(written from a Production point of view)
The Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan soundtrack was the commercial soundtrack release of James Horner's original score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The album was the second Star Trek soundtrack to be recorded digitally, a fact that was promoted by Atlantic Records at the time of its release.
Following the perceived creative failure of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, director Nicholas Meyer and the creatives behind the follow up project sought a different tone for The Wrath of Khan. Enter composer James Horner, a relative unknown at the time, getting his big break with his introduction into the Star Trek universe, long before the music of Titanic brought him Oscars and fame.
In keeping with that new tone, and Meyer's vision of "Horatio Hornblower in outer space," Horner's score took on a distinctly nautical sound, far from Jerry Goldsmith's sweeping fanfares in the previous effort. Horner's score is harsher and edgier, with abrasive brass leading driving strings and clanking percussive elements. And yet, subtle hints of Goldsmith's orchestrations exist within the music of The Wrath of Khan such as the return of the Blaster Beam, a unique musical instrument popularized by its use as an accompaniment to the V'ger cloud in Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Identifiable themes exist throughout, including motifs for Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, Khan Noonien Singh, and the renegades aboard the Reliant, and a stand-out theme for Spock - that returned as the opening fanfare of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
While considered by many to be one of best (if not the absolute best) scores of the Star Trek films, Khan is nevertheless more about motifs and features fewer memorable – or hummable – marches than films like The Motion Picture and even Cliff Eidelman's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Still a benchmark in Star Trek and action film music in general, Khan set a standard to be expanded upon by other composers and Horner himself. This outing was widely considered the formative work in Horner's career, which still echoes with elements from his work in Star Trek.
The original version of the album was issued on LP and cassette by Atlantic Records in conjunction with the film's original release in 1982. In 1990, after securing the rights for re-release of both of Horner's Star Trek film scores, independent label GNP Crescendo issued them on compact disc for the first time (and again on cassette), each preserving their original track list and runtime.
An expanded release of this score was issued in 2009 on the Retrograde records label, including multiple previously-unissued cues, and then again, with the same track listing, in 2021 by La-La Land Records.
The cues presented on the original commercial release do not follow the order they are heard in the film, presumably for strictly musical reasons. In the film, the cues are heard in the following order: 1, 5, 6, 3, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9.
|1||Main Title * (3:03)|
|2||Surprise Attack (5:06)|
|4||Kirk's Explosive Reply (4:02)|
|5||Khan's Pets (4:18)|
|6||Enterprise Clears Moorings (3:32)|
|7||Battle in the Mutara Nebula (8:08)|
|8||Genesis Countdown (6:36)|
|9||Epilogue/End Title * † (8:40)|
- * - Contains Theme from Star Trek composed by Alexander Courage
- † - Contains dialogue performed by Leonard Nimoy
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|Star Trek: The Motion Picture||Star Trek Movie Soundtrack
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
|Star Trek III: The Search for Spock|