Where Silence Has Lease #128

When the Enterprise is drawn into a mysterious, starless void, a powerful alien entity called Nagilum conducts terrifying experiments on the crew. Jack B. Sowards (who wrote one of the early drafts of The Wrath of Khan) cowrote this episode that traffics in familiar Star Trek concepts, especially the notion of a superior, non-corporeal alien testing humanity in outer space. “Where Silence Has Lease” was a “bottle show—Worf and Riker beam aboard a Starfleet “ghost ship,” the Yamato, and the action largely remains confined to the Enterprise bridge. The episode’s climax is eerily static: Trapped with no hope of escape, Picard initiates the Enterprise’s auto-destruct sequence and allows 20 minutes for the crew to prepare for death. He calmly discusses various concepts of death in his quarters with Data and Troi (eventually revealed to be Nagilum-created simulations) before the alien inexplicably frees the starship and allows it to continue on its way.

For the most part, Jones’s music remains subdued and mysterious, with a four-note electronic motive subtly underscoring the mystery of the void and Nagilum. “It was really Bernard Herrmann in the future, all these kinds of Vertigo-type loops,” Jones says. “Plus you always had technology, so I asked myself, ‘How do you play a machine as part of the drama?’” The four-note ostinato is mixed quite low during the first half of the episode, adding to the story’s static, boxed-in quality.

The score does boast some dynamic action highlights, particularly during a pre-credits holodeck training sequence (“Exercise”). This red-herring set piece introduces Worf’s holodeck “calisthenics program,” with Worf and Riker battling hideous alien warriors in an artificial jungle setting. (The conceit would reappear later in the second season in “The Emissary.”) To accompany Worf and Riker in action, Jones brought back his Klingon Alpine horns from “Heart of Glory,” surrounding them with pizzicato strings and percussive electronic effects to create a mysterious jungle groove. The perfect fifth-based Klingon motive alternates with a tense, militaristic variation of the opening of the Alexander Courage fanfare, balancing Worf’s increasingly unhinged battle lust against Riker’s disciplined Starfleet training. Later in the episode, Jones revisits his Romulan theme in “Fake Attack,” when a Romulan warbird appears to menace the Enterprise.

The producers asked Jones to record Erik Satie’s First Gymnopédie (played by Mike Lang) as a source cue late in the story; the French composer’s atmospheric piano composition provides an eerie accompaniment as Picard (having initiated the ship’s self-destruct sequence) sits calmly in his cabin awaiting annihilation. Producer Rick Berman, usually adamant about downplaying the emotional element in the series’ underscore, apparently intended the Satie piece to provide an undercurrent of sentiment as Picard talks to (what appears to be) Data about death. “I remember Rick Berman hated our recording of the Satie,” Jones says. “In the context of the story, the approach was to play this hollow, because it was a melancholy thing, and to make it all wonderful and yummy didn’t seem right.”

Jones’s rhythmic invention comes into play as Picard and Riker initiate the auto-destruct sequence in “Fatal Decision,” and Picard lets the clock run out to ensure that the Enterprise is free of Nagilum’s influence in “Auto-Destruct.” “If they paid me for all the extra things I put in meters in this show I would have been rich—there was almost no 3/4 or 4/4 when you get to the broader moments. It’s all unusual rhythms. But I loved the iciness of this lead-in.” The theme’s irregular, lurching quality comes from its compound time signature adding up to 13. “This is me trying to copy Jerry Goldsmith. I bought all his CDs and listened to him and tried to think, ‘What would Jerry do?’”

The Outrageous Okona #130

The Enterprise stops to assist an independent cargo ship captain named Okona (William Campbell), landing in the middle of an interplanetary disagreement in which Okona may be a thief—or worse. Meanwhile, the droll Okona inspires Data to explore the human quality of humor. “The Outrageous Okona” is chiefly notable for its guest stars, including a pre-Lois & Clark Teri Hatcher as an amorous transporter operator, a pre-Rocketeer William (Bill) Campbell (who had nearly been cast as Riker) as Okona, and a post-Saturday Night Live Joe Piscopo as a 20th century comic Data summons on the holodeck. Despite the work of four writers, the story is thin (Okona is accused of impregnating the daughter of one planetary leader and stealing an important jewel from another—in fact he has just been facilitating an interplanetary romance) and the humor flat. Most of Okona’s deeds occur off screen, while the Enterprise bridge crew fawns over him (Troi senses that he is “mischievous, irreverent and somewhat brazen,” while Riker explains to the adoring Wesley Crusher how Okona lives by his own code). While Brent Spiner had shown a knack for comic timing as Data, even he should have been aware of the danger of trying to explain a joke.

