Star Trek: The Next Generation (The Ron Jones Project)

Ron Jones

 
" The ultimate guide to the FSM Box. "

Written by Justin Boggan - Review of the limited release

Jones is a name not familiar to some since his main body of work amongst fans is almost exclusively for television. Even then, the most popular work is divided amongst shows of different genres, from his widely orchestral works on the TV series "Ducktales", to the '80's "Mission: Impossible", to the Seth MacFarlene series' "Family Guy", "American Dad", and the recent crappy spin-off (I think -- though I believe Murphy might be scoring that alone). And, of course, the '80's "Superman" TV series, of which Film Score Monthly also released his scores from.

Aside from his excellent efforts on "Ducktales" (which Disney won't license out to third parties, according to Roger over at Intrada Records), Jones also has additional/ghost writing credits on a few shows Mike Post scored, such as "Magnum, pi", "Riptide", and "The A-Team". On top of that, he's also a protege of Lalo Schifrin.

Jones' scores for The Next Generation range from at times cheesy synth pallets, to the sounds and writing you'd expect from a good television movie, or even a low budget film, to -- although too short -- bursts of orchestral goodness that rival many film composers works of today. Common traits of the scoring are repeating ostinatos, solo theme statements; tom, timpani, and snare driven action akin to militaristic material -- ironically something the producers didn't like; Courage and Goldsmith fanfare statements; and scoring that sometimes would just go from scene-to-scene rather than give the cue a whole structure.

Orchestration traits include: synth vocals, synth piano for tender moments, harp, chimes -- lots & lots of chime use, brass bursts, and of course the waterphone -- an instrument used in even some of the Trek films (TMP, III, and Generations come to mind), various combinations of woodwinds and snare drums.

The music itself, more predominately the earlier efforts, is more akin to the TOS music, only with a modern compositional style and sound, though later as the series moved into his own and not rely so heavily on similarities to TOS, so did Jones' music. And shortly thereafter, Jones' found himself fired. Shortly after reaching his footing, finding what he does best and consistently doing it, they got somebody else. In fact, all composers on TNG were themselves proven on the quick-turnaround television business, contributing fine efforts to other series, yet like Jones, having a slow start and thin sounding scores when beginning out on TNG, except ones who joined in later on and for solo efforts (like Fred Steiner ["Code of Honor"] and Don Davis ["The Face of the Enemy"]).

For reasons not really clarified, "The Best of Both Worlds" was not included; I say "not really" because one statement was GNP Records, whom had released the score over two decades back, wouldn't play ball, and so FSM could only release the cues NOT on the GNP CD. But yet, "Heart of Glory", which was on one of the GNP Trek scores CDs, is on the FSM set -- including the cues which were on the GNP CD.

One final note before the review, I feel a fun story is in order. One of the things composers like to do now & then is pay homage to past film/TV work. Indeed, both Jones and Walter Murphy have paid homage to several film scores and TV shows -- including a number which Mike Post worked on -- from "Lawrence of Arabia" to "CHiPs" (and even shows they both worked on early on, like "The Flintstones", which -- coincidently -- Seth MacFarlane, in 2011, is "rebooting", so both composers will be returning to their roots; the "circle of life"...).

It's also a show of what worked and became popular, and part of the culture. So you got to know you've done something special when the composer you're parodying is none other than yourself! That's right, Ron Jones parodies himself at the end of the "Family Guy" episode "Stewie Kills Lois", using the epic finale music from the TNG episode "The Best of Both Worlds -- Part 1"; and then AGAIN parodies himself on the part-two episode, "Lois Kills Stewie", when Lois suddenly shows up alive in the court room where the murder trial is going on, this time parodying his score from the same TNG episode, the Lokutus theme for when Riker & crew see Picard for the first time since his kidnapping. You can hear both "Family Guy" parody cues at Jones website: RonJonesProductions.com.

And one closing note: if all the coincidences in composer connections are still surprising you, then be surprised again: Murphy ALSO worked for Mike Post on a number of TV shows, including ones Jones was, as well. Murphy has no website.

