Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Lion King “Under the Stars” (1994)

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The time has almost come to bring The Lion King to a close. After today I’ll share the final scene of the film and that will be the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at one of the most popular films of the Disney Renaissance.

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“Under the Stars” is one of my favorite instrumental themes from the film. This is the part of the story where Simba is convinced he needs to return to Pride Rock to confront Scar. A now-grown Nala (who snuck away from the desolate Pride Lands in search of help) has already tried to convince Simba to return, but the guilt-ridden Simba (who still believes Mufasa’s death is his fault) refuses, and won’t tell her why either. He storms off in anger and finally vents his frustrations to the night sky (where Mufasa once told him the great kings of the past watch over them)

You said you’d always be there for me! But you’re not…that’s because of me. It’s my fault…it’s MY fault!”

And just in the nick of time, Rafiki shows up! Simba doesn’t remember him of course, but he was the mandrill who presented Simba to the kingdom as the future king. Rafiki is singing a crazy song to himself, it goes like this:

“Asante sana, squash banana, wewe nugu mimi hapana”

And when Simba demands to know what the heck all that means, Rafiki explains that it means (in part at least) “You are a baboon, and I’m not!” When Simba tells Rafiki he must be confused, the mandrill reminds Simba that he (Simba) doesn’t even know who HE is, but he (Rafiki) does, he’s “Mufasa’s boy!”

The Lion King: Simba meets Rafiki/Mufasa’s Ghost (1994)

Of course hearing his father’s name brings Simba running after Rafiki for more information, especially when Rafiki insists that Mufasa is still alive and that he can show his father to him, but only if he follows him deep into the jungle. Simba does follow, and I love the music that comes while he’s creeping and running after Rafiki. It’s a very primal song, full of African drum beats and chanting. Sometimes when I just listen to the soundtrack, I imagine a tribal dance going on (as I’m almost positive that’s what this piece was modeled after).

 

After chasing Rafiki for quite a while, Simba is led to a distant lake where, Rafiki tells him, he will see his father. But when a nervous Simba peers over the edge, he is disappointed.

“That’s not my father…it’s only my reflection.”

“But you see…” Rafiki tells him “He lives in YOU.”

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And suddenly the reflection changes to that of Mufasa and out of nowhere there’s a ghostly voice coming from the sky (five year old me was freaking out right about now). I absolutely love this animation: Mufasa starts as a ghostly silhouette coming out of the clouds, and as the scene continues, Mufasa’s body takes shape, until at last, we see Mufasa completely as he appeared in life:

“Simba…” (Mufasa says) “You have forgotten me..you have forgotten who you are and so you have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are MORE than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. Remember who you are, you are my son, and the one true king!”

mufasasghost2

And just as quickly as he comes, Mufasa is gone again. Rafiki (who presumably watched the whole thing) comes back to see if Simba has finally learned his lesson. Simba does understand now, but he’s still a bit scared about his past….time for one more lesson then.

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Without warning, Rafiki bashes Simba over the head with his staff. And the following exchange has become almost a mantra for me in getting over the bad things that have happened to me in my life:

“OUCH! Geez, what was that for?

“It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!’

“Yeah, but it still hurts.”

Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or, learn from it (tries to hit Simba again but Simba ducks), AHA!! You see! So what are you going to do?”

“First…I’m going to take your stick!! (pause) “I’m going back!!!”

Yes, while Simba is sad that he only got to see his father again for a brief moment, he knows now what he must do: head back to Pride Rock and confront Scar once and for all!

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For more of The Lion King, see also:

The Lion King “The Circle of Life” (1994)

The Lion King “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” (1994)

The Lion King “Be Prepared” (1994)

The Lion King “To Die For” (1994)

The Lion King “Hakuna Matata” (1994)

The Lion King “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (1994)

The Lion King “King of Pride Rock” Part 1 (1994)

The Lion King “King of Pride Rock” Pt. 2 (1994)

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Keep Watching the Skies Blogathon: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

*This post is part of the Keep Watching the Skies Blogathon hosted by The Cinematic Frontier

When I think of “classic” science fiction cinema, I inevitably think of two films: Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), though regarding the latter, it took me a long time to remember what the film was called. It kept turning out that every time the film was on Turner Classic Movies, I would end up catching it in the middle. So for a while it would be “that movie with Gort in it.” Of course now I know that The Day the Earth Stood Still is so MUCH more than that.

