The Defector #158

The Enterprise encounters a Romulan defector who warns the crew of a destabilizing military base under construction in the Neutral Zone—but Picard is uncertain whether to trust the Romulan or his motives. “The Defector” plays off the earlier McCarthy-scored episode “The Enemy,” bringing back Andreas Katsulas as the imperious Romulan Admiral Tomalak, who appears late in the story after the revelation that the defector, Admiral Jarok (James Sloyan), was fed disinformation in order to lure the Enterprise into a trap. With its surprising Henry V holodeck opening, compelling Cold War plotting and the well-drawn character of Jarok, “The Defector” marks another high point in the series. Sloyan brings a mix of world-weary bitterness and cold humor to his role (he would later appear as Odo’s “father” in a Deep Space Nine episode), while the space scenes—including the opening pursuit of Jarok’s ship by a Romulan warbird and the surprise appearance of three Klingon birds-of-prey during a climactic confrontation with the Romulans—are exciting.

The suicide of Jarok (echoing some of the great downbeat endings of the original series) makes clear that the episode is not just the Cuban Missile Crisis in outer space, but a Greek tragedy: Jarok arrives as a traitor, asserts himself as a patriot, is revealed as a fool, and dies by ritual suicide—eulogized in the closing scene (“Suicide”) by Picard as a hero. It is a quintessential example of how to write a guest spot in a television series: the character’s arc resolves completely, while profoundly touching the regular cast.

Ron Jones had been able to explore his Klingon music for the series in several episodes, but “The Defector” allowed him a rare chance to do the same for the Romulan material he had introduced in season one’s “The Neutral Zone.” The meticulous, organized aesthetic of the Romulan theme (here treated more symphonically than in “The Neutral Zone”) permeates the score, obsessive triplets creating a latticework of inevitability.

Because the episode focused so strongly on the character of Jarok, Jones created an alternate Romulan motive—allowing him to tie his theme for an alien race into a theme for a specific character. “It was neat that the writers offered us a chance to do something like that, and I jumped at the opportunity to really get inside a character,” he says. “You never get to do any of that and in Next Generation they did open up the guts of some characters who came in as guests, like this guy, where they really opened up his Romulan mentality.”

Like the original Romulan music, the Jarok motive is rhythmic, its high notes vaulting off a shifting center, conveying Jones’s conception of the Romulans as devious planners—and indeed Jarok himself is a Romulan pawn, whether he knows it or not. Often underpinning the motive is a longerlined melody, voiced by woodwinds in the opening cue, “Scout Ship.”

“Valley of Chula,” for a scene midway through the episode in which Data shows Jarok a vision of his Romulan homeworld on the holodeck, is unusually warm and open: Jones’s music initially bursts with emotion and melody, then retreats into darkness and tension as the Romulan defector recoils at sights he knows that he will never see in person again. “This was like opera,” Jones says. “It’s Wagner at this point, where you hear this and the conflict inside and it goes to C-sharp and that means that something is happening.” As Jarok faces the evidence of having been a Romulan pawn (“Betrayed”), Jones plays his theme in long, ghostly phrases—the dying embers of his Romulan honor.

The episode begins and ends with spectacular action in space, allowing Jones to make extensive use of the Romulan motive and fanfare as well as a surprise appearance of the Klingon theme (“The Stand-Off”). The Enterprise appears outgunned by two Romulan ships when Picard meets Tomalak’s threats with a dose of Shakespeare (“If the cause be noble”) and Jones’s score warms surprisingly in a noble, gentle moment. But Picard is not sacrificing his crew: he reveals that three cloaked Klingon birds-of-prey are accompanying the Enterprise. A grand statement of the Klingon theme accompanies a well-executed FX shot of the six ships, the score somehow accommodating the myriad themes and changing dynamics as the upper hand shifts from one side to the other. “It was weird to have all three themes mix together,” Jones admits. “We had three gongs in there when the Klingons come in. I used this theme for the Enterprise a lot, for maneuvers and things. It’s all fun with fifths. I think I did every permutation of fifths you could do for the Klingons. There would even be layers of the other guys being in fifths creating another layer of harmony, to try and break it up.”