CD 1:

"The Naked Now"
It relies on Courage's TOS fanfare for dramatic moments, with brief tender moments, but mostly through uneasy music with thin orchestrations and synth. The lack of a budget on the score is noticeable, with the orchestra sounding more like it was the size of a marching band, recorded in a classroom, with the brass moved up closer to the microphone to maybe give the impression of a fuller sound. Maybe an unkind thing to say, but if it wasn't for the final closing track of this episode score, track 10, there would be insufficient reason -- unless lack of budget dictated otherwise -- to keep him on board.

Stand out tracks: 5, 7, and 10.

"Where No One Has Gone Before"
Steps up the previously thin orchestrations, and also brings a bit more color to the said orchestrations, and composition. This episode also introduces his four-note theme which is used in, best I recall, all episodes from this point on. The score is mostly withstrained tension and, for the lack of a better description, what I might call airy unrest statements or repeating ostinatos that seem to imply things are coming, but not there yet, trying to invoke a certain pretension of emotions not yet backed up.

Stand out tracks: 11, 13 (last minute or so), 14, 17, 20.

"Lonely Among Us"
Continuing the same vein of efforts.; I just don't feel strongly enough about this one to further comment.

Stand out tracks: 22, 28, and 29.

"The Battle"
The score is mostly in a dramatic mode, being much more so than before, and even some vague hints of later efforts like "The Best of Both Worlds".

Stand out tracks: 8 (second half), 9.

"Datalore"
I'd like to take time out to express my disappointment in the episode. It promised much, delivered little, gave some cheese, and perhaps some of the most awful & middle school written lines of the series (the less said about beaming a large tree out into space, the better. The horror. The horror...). It could have been a heck of an episode had it taken place in the show's fourth season, but not in season one. A shame really, because over time studying the construction of the episode, you can most certainly see some real effort was put into it, and something was tried, but it just never came to fruition. For those who have not seen it, the quickest way to sum it up is: Data, an android crew member striving to be human, having believed he was the only on his kind after decades ago having been found abandoned on a planet, find in his creator's old underground lab parts to another android, whom, when activated, gives us the antagonist -- Data's "brother", Lore. However, as is often befalling the Enterprise, when somebody new is brought aboard, they try to kill everybody, and Lore being a "defective" early model, makes swift work to bring that about. Unfortunately, he is stopped before he can blow Wesley out an airlock, but he does manage to set his mother on fire. Close enough, I guess.

While many Jones fans will cite "Where No One Has Gone Before", I personally (though I do like the aforementioned score) had a preference to "Datalore" and it's dramatic drum machine hits, evil ostinatos, and equal ramping up of the dramatic music.

Jones has to do a lot of carrying at times to make up for lacking in the script. And the first cue marks the first use of Goldsmith's TMP theme, used as the main title music for the series.

Stand out tracks: 13 and it delightful synth instrument performing the theme; 15 for the evil little ostinato and cello use; 16 (second half), 19

"11001001"
Jones score marks one of the first of changes in scoring, to my ear, that occurred throughout his efforts. While as previously noted above it had already ramped up a little, it moved up more here. And to boot it sounds like the orchestral is just a tad bigger, and now recorded on a stage rather than in a small room. I can only assume somebody like Armin Steiner had some small part in this.

Stand out tracks: 20 and the small, but lush beginning and first real, full dramatic scoring of the series; 26, 27, 29 (last part), 33, 34.

CD 3:

"When the Bough Breaks"
Offering some tender, and warm drama in the music, this episode brings a nice respite from the constant action material and tension of previous scores.

Stand out tracks: 1 and it's child-like innocence, gentle wood winds, and dramatic music more akin to later efforts; 3, 4, 8 (P1), 9 (P2), 11; 13 and the lovely opening; 14.