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Released in 1951, The Day the Earth Stood Still is set during a time when the Cold War against the Soviet Union (and a fear of Communism in general) is gaining momentum. The score for this film was composed and conducted by the legendary Bernard Herrmann and featured extensive use of the theremin in the opening title. In fact, the score for this film is what inspired Danny Elfman to be interested in film composing.

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Main Title (1951)

A strange flying saucer enters Earth’s atmosphere and lands in Washington D.C., where it is quickly surrounded by the Army.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu Arrives (1951)

An alien, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), appears and announces he comes in peace. Unfortunately, when he reveals a strange device, one of the soldiers panics and shoots Klaatu in the shoulder, prompting the large robot Gort to emerge from the spacecraft. Surveying the situation, Gort begins to vaporize the weapons with a beam from his “eyes” when Klaatu commands him to stop.

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Gort (1951)

Klaatu is taken to the hospital, but it turns out he is more than capable of healing himself (leaving the poor doctor ready to retire after learning his patient is actually 78 and only in what he considers middle age for his species). Mr. Harley, the secretary to the President arrives, and asks Klaatu why he has come. The mission is simple: Klaatu has an urgent message that must be shared with ALL the governments of the world at the same time. Mr. Harley protests that this will be impossible, and when the authorities prove less than helpful, Klaatu decides to escape and spend some time among the populace, to see if he can learn why the human race is so suspicious.

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Assuming the identity of “Mr. Carpenter”, Klaatu takes a room in a boarding house where he meets and befriends Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a widow, who lives with her young son Bobby. The next day, Klaatu lets Bobby show him around the city, where he is visibly disturbed to learn that so many people have been killed due to war. He is also impressed by the Lincoln Memorial (“Those are great words…”) Knowing that his message must still be shared, Klaatu asks Bobby who the smartest man in the world is. Bobby figures that it must be Professor Barnhardt, who happens to live in the city. Finding the professor out, Klaatu leaves a “calling card” by adding in a vital part of an equation (that an ordinary person would not know), knowing that he’ll be contacted as soon as the professor sees it.

Sure enough, the professor and Klaatu end up meeting and the alien shares a small part of his message: If the governments of the world do not listen to him, Earth is at risk of annihilation. This statement terrifies the professor:

“Such power exists?” he asks breathlessly

“I assure you” Klaatu answers “Such power exists.”

Professor Barnhardt promises to assemble as many world scientists at the spaceship as he can, but in the meantime, he thinks it would help if Klaatu were to give a “minor demonstration” of what might happen, but asks also that no one be killed as a result of this “demonstration.” Amused by the challenge, Klaatu sneaks back to the spaceship to prepare for the event, but doesn’t realize Bobby is following him and sees him communicating with Gort.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Power Loss (1951)

The “demonstration” turns out to be a total loss of power all over the world (be it motive, electrical, etc.) for precisely thirty minutes (excluding planes in the air or the power necessary to run hospitals). To create a musical sense of the chaos that was happening, Herrmann created a series of tonal clusters (a large series of notes grouped very closely together) and held them out for long periods of time, to create that feeling of static helplessness that almost everyone feels during this period (except for Professor Barnhardt, he revels in the chaos, knowing its source).

Just as the power outage begins, Helen confronts Klaatu about what Bobby told her and while they are trapped in a hospital together, Klaatu confesses everything and asks for her help. Helen promises to do what she can, but there’s a wrinkle, Helen’s boyfriend Tom already believes that “Mr. Carpenter” is the alien and is doing his best to turn Klaatu in to the authorites, believing that this will make him a “big hero.” A disgusted Helen breaks up with him, and the authorities begin to close in on Klaatu’s location.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu Barada Nikto (1951)

En route to the gathering of scientists, Klaatu tells Helen that should ANYTHING happen to him, she must go to Gort and tell him “Klaatu barada nikto.” This is because there is “no limit” to what Gort could do, “he could incinerate the Earth.” Before they can reach the spaceship, the Army cuts the pair off. Klaatu runs for it, but is gunned down in the street, prompting Helen to run for the spaceship. And back at that same spaceship, Gort has begun to awaken, sensing Klaatu’s death. When two Army sentries approach, Gort promptly vaporizes THEM (not just their weapons like before). Helen approaches, but is terrified by the huge robot. However, she manages to get the words out just before Gort can vaporize her and Gort responds by taking her to the ship before leaving to retrieve Klaatu’s body.

Back in the spaceship, Helen watches awestruck as Gort begins manipulating a series of dials that begin to heal and revive Klaatu’s body! The alien ultimately returns to life, but it’s not permanent. Even they, as advanced as they are, do not possess “the power of life and death”, as that is reserved for the “Almighty Spirit.”