Jones worked hard to create a warm and upbeat—yet not overtly comic—score for “The Outrageous Okona,” established immediately in the opening teaser (“Erstwhile Encounter”/“Normal Routine”). The composer introduces Okona’s theme early, with French horns adding a swashbuckling vibe to his scenes. “I was playing him as a knight in shining armor, a throwback to Errol Flynn,” Jones says. By passing the theme between the brass section and electronics, Jones could treat the melody seductively (“Introductions,” as Okona flirts with Teri Hatcher’s transporter officer), playfully (in “Questions,” as the cargo ship captain queries Data about life as an android) and in sleazy slow-jazz mode (later in “Questions,” as Okona drops by the transporter officer’s quarters for an assignation). Jones even placed the melody in a sympathetic guise (“Easy to Leave”) as Wesley chides Okona over his devil-may-care attitude.

The semi-comic plotline allowed Jones to take a broader approach to some scenes, particularly “Get Okona,” in which Worf’s stolid march down a corridor to retrieve the freighter captain from yet another female officer’s quarters receives music worthy of a Klingon battle cruiser, with clicking anklungs, pulsing strings and pounding brass, capped by scraped percussion, moody brass and trembling strings for a tense stare-down between Worf and Okona. It also fell to Jones to carry the weight of emotion during the episode’s finale (“Resolved”), when Benzan and Yanar, the conspicuously silent son and daughter of two planetary leaders, reveal their star-crossed romance. Jones constructs a love relationship from whole cloth and rehabilitates Okona musically within the same cue.

The composer largely avoided scoring the episode’s dialogue scenes of Data interrogating fellow crew members on the nature of humor, supplying just two jazz band source play-ons for Piscopo’s comic on the holodeck (“Comedy Spotlight” and “Something for Data”). Jones instead focused on the android’s disappointment when he learns that he is “killing” a comedy club audience because the holodeck has programmed the club’s patrons to laugh at anything Data says (“Discontinue Comic”). The most overt scoring of comedy comes in this final cue’s last few seconds, after the heraldic farewell to Okona and an unintentional joke from Data that finally goes over.

Jones’s first episode featuring Ten Forward led to a philosophical battle over whether or not it would have source music. “The characters are drinking in a bar and the producers wouldn’t let me write music for it,” Jones says—still frustrated, over two decades later. “I said, ‘Let me write it and you can dump it if you don’t like it.’ They’re relaxing in this bar—I figured they’d been on the bridge for eight hours and you wouldn’t have martial music or some kind of deadness there. I said, ‘This is easy, if they’re this far in advance then Jimi Hendrix is like classical music to them.’ I did a lecture in Malta and I did an algorithm that projected what music would sound like in the future, so I said, ‘Look, I’ve already figured this out.’”

Consequently, Jones wrote and recorded the breezy, jazz/New Age tracks “Ten Forward” (in 5/4 time) and “Endless Night,” but Trek’s producers remained true to their word—they rejected both. Throughout the series, Ten Forward would be as quiet as a library. “I was compromising and trying to make it this New Age-y thing,” Jones says. “I think it would have worked. I even suggested they just do a needle drop, but they didn’t want them listening to anything contemporary. We always had to deal with those time issues, and if there was a thing where they went back in time, then you’d sample something.”

The producers were likely reluctant to pin down the nature of future pop music for the same reason that The West Wing never referenced a U.S. president more recent than Kennedy: Star Trek is set not so much in a future universe as a parallel one, and to call attention to modern-day trends might unravel the illusion that the show unfolds in a fictional vs. actual future. Hence, source music in Star Trek is almost always from a genre considered historical—typically, classical or jazz.