"Heart of Glory"
This is the first episode dealing with Klingons that Jones scores; in the employ of the famous race is what I assume is a synth alpine horn, maracas, egg shaker, and a couple other percussion instruments I can't personally identify, mixed with some regular common percussion -- basically treating the musical styling much like Goldsmith had chosen. I confess to having read almost none of the online FSM notes to the score, so I cannot state as to why Jones did not use Jerry's famous Klingon, especially considering Paramount owns the score, but it sounds to me like the two note motif Jones uses are the two opening notes to Jerry's, seeming to linger and never quite fully get there, but for a brief couple seconds we do get a counterpoint touching upon Jerry's (somewhere in the second half of track 23).

Stand out tracks: 16 (P2), 18 (end), 19 (to 1:30) 22 some Klingon scoring goodness; 23 (P2); 24 some more of that Klingon goodness; 26.


CD 4:

"Skin of Evil"
The score, like the episodes leads of pretty standard fair, until things in the episode take a twist and a main character is killed. Some more darker experiments, including what sounds like sliding up/down the strings of an electric guitar for eerie glissandos; and the episode ends with a long piece [6:35] for the burial and good-bye of the dead crewman, with Jones employing the soft synths occasionally used for lighter moments in the episode, woodwinds, strings, for melancholy effect

Stand out tracks: 7, 9, 12.

"We'll Always Have Paris"
Aside from the accordion additional to two or three cues, the score doesn't really offer anything new up, but the good cues are enjoyable nonetheless.

Stand out tracks: 14 and the synth and according music, representing I assume Paris, in what sounds like McCarthy's "Picard theme", or un-used theme for the show, which McCarthy pepper throughout his scores; 20 (??? - 1:06 -- I meant to go back over and note that starting time later), 22, 23.

"The Neutral Zone"
Another standard fair score. It also marks the second time (track 32) of the use of Goldsmith's ST:TMP theme.

Stand out tracks: 27 which offers some delightful, bluesy/country-feeling music, completely different from the body of work on this boxset, showing a different side of Jones -- a side I'd love to hear more of; 30 and its repeating ostinatos and building motifs leading to the Romulan encounter.


CD 5:

"Where Silence Has Lease"
Still standard fare, but does offer some different orchestration experiments in some cues.

Stand out tracks: 1 (P2), 2 (parts thereof), 3, 4, 7 (part of).

"The Outrageous Okona"
Track 12, the first cue of this episode score, once again states Goldsmith's ST:TMP theme, leading first by what sounds like a statement of McCarthy's "Picard theme", weird coincidence, but works nonetheless. The music is a little more playful and light, reflecting the B-grade plot more suitable for a filler episode of TOS, then a 1990 episode of TNG, where a man escapes from two different alien leaders, having gotten at least the daughter of one pregnant. Captain Mal Reynolds he IS NOT (referencing another TV show there -- sorry).

Stand out tracks: 12, 13 (second half); 15 and its odd '80's TV mystery montage-like music; 16 which continues in a similar vein; 18 second part which has a slow, but driving Klingon piece for Worf.

"Loud as a Whisper"
Though the scoring at times is like a three-times sped-up "Hearts of Space" radio program, which I am a fan of, for me it is not always compelling enough, but this appeal to others for sure. Third use of Goldsmith's ST:TMP theme, track 32. This is the last time I recall hearing him use the theme.

Stand out tracks: 29, 32.


CD 6:

"A Matter of Honor"
The second time an episode features Klingons during Jones' scoring, and he continues the development of the music. This time taking a slower approach than in "Heart of Glory". Special mention of the cellos working in the second quarter of track 5 -- while not a strong enough cue as a whole, I couldn't skip mentioning that part.

1:41 into track 6 we also get some more Klingon goodness. And track 9 which has it interspaced throughout the track. This episode leaves you lamenting the loss of all the potential Klingon goodness Jones could have provided for later TNG episodes, or other Trek spin-off series. Some kind of History Channel special of ancient eastern cultures, could be a real win for the fan base if such an occurrence were to happen.

Stand out tracks: 1 (first two parts), 2 (part thereof), 3, 4; 7 for -- while simple -- effective light drama and Klingon goodness, 8 (0:29 to end), 9.