Two points about the score to “The Defector” might go unnoticed: The score is prominent in the episode yet, at 17:21, it is shorter (as are most third- and fourth-season scores) than typical first- and second-year efforts—a result of long cues dominating the viewer’s attention, while the balance of music consists of shorter transitions. “This was one where the majority of the score was B orchestra and then we saved the big orchestra for these long emotional sequences where [Jarok]’s torn between betrayal and loyalty, and what are the Romulans going to do and what’s going to happen?”

Finally, most of the action, and especially the 5:21 “The Stand-Off,” involves more talking and posturing than actual combat, leaving Jones’s music to generate a great deal of the excitement. “The Romulan vessel didn’t do anything, it just sat out there, so I had to play everything internally. The score had to do everything because the ships are sitting there and you’d be cutting between talking heads—there was no visual movement.”

The High Ground #160

“The High Ground” was TNG’s “terrorism episode”—perhaps overly didactic in dramatizing the politics of terrorism, but succeeding as an action story. The Ansatans, a separatist group on Rutia IV, kidnap Dr. Crusher, needing her to counteract the biological damage caused by interdimensional teleportation (a crucial tool in their guerrilla warfare). The episode doubles as a Crusher story, as she interacts with the terrorist leader, Finn (Richard Cox)—note the ethnicity of the character’s name, as the episode recalls the Northern Ireland conflict.

“I like this score,” Jones says. “I saw [the episode] playing at Dave’s Video when I was looking at laserdiscs one day and thinking, ‘This is a cool score—I wonder who did this?’” A four-note motive (the first four notes of a minor scale) emerges in stop-start fashion from a pedal point, suggesting simmering tension about to boil over. While many cues are suspense-oriented, large action pieces in the middle and at the end foreshadow the all-out drive of “The Best of Both Worlds.”

“Terrorist Attack” scores the midpoint action sequence aboard the Enterprise, a corker of suspense, movement and barely averted catastrophe. The Ansatans use their untraceable teleporter to plant a bomb on the Enterprise’s engine core—La Forge manages to beam it to space just in the nick of time. The terrorists then appear on the Enterprise, shoot Worf and abduct Picard, who nonetheless gets in a good punch. Jones’s lengthy and involved cue resembles Jerry Goldsmith in the best sense: it starts with a mixed-meter ostinato (listen for 11 beats, as in 3+3+3+2) that builds in density as it turns the entire sequence into a mini-movie—while perfectly developing the main theme of the episode, and cutting through sound effects with martial percussion, ticking synthesizers, angular strings and piercing trumpets.

Jones designed the cue so that the “loop” or ostinato became ever shorter, like a heart rate amping up, as the sequence intensified: “Musically I’d compress, so we’d start at 11 but as the truth would be known and we’d figure out what was going on, it would shape into a tighter organism rhythmically, so there was again a Bernard Herrmann flavor to it. That rhythm meant something—it was extended and then it became contracted. I would use melodic cells instead of longer melodies.”

When the terrorists appear on the bridge and Picard throws his punch (at 2:33), the orchestra goes mad with low and high lines playing against each other. “I’d have triplets against something else, that’s like Steiner and Korngold. One thing that helps me is I don’t have perfect pitch. A lot of guys get in trouble because they have perfect pitch so they remember things exactly and they’re more likely to reproduce it exactly. I don’t, so I remember more the idea. I have to reinvent based on the idea of a Korngold idea, so it becomes fresh and different—it’s based on the idea of it, not the actual thing.”

After leaving the bleak—and unresolved—situation on the planet, “Take Us Out” concludes the episode with one of Jones’s characteristically warm and upbeat (but not sentimental) melodies, a free-flowing tune for the wonder of Star Trek’s core mission. “This is the theme I evolved to be the theme for the ship. It just kept evolving and shaping.”