(On a side note, Michael Rennie absolutely HATED that reference to the Almighty Spirit (it was added by the studio at the last minute, as they felt they were making these aliens out to be gods) as he felt it didn’t fit everything we’d learned about Klaatu and his culture up to that point)

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu’s Speech (1951)

Meanwhile, the crowd of scientists has gathered outside, but the Army is urging them to leave, as they have no idea where Gort is. Just as Professor Barnhardt agrees that they should disperse for their own safety, the spaceship opens up one last time, revealing Helen, Klaatu and Gort. Helen leaves the ship, while Klaatu stands at the entrance to finally deliver his message:

I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more… profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.

The film ends with Klaatu and Gort leaving in their spaceship, a giant question mark hanging over the fate of the human race: will we join this peaceful group of planets, or will we destroy ourselves?

Of course no answer is given, and that frustrated me for years, because I wanted to know how the story was going to end! Except there isn’t meant to be an ending, not like that anyways. The end of Klaatu’s speech was intended as a direct message to the world in 1951: if we don’t stop fighting each other, we’re going to destroy ourselves.

Though it is now over sixty years old, the film is considered a classic and its message is just as relevant today as it was when the film came out. If you haven’t seen this film before, I highly recommend it (and whatever you do, do NOT watch the remake with Keanu Reeves!!!)

Thanks to The Cinematic Frontier for running this great blogathon! -Becky

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The Underappreciated Music of STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK

Note: This is published on behalf of Carl Wonders, who doesn’t have a blog of his own but wanted to contribute to the blogathon 🙂

When thinking about a topic for The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central, I eventually decided on a score that, much like the film itself, seems to have fallen in the proverbial crack between the excellent STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN and the immensely entertaining STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (although the score to the latter film is certainly polarizing). But in addition to it being somewhat overlooked, this particular soundtrack holds a special place for me.

STAR TREK III introduced me to the world of film scoring.

No, really. Of course, I had been aware of movie theme songs for a long time (my childhood was marinated in all things STAR WARS), but in terms of underscore, this was the film that made me sit up and notice.

The moment comes about halfway through the movie. The Klingons have landed on the Genesis planet and are tracking an away team of Saavik, David Marcus, and a rejuvenated Spock. Suddenly, and without warning, the sun begins to set on the rapidly aging planet. As both Kruge and David watch, there is this emotional swelling of fluttering strings playing over the scene. It only lasts for about 30 seconds, but I had never consciously noticed a moment so brought to life by the underscore quite like that. Ever since then, I was hooked.

David Marcus
(amazingly, this cue, “Sunset on Genesis” was not included in the original release of the score).

The Score

Of course, this isn’t the only part worth mentioning in the soundtrack. Overall, I think ST:III gets overlooked by those who simply think of it as James Horner doing a rehash of his score to the previous movie. While many of the themes are no doubt similar, I think this is a very superficial and unfair critique. Its popularity was certainly not helped by the rather abysmal first CD release, which is missing a lot of quality music yet found room for an embarrassing disco version of the theme song. Ugh.

The score, like the film itself, is much more emotional and personal than it’s predecessor, and the orchestration suits that very well. In many ways, it’s a more mature score than ST:II, and is one that is more suited to sitting down and listening to rather than something to have on in the background. There is a subtlety here that isn’t really present in ST:II, especially in the lower registers, and if you’re not paying attention you might miss it.

Of course, the Kirk and Enterprise themes are both there from the previous film, and while I absolutely love the Jerry Goldsmith theme, these two from Horner might be my favorite character themes from the films (I’ve always thought of the Goldsmith theme representing Star Trek itself rather than any particular character). Horner also makes the best use of the original Alexander Courage fanfare of any of the composers, particularly in a moment that I will get to later, typically rotating the theme across multiple sections (primarily the horns and trumpets).

I could spend several thousand words walking through every track on the CD, but in the interest of space (and the attention of the readers), I’m going to focus on a few key, standout sections, in addition to the sunset scene I mentioned above.

Stealing the Enterprise

This sequence is easily the best in the film and the score, and with the possible exception of “The Enterprise” from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, this may be my favorite cue in the entire series. If you want just the highlights of what Star Trek music is, this is James Horner’s Star Trek distilled into a fantastic 8:42. The entirety is a wonderful romp that perfectly fits the action on screen, as Admiral Kirk and his party, well, steal the Enterprise.

