"Star Trek: The Next Generation" - The Ron Jones Project

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
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Massachusetts
#1
The Ron Jones Project is a 14-disc (!!!) collection of Ron Jones' scores for 42 episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Seasons 1-4.

The first disc features the scores for "The Naked Now," "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "Lonely Among Us." What's fascinating about these scores is how uniquely TNG they sound... and yet also harken strongly back to the music of TOS.

"The Naked Now" in particular sounds like it could be ripped from an episode of TOS, save for a lot of the electronics involved. "Where No One Has Gone Before" has a lot of references to Jerry Goldsmith's work in "The Motion Picture," which gives it a pretty epic, cinematic feel. "Lonely Among Us" feels more TOS again, but also darker and a bit scarier.

I was worried that music from 1987 would feel really cheesy, and I knew that the earlier TNG scores had a good deal of synthesizer work going on, but what's interesting is that it all actually meshes really well. Yes, this is obviously music from the 1980s, but it's good music.

Speaking of good music, Jones mentions in the (extensive) liner notes available online at FSM: Star Trek: The Next Generation (Ron Jones) that he and Dennis McCarthy clashed right from the get-go with Rick Berman. Jones and McCarthy were getting congratulations left and right from people working with them on the quality of their scores, save for Berman, who insisted that the music should be more like wallpaper than fancy art.

This passage is particularly troubling:

“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 Doctorâ€) 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 “Havenâ€â€”McCarthy’s first hour-long episode—that he was sure he was going to be fired.)
I'm only buying this set piecemeal (thankfully it has been released digitally via iTunes and Amazon MP3 so I can spread out the cost) and I'll post further thoughts with each one.
 

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
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Massachusetts
#6
I spent some more time listening to the first disc this morning. The unused cues from "The Naked Now" that Jones refers to are track 5, "No Control / Needing Love" and track 7 "Infection in Control / Running Out of Time / Horny Doctor". Both are actually quite good, even highlights of the episode. "Horny Doctor" in particular is nice in that it starts out mostly on piano and then introduces some swelling strings toward the end.

The action cues like "Exploding Star" and "Our Only Hope" are the other highlights because Jones uses pretty much everything at his disposal, with driving rhythms and low brass to represent the danger, and even heroic reprisals of the 'Star Trek' fanfare at appropriate moments.

"Where No One has Gone Before" is even better, and sounds pretty much like if Jerry Goldsmith had scored the episode, with a lot of adaptations of the TMP/TNG theme to score the action as the ship is warped a billion light years away. The highlights are definitely the action cues such as track 12 "The Test / Double Warp / Long Way From Home" and 19 "Center Your Thoughts". But there's also some great material in 15 "Billion Light Years Away", which starts out with a very Goldsmith-esque piece that sounds very reminiscent of the Enterprise's journey through V'Ger before giving way to a more 80s sounding electronic underscore piece. Track 16 is also two source pieces by Mozart that are short and fun.

"Lonely Among Us" features some more moody work rather than action pieces that dominate the first two episodes. Some of it is quite good, and the melodies Jones creates in "Not Herself" would be used again quite a bit, and are prominent in the score for "The Best of Both Worlds".

With only about 30 players, the scores have a tendency to sound a bit thin compared to the 90-100 player orchestras used in the movies, but it's not that big of a deal. Especially in "Where No One Has Gone Before," which is probably my favorite of the three scores on this disc because of its uses of the shows and movie themes to drive the action.
 
Jun 13, 2006
547
2
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#7
It does often seem that the modern "Star Trek" shows (mostly) succeeded in spite of him rather than because of him.
DS9 succeeded because (apparently) Behr and Moore, among others, simply told Berman what he wanted to hear and promptly did whatever they wanted to do anyway.
 

Tupperfan

Forgot to bring booze...
Sep 16, 2009
243
1
18
The bush, Canada
#8
DS9 succeeded because (apparently) Behr and Moore, among others, simply told Berman what he wanted to hear and promptly did whatever they wanted to do anyway.
Which is, according to my own work experience, the best way to deal with superiors who lost contact with the reality of their job.

[Warning, the following paragraph is me ranting about planting and is not ultimately necessary to this post]

Basically, I ignored my boss' instructions to get the treeplanters to finish late, for no reasons, as we were a week away of finishing a gigantic cutblock, on the last day of a difficult work shift. This would have caused the planters to show up in town for night off at about 9pm, with not much time to actually relax or do stuff (like eating and cleaning a week of filth off their body) before partying and then going back to camp in the afternoon the next day. Which meant everything a planter needs a town for once a week (sleep in a real bed, do laundry, communicate with friends and family, pay bills, buy or restock supplies, entertainment, and chilling, among others) would have been packed on that little time period, while hungover.

[Rant over]

If this actually happened, Behr and Moore noticed that if your work is stellar and your judgment has been proven, there's nothing the boss can do when he eventually realizes it. In that case, stories unfolded by then on DS9 couldn't be redone or erased, and the show worked well enough that Berman just let it go, staying away from the rebels, to their, I'm assume, great satisfaction.
 