"The Royale"
A score I disliked SO much, that:

Stand out tracks: NONE. So, save 15:34 seconds of your life

"The Icarus Factor"
Some solemn emotional music rounds out this episode score. In tracks 24 & 25, Jones continues to slow down the Klingon music, for scenes involving character development of Worf.

Stand out tracks: 19 (beginning to 1:08), 21, 22, 23 (first 0:32), 25; 26 and the fast rhythm and percussion beating and hits throughout, with a feel of Chinese sound to it, to reflect the (fake) Chinese sport being played; 27.

"Q Who?"
Originally a favorite of mine, and one I pined for, but hearing it apart from the episode, it wasn't as strong as I remembered.
This is another important mark in scoring change, as his action scoring seems to have changed, and is more refined, varied, and more complex.
Special note to some of the action scoring in track 37.

Stand out tracks: 28; 35 which provides us very similar action material the likes of which is heard in "The Best of Both Worlds"; 38 yet again giving us that action material we so love from Jones; and 39 which is a beautiful yet foreboding cue, which reprises; I taped this off TV onto a cassette tape to listen to -- not anymore!


CD 7:

"Up the Long Ladder"
One of the things Jones said he liked doing, and tried, was scoring how Goldsmith might score. This is evident in a few cues from his efforts, but out of all of them there is one that I feel truly captures Jerry and is so good, I'd consider it one of the best cues heard in any television series, and that is the first cue mentioned, track 2, titled "Klingon Tea Ceremony"; the name is a bit misleading and if you are expecting alpine horn or percussion like in previous Klingon cues, you would be wrong, instead you are given soft backing brass, low strings, woodwinds, playing elegantly and creating a beauty that's hard to describe.

Some Irish, also folksy-like music makes brief appearances to refuges being transported (not the beaming way) elsewhere via the Enterprise. Special node to track 5, which almost made the "stand out" list. Hey, look -- Riker has a beard now; maybe to hide some of that face fat that would go along with that slight belly he appears to be holding in.

Stand out tracks: 2, 7 (0:55 to end), 9 (0:28 to end), 10.

"The Emissary"
Slowed down yet again, and orchestrated quite differently than before, Jones' Klingon music is almost unrecognisable. But the new colors are pleasant, and reflect the female Klingon featured in this episode.

Stand out tracks: 14; 16 with its "Miami Vice" like beginning, but with real solo flute; 19, 21, 22.

"Shade of Gray"
Another regular efforts, but you can hear overall improvement in the compositional structures of it.

Stand out tracks: 27, 29, 30, 33.


CD 8:

"Evolution"
Season three has started, better looking uniforms are added, a more polished look to the series is sported, and to my ears a bigger orchestra, which seems to allow for more experimentation and filmic sound. Also, some ding-dong misplaces, or steals Worf's forehead mold, so now Worf has new cranial wrinkles/structure.

Stand out tracks: 2, showing us maybe how "Datalore" would have sounded is the episode had taken place this season; 8 (P1)

"Who Watches the Watchers?"
First off, complete bias here, as this is not only one of my personal favorite episodes of the series, but if I had to make a list of the top three or five episode scores by Jones, this would be in either (counting "The Best of Both Worlds" Parts 1 & 2 as a whole). The delicious rhythmic, percussion filled ostinatos in two or three cues, are simply catchy & fun, it's silly. The melodic theme is soft and both yearning for Nuria's character. "Saving Palmer" is in basic terms totally freakin' awesome. I have to imagine this is a cue many TNG fans yearned for. Jones' four-note theme gets a vigorous workout in this piece, too.

Stand out tracks: 11, 13, 14; 15 I can't live without this cue; 17, 21, 22.

"Booby Trap"
The echoing-out effect used on what I assume in trumpets, I think I can safely -- given Jones' stated love to Goldsmith -- to be a homage to "Patton".

Stand out tracks: 26, 28; 30 and its odd combination of repeating electronic line and rhythmic bells counterpoint, with echoing trumpet and orchestra; 31.

