One my favorite things to do is stumble across scores that, at first glance based on the movie/show that it provides background for, you’d automatically dismiss as most likely a low budget score with a synthesized sound at best. But after watching the movie or listening to the score, you discover that the soundtrack leaps beyond your expectations. Sometimes, the soundtrack can even overshadow the movie and stand apart! I’m going to share some of those ‘Surprise Soundtracks’ (as I call them) when I stumble across them and even some sample tracks
Surprising Soundtrack #3 – ‘Stargate Atlantis’ by Joel Goldsmith
Movie Synopsis: Well, not really a movie, this was the pilot episode to the hit SciFi channel original TV show Stargate Atlantis, which is a spin-off of the TV show Stargate SG1 which was a spin-off of the hit movie Stargate. Stargate Atlantis went off the air in 2009 after being canceled in it’s 5th Season even though ratings were doing pretty well. The overall show centers around a team of explorers who travel through a Stargate, or interplanetary wormhole travel devices, exploring new worlds in the far reaches of the outer galaxies. The plot begins after scientists discover a race of beings know as the ‘Ancients’ on Earth. Stargate Command, where the only Stargate Device on Earth is located, realizes they can use their Stargate to travel beyond the galaxies they thought possible and to what they hope to be is the lost city of Atlantis. Atlantis was a giant city sized ship that left earth with the entire Ancients race for destination unknown to escape a deadly enemy. A special team at Stargate command composed of military personnel and soldiers alongside civilian contractors and scientists was put together to travel through the Stargate to the city of Atlantis, but on a one-way trip as they wouldn’t be able to most likely make it back. After successfully making the one way trip to Atlantis, the team realizes they have indeed found the lost city, but they soon realize the city is many miles underwater on what seems like an entire world composed of water. Not knowing the dangers inherent by turning on the city, they soon realize the city’s power is drained and the only remaining power that it had left was being used as the team started to explore the underwater city. Soon, the force field holding back the water starts to slowly fail throughout the city flooding various parts as the power becomes critical, so a small team detachment decides to use the Stargate in the city to start to explore worlds near the planet in hopes of finding a power source. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to establish contact with local races on a particular planet, they inadvertently awake the hibernating Wraith creatures on a dormant ship, a race of deadly human killing for food aliens who nearly wiped out the Ancients, which is what left the city of Atlantis deserted underwater. In the process of waking up the Wraith, the local human tribes on that planet find themselves under attack and being taken by the very hungry Wraith for them to feed on. The exploring team defends the tribe with the military weapons they have, and after a long fight with the Wraith on the planet and having to rescue several people from the Wraith mothership, the team decides to being back the survivors of the world’s tribes to the city of Atlantis where they know there’s plenty of room for them and they’d be protected from the Wraith that are now waking up all throughout the galaxy. Unfortunately, upon returning to Atlantis with all the refugees, they find the other part of the Stargate team desperately trying to save the city as the final forcefield holding back the water from the entire city failing. When all hope seems lost, the city activates it’s own fail safes which release it from the ocean floor and raise it up to the surface just in time as the force field completely fails. Now floating on the water surface of the planet, the team settles in for many adventures and battles that lay ahead.
Typically for many big production series, especially on SciFi, the series has a score that’s of theatrical movie quality with a full orchestra. Joel Goldsmith is no stranger to the sound of big blockbuster film scores either being the son of the late world-famous movie score composer Jerry Goldsmith who passed away in 2004. Joel is no stranger to the Stargate series either, having composed the music for the original Stargate SG1 series and several of the SG1 straight to DVD movies Stargate Continuum and Stargate: The Ark of Truth. He currently is the composer for the latest Stargate series on SciFi, Stargate Universe. The original Stargate motion picture score was done by composer David Arnold who’s work Joel Goldsmith very wonderfully brought over to the Stargate SG1 series along with his own variations. For Stargate Atlantis, Joel created the main titles and the various themes which were reminiscent of the original Stargate series but with their own rather epic feel. The Atlantis score was nominated for two Emmys in 2005 and 2006 for Outstanding Main Title Music and Outstanding Music Composition for a Series.
Just listening to the main theme for Stargate Atlantis and you’ll feel yourself having chills. Another great example of an ‘epic score,’ the sound of the full orchestra with blaring horns and a strong choir starts out the series with a grand sound for the grand series. The overall score for the series is very heavy on the horn and trumpet section, especially when it comes to the Wraith. I for one love the overall feel of the Stargate SG1 series while it still has it’s own style, all relating back to the Main Atlantis theme. There’s several different themes in this soundtrack that I’d like to point out, each one that I think really stands out in this score.
The Main Theme – With loud blaring horns and a bouncing upbeat score with a slight military drum undertone, this is what really propels this score into an epic category. Every time the main theme is called upon during the duration of the score, you have a sense of the excitement and monumental moments for the team as they travel to a universe beyond anything they’ve ever known and encountering technology and wonders far surpassing what they expected. It’s no wonder the main theme music was nominated for an Emmy! Whenever the theme comes in, it’s like a grand trumpeting fan fare entrance!
The Ancients – The Ancients theme, which is very noticeable on the 7th track on the album entitled ‘Atlantis Wakes’ is a mysterious and almost eerie repeating theme using strings and hovering sounds that give a ghostly feel. This plays a few times during the score, which is when the team will discover some Ancient related item or something left behind at Atlantis. This score often goes into the Stargate SG1 theme which also makes an appearance in the same track (since the Ancient theme was originally from the SG1 series). It’s a great way to connect the Atlantis series to the SG1 series through the use of this theme.
The Military/Stargate Command – Drawing back on the original David Arnold score, the use of the military style drums and original SG1 series military themes are another great callback to the prime Stargate core. A mix of horns and the drums with the strings helping to bind them together in the background, along with several other wind instruments really is the theme for the entire Stargate franchise. Most of the times that this style theme plays, it’ll eventually morph into the Stargate Atlantis theme, which is a wonderful transition from the familiar to the new. The track ‘Gate to Atlantis’ is a perfect example of that.
While each of those various themes are wonderful, there’s one track and theme in particular that combines many of those into one of the most epic pieces of music that I’ve ever heard. The track is titled ‘The Rising’ and plays as the Atlantis city is about to lose it’s force field and all hope seems lost for the city until in the last second the city activates the fail safe which rises the city to the surface. The track starts out with that urgent sense of panic in trying to safe the city, and themselves, from what seems like a watery death. Suddenly, the horns pop in with a loud roar, leading way to an ever growing and spiraling upward sound with strings and horns circling around each other, a wonderful sound created metaphor of the massive city rising to the surface. Rotating upwards faster and faster the music erupts into a massive climatic explosion before finally settling down as the impending doom has been averted. And with a graceful return to the main theme of Atlantis played softly as the team takes a sigh of relief, the music turns into the wonderful Ancients theme signifying the ancients had saved them by placing that fail safe onto the city. It’s a wonderful track encompassing the entire score’s best qualities into one nearly 4 minute long track.
Click the PLAY button below to listen to Joel Goldsmith’s Stargate Atlantis track “The Rising“
If you like really epic scores that have a touch of military and action, you’ll really like the Stargate Atlantis score. And if you were a fan of the Stargate movie or Stargate SG1 series, this album is a MUST have! Also check out the wonderful Stargate Atlantis series, all of which is on DVD now. The series was very short lived and, I personally thought, on par if not even somewhat better at times than the original Stargate SG1 series!
If you’d like to see other ‘Surprising Soundtracks’, you can view the ones I’ve posted here!
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