Some highlights:

There’s an interesting theme that Horner brings in with the horns right when the team beams over to the Enterprise. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember hearing it anytime before or after this scene. In addition, nowhere in the series is the Alexander Courage fanfare better used than in the moment right as the Enterprise is set to pull away from space dock. The music builds as Courage’s theme moves through the orchestra until the order for “one-quarter impulse power” is given, and the ship slowly starts to move.

“Gentlemen. May the wind be at our backs. Stations please.””Gentlemen. May the wind be at our backs. Stations please.”
The U.S.S. Excelsior, and particularly Captain Stiles, receives a piano/mallet percussion-based melody that I can only really call the “pompous-ass” motif. It makes an appearance pretty much any time the Excelsior crew is on screen, such as the moment when Stiles is interrupted while filing his nails (!!). I also refer to it as the “pompous-ass” motif because it underscores the scene with Mr. Adventure, right before Uhura locks him in the closet. It’s also worth noting that James Horner would later adapt this into a secondary theme for Timothy Dalton’s character, Neville Sinclair, in THE ROCKETEER.

“This isn’t reality. This is fantasy.””This isn’t reality. This is fantasy.”
The final 2:30 of the cue is a perfect example of building and releasing tension. The Enterprise is heading towards the giant space doors, but it’s unclear whether they are going to open. Then, at the last minute, Scotty works another miracle, and the Kirk theme is reprised in triumph as the Enterprise exits and turns towards space. For a moment, a lyrical rendition of the Enterprise theme plays once, but is interrupted by the approaching Excelsior. After some back-and-forth between Stiles and Kirk, the Enterprise warps away. As the shiny-new Excelsior begins to power up its fabled transwarp drive, Horner supplies some gloriously over-the-top “revving up” music until, just like in the movie…nothing happens.

“Kirk…if you do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.””Kirk…if you do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.”
Other Highlights

“Bird of Prey Decloaks” is another back-and-forth cue that plays the Kirk theme off of Horner’s Klingon theme. The latter theme is another polarizing bit among Trek music fans. I happen to think it’s fine; Goldsmith’s is so good it’s not really fair to compare them. My favorite moment is when it looks like Kirk has won the battle, and there is a tremendous trumpet counterpoint playing over Kirk’s theme. Then, the crew slowly realizes that they’ve overtaxed the jury-rigged Enterprise, and the tone takes a turn for the worse…

“I dinna expect to take us into combat, you know!””I dinna expect to take us into combat, you know!”
I also have to mention the next scene, where Kruge orders the death of one of the landing party (which ends up being David), and we see Kirk’s reaction to the news that the son that he just was reunited with is dead. In addition to being some of Shatner’s best acting in the series, it’s particularly striking that the entire sequence is (appropriately) unscored.

“Klingon bastard, you’ve killed my son…””Klingon bastard, you’ve killed my son…”
Another glaring omission from the original CD, “A Fighting Chance to Live” chronicles the final moments of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Slightly dissonant strings play over a mournful version of the Enterprise theme as Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov set the auto-destruct sequence and beam away just as the Klingon boarding party arrives. Interestingly, there is a percussion underscore for the actual destruction of the ship, which I never realized was there until I heard it on CD (and is perhaps the first and only appearance of the “thunder sheet” in Star Trek music).

“Destruct Sequence 1. Code: 1-1-A””Destruct Sequence 1. Code: 1-1-A”
“Genesis Destroyed” contains another favorite moment of mine, where Kirk , climbs to the top of cliff, having just defeated Kruge, and looks out over the doomed landscape of Genesis. While I go back and forth on the merits of the actual Genesis “theme” (it’s really a take on Holst’s Uranus: The Magician), it works well here. This is particularly true when contrasted with the Spock theme and then the classic early Horner trumpet flourishes as the bird of prey warps away from the exploding planet.

The Final Dawn on GenesisThe Final Dawn on Genesis
Finally, ”The Katra Ritual” is another evocative piece of music, starting quietly with rumbling percussion that slowly builds, adding strings, gong, and orchestra as the Fal-Tor-Pan is performed. This sequence, along with the sunset moment I mentioned at the beginning, were really what got me into film music to begin with; a journey that started more than 30 years ago…

“Sometimes the needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the many.””Sometimes the needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the many.”
…and the Adventure continues…

The Music of Star Trek: The Best of Both Worlds (1990)

This post is part of The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central (me!!!)

You don’t often think of television episodes having great musical scores, but such is the case with “The Best of Both Worlds”, a two-parter that consists of the season 3 finale and the season 4 premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The events of these episodes form the basis of Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and had huge ramifications for the Star Trek universe. Given the massive size of this story, I am actually going to focus on Part 1 for this blogathon.