"The Price"
Some new and different synth pallets and ideas are presented in various cues, in a score charged full of emotional sorrow.

Stand out tracks: 33 (P2), 34, 38, 41.


CD 9:

"The Defector"
Brings a score in a consistent tone reminding you of the impending problems faced in an episode with Romulans, bringing back Jones' theme. The effort is more akin to his later output on the show. In my opinion, one of the better scores.

Stand out tracks: 6, 7 (P1), 8, 9 (with it's bitter sorrow beginning and classic near-sweeping ending)

"The High Ground"
Another personal favorite I had wanted before FSM released the massive box (still smaller than a "Spartacus" though...). On a planet were sides are at a stalemate in battle and negotiations, one side uses a means of transporting banned in the Federation because it tears your insides apart each time, until it kills you, to commit terrorist acts in a flash. In spite of the subject matter, the score isn't as infused with ominous danger as "The Defector".

The score occasionally sprouts the little ostinatos Jones used early on, only more slowly and with a more mature composition and orchestration, which culminated in great effect later on in "The Best of Both Worlds" two-parter.

Stand out tracks: 13 (the dramatic piece as a terrorist attack is in progress aboard the Enterprise), 14, 16, 17 (and the wonderful, full build-up film-like ending piece)

"A Matter of Perspective"
The scores opens with a beautifully lush rendition of the theme for the episode, then the track (three cues) continues and ends with a dramatic piece setting you up for a score offering a good deal of interest. And it delivers with a few experimental pieces including a dramatic build up that delivers big time in the first half of track 23, "Fatal Neckties".

Stand out tracks: 18 (P1), 21 (P2), 22, 23, 24, 25

"The Offspring"
The score opens providing a style that you might call Elfman doing it Jones' way. While there are some short highlights, the score is pretty standard fare.

Stand out tracks: 26 (P1), 27, 29 (P1, P4).


CD 10:

"Allegiance"
Standard score.

Stand out tracks: 2 (1:28 to end), 4 (an elegant string ensemble piece), 10.

"Menage A Trios"
The score is a little here, and a little there -- no real center and the highlights are too brief and scattered. It is, however, the more "plucky"
of the scores, being a little seriocomic in nature because of the episode.

Stand out tracks: 12, 19, and 20.

"Brothers"
The difference, obviously, between Lore's first episode, "Datalore", and his return here, score wise, is strikingly different. While the score brings back some synth reminiscent of his work in "Datalore", there is no full return, with the more seasoned and progressed style achieved later on (may he grew a fine, dignified beard, too...). With six to seven alternates at the end, it makes one wonder if this where things started to go awry with the show's producers.

Stand out tracks: 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, 31, 33, 34, and 35.


CD 11:

"Reunion"
The Klingon music returns, still slow as has been in the last two scores, not being the speedy and percussive hitting style it was early on. The percussion is now sparing, on top of slow moving composition.

Stand out tracks: 2, 3, 4.

"Final Mission"
Though a good degree of orchestration coloring, the score itself doesn't stand out and grab you.

Stand out tracks: 12, 15 (P2), 17, 19, 20 (McCarthy's Picard theme?), and 21.

"Data's Day"
This episode score offers a pleasant theme played on woodwinds that repeats throughout the score, while offering some traditional Jones' drama pieces.

Stand out tracks: 22, 23, 27, and 28

"Devil's Due"
Jones continues developing more complex and interesting writing and orchestration experiments. One could imagine a Harry Potter knock-off film, with this as montage music as two youths explore dark woods of an enchanted forest, looking for an evil sorcerer. It's absolutely baffling when you hear a score like this, that Jones isn't given bigger orchestras and films instead of being regulated to television.

Stand out tracks: 33, and 34.


CD 12:

"First Contact"
Chalk this up as another score that made more of an impression in the episode, but listening to it apart, I find it is not quite what I recalled. It again offers standard fare Jones scoring. His ominous orchestra scapes get a good work out here, thankfully getting it ready in time for "The Best of Both Worlds".

