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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Album Cover Art
1991 GNP Crescendo
2009 FSM
Album 2 Cover Art
2016 La-La Land
Album 3 Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
Jack Hayes

Additional Music and Blaster Beam Effect by:
Craig Huxley

2009 Album Produced by:
Lukas Kendall
Labels Icon
GNP Crescendo
(February 5th, 1991)

Film Score Monthly
(July 20th, 2009)

La-La Land Records
(November 25th, 2016)
Availability Icon
The 1991 GNP Crescendo album was a regular commercial release, but out of print as of 2003. The 2009 expanded album from Film Score Monthly was not limited in its pressing and retailed for $20. It approached the top 100 albums in music sales at during its initial weeks of availability. The 2016 "Star Trek 50th Anniversary Collection" with one track from this score is limited to 3,000 copies and available initially through soundtrack specialty outlets for $50.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you're interested in hearing the roots of many of James Horner's great career motifs and thematic styles in one of the best scores in the history of the "Star Trek" franchise and the science fiction genre at large.

Avoid it... if an abrasive and harsh performance tone and somewhat archival recording quality, especially on the 1991 album, gives you pause, or if Horner's broad, sea-faring style seems out of place for you in this franchise.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 6/17/03, REVISED 6/22/18
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: (James Horner) After the belatedly popular "Star Trek" television series of the 1960's was finally brought to big screen in 1979 to limited critical and popular acclaim, young director Nicholas Meyer would take the series in an entirely new direction three years later. Whereas Star Trek: The Motion Picture had wowed audiences with all the majestic fantasy elements that a $45 million budget could buy, many of which overextended into lengthy sequences to accentuate their mere brilliance of color and sound, Meyer's approach to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was strictly a plot-driven one (and a necessary move because his budget was limited to roughly $11 million for the sequel). With the elements of brutal power, surprise attacks, character development, emotional turmoil, and, most of all, primal revenge all driving the basis of the sequel, there was finally appealing substance to go with the franchise's impressive special effects. The wild success of Star Trek II in providing a personal cat and mouse thriller of old, high seas tradition in space solidified the franchise for at least another nine films, earning respect despite considerable competition from the concurrent Star Wars trilogy (and fans angry with the death of the beloved Vulcan, Spock). The story introduced the concept of a villain challenging the intellectual and technological capabilities of the Enterprise crew while also making a crucial link back to an episode of the original television show. The resulting picture is arguably the one of the two best of the series, and it also established a new, dramatic standard for its musical scores. Jerry Goldsmith had adapted his friend Alexander Courage's television theme into the first film's score and had composed an elegant, orchestrally sweeping theme for the heroic crew that was destined to become the franchise's fanfare identity throughout the 1990's. Despite receiving an Oscar nomination for that work, Goldsmith was not considered for Star Trek II mostly due to financial reasons; music was one of the areas in which the production had to be curtailed.

Additionally, Meyer wanted an increasingly edgy sound for Star Trek II, one that could actively accompany the film's emphasis on intense action while intentionally dropping all of Goldsmith's identities from the first film. Encouraged by upstart James Horner's highly innovative science-fiction sound (on a low budget) for Battle Beyond the Stars, Meyer handed the scoring assignment to the then almost completely unknown composer. Fresh out of college and working on trashy B-rate science fiction projects, Horner was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Like Cliff Eidelman nearly ten years later for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Horner would jump at the challenge and write the score of his career. This happened despite the composer's confession that he wasn't a significant fan of the concept, though due to his controversial involvement with Goldsmith's daughter a few years earlier, he had attended a few recording sessions for Star Trek. Reported friction between the two composers is likely overplayed, though Goldsmith would eventually say in 1998, "I think he is a bit eclectic. But then again, at times we've all helped ourselves to the work of others." Fortunately for Horner, the outstanding recognition achieved from Star Trek II would lead to an extremely productive and lucrative career in Hollywood, something which Eidelman struggled unsuccessfully to obtain. In the many years since Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Horner has also become one of the most artistically controversial composers in the industry. Known for constantly borrowing material from his previous scores (among other sources), Horner collectors can often point back to Star Trek II as being the origin for many of the composer's trademark, career-defining motifs. Thus, even if you believe in the perpetual theories of Horner's self-borrowing techniques, you must admit that Star Trek II is still a fantastic score for debuting all of these ideas at once. In general, for comparative purposes, Horner's approach to the "Star Trek" universe was entirely different from Goldsmith's. Instead of winning over audiences with the graceful spectacle of space travel, Horner treats space no differently than he would the savage, yet exhilarating era of high seas adventures back on Earth.

