Nami Melumad, the composer of Star Trek: Prodigy, is the first woman to compose the music for a Star Trek series. Partnering with Michael Giacchino, who composed the opening theme of the series, Melumad has crafted a rich musical landscape for both the new characters and for Hologram Janeway. StarTrek.com sat down with Melumad to discuss her first contact, different motifs, and working with Giacchino.
StarTrek.com: What was your first contact with the Star Trek Universe?
Nami Melumad: I grew up in Israel, and the TV would occasionally be on and Star Trek would play. I didn't understand anything. It wasn't in English. I think it was even before I learned how to read. Everything was so blurry. All these people in different uniform colors... I'm like, "What is this?" It wasn't until much later when I got interested in film scores and film music that I encountered the Jerry Goldsmith theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and then the Alexander Courage theme for The Original Series. My mind was just blown away, because that music is just so phenomenal, that it totally drew me in. Michael's score too. All of that really drew me into Star Trek. I had a better second contact, let's say, with The Original Series.
What drew you to composing?
NM: I watched too many things when I was growing up. I really loved Home Alone, and I loved Lord of the Rings. There was this Dutch film that got nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, and everyone watched it back home. It was called Twin Sisters, and it had this incredible cinematic score. The way that the composer, Fons Merkies, used the theme throughout was just so great. He did a jazz variation and everything was around the theme.
I played it on piano and then I realized, "Hey, well, it's doable. I can write something like this. It's chords, it's melody, it's doable. I can do it." So that's how I got into film scores. I got fascinated about writing stuff, and I used to imagine scenes, like what would be in a fourth Lord of the Rings? Or what would be if there was another Pirates movie? I'd come up with ideas, and I started learning the software and the tech behind it. It became a passion.
When it came to scoring scenes featuring Hologram Janeway, knowing that she is an icon, what inspiration did you draw from Voyager?
NM: There are a lot of ways that you can nod to the feel of that score, whether it's the use of woodwinds or just certain harmonies that feel more aligned with that show. But you also have to keep in mind that this show is aimed at younger audiences. We want new people to come into the Star Trek world and then later enjoy Voyager, and TNG and DS9 and Discovery and all that.
So those kids, they don't know the Voyager theme. So that nod, the musical nod, is more nostalgic for Trekkies and for me as a Trekkie. I think that when you see Janeway, in a way it represents the Federation, which the kids are not really [familiar with]. This is new for them, kind of like the new viewers. So the introduction is quite slow, but the music goes with it. You'll see that the more the show evolves, the more Star Trek-y it becomes music-wise.
How did you differentiate the different characters through your musical motifs?
NM: It's actually pretty simple, because these characters are such unique individuals. There's Jankom the Tellarite, and there are certain characteristics that are very Tellarite, but also are emphasized in the show. So you can notice that his music would have more trombone stuff, a little bit of a clumsy thing. He has this attitude that would definitely show in his theme. Then that motif sprinkles throughout when it's a moment that is about him. And same for Zero, when there's a moment that is mainly Zero's — Zero saves the day, or Zero's doing something — then it will play their theme. Same for Gwyn. Her theme kind of evolves with the show. So Zero has the piccolo and Gwen has this keyboard-y kind of bell tone sound and Jankom has a trombone.
What has been your favorite theme or motif that you created so far?
NM: I think the Protostar theme is my favorite, also because it also kind of evolves from the first time you see the Protostar, which is personally one of my favorite scenes in the show. I get very emotional every time I see it, and I've seen it a million times, but I still get very emotional. But that theme, it starts that way, and it will become more Trek-y as the time passes. So I really love that one.
You're the first woman to compose the music for a Star Trek series. What does that mean to you?
NM: It's a huge honor, and it's a great responsibility. The thing is Star Trek has always been about diversity, right? Since day one, really. So it is kind of surprising it didn't happen before, but I'm glad to bring that change and to be the first woman to go boldly, you know?
You've collaborated with long-time Trek composer, Michael Giacchino on other projects. What advice did he give you as you started leaning into the Trek franchise?
NM: He did mention that you don't want to overuse the theme. Just as a general thing, not just in Star Trek, but the theme kind of needs to be earned by the characters. If you use it all the time, it's not going to be as effective. If you want to hit that goosebumps moment, if you want to have the greatest impact on the audience, you need to choose the right spot for it. Whether it's the classic Star Trek theme, or the theme of the show, or whatever it is, it needs to have the right moment for it.
Generally, his advice is just always go with the story, always follow whatever it is that happens on screen right now, and support that. I remember that we worked on American Pickle actually, and he and I wrote something. And he was like, "This is great. We could use it in the credits. But for this, we need ... " Everything that he ever told me picture wise, it was on point. And generally, he's amazing.
Can you share what has been one of the most rewarding parts about joining the Star Trek family and scoring Prodigy?
NM: First of all, I got a family, like a new family. I know it's kind of cliche to say that, but it's so true. I feel very close with Kevin and Dan. It's just like... just being part of that world is exciting and fun. And it's rewarding on its own, just to be able to bring [something to] this story and to create it. It’s so important. It's so huge for the filmmakers, but also for me. I get to be part of the team that brings a new generation into Star Trek. Everything is exciting about it. Everything is rewarding. I feel very blessed for sure.
Do you have a favorite moment in Prodigy that you're most excited to share with the Star Trek fans, new and old?
NM: There are so many great moments. I don't want to spoil it though. My favorite moment, I can't spoil it. In episode five, there is something that I really, really love, and I think a lot of Trekkies will also love. Episode six also has a lot of stuff the Trekkies will go nuts for, I think. There's a lot to look forward to.
Star Trek: Prodigy currently streams exclusively on Paramount+ in U.S. and Australia, and is coming soon to Paramount+ in Latin America and the Nordics as well as to Nickelodeon international channels, which are available in 180 countries globally. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Prodigy is distributed by ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group.