Published Jul 10, 2022
Star Trek: Prodigy Composer Nami Melumad Is Ready to Boldly Go
Melumad talks about creating the music for the new series
Nami Melumad (Thor: Love and Thunder, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds) is the first woman to compose the music for a Star Trek series. Partnering with Michael Giacchino (Thor: Love and Thunder, Spider-Man: No Way Home), who composed the opening theme of the Star Trek: Prodigy series, Melumad has crafted a rich musical landscape for both new characters and 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 [Giacchino]'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?
Nami Melumad: 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 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 realized, "I can write something like this. Its chords, its 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 it be if there was another Pirates [of the Caribbean] 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?
Nami Melumad: 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, TNG, DS9, Discovery, and all that.
Those kids don't know the Voyager theme. So the musical nod is more nostalgic for Trekkies and for me. When you see Janeway, in a way, it represents the Federation, which the kids are not really [familiar with]. This is new for viewers. 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?
Nami Melumad: It's actually pretty simple because these characters are such unique individuals. There's Jankom the Tellarite. There are certain characteristics that are very Tellarite, and emphasized in the show. You can notice that his music would have more trombone, a little bit clumsy. He has this attitude that show in his theme. Then that motif sprinkles throughout when it's a moment that is about him.
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. Zero has the piccolo, Gwyn 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?
Nami Melumad: The Protostar theme is my favorite because it 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. 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?
Nami Melumad: 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. 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'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?
Nami Melumad: He did mention that you don't want to overuse the theme. Just as a general thing, not just in Star Trek. The theme 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 “always go with the story,” always follow whatever it is that happens on-screen and support that. [When] we worked on American Pickle, 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 StarTrek family and scoring Prodigy?
Nami Melumad: First of all, I got a family, like a new family. It's kind of cliche to say that, but it's so true. I feel very close with Kevin and Dan. 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. I feel very blessed for sure.
Do you have a favorite moment in Prodigy that you're most excited to share with the StarTrek fans, new and old?
Nami Melumad: There are so many great moments. My favorite moment, I don't want to spoil it though. 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. There's a lot to look forward to.