Up the Long Ladder #144

The Enterprise encounters the survivors of a lost colonization effort who have split into two cultures on different planets: the agrarian Bringloidi, reminiscent of rustic Irish settlers, and the technological Mariposans, cloned from five original colonists. “Up the Long Ladder” is a strange genre blend: part old-fashioned ethnic comedy (the Bringloidi are so stereotypically Irish one expects to see a box of Lucky Charms), part sci-fi allegory. Originally intended as a commentary on immigration, the story wound up as more of a pro-choice statement on abortion as the Mariposans kidnap Riker and Pulaski to steal their genetic material in order to create more clones.

The show’s bifurcated plot resolves—conveniently—when Picard decides that the solution to the Mariposans’ decaying genetic line is for the two colonies to unite. Jones took separate approaches to the story’s converging plotlines, writing a lovely Irish tune for the Bringloidi that could be played comedically for their introductory scenes (“Bringloidi Refugees”), in a warm romantic mode (“Riker and Brenna” and “Foot Sex”) as Riker woos Bringloidi Brenna Odell (Rosalyn Landor), or as semi-source music (“I Got a Red Rose From the Wearin’ o’ the Green”) for scenes of the Bringloidi camping out in the Enterprise cargo bay.

Executive Producer Maurice Hurley had suggested the Bringloidi might actually be descended from Irish (as opposed to merely an allegory for Irish immigrants) and Jones ran with that characterization. “I told them I was going to play the Bringloidi as Irish because they talked with Irish accents—they were Irish,” Jones says. “I had my lead sheets, so I went through Irish music and determined what aspects I wanted to borrow from that. Not anybody’s tunes, but the whole feel—the rhythms underneath it all, and tried to put that into a fabric for these people.”

Jones’s melody stands up under repetition, benefiting from a variety of instrumental treatments, especially a beautiful romantic one for flute (“Riker and Brenna”), with Louise DiTullio—one of Hollywood’s greatest instrumentalists—providing a lovely, expressive solo performance. “No cue gets better than that in my opinion, because you have a simple melody performed by a soloist with minimal accompaniment.” Jones also put together a small group including pennywhistle, accordion and fiddle for cues that could be played as source music—the Bringloidi presumably playing their traditional instruments in the Enterprise cargo hold. “I had Suzie Katayama playing a gypsy accordion—I had a little ensemble with Bodhran drums with the bones and everything.” Jones also brought in a soloist to play the tune on a fiddle for some cues. “You write it in a fiddle range so it stays kind of low and I hired a guy who did country fiddle. The legit guys you can’t get to do that normally. I had the concertmaster do the performance for the romantic moments.”

For the mysterious Mariposans, a silky electronic motive (“Clones”) joins with more aggressive material when they steal Riker and Pulaski’s DNA (“Taking Tissue Samples”)—playing the act as a shocking violation of the Starfleet officers’ bodies. When Riker destroys the resulting clones (“The Cloning Lab”), the “clones” theme returns over a bed of sequencers and queasy instrumental textures for the violent act.

For a scene early in the episode, Jones composed a stand-alone cue—one of his loveliest for the series—that ultiamtely went unused. Heard here for the first time, “Klingon Tea Ceremony” was to have accompainied a warm character scene (unrelated to the rest of the story) in which Worf treats Dr. Pulaski to a Klingon tea ritual as thanks for covering up an embarrassing medical condition. Pulaski surprises him in her respect and enthusiasm for Klingon culture, and Jones’s gentle melody would have played up the moment of bonding between the two Enterprise officers. “It was a variation of the Klingon theme, but played really pretty and poetic,” the comoposer says. “I love the resolution I did for that.”

For “Up the Long Ladder” Jones and his crew moved from the Paramount recording stage to 20th Century Fox as a test-run for engineer Armin Steiner. “We switched engineers and when we chose Armin [Steiner], he said, ‘Why don’t you come over to Fox?’” Jones remembers. The show would move all of its scoring to Fox starting with season three, as the Paramount stage was closing for financial reasons (it later reopened, closing for good in 2006.)

The Emissary #146

The Enterprise takes aboard a Federation emissary on their way to intercept a 75-year-old Klingon ship with a crew that has been in suspended animation—warriors who believe the Federation and Klingon Empire are still at war. The emissary, Klingon/human hybrid K’Ehleyr (Suzie Plakson), is an old flame of Lt. Worf’s. As with the previous Klingon-based episode “Heart of Glory,” “The Emissary” focuses on character, with the tactical plot about the Klingon sleeper ship taking a back seat to the fireworks between Worf and the flamboyant, outspoken K’Ehleyr. Their relationship would lead to the fourth-season “Reunion” and the recurring character of Alexander, their son.