Horner wrote four major themes for Star Trek II, two intermingling ideas representing Captain Kirk and the Enterprise, one for Spock that would later become an identity for the Vulcan race, and a ripping rhythmic representation for this film's colorful villain. The opening title explodes with its swelling themes for Kirk (first, positioned as the primary theme in fanfare format) and the Enterprise (in the bridge placement in between Kirk's theme), tipping the hat immediately to Courage's theme. Horner chose not to explore any of the underscores for the original television series despite the direct connections in storyline, but he did avail himself of Courage's theme extensively in this score (referencing the theme in no less than six cues). Horner's use of the Kirk and Enterprise themes often overlaps, causing the two to become somewhat indistinguishable to casual ears. He does, though, apply the complimentary ideas in highly specific places to reference the tightening relationship between the two as Kirk takes command of the ship. The ship's theme is almost exclusively conveyed (along with subtle hints of Spock and Kirk's theme after about a minute) in Horner's personal favorite scene and cue, "Enterprise Clears Moorings." The swashbuckling aspect of this idea is prominent as the Enterprise seemingly unfurls its sails and heads out to rough seas. The broad, orchestral theme takes you back to the adventures scored by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, with masted ships in close combat and displaying the brilliance of their own colors and sails. Such an interpretation by Horner makes perfect sense, given the parallels between space fleets and those of the sea. Meyer's film follows the sea battle mode until Spock and Kirk defeat the evil Khan (Ricardo Montalban and his fake chest, both fan favorites) by reminding the audience that space is three dimensional, the key to winning the battle between the stolen Reliant and the Enterprise. The continuation of the Kirk and Enterprise themes in the battle sequences, ranging from "Kirk Takes Command" to "Genesis Countdown," infuses a sense of excitement and optimism that accompanies Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future without remotely approaching the realm of trite character, a problem that dealt a fatal blow to Leonard Rosenman's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.09 Stars
***** 719 5 Stars
**** 340 4 Stars
*** 163 3 Stars
** 89 2 Stars
* 81 1 Stars
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Analsis and Appreciation of Wrath of Khan
Ed Chang - April 4, 2016, at 4:54 p.m.
1 comment  (874 views)
FVSR Reviews Star Trek II
Brendan Cochran - July 24, 2015, at 12:11 p.m.
1 comment  (1102 views)
Nimoy voice-over   Expand >>
Zuvqwyx - November 8, 2009, at 2:16 a.m.
3 comments  (3712 views)
Newest: August 16, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. by
Star Trek II
Michael McDaid - September 1, 2009, at 10:28 a.m.
1 comment  (1885 views)
New recording sound quality
Hays - August 27, 2009, at 8:01 p.m.
1 comment  (2061 views)
The Chest Comment
Scott - August 7, 2009, at 12:51 p.m.
1 comment  (2888 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1991 GNP Crescendo Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 44:54
• 1. Main Title* (3:03)
• 2. Surprise Attack (5:08)
• 3. Spock (1:13)
• 4. Kirk's Explosive Reply (4:02)
• 5. Khan's Pets (4:19)
• 6. Enterprise Clears Moorings (3:36)
• 7. Battle in the Mutara Nebula (8:05)
• 8. Genesis Countdown (6:36)
• 9. Epilogue/End Title** (8:43)
* contains original television theme by Alexander Courage
** contains original television theme by Alexander Courage and dialogue by Leonard Nimoy
2009 Film Score Monthly Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 75:16
2016 La-La Land Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 8:41

Notes Icon
The 1991 GNP Crescendo album's insert includes a note about Horner's career up to 1990, as well as a synopsis of the film's plot (with spoilers! dang!). The 2009 Film Score Monthly album contains extensive notation about the film and score, as well as a wealth of artwork in an attractive design. The 2016 La-La Land set contains a plethora of information as well. The press statement regarding the 2009 FSM product is included in part below:

"FSM delivers in cooperation with Rhino Entertainment (who administer the Atlantic Records catalog) and Paramount Pictures (owners of the Star Trek film franchise) - remastering the complete score from Dan Wallin's 1982 three-track film mixes, stored in the Paramount vaults in sterling sound quality. The 28-page CD booklet features commentary and track-by-track breakdowns including new and historical interview quotes by Horner, Meyer and others involved in the production,as well as our customary art direction by Joe Sikoryak featuring stills, rare artwork and behind-the-scenes photos."
Copyright © 2003-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan are Copyright © 1991, 2009, 2016, GNP Crescendo, Film Score Monthly, La-La Land Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/17/03 and last updated 6/22/18.
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