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
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Massachusetts
#9
DS9 succeeded because (apparently) Behr and Moore, among others, simply told Berman what he wanted to hear and promptly did whatever they wanted to do anyway.
I've heard numerous stories that while Berman was somewhat less involved with DS9, it was also a constant struggle with him to do things they wanted. Berman, for example, wanted the Dominion War to end entirely after six episodes. I also recall a story being told where after they had decided to blow off Nog's legs, they got into a lengthy argument with Berman over exactly how wounded Nog should be. I forget if it was Behr or Moore that was being interviewed (I think Moore) where he said it basically came down to them negotiating back and forth between two legs, one leg, part of one leg, one leg above the knee and finally settling on one leg below the knee.
 
Jun 13, 2006
547
2
0
#10
I've heard numerous stories that while Berman was somewhat less involved with DS9, it was also a constant struggle with him to do things they wanted. Berman, for example, wanted the Dominion War to end entirely after six episodes. I also recall a story being told where after they had decided to blow off Nog's legs, they got into a lengthy argument with Berman over exactly how wounded Nog should be. I forget if it was Behr or Moore that was being interviewed (I think Moore) where he said it basically came down to them negotiating back and forth between two legs, one leg, part of one leg, one leg above the knee and finally settling on one leg below the knee.
From what I've read, both in the DS9 Companion and various Moore interviews, I get the impression Berman became more involved again after he realized just how badly he'd been hoodwinked in the Dominion War negotiations. Voyager was also more established at that point and not diverting his attention as much.
 

Cymro

Religious Fanatic
Nov 30, 1999
5,028
3
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Shitsville, CF63
#11
I forget if it was Behr or Moore that was being interviewed (I think Moore) where he said it basically came down to them negotiating back and forth between two legs, one leg, part of one leg, one leg above the knee and finally settling on one leg below the knee.
Why? Because Nog was (basically) a regular and it would have repercussions in a couple of later episodes? Trek portrayed much darker things during his tenure, and the only difference I can think of is that the issues were usually resolved by the end of the episode or it happened to an ancillary character. There is nothing more "Star Trek" than the way Nog came back from that, and "It's Only A Paper Moon" is one of the franchise's best instalments. Even at his craziest, Roddenberry was never afraid to show that the characters were in real danger and that people could get killed or maimed.
 
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Jun 13, 2006
547
2
0
#12
Why? Because Nog was (basically) a regular and it would have repercussions in a couple of later episodes? Trek portrayed much darker things during his tenure, and the only difference I can think of is that the issues were usually resolved by the end of the episode or it happened to an ancillary character. There is nothing more "Star Trek" than the way Nog came back from that, and "It's Only A Paper Moon" is one of the franchise's best instalments. Even at his craziest, Roddenberry was never afraid to show that the characters were in real danger and that people could get killed or maimed.
Who knows? I've heard that same story in interviews with several different DS9 writers and producers, so I have to assume it's accurate.
 

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
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Massachusetts
#13
Disc 2: "The Battle" / "Datalore" / "11001001"

"The Battle" is somewhat low key, seemingly just a lot of psychological-sounding underscore until it speeds up a bit at the end. It's not boring, per se, though it's a bit less interesting than the scores on disc 1. It's slower, without a lot of higher pitched stuff, it's mostly sort of mysterious and 'dangerous' sounding. In the liner notes, Jones mentions that he decided not to give the Ferengi their own specific musical identity. There's a lot of synthesizer work in this one, too, though the orchestra dominates the final cues of the episode's climax. The liner notes mention that Jones decided not to score the final cue of the episode and instead track music from an earlier episode, in order to focus on the action cues at the climax of the episode, which really pissed off the producers.

Apparently, one of Berman's problems with the music on the show was that he didn't want it to sound "tracked," that is, reusing the same recorded bits over and over again in different episodes as the original series often did. It's ironic, then, that by basically eroding whatever freedom his composers had that he ended up with such bland, unidentifiable music that it could easily have been tracked episode to episode and no one would have known the difference.

"Datalore" is much better. It's less basic underscore, with more complex structures. Despite the emotionless Data character, there's a lot of emotion in the music written for him and his evil twin broski, Lore. The music feels very dangerous at times, and there's some really cool percussion work in the climax. Parts of it almost sound more like 'Battlestar Galactica' than 'Star Trek' but that's going too far with it.

"11001001" is definitely the best of the three scores on this disc. The opening cue with the Enterprise docking at a starbase is grand, big music like this show deserves, and has some mysterious synthesizer work for the Bynars. It's got a couple jazz source tracks for Riker's playtime in the holodeck which are kinda cool. It also has an excellent reprisal of the TMP/TNG theme toward the end, and the final closing moments are some really great string and piano work. The liner notes point out something I don't think I would typically notice watching the episode: when Minuet tells Riker and Picard not to leave the holodeck and they figure out that she's been keeping them there, Jones inserts the Bynar theme into the cue - a musical revelation that she's in on the plot. That's the kind of cleverness that's missing from later 'Trek' TV scores.
 
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Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
0
Massachusetts
#14
Even at his craziest, Roddenberry was never afraid to show that the characters were in real danger and that people could get killed or maimed.
At his craziest, Roddenberry insisted that none of the characters on the show should ever argue with each other. And multiple times he attempted to pitch a story in which Spock was the second shooter on the grassy knoll.