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At the start, the Enterprise is dispatched to a Federation colony that had reported they were under attack. The Enterprise arrives only to find that the entire colony has been wiped off the face of the planet (leaving only a huge crater in the ground). Everyone immediately suspects the Borg, an alien species first encountered in the season 2 episode “Q Who?” The Borg could easily be considered the most dangerous foe ever encountered by the Federation. Unlike other alien species, that might give up after a show of resistance, the Borg never stop. They will come on relentlessly until they reach their goal of assimilating any and all cultures they come into contact with into their “collective.” That’s the other thing about the Borg, they  function as a group mind. There is no individuality, no freedom of expression, nothing. There isn’t even the concept of “I”. If the Borg were to ever reach Earth, it would be disastrous, so the Enterprise is dispatched to engage and stop them.

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“We have engaged the Borg”

Now I mentioned that this two-parter has a great musical score and it really comes into play once the Enterprise locates the Borg ship (a massive cube structure). The music here has an almost cinematic quality to it (a rare thing in television these days). Composer Ron Jones gave an ominous theme to the Borg (mostly consisting of synthesized choral voices), to emphasize the fact that the Enterprise is up against a very dangerous opponent.

“We Have Engaged the Borg”

How dangerous? Well, after an initial attack leaves the Enterprise locked in a tractor beam (that they barely manage to break away from), the ship spends several hours hiding in a nearby nebula, as a ploy to distract the Borg from going after anyone else. See, the weird thing is, the Borg are demanding Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) be handed over to them, which is weird (even for them) because hitherto the Borg haven’t shown any interest in individual beings. And despite best efforts, the Borg have this way of getting whatever it is they want. Case in point: Picard’s kidnapping scene. The Borg chase the Enterprise out of the nebula and manage to knock their shields back down.

borg_kidnap_picard

No sooner does this happen then several Borg begin beaming over to the bridge of the Enterprise. Note the music when this happens, it becomes very mechanical and rigid (and somewhat repetitive). This is symbolic of the unrelenting nature of the Borg. Despite the fact that they are cyborgs (part human/machine), they firmly reject the parts of themselves that were once human.

Picard is kidnapped by the Borg

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “resistance is futile” THIS is where that comes from. Actually, to hear the Borg tell it, anything other than immediate acquiesence to their demands is futile. Even DEATH is irrelevant (which is kind of a scary thought when you think about it). Picard is determined to resist his captors anyway, but he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter. This is the last we see of Picard until the end of the episode (more on that after while).

“Strength is irrelevant, resistance is futile”

The Enterprise has a really big problem on their hands (even bigger than Picard being kidnapped): the Borg cube has set a direct course for Earth (also known as Sector 001, the Terran System). Under no circumstances can that cube reach Earth, so while the Federation fleet gathers at Wolf 359 (which is a real star by the way), the Enterprise sets about delaying the Borg ship at any cost, not just to give the fleet more time to prepare, but also so they can try to rescue Captain Picard (before they’re forced to try and destroy the Borg ship).

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Inside the Borg ship

Beaming aboard, the away team encounters no resistance at first (the Borg typically ignore lifeforms if they don’t think they’re a threat), but when Dr. Crusher hits on the idea to take out an increasing number of power stations (to force the ship to slow down and repair itself), the Borg take action. Borg begin attacking from every direction, and they have a distinct advantage. There’s one more detail about this species I forgot to mention: they have the ability to analyze and adapt themselves against any attack. What does that mean? Well, in Star Trek you generally attack with phasers, right? With the Borg’s adaptability, you MIGHT get off two or three shots before the Borg (collectively) learn how to shield themselves from the blast. In other words, if you can’t destroy them before they adapt, you’re screwed. The away team has reached the point where all the Borg are adapting, meaning they need to leave ASAP, but then Dr. Crusher sees someone familiar…it’s Captain Picard…or is it?

“Captain Borg” (Soundtrack only, reveal of Picard as Borg)

The “Captain Borg” cue (link above) is the reason why I chose this episode to share with you. The pivotal moment when Picard faces the camera to reveal the Borg implants on his face is haunting, shocking and remains one of the pivotal moments in all of Star Trek history!!! The part I really want you to hear begins at 0:54. First you hear the synthesized ominous Borg theme, followed by a twisted rendition of the Enterprise theme (in the full scene “Part 1 Cliffhanger”, this comes right after Worf yells “Captain!” and is approx. 1:15 in the soundtrack version). The message couldn’t be more clear: Captain Picard has been “corrupted” by the Borg (hence the mutated Enterprise theme). The crew is unable to rescue Picard at this time because he’s surrounded by a force field and they are subsequently forced to withdraw.

