Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict (to give the show its full
title) is an American TV series apparently based on an idea left behind by
the titular producer (and Mr Star Trek himself) after his demise.
Though given that the idea 'enigmatic aliens come to earth' is one of the
stock premises of the science fiction, quite how much credit the demised
Mr R. deserves for the posthumous show is debatable. Certainly the reviews
I have read - the show has yet to debut on national television, as yet only
being available on Channel 5 - suggest that the show owns rather more to
the complexity and sophistication of Babylon 5 than the
'planet-of-the-week' adventures of Star Trek.
This of course suggests an on-going thematic unity. This is certainly evident
from the CD, for although the notes make much of the diverse global locations
(and appropriate ethnic instrumentation) of different episodes - suggesting
a rather fragmented soundtrack album might result - the disc actually flows
with considerable coherence. This is true even though there is music from
24 different episodes, plus the main and end title music, included on the
album. The titles given are the titles of the episodes themselves, with no
notes or indication as to which scenes in those episodes might be being depicted.
The music is largely electronic, with real brass and strings being utilised
in the title themes. There is assorted ethnic instrumentation for various
episodes: Irish pipes, whistle and fiddle are specifically noted, as is the
EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument - not to be confused with the Electronic
Valve Instrument featured in Maurice Jarre's EVI Concerto.) Other solo
instruments are: flutes, trumpet, oboe, violin, erhu, in addition to which
is the solo voice of Leah Erbe.
This is not what one might expect given the Star Trek associations.
There is very little action music. Rather, this is more akin to a new-age/world
music soundscape album, with a fashionably Celtic feel and some most attractive
'haunting' solo female vocals - indeed, parts are akin to the glittering,
atmospheric elements of James Horner's Titanic. It works here, but
this is the second album this month that I have had for review with a score
using this device - the first was Mark Thomas' stunning Aristocrats
- and it is rapidly in danger of becoming a cliché. Even so, the score
is works as an album partly because it allows its electronic sounds to sound
otherworldly, rather than act, and fail, as a cheap alternative to a symphony
orchestra, but mainly because Micky Arbe and Maribeth Solomon have clear
melodic and compositional gifts. They work well together, as they should
given that they have written over 30 scores in partnership over the last
20 years, including several for IMAX films such as Blue Planet (1990).
What action cues they are tend towards the repeated percussion, tension-building
of Babylon 5, as indeed does the mystical shimmering of the score,
than the combative explosiveness of orchestral SF action. The coherence happily
comes from the modern trend to have a single composer, or team, to score
an entire series, again like Babylon 5 or The X Files, a trend
which can only be applauded. The ancestor of this sort of scoring is the
German synth. progressive rock group Tangerine Dream - B5 composer Christopher
Franke was once a member - and anyone who grew-up with their music in the
70's, and with Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield, will feel quite at home
with the music on this disc. It's not essential, it's not even particularly
memorable - though the theme is dramatic enough - but it is thoroughly enjoyable
in an undemanding way.
As a curious aside - by strange coincidence this album connects with Silva
Screen's The Essential Maurice Jarre Film Music Collection (which
I also review this month) by virtue of both releases featuring electronic
music for dramas involving the Amish. As astute cultural commentator Harry
Hill might say, what's the chances of that happening?
Gary S. Dalkin