Loud as a Whisper #132

The Enterprise welcomes aboard famed mediator Riva (Howie Seago) for a diplomatic mission to a war-torn planet. Riva is deaf but communicates using a three-person telepathic “chorus,” each of whom speak for a different portion of his intellect (passion, logic and wisdom). When the three translators are killed during negotiations, Troi and Data work to find a way for Riva to communicate without his chorus. Deaf actor and director Howie Seago petitioned for the role of Riva and contributed to the story for “Loud as a Whisper,” and while it could have simply resulted in a “very special episode,” this Next Generation entry is daring in its conceit and execution—and for its flouting of the series’ conventions.

One of the most impressive aspects of the episode is the use of the chorus to speak for Riva. The staging and Seago’s physical performance quickly and convincingly achieves the illusion Riva is speaking, not his interpreters. The story is about communication, so it is by necessity talky—but the shock of the chorus’s sudden death (in “Tragic Meeting”) after being so well established in the story is visceral, highlighting the raw emotions and desperation of the planet’s war. And the story ends not by resolving the issues between the warring races, but with Riva using his new “limitation” to create a level playing field in order to begin negotiations between the factions—an optimistic but open-ended conclusion.

The story and characters allowed Jones to explore the extremes of love and hatred in his score. Riva receives a gentle five-note motive (“Meet Riva”) harmonized with consonant intervals (mostly fifths) for airy synthesizers that showcases the character’s empathy; wind chimes, EWI and harp create a gentle sonic environment of Renaissance-like enlightenment. The composer develops the theme into a full-fledged, song-like melody (“True Meaning”) as Riva dismisses his chorus and communicates with Troi entirely through body language at a romantic dinner. “It was about empathy connections, so I tried to do it on a romantic level like Romeo and Juliet, and Rachmaninov—rich, alluding to minor sixth chords,” Jones says. “It’s so much fun to have had that opportunity—that cue is two minutes long, so I could actually do a 32-bar theme. We found a way to use synthesizer where it was more subtle and wash-y. If it had been direct it wouldn’t have worked as well against the orchestra.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Jones’s martial music for the planet Solais Five and its ongoing war—music that is less about the exciting drumbeat of conflict than about the tragic inevitability of war and the price it exacts. Brass (three French horns and three trombones, but no trumpets) use the open-fifth interval that Jones, Jerry Goldsmith and other composers have long associated with warlike cultures—referencing the ancient, valveless horns of marching armies. (Jones even reprises Worf’s fifth-based Klingon theme early in the episode, in “Bothered,” as Worf chafes at the thought of bringing “peacemaker” Riva onboard.)

“There was a war going on and Riva didn’t want to go down and solve this thing, so I remember I used the brass as this call of the battle and he was the only one who could go down and help. It was a battle so you’d have something like a bugle call and there were strata of that. As it develops in kind of Stravinskian terms there’d be layers of those harmonies with those fifths, alluding to it so there’d be dissonance but they’d all be in that fifth area so it would be consonant. When you think of war as really basic, we haven’t really evolved much from a monkey using a stone to using nuclear weapons, so the musical feeling of war is primitive.”

The dynamic between the desperation felt in Jones’s war music and the gentle Riva material makes for some of the most dramatic internal tension in any of Jones’s Next Generation scores. Contrast the brutality and foreboding of the martial theme with the floating, atmospheric, source-type music Jones wrote for the early scenes of Riva and his chorus on their homeworld (“Ramatis Vibes #1” and “Ramatis Vibes #2”)—music that admits no conflict and needs to communicate nothing of consequence because Riva and his chorus are saying everything. Jones intended these early cues as source music for a planet and culture in harmony with itself: “It’s atmosphere, not Philip Glass but Brian Eno—it was kind of a Brian Eno approach to a source cue. I had these pads and things coming in and going out. I think I even improvised this in Performer and then sent it off to be recorded. Performer was a recording software, and I think I was just messing around with that. Then we played it back and recorded it into the system using those same sounds.” — 

Disc Six »