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“I am Locutus of Borg”

“Part 1 Cliffhanger”

The shocked team returns to inform Commander Riker that Picard himself is now a Borg. At the same time, a report comes in that a new weapon capable of destroying the Borg cube is ready to fire. Doing so would kill Picard, but at the same time save the Earth before the Borg cube is able to resume the journey to the Solar System. Arguments are made as to why they should or should NOT use the weapon, but just as Riker makes up his mind, the Borg ship hails the Enterprise with a message….and so begins one of the most enduring, iconic scenes in all of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Borg Picard steps forward and addresses his own crew:

“I Am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is Futile. Your life, as it has been, is OVER. From this time forward, you will service US.”

Cue shocked faces from everyone on the bridge!!!!!!

The music here is practically exploding with tension, but it’s about to get worse. As the camera turns to zoom in on Riker’s face, the music rapidly builds to a fever pitch as he utters the command: “Mr. Worf, fire.”

And what happens next??? Oh, I can’t tell you that, the cliffhanger does a much better job (so make sure to watch “Part 1 Cliffhanger”, it had me screaming at the TV by the end).

It almost goes without saying that THIS was the episode that finally got Star Trek: The Next Generation over with the original Trekkies. Before this, Star Trek: TNG was still considered something of a red-headed step-child, it was alright, but it could never live up to the original series. And then THIS episode happened, and “all hell broke loose.” Fans everywhere were hooked, begging to know what would happen next. The funny thing is, even the writers didn’t know at this point, as they’d literally written themselves into a corner and had no idea how to get out of it.

Hope you enjoyed this look at my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (the full episode is readily available on Hulu and Netflix). Have a good weekend!

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The Music of Star Trek Blogathon: Recap

At last! After months of planning, The Music of Star Trek Blogathon is finally here!!!! I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with. One last note, don’t forget to include a line at the top of your post that says “This post is part of The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central” and include a link back to my blog page, that way anyone reading it knows that it is part of the blogathon 🙂

Day One

Thoughts All Sorts shares some thoughts on the music in Star Trek (2009): Some Musical Thoughts- Star Trek (2009)

MovieRob examines the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Encounter at Farpoint” : Star Trek: The Next Generation “Encounter at Farpoint” (1987)

My entry for this blogathon looks at one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time: The Music of Star Trek: The Best of Both Worlds (1990)

Plain, Simple Tom examines the now-iconic music in “Amok Time” : “Amok Time”

The Temp Track provides a ranking of every Star Trek film score there is: Scoring the Final Frontier: Celebrating 50 Years of Trek Tracks

The Temp Track also takes a look at the themes of Star Trek VI: Only Kirk Could Go To Qo’noS: Cold War Allegory and the Title Theme for Star Trek VI

Day Two

MovieRob: Star Trek Deep Space Nine “The Emissary” 

The Temp Track: The Temp Track: Star Trek (2009): The First Sixty Seconds

Day Three

MovieRob: Star Trek: Voyager “Caretaker”

MovieRob: Star Trek: Enterprise “Broken Bow”

Rhyme and Reason: Star Trek: Voyager Musical Highlights

Riley on Film: Theme from ‘Star Trek’ (1966-1969)

The Temp Track: Musical Spock

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The Lion King “King of Pride Rock” (1994) Pt. 1

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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“King of Pride Rock” takes place at the climax of the film. After a little persuasion from Rafiki (not to mention a spine-tingling heart to heart with his father’s ghost), Simba has returned to the Pride Lands…only to discover that his once beautiful home is practically a desert. When Scar allowed the hyenas to move en masse into the Pride Lands, it upset the delicate balance of life and now all the herds of elephants, antelope, giraffes, etc. have moved away, leaving the pride (not to mention a very large group of hyenas) close to starvation. Simba is quickly joined by Nala, Timon and Puumba, who are all willing to help Simba claim his rightful place as king.

And Simba hasn’t come home a moment too soon: Scar wants to have a word with Sarabi, Simba’s mother. He accuses the lionesses of not doing their jobs of hunting for food, despite Sarabi’s calm replies that there isn’t any food because the herds have all left. Scar vehemently denies the truth (he can’t accept that he’s a terrible king) and when Sarabi tells the delusional lion that they have to leave Pride Rock if they want to survive, the furious Scar explodes in rage, ultimately striking Sarabi across the face, provoking an enraged roar from Simba.