By this point, Jones had become an expert in characterizing the Klingons, and “The Emissary” presented an opportunity to explore even deeper undercurrents of the Klingon psyche. But unlike his past Klingon scoring (and most musical efforts to characterize Klingons), the love theme for K’Ehleyr and Worf is modern and contemporary, dominated by obsessive, passionate keyboards and a hint of menace, befitting their fiery, tempestuous romance.

“The Klingon thing was starting to get into a higher emotional area,” Jones says. “They were emotional like brutes in the beginning, but this allowed them to show love and tenderness, but it still had to be a raw, animal kind of love like dogs licking each other. I thought, ‘Now we’re getting into what would the Klingon love theme be.’ I thought it was time to play this as a romantic comedy or a romance, but they’re Klingons. That Klingon idea, the fifth theme, is built into it. I was even thinking of these documentaries where they go under the ocean and show squids or something, and you think they’re terrible, but then they’ll show you how they mate and they’ll actually play it with moody lighting and music that shows that it’s romantic. I was thinking if you strip away the exterior of the Klingons, they were very passionate in terms of the physical bonding they went through. This was stripping away the exterior and letting some of their inner beauty come out.”

The modern synthesizers—quite unlike the “ethnic” approach one might expect—not only humanize what could be an alien love story, but add an element of “forbidden love” to the potential bonding. Each character stands outside Klingon culture: Worf was raised by humans, while K’Ehleyr (a half-Klingon) is a “liberated feminist” throwing off the shackles of barbaric Klingon codes and enjoying a human way of life. She tempts Worf not only with the promise of romance, but the possibility of a new and different, very modern existence—one that he is in a sense already living aboard the Enterprise, but refuses to fully embrace. By defying the expectations of a “Klingon love theme,” Worf and K’Ehleyr’s music—a satisfying juxtaposition of a minor-mode, ancient-sounding melody over modern, electronic accompaniment—creates a very real sense that Worf and K’Ehleyr’s romantic entanglement would change them, and The Next Generation, in profound ways.

Jones introduces the love theme on solo flute played first over harp-like electronics (“Unfinished Business”) and later over low string chords (“Exercise Program”). The electronic harp texture characterizes K’Ehleyr and her fits of Klingon rage—an important factor in the story. Jones gave the material a pulsating and energetic treatment while still retaining a delicate, feminine quality as K’Ehleyr unveils her fury (“Argument” and “Broken Glass”) and later as she verbally spars with Worf (“Wipe That Klingon Smile Off Your Face”).

As befits the Klingons, Worf and K’Ehleyr’s true passion for one another is revealed in the heat of battle, in the otherwise kinetic holodeck action cue “Exercise Program.” The love music reaches its most lyrical moments as Worf and K’ehleyr draw—as well as smell and taste—each other’s blood. “I really had to push for that,” Jones says of the lengthy, involved cue. “This was a tough cue. For most film scoring you have what the audience is seeing in the first place, which occupies a lot of your brain, so theoretically the music is a ‘B’ thing. So if you have even just melody and rhythm in the music, that’s a lot for people to gather. So I would have four layers of things going on in some of these moments, because it needed it, but each of those layers I hoped were acting on the audience’s brain, even if they weren’t aware of it.”

The Klingon sleeper-ship plot generates elaborate space-action sequences at the beginning and end of the episode. The story begins with the Enterprise executing a warp-speed rendezvous with a small probe containing K’Ehleyr. Jones wrote almost four minutes of music for the sequence (“Enigmatic Message,” “Boradis Destination”/“Probe”), emphasizing the velocity and complexity of the maneuver and the mystery of the probe’s passenger. “The one device I could use was setting up suspended chords, because the scene is suspended—the suspended chords are playing so you just play with the bass lines and that changes the meaning. I tried to imagine, ‘What would an astronaut feel like if they were inside this thing trying to dock?’ They’d feel their heartbeat, so you have this bass line that provides that, something related to an elevated pulse. To have the major seventh in the bass line, so the audience was never being jarred—they sort of just swam with it as they watched this and you knew some tension was going on, but as a dramatic device that gave me ways to get inside without doing anything, but not cheating everybody at the same time. It’s all under technical dialogue so what can you really do?”

