I’m not usually a huge fan of movie or TV show soundtracks, with the notable exception of the Gladiator soundtrack and, of course, Star Wars (hey, this is Den Of Geek!). But I love the music to Battlestar Galactica almost as much as I love the show itself. It’s as much of part of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica universe as Cylons, the word ‘frak!’, and Number Six’s little red dress.
The season 4 soundtrack, composed by Bear McCreary, is darker, more sinister and more desperate than the soundtracks of previous seasons, which McCreary also composed. It consists of 34 tracks across two CDs, and this time the unique BSG sound is even bolder than ever, with thumping Taiko drums pounding out the pulse of the action, aggressive, metallic, edgy percussion adding the sci-fi feel, and mournful uilleann pipes, assorted strings and a whole host of other exotic instruments conveying an astonishing amount of emotion.
The first track, Gaeta’s Lament, sung by Gaeta himself (Alessandro Julini) is a great example of the soundtrack’s dark textures, as the melody slowly builds, adding more and more layers of strings, percussion and drums, before reaching an almost frighteningly eerie climax.
It’s perhaps not surprisingly that the soundtrack to season 4 is so sinister, because it was hardly a summer holiday aboard Galactica for most of it. Season 4 finally reveals the fifth Cylon and the devastating truth about Earth, but these revelations only add to the confusion, and the sense that mysterious ‘other forces’ are at work. And all the while the president is dying, perhaps taking humanity’s hopes of salvation with her, and the fleet’s journey seems endless and futile. It’s this disquiet and despair that is conveyed so vividly and brilliantly in the soundtrack.
The track Among The Ruins from the episode Sometimes A Great Notion is a great example of this, which is perhaps not surprising given the episode’s desolate setting, but it’s Laura Runs that is perhaps most haunting. This track follows an emotionally broken President Laura Roslin as she runs around Galactica, briefly energised due to a break in her drug treatment for terminal cancer. But far from conveying the elation she is feeling, the track is a dark warning that she is simply burning away more of the little life she has left. Check out the making of this ‘cue’ on the S4 DVD special features disc.
But it’s not all doom and despair because there’s also hope, such as in the tender Roslin And Adama Reunited, which makes you believe there’s still a chance that everything will work out and that perhaps ‘god’ does have a plan after all.
The pace picks up again in Blood On The Scales, from the episodes The Oath and Blood On The Scales, where Zarec and Gaeta conduct a bloody mutiny to overthrow both the military and government. These are two of the best episodes of BSG, period, and the powerful, machine-gun like drumbeats are an appropriately bombastic accompaniment.
We then get another glimmer of hope in Kara Remembers, where ace Viper jock and all-round hottie Kara ‘Starbuck’ Trace sits down at a piano in the bar and starts to play The Music, the key to humanity’s ultimate survival, and her own personal destiny. The scene in the episode Someone To Watch Over Me, from which this track is taken, is one of the highlights of the season for me, and hearing it again sent a shiver down my spine.
The second CD consists of music entirely from the series finale, Daybreak, and as such is far less varied than the first CD. The early tracks score some of the back-story to the key characters, as the writers attempt to neatly tie off the various plot threads, and then it picks up again with the pumping 15-minuter, Assault On The Colony, which sees the BSG crew and Cylon allies assault the Cylon Colony in a volunteer mission to rescue human/Cylon hybrid child, Hera. Then we’re quickly up to the stand out moment in the entire show in Kara’s Coordinates, where Starbuck fulfils her destiny, with a little help from Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower.
Love or hate the show’s finale, Daybreak includes some truly heartfelt moments, and the rest of the CD, like the remainder of the finale itself, is touching, if a little overly sentimental.
However, I can forgive it this, just as I can forgive Daybreak‘s shortcomings too, because the soundtrack is a brilliant piece of entertainment, with high points vastly outweighing the lows.
And Bear McCreary deserves praise as the architect of that brilliance, conjuring up a musical world fitting of the show’s epic scale and grandeur. I challenge you not to feel a swell of emotion as you listen to So Much Life and An Easterly View, the musical farewell to Roslin and Adama. They are truly beautiful pieces of music in their own right, whether you love BSG or not.
As part of the two CD package you also get a booklet that includes testimonials from many of the cast and crew on the importance of McCreary’s music to the BSG world as a whole. So I’ll leave the final words to Jamie ‘Captain Apollo’ Bamber:
“When the credits rolled at the end I was desperately trying to bury my streaming face into my wife’s arm to avoid unmanly embarrassment. As soon as I pulled myself together I spun around and grabbed Bear’s hand. His name got the biggest cheer in the credits. He is the 13th Cylon”.
So say we all.
Battlestar Galactica: Season Four Soundtrack is released on August 10.