The music during all of this is mournful (the melody is led by an oboe and backed by a choir). Usually in a situation where the villain is in charge, there’s a theme that suggests “evil triumphant” but that doesn’t really happen here (unless you count the brief fanfare when Scar assumes the throne). Scar has mismanaged the Pride Lands so badly that there is nothing to be proud of. Deep down, he probably knows this, but his arrogance won’t let him admit he’s done all the wrong things.

 

Speaking of doing wrong…Scar almost betrays himself when Simba appears out of nowhere. For a brief moment, his nephew resembles his late brother so much that Scar whispers “Mufasa…no, you’re dead!” I don’t think anyone else heard him though, because doesn’t it sound awfully suspicious to be afraid of what you think is your brother’s ghost? Even Sarabi believes that this is her husband until Simba corrects her, much to Scar’s surprise:

“Why Simba…I’m so surprised to see you…alive” *angry glare at Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, who slink away for safety*

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Simba is ready for war (“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart”) and the music backs up Simba’s anger. Listening to this part, Simba can be represented by trumpets and brass. Scar, on the other hand, is more in the woodwinds, and “his” music slinks and wiggles, while Simba’s is (initially) bold and confident. And I say “initially” because Scar has one last trump card to play: the “truth” about who really killed Mufasa. All these years Simba has believed this tragedy was his fault, and now he confesses it to everyone as the “truth” and Scar promptly denounces his nephew as a murderer

“If it weren’t for YOU Mufasa would still be alive, it’s YOUR fault he’s dead, do you deny it? “No” “Then you’re GUILTY!”

And while he distracts Simba with these accusations, Scar surreptitiously begins backing the young lion towards the ledge at the end of Pride Rock, ultimately trapping Simba as he nearly falls over the edge! At this point, the soundtrack skips to the aftermath of the final fight, but I’m going to keep going.

The Lion King “Scar confesses the truth” (1994)

Now, history is about to repeat itself: Scar finds himself standing over Simba, in much the same way he stood over Mufasa right before his death. And at this moment, Scar makes one of his final mistakes (though not the one that gets him killed, that comes in a little bit): he leans down close to Simba and tells him the REAL truth: *I* killed Mufasa….this admission triggers an avalanche of pain and rage in Simba, who in one swoop jumps up and pins SCAR to the ground, demanding that everyone know what he just told them. Cornered, Scar finally admits to the entire pride that HE killed Mufasa and the war is on!! Well, I say war, but it wasn’t THAT big of a fight. At this point, most of Pride Rock is on fire from a lightning strike, and if you watch closely, most of the hyenas are running for their lives (from the flames as much as the wrath of the lion pride). Simba isn’t about to let Scar get away though, and when he spots his uncle trying to slink away, Simba chases him all the way to the top of Pride Rock. As the two lions begin to square off, neither notices that Shenzi, Banzai and Ed have crept in to listen.

The Lion King “Scar vs. Simba/Scar’s Death” (1994)

Simba is ready to kill Scar where he stands and the desperate Scar is pleading any excuse he can think of to keep his nephew from cutting his throat. He pleads for mercy, he pleads blood relations, and finally, he pleads the excuse that the HYENAS are the real enemy here, that this entire scheme was their idea, not his (As Shenzi, Banzai and Ed hear this, they growl in anger and slink away, but they’re not done with Scar yet). Simba doesn’t believe a word, but he won’t kill Scar either (as that would lower him to Scar’s level). Instead (oh, the delicious irony!!) he tells his uncle to “Run, run away Scar, and NEVER return” (the exact words that Scar used to make Simba run away). The older lion seems like he will accept this and leave, but just as everything seems over, Scar swipes some coals into Simba’s face and one last fight ensues.

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In the dramatic climax, Simba and Scar (in dramatic slow motion), tear and claw at each other, and Simba is ultimately knocked to the ground. But when Scar lunges for the kill, Simba takes a page from Nala and kicks upward, propelling his uncle over the edge of the cliff! But Scar isn’t dead, not yet anyways. He pulls himself up as Shenzi, Banzai and Ed come forward out of the flames.

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“Ah…” he smiles “My friends….”

And Shenzi laughs “Friends?? I thought he said we were the enemy…Yea, that’s what I heard, Ed???” As this conversation goes on, Scar’s eyes become horror filled as he realized that he’s surrounded by a horde of angry hyenas who no longer trust him, and are very, very hungry!! Scar pleads for his life right until the very end, when the hyenas (and the flames) overwhelm him. As Disney villain deaths go, this one is pretty gruesome. As I noted in Beauty and the Beast, this ending was originally intended for Gaston (who was supposed to survive his fall from the tower and be cornered by a pack of wolves).

