01/10/2009. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin
CD pub: La-La Land Records LLLCD 1100. 2 CDs 34 tracks 137 minutes. Price: $15.99 (US), £ 9.99 (UK).
check out websites: www.lalalandrecords.com, www.scifi.com/battlestar and www.bearmccreary.com
The final season of the epic space opera 'Battlestar Galactica' produced surprise after surprise for viewers already used to its unexpected twists and turns. After a long journey through space, the crew of the Galactica and some of their Cylon enemies finally found a final resting place. The twists at the middle and end of the season lived up to Ron Moore's reputation for game-changing plotlines.
The season came in two parts due to the screenwriter's strike. As a result of this, the first half of the season failed to hit the rhythm and pacing that made the first two seasons so memorable. Only towards the end of the first ten episodes did the show hit its stride, with a sensational plot twist on the arrival to Earth promised for so long. The second half of the season, continued in fine style, with a far more appropriate tone and pace.
The soundtrack to the Galactica's last hurrah is a treat for existing Bear McCreary fans in that it contains not one but two disks; one for the main episodes of the final season and a second disk exclusively for the tracks featured on the already iconic final episode, 'Daybreak'. Many people will be split on the controversial ending but you cannot argue that Moore and his team didn't go out with the ambition they started with.
The first CD opens with 'Gaeta's Lament', an unusual track sung by Alessandro Juliani, who plays Lieutenant Felix Gaeta in the series. Having lost his leg on a mission, Gaeta falls into despair and depression and eventually begins plotting against Admiral Adama. This track is nearly entirely vocals with a little orchestral work coming through towards the end. In the show, Gaeta sings this in his room, which felt a little contrived. Here it's passable but doesn't compare with the bombast that follows. This track felt out of place as the opening track and I think it may have been better served as the final 'gimmick' track. The instrumental version later on is a much better track.
The remainder of disk one is the Bear McCreary we have all grown to love, full of sweeping percussion themes and keening sitars, flute and string sections. 'The Signal' is a haunting, eerie track building into the robust drumming that characterises so much of the series' action sequences. 'The Cult Of Baltar' includes some unsettling choral work, filtering into some of Dr. Baltar's more familiar refrains from earlier episodes nicely.
Some of the Celtic flute songs like 'Farewell Apollo' are a little too upbeat for the feel of the rest of the work. It brought the soundtrack to 'Titanic' to mind, which I'm not sure is a good link to make for a dark Science Fiction action series!
Other standout tracks on this first disk include 'Roslin Escapes', Diaspora Oratorio and the excellent solo piano piece, 'Elegy'. This short song is performed by the composer himself and is appropriately mournful and pretty, in the vein of a Ludovico Einaudi or Keith Jarrett. It is probably the best track on the first disk.
Disk Two contains nearly the entire soundtrack to the final feature-length episode, 'Daybreak', which ended the series' seventy-five episode run. It contains almost the entire episode's score in the right order and fits together better than the first CD as a result.
Interestingly, the second disk includes some music from the scenes based on the planet of Caprica before its destruction at the very beginning of 'Battlestar: Galactica: The Mini-Series'. The airy orchestral elements are similar to those used in McCreary's scoring of the pilot for Ron Moore's new series, 'Caprica', set decades before the events of this series, following the creation of the robotic Cylons and the start of the Cylon War. The overlapping of musical themes between the old and new series is subtle and yet clever, subconsciously anchoring some of the new hooks we will be hearing in the new show.
'The Line' and 'Baltar's Sermon' are classic McCreary tracks, full of excitement and broad sweeps of scope. 'The Heart Of The Sun' uses elements of the theme from the original seventies version of 'Battlestar Galactica', which is another nice touch.
The highlight of the second disk is overwhelmingly the indulgent 'Assault On The Colony', an epic track lasting fifteen minutes and seven seconds, in the process encompassing many of the themes McCreary has built up over his time scoring this tremendous show.
'Battlestar: Galactica' had a fine run with some incredible works of storytelling and daring choices. It suffered in places from inadequate pacing to match its ambitious multi-episode story threads and interference from the studios in early series and the writer's strike didn't help this problem.
It still remains one of the finest examples of Science Fiction on the big or small screen and that is in no small part to Bear McCreary's incredible soundtracks. His intelligent identification of themes for characters, plotlines and key scenes, as well as the melding of many forms of world music into more traditional orchestral work, have produced music that stands out on its own merit. All four soundtracks are superb pieces of composition and deserve to be in the collection of both fans of the show and music lovers.
Tomas L. Martin
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