Tag Archives: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Recap

Wow! I can’t believe the Remembering James Horner Blogathon is already here! I’ve seen some great posts so far, here is a recap of Day One:

More will be added as they come, but it’s been a great blogathon so far! Thank you so much for participating and making this so much fun! See you on day 2 and day 3! -Bex

Day 2




Day 3


James Horner talks Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


It is always invaluable to hear a composer speak about why he created a film score in a certain way. Just imagine if it had been possible to videotape Beethoven or Mozart speaking about THEIR works.

Resources like this become all the more valuable (and poignant) when the composer passes away suddenly. While many of the greats (including James Horner) have passed on, at least we have a portion of their thoughts set down and recorded.


In this interview, James Horner (who is greatly missed) talks about his thought process behind writing the genius score for one of the greatest Star Trek films of all time. After the critical failure of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, director Nicholas Meyer wanted to create a totally different feel and sound for the sequel. The director had a particular vision of “Horatio Hornblower in space,” which inspired Horner to create a distinctly nautical sound in the music for The Wrath of Khan.


The score is also more heavily based on leitmotif’s, with very few “hummable” themes, a direct contrast to Goldsmith’s score for The Motion Picture (think of Ilia’s Theme or the Klingon’s Theme). There are a few subtle homages to Goldsmith’s score for The Motion Picture however: during Khan’s surprise attack, Horner employs the “blaster beam” which was used in the previous film as a notable sound effect for the V’Ger alien.

Horner’s score for The Wrath of Khan is widely considered to be the greatest score found in a Star Trek film, though some prefer Eidelman’s score for The Undiscovered Country. Again, I hope you enjoy listening to this interview from the late, great, James Horner.

See also:

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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A Tale of Two Spocks: Spock’s Theme in Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country

Whenever a film franchise is fortunate enough to grow into a large series, it is very rare that each of the films can be scored by the same composer (Star Wars being a happy exception). Because most film franchises (i.e. James Bond, Mission Impossible, Star Trek) change film composers frequently, it is common for themes to differ from one film to the next. For example, if you listen to the themes of Mission Impossible and Mission Impossible 2, you would notice a huge difference in terms of style.

Occasionally though, themes created by different composers for the same character can sound very similar. In this case, I draw your attention to a set of themes, each created for the character of Spock from the original Star Trek series. The first theme was created by James Horner for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982.

The music begins with a soft glass-edged melody that gently drops down into the secondary theme (plucked out by the harp). This melody is a perfect characterization of Spock: he is Kirk’s rock, the perfect voice of reason. Kirk cannot conceive of a world where Spock is not by his side (which makes the ending of the film all the more upsetting).

The second theme was composed by Cliff Eidelman for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I apologize if the quality of sound isn’t as good, I’m still looking for an audio-only clip of this theme and when I find it I will post it here. At any rate, listen to the theme below and note how similar it is to Horner’s theme (I find both to be exceptionally beautiful).

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country “Spock and Valeris”

In fact, the two themes are so complementary to one another, that one wonders if Eidelman took direct inspiration from Horner’s theme when he put this score together (it’s no secret that they wanted James Horner to compose Star Trek VI, perhaps Eidelman was instructed to imitate Horner’s style. Of course it could just all be a coincidence, but i love to speculate on these things).

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“Enterprise Clears Moorings” from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


This is one of my favorite pieces from James Horner’s score for the second Star Trek motion picture. In this scene, Admiral Kirk has boarded the Enterprise as it is about to leave for what is supposed to be “a minor training cruise” with some cadets from Starfleet Academy. Right before they depart however, Captain Spock decides that Cadet Saavik should be the one to pilot the Enterprise out of space dock (even though she has never done so before).

McCoy: “Would you like a tranquilizer?”

The best part (in my opinion) begins at the moment when the ship begins to move out of space dock. The way Horner builds and swells the music, it reminds me always of an actual sailing ship moving out into the open water.


To hear the music in context, check out the clip below (music begins at 0:43)

See also:

Star Trek II “Surprise Attack”

Star Trek II: “Inside Regula I” (1982)

See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