Stand out tracks: 4, and 10

"Night Terrors"
Some synth vocals start making their way in with this score.

Stand out tracks: 18

"The Nth Degree"
Standard fare.

Stand out tracks: 26, and 27.

"The Drumhead"
There's a certain dramatic undercurrent to the music of this episode that sets it apart, for me, even though it is not strikingly different from other standard fare scores. This was his final score for the series.

Stand out tracks: 29, and 34.

"The Best of Both Worlds"
We now reach what comprises all the cues not on the GNP Records release of the score for the two-part season finale/season premiere drama. It is out of order, I would assume, since it is not the complete score and too short and disjointed amongst others.

For those unfamiliar with the score on the GNP, what it holds is pure and simple: the grand achievement of Jones' TNG work. The pinnacle, the utmost effort and hands-down strongest score. The vigor, energy, themes, orchestration, emotion, action pieces, and the culmination of everything that had come before, all stuffed into one of the best scores composed for any television series, ever. If you don't won the GNP CD, now is the time.

Stand out tracks: ALL


CD 13 (ADDITIONAL AND ALTERNATE CUES):

Many of the cues here are a little different while some are almost completely different. There is also a solo of the alpine horn used for the Klingons.

Stand out tracks: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 13, 23, 24, 32, 37 to 45, 49, 51, 56 to to 61.

Not included for review are the two video game scores, which I did not enjoy. I felt, personally, they were Jones on uninspired autopilot; no real energy, drive, emotion, just sort of "there".

None of composer Brian Luzietti's cues for the "Starfleet Academy" score, which were on the promo CD included with copies of the game, are on the 14th FSM CD. Luzietti has very few credits on IMDB; the promo states tracks, in a separate section, as being by him, easily leading one to assume the two composers did not work together. Luzietti's scoring sounds entirely synth (though Jones had a little real orchestra to use on his cues); nothing too complex, or special compared to Jones TNG work, but I found it a little more interesting. Luzietti's approach seems to somewhat mimic later TNG season scoring.


CONCLUSION
In the end what you are left with is what could arguably be described as easily some of TV's best modern scoring, though shaky in the beginning. Some people will have trouble moving beyond the small orchestra, layered with synths at times, and repeating ostinatos in a style clearly not that of say the original "Twilight Zone" series scoring, or even the original "Star Trek" series, while others can appreciate the work. One things is for certain, Lukas Kendal, who champions older films scoring, such as "The Yearling", was moved enough by this to self-profess having memorized a bunch of the scoring and pining for the day he could make such a release happen.

Jones' scores where a shining beacon to many fans of the music, with a base often citing his themes for the bad guys like the Borg, or the Romulans. Very much like the show, his music changed as the show progressed, and became an important part of the fabric of the show. Sadly not long after achieving this, the axe soon fell upon his job; the very stuff we all loved him for, ultimately got him canned. While there were a handful of years of work in between, ultimately Jones wound up on "Family Guy" and it's spin-off, "American Dad", handling scoring primarily on both shows, except "American Dad" where he has shared scoring for about three years or so now with Joel McNeely (as Walter Murphy left for yet another spin-off, "The Cleveland Show"), where he has remained as a prominent composer for over ten years on the two original shows. Using scores which sometimes get big (like the 2010 Christmas episode score), to regular small ones, providing a number of entertaining pieces ranging in many styles, from sad music, to epic Giant Chicken fight music, to even jazzy lounge pieces.

FSM has a number of samples up, and Jones has over 20 cues to listen to on his site, including some from the not-included "The Best of Both Worlds", and some of the cues I highlighted as being excellent, such as "Klingon Tea Ceremony". I rate this set four stars since "The Best of Both Worlds" could not be included, a few standard fare scores, and weaker early on efforts.

For those unfamiliar with Star Trek, a "Klingon" is not something left over from an improper ass-wiping.
(click to rate this score)  
 
  •  
(total of 10 votes - average 3.9/5)

Released by

Film Score Monthly FSM Box 5 (limited release 2010)