To be honest, I was going to keep going through Simba’s triumphant accession of the throne, but this has gone on really long so I’m going to split this post in two and post the rest later this week 🙂 The Lion King has a pretty awesome climax, proving why it is one of the greatest films of the Disney Renaissance.

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For the rest of my series on The Lion King, see also:

The Lion King “The Circle of Life” (1994)

The Lion King “Be Prepared” (1994)

The Lion King “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” (1994)

The Lion King “Hakuna Matata” (1994)

The Lion King “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (1994)

The Lion King “To Die For” (1994)

The Lion King “Under the Stars” (1994)

The Lion King “King of Pride Rock” Pt. 2 (1994)

Check out the main Disney soundtrack page here: Disney Films & Soundtracks A-Z

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Admitting I was wrong about Steven Universe (2013-present)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Two notes here: 1) I know I said this would be weekly, but I couldn’t hold back my thoughts on this series any longer and 2) Yes, Steven Universe is television and not film, but it’s really good regardless!!!!

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The first thing I need to say about Steven Universe is: I was wrong. I completely misjudged this show, so much in fact that I sometimes feel really bad about it.

Backstory: In the last post, I said that I’m really picky about which movies I watch; this is DOUBLY true for cartoons. When you’re raised on Golden Age cartoons like Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry (not to mention the renaissance of the 90s), the bar is set really, REALLY high. In the last five years or so, I’d noticed Cartoon Network churning out a lot of what I liked to call “dumb-stupid cartoons.” These are series that have minimal plot but a LOT of really bad/raunchy jokes (I won’t name any names, but if you look at a listing of recent shows, they kind of stand out). And when Steven Universe was announced, I instantly pegged it as one of those cartoons. So I ignored it.

Fast forward to the end of 2015: all of my comic book friends began raving about Steven Universe, and when I let it slip that I hadn’t seen the show, they all begged me to check it out. I resisted for most of 2016, until last month, I finally gave in and checked it out (the first two seasons are on Hulu). It took three episodes but I.Was.Hooked.

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From left to right: Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet

Despite the name of the show, this series isn’t dumb at all! Quite the opposite actually, the backstory is increasingly complex and the show deals with some pretty serious issues at times (racism, war, bullying, etc.) while also spreading positive messages about making friends, cooperation, overcoming hatred, and so on.

Here is the gist of Steven Universe: The Earth is protected by a trio of heroes called the Crystal Gems, Amethyst, Garnet and Pearl. They are aliens from the Gem Homeworld that fought against their own kind over 1000 years ago (under their leader Rose Quartz) to keep the Earth safe. About 10 years before the show starts, Rose (in love with a human named Greg Universe) surrendered her physical form to make her son, Steven. Steven is a Gem/human hybrid who has his mother’s Gem where his belly button should be. As the show goes on, Steven learns to harness his powers while facing a growing threat from the Gem Homeworld (which is still seeking to conquer the Earth for its resources). Along the way Steven has made friends with additional gems including Peridot (whom I LOVE!!!) and Lapis Lazuli, both gems that originally come from Homeworld.

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Lapis Lazuli is blue, Peridot is the green short one and that’s Steven on the end

A really cool part of the show is fusion, where two Gems can fuse together to create a totally new Gem! For example, Garnet (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!) is actually a fusion of Ruby and Sapphire, they just prefer staying fused together, though they will separate occasionally from time to time for various reasons. Pearl and Amethyst can form Opal, Pearl and Garnet can form Sardonyx, all three of them can form Alexandrite and just recently, I discovered that Steven and Amethyst can fuse to form Smoky Quartz (there’s more but I don’t want to give ALL the fusions away).

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I’m nearly caught up with the series now and I still can’t get over how wrong I was about this show. The one thing I wish was different is the episode lengths. Each episode is 11-12 minutes in length, which isn’t that long at all. I wish the episodes could be longer!

It looks like eventually we’re going to be seeing the Gem Homeworld and (hopefully) meet the mysterious Diamonds who run everything (they’re called White Diamond, Yellow Diamond and Blue Diamond, but except for a few mentions and a sort-of flashback to Yellow Diamond, we haven’t actually SEEN any of them. There used to be Pink Diamond too, until Rose Quartz shattered her, it’s kind of a long story).

In closing, I’m really glad I gave this show a chance; it just goes to show you shouldn’t (with some exceptions) judge a show on its name only. If you haven’t seen Steven Universe, please go check it out!!

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