A Matter of Perspective #162

After Riker beams off a science station immediately before it explodes, killing the lone researcher aboard, the scientist’s widow accuses the Enterprise’s first officer of murdering her husband. Depositions on the holodeck reveal wildly differing perceptions of the events leading up to the explosion. The gimmick of putting Riker on trial for murder and the Rashomon-style holodeck recreations of witnesses’ memories propel “A Matter of Perspective” for two-thirds of its running time, after which the episode becomes a prime example of The Next Generation’s liability of succumbing to rampant “technobabble.” While well reasoned, the show’s last 15 minutes of scientific jargon is of less interest than the fun of watching a Riker simulacrum behave like a leering thug and get punched around by a bald, milquetoast alien scientist.

Jones responded to the inherent paranoia surrounding the railroading of Riker with a melody (introduced at 0:22 into “Investigation”/“Chief Investigator”) that repeats throughout the episode, playing at key moments to establish a whodunnit sensibility as the evidence against Riker mounts. With such an “interior” episode, Jones dropped percussion, woodwinds and brass entirely from his orchestra, using 16 violins, 10 violas, 8 celli, 6 basses, 3 keyboards and 2 harps.

The composer deftly employs harps and strings in the episode’s teaser, which features daring semi-nudity as Picard and other artistic crewmembers attempt to capture a naked female model in oil paintings. The scene proves to be important to the story, in that it shows how people with different points of view can interpret the same object in myriad ways. The balance of the teaser builds to an action climax (“Update”/“Clearing the Signal”) as an agitated Riker requests the Enterprise to beam him aboard, and then nearly perishes when the energy pulse that destroys the space station disrupts Riker’s transporter signal.

On the subject of multiple perspectives of the same scene: by the midpoint of season three, Jones regularly provided TNG producers with alternate takes of numerous cues, and for whatever reason “A Matter of Perspective” features quite a few (disc 13, tracks 30–33). “I’d give them different versions, some with less electronics—different mixes so they’d have choices.”

Coincidentally—and somewhat ironically, given the courtroom genre—Jones himself was feeling the noose tighten at this point in the production of the series. “It was about this time they decided they were going to get rid of me,” he suspects. “It was almost a feeling that I kept pushing their buttons, and I felt like I wasn’t in their favor from that point. Someone decided I was persona non grata.” Jones would persevere well into the fourth season, coincidentally ending his tenure with another trial-based episode, “The Drumhead.”

The Offspring #164

Data constructs an android daughter named Lal (Hallie Todd) and teaches her about human life and behavior—until an admiral (Nicolas Coster) insists that Lal be taken away for research at Starfleet. Like the second season’s “The Measure of a Man” and the fourth-season “Data’s Day,” “The Offspring” used the increasingly popular character of Data to explore the human condition. The episode is touching and sensitively handled, well directed by Jonathan Frakes (in his first episode as director), who quickly proved himself one of the most capable helmers on the series. Hallie Todd is charming and funny as Lal, and character actor Nicolas Coster creates a more nuanced than usual portrait of a meddling Starfleet admiral. As always, Brent Spiner gives a marvelously subtle, understated performance as Data, a character who drew viewers in through his reticence and stoicism much the way Spock did in the original series, but with an added element of innocence.

In dealing with two android characters in the first season’s “Datalore,” Jones took a binary approach, creating a score that emphasized cold electronics. For “The Offpsring,” Jones keeps electronics but uses them to construct a gentle, wondrous take on the miracle of birth and the world as seen through the eyes of a child. The score bears favorable comparisons to such film music classics as Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Jerry Goldsmith’s A Patch of Blue, with the added technology element deftly integrated. There are no mechanistic, synthesized ostinati here, but rather a warm, lullaby-like mood, understated and organic, reflecting the two androids’ ambitions to transcend their mechanical nature and be human.