For the “sleeper” Klingons Jones planted an electronic motive (heard in the beginning of “Probe” and throughout the act-four closing “Cloaked Enemy”) that keeps them in mind even though they remain off screen until the show’s final moments. Once the Klingon ship actually appears, Jones brings back the clanking, tribal-sounding percussion for the warrior race for one of the final times in the series. “We had bigger versions of the chinta like smashophones or something that had hubcaps with springs on them. You’d hit them or scrape them and they were Mercedes hubcaps and a Chevy hubcap and they had different sounds, each had a different density. Brad Dutz, my percussionist, he and I had done so many horror films that this was just part of our natural palette of sounds.”

By the time electronics give way to orchestra in “The Option,” Jones once again reprises the Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek theme, playing it against the Klingon material to indicate Worf and K’Ehleyr working to bring a human approach to their solution rather than the ruthless Klingon choice K’Ehleyr initially proposes. “There’s this icy suspense thing and an echo in the electronics of the fifth motive,” Jones says. “If the original Klingon stuff was AM radio this was FM radio—album-oriented rather than song-oriented. We could go into other areas and develop this world inside the Klingon stuff. I thought of the Klingons as samurai and shoguns a lot—it developed into that instead of just this idea of primitives—it was this shogun against that shogun, honor against betrayal.”

Worf and K’Ehleyr reach an uneasy truce as the episode ends, and “Meaning” reprises and resolves their love theme. “It’s interesting because I moved the fifths in parallel motion, so the bass line was moving with hoops of fifths moving up. I remember I chose B minor because it was one of the darkest keys you could pick—when it ended, it ended in just the fifths of B minor, so the whole key relationship went down to that.”

Shades of Gray #148

On a planetary survey mission, Riker receives a grave injury from a poisonous thorn. Dr. Pulaski’s treatment causes him to relive memories from past episodes, resulting in a dreaded “clip show,” the last non-cliffhanger season finale and—out of budget necessity—a sci-fi version of those hoary old TV episodes in which a character on his deathbed or trapped in an elevator flashes back to past episodes to fill the time. While “Shades of Gray” is well assembled, it never transcends its origins as an accounting trick. This episode marked the last appearance of Dr. Pulaski: originally envisioned as a female “Bones” McCoy, her character had been designed to bring a bit more internal conflict to the Enterprise. The episode does function as a showcase for Diana Muldaur as Pulaski treats Riker’s infection—there is even a play on McCoy’s transporter phobia from the old series. Unfortunately, fans did not take to the character and Gates McFadden returned as Dr. Beverly Crusher in season three.

Ron Jones had a pivotal job on “Shades of Gray”: he needed to maintain continuity and a unity of purpose throughout the episode’s increasingly unrelated mashup of reused footage, convincing the viewer that it was all more than one giant rerun. Jones created a compositional throughline with a glittering three-note motive for the disease that ravages Riker, with swelling chords underneath to create a sense of disorientation as Riker fades in and out of consciousness. The motive travels throughout the score, sometimes pulsating through the background of the extended clip montages, while Jones introduces new material to frame those interludes. A romantic melody first heard at a sensitive moment between Riker and Troi (“Infection Spreads”) becomes a sensual, rhapsodic theme as Riker relives interludes with women from previous episodes (“Shades of Pleasure,” “Earth Boys Are Easy”); a pulsing motive for string and flute chords adds an uneasy sensation to memories of death and dying (“Shades of Sadness”), and in the score’s climactic sequence (“Critical Condition”/“Shades of Conflict”/“Final Intensities”) Jones builds tension using everything from simple electronic textures to dynamic, pounding orchestral action (including a reprise of his Klingon theme) as Riker recalls moments of conflict and violence, all intensifying into a riot of explosive images.

Jones not only revisited episodes he had previously scored, but tackled sequences from some shows (such as “Encounter at Farpoint,” “Justice,” “The Last Outpost,” “Angel One” and “The Child”) scored by Dennis McCarthy. Some of this footage retained the original scoring (notably the fight scenes from “Heart of Glory” by Jones and “Conspiracy” by McCarthy) while others required Jones to provide new scoring for montages. “This was unusual for me,” Jones admits. “I scored some of this without any idea where it was going because they were still playing with the cuts. I even got to do some Ferengi stuff [for “The Last Outpost”] because I wound up writing some scenes that Dennis had done, and I hadn’t messed with the Ferengi much. There’s a lot of music and I really wanted to know how to do things like redoing Dennis’s scenes—I didn’t want to second-guess what he would have done, so I just tried to do it as best I could. We spotted so much music that something had to give and they retained some of Dennis’s cues where it worked with the editing.” — 

Season Three »