Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-nominated score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a groundbreaking album of science fiction music which pioneered edgy sonic techniques and gave the Trek franchise a new main-title theme that went on to be the defining sound of The Next Generation nearly a decade later. This lush 1979 soundtrack succeeded at imbuing the first Trek film with a jolt of classic adventure fanfare, while at the same time, establishing haunting and original alien motifs. While it may not be the flashiest score for a science fiction movie, it’s very possibly the best and easily the most influential.
Also, it’s really great if you’re having a hard time falling asleep.
I know what you’re thinking: this person is making a joke about Star Trek: The Motion Picture being “slow” and how watching the film will put you to sleep. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I simply think if you like Star Trek, you may want to consider the score for The Motion Picture as your new mood-altering mixtape. Allow me to explain.
When I was in middle school and I needed help calming down from the anxiety brought on by just being a teenager, I would listen to the balletic track known as “The Enterprise,” in order to help calm my nerves and get into that much-needed REM sleep. This was the mid-’90s and portable Discmans weren’t yet practical and were still years away from being made obsolete altogether, meaning I owned the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture on cassette tape. “The Enterprise” is the final track on side one of both the vinyl and cassette versions of the original album. With almost always perfect timing, my tape player would simply click off when the track concluded. Sometimes, I’d rewind the tape to the beginning of the piece until I achieved the desired REM effect.
Years later, circa 2017, when my young daughter was only 6-months old, my wife and I noticed she’d taken a liking to the romantic selection “Ilia’s Theme.” At this point, I owned a vintage 1979 vinyl version of The Motion Picture soundtrack, and so, my wife and I would play the track to help my daughter calm down before one of her afternoon naps. At one point, “Ilia’s Theme” was so integral to my daughter’s nap routine that my wife had actually written, “Listen to Star Trek song,” as 'Step 1' on a list of things to do to make sure the nap happened.
So there you have it. Two members of my family — myself and my direct genetic clone, my now almost 3-year-old daughter — like the TMP score and feel, for whatever reason, that it can take us to a happy place. Now, obviously, as a kid, I’d seen The Motion Picture before hearing the score, so, in my head, I had certain images of blue space clouds, and the beautiful scene in which Kirk sees the newly refitted Enterprise for the first time. But, my daughter obviously hadn’t seen The Motion Picture at 6-months-old, and she’s still yet to see it. Yet she still likes the music, out of context. To paraphrase John Lennon, I don’t do yoga, but I believe that music can completely alter your mood. Countless scientific studies all confirm this idea; human beings can control their emotions with the help of music. So, basically, Spock would approve of using the TMP score to help you meditate, or sleep, or, even hit the gym.
Now, slow and relaxing melodies like “Ilia’s Theme” don’t make up the entire score to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but that doesn’t mean that every track can’t have some real-life application. In fact, I think that in some ways, the full soundtrack could take you through an entire day, and help center you emotionally through the entire journey. And so, using the original track listing from the classic version of the soundtrack album, here’s how the Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack can take you through a day, making you the most mindful, centered, and bold person you can be.
Let’s get through our day, Star Trek style.
(Note: Because the entire original score for The Motion Picture isn’t available digitally, I’ve created a partial mix on Spotify here. The website Discogs also has an impressive reconstruction of the score, too. That’s also a good spot to grab a physical copy of the album on vinyl, cassette or CD. For the purposes of this list, I’m using the original album’s tracklist, because, in my head, it’s perfect. In recent years, there have been impressive re-issues of the score which have many many more tracks. The La La Land release on vinyl is pretty dope.)
"Main Title / Klingon Battle" (Getting out the door)
This is your wake-up, get dressed, and commute song. If you can’t get jacked-up to face the day listening to the classic arrangement of Goldsmith’s main theme, then its segue into the famous Klingon music should do the trick. If you’re commute involves driving, this track is particularly effective.
“Leaving Drydock” (Hitting the gym)
This is the track you want to listen to right before you either start work, or hit your first class. For a lot of us, this might mean going to the gym or taking a run before the day really gets started. Back to back with track one, you’re ready for anything at this point.
“The Cloud” (resetting)
Featuring a custom-created, over 12-foot-long musical instrument called a “Blaster beam,” (really), this epic track is both meditative and funky. When I talked to Jeff Bond, author of the book The Music of Star Trek, he thought this one was good as a lullabye. I tend to agree, but it’s also a great track for literally meditating. There’s movement to the music, but its not propulsive or overly percussive. This is the one where you can find yourself a little bit and take a few deep, calming breaths.
“The Enterprise” (break time/lunch/taking a walk)
Although I listened to this track as a teenager to help me sleep, in my twenties, I’d listen to it during a walks through a cemetery in downtown Manhattan. I remember my lunch breaks from the bookstore I worked at were particularly important, and the absolutely majestic quality of this composition is a great way to take a break from your list of daily tasks and float in space for a little while. Consider this: Admiral Kirk actually uses this track as a way of centering himself in the context of the film! At the time Kirk is going to see the Enterprise, he and Scotty are actually in a little bit of a hurry, but they take the time to breath in the beauty of the Enterprise and the music reflects that.
“Ilia's Theme” (Making a coffee, pouring yourself a glass of wine)
As I mentioned, on the original album “Ilia’s Theme” is the first track of the second side. However, something almost nearly everyone forgets is that during the original theatrical release, “Ilia’s Theme” was actually the overture for the entire film. This means, that the entire piece played over a black screen prior to the main titles actually beginning. In this way, you could view the second side of The Motion Picture soundtrack as the beginning of its own musical journey. Unlike the first side of the album, the second holds fewer bombastic tracks which is where you can really get into a meditative groove. I mentioned my infant daughter was able to fall asleep listening to this song at nap time. What I failed to mention is that this was in New York City. Yep. “Ilia’s Theme” is that relaxing.
“Vejur Flyover” (Reading poetry, laying down)
In the original album’s release “V’Ger” was misspelled “Vejur,” but I’m leaving it that way in case you wanted to google it. In the film, this music is mostly connected to the scenes in which the Enterprise actually enters the V’Ger cloud, which means a lot happens in this selection. It’s perfect for reading some poetry, or literally, any book you’re enjoying.
“The Meld” (Eating a meal)
You may associate this moment when Spock discovers V’Ger is a living machine as a fairly traumatic scene in the film. But the music itself is super-relaxing, as well as stimulating. In a sense, “The Meld” is a synecdoche of the entire TMP score. It’s intelligent, layered and, best of all, tells a story without being too obtrusive.
“Spock Walk” (Getting out of your clothes, taking an evening shower or bath)
The music for Spock’s actual space walk is a little more lively than the previous selection, but that doesn’t mean it’s also not deeply meditative. I like to put this one on when preparing my house for the next day. This is a track for when you need to get things done, but you’re not rushing to get those things done. You’re thinking about what you’re going to wear tomorrow. You’re running that bath. You get it.
“End Title” (Daily reflection, journaling)
Because the “End Title” music is essentially a medley of the themes from the beginning of the film, it’s a perfect track for reflecting on your day. If you keep a journal or a diary, or do any kind of writing as you’re winding down, this track is nice because it can help you, perhaps, remember what you actually did throughout the day. Every kind of mantra needs repetition, and by repeating the different arrangements of these familiar themes, you can really complete your day in an adventurous, yet calming style.
After all, the human adventure is just beginning.
Ryan Britt's (he/him) essays and journalism have appeared in Tor.com, Inverse, Den of Geek!, SyFy Wire, and elsewhere. He is the author of the 2015 essay collection Luke Skywalker Can't Read. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and daughter.