The character of Lal receives two themes, the first introduced in the episode’s teaser and opening act, as Data reveals his procreation project (“Another Day in Space”/“Data’s Child”): a “birth” theme tinged with cosmic wonder for Lal’s introduction as a featureless, genderless proto-android. If the chord changes feel familiar, it is because Jones uses the same relationship of major chords (a major third apart) that marks “Ilia’s Theme” from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and James Horner’s themes to Star Trek II and III—and, for that matter, much science fiction scoring, as these chords have come to represent the sound of the cosmos (in religious terms, heaven), here employed by Jones on an intimate, personal scale.

As Lal decides upon a gender and appearance (“The Big Decision”), her second theme appears, a warm and lyrical melody expressing the character’s innocence and gentle spirit. Jones develops the theme in “Learning to Sense”/“Learning Skills” over a montage sequence of Data and crewmembers teaching Lal different activities—a fluid environment for music. “This was very open and had a lot of space,” the composer says. “There was a montage of him teaching her to catch a ball and do different things. It was interesting to play an android that was trying to become human. She doesn’t have a sex yet and she decides to be female.”

The theme recurs throughout the episode, as Lal learns and solidifies her relationship with Data and the others around her. “This music also had a pop feel to it. It didn’t leave the Star Trek feel but it had a pop sensibility too. It was interesting that you could play an android having feelings. To play him not as a machine, but that he was being a father.”

For the most part, Jones kept his music focused on the perspectives of Lal and Data, avoiding the temptation to provide a thematic presence for their putative antagonist, Admiral Haftel (Coster). But the composer does create a martial tone for an argument between Picard and Haftel (“Lal’s Death”), using a series of pulsing chords that he often employed for scenes involving imminent death (as in the earlier episode “Shades of Gray”).

Later in the same cue, Haftel offers to help Data in his attempt to keep Lal alive, but must later report to waiting Enterprise crewmembers that the cause is hopeless. With Haftel’s bluster destroyed by the unfolding tragedy, high and low orchestral lines (beginning at 2:43) create a gaping hole in the texture. “I had to tell a lot of the story there,” Jones says. “The emotion is split—there’s nothing in the middle, it’s all high and all low. And if you’re losing a family member, you have this tearing of your intellect, which is up here, and then also your heart drops and you don’t have anything in the middle because you’re hollow. I just tried to do that musically—that’s something we would all feel.”

Listen to the shift in texture at 3:43, as the scene cuts to Data’s laboratory and the two androids say their goodbyes: “I brought the middle back in, because [Data] put it all together. When you walk away from that person who’s going to die and you see them for the last time, then when you remember what they were all about, you have this happy feeling.”

A warm melodic line repeats over a changing bass as Lal says, “I love you, father,” but Data can only reply with, “I wish I could feel it with you.” Her theme plays for a last time as she says, “I will feel it for both of us. Thank you for my life,” and repeats final words about her experiences: “Flirting…laughter…painting family…female…human.” Jones scores the scene exquisitely, to which he credits his extensive preparation not just as a composer, but as a storyteller: “That came out of my ‘Star Trek Questions’ because I really disciplined myself to ask those questions on every cue.”

“The Offspring” closes with perhaps the most powerful finale Jones ever wrote for the series, “Thanks for the Memory Chips.” As the Enterprise bridge crew gathers to extend their sympathies to Data over Lal’s death, the android informs them that he has incorporated all of her memories and perceptions into his own programming. The “cosmic birth” theme returns as Data takes his station, and the cut to the Enterprise’s final warp-out pulses with a living heartbeat and tremendous major chords indicating the ongoing presence of Data’s daughter within him.

Jones acknowledges the episode as one of his favorites, both thematically and musically. “When you’re doing it, you don’t know if you’ve found that balance. In the hindsight of looking back from 20 years later, it looks like I did it, but I couldn’t tell at the time.” — 

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