help as the cloud entity hijacks Picard’s body and transports it off the ship. The cloud motive continues to intensify in the form of a rapid ostinato played electronically and by harp. In “P Is for Picard” the downward-fifth motive dominates, played against pulsing rhythms and the Goldsmith Star Trek theme as Riker and the crew race to interpret Picard’s attempts to contact them and beam him back aboard the ship.
Jones’s music is in many ways more communicative about the story points than the episode’s dialogue—but the composer himself was not entirely pleased with the results. “That one had a lot more electronics and I wasn’t happy tonally with what we were doing,” Jones says. “It was a synthetic story anyhow and I was mirroring it too close. I felt they kind of cancelled each other out.” —