Thursday, September 2, 2010

A poll, a paper and a plug...

No clear majority for our latest poll, which gauged your views on the impact of Bill Shatner deciding to go bald. 36%, the greatest share, thought a breakup with the toupee would be worse than the breakup of The Beatles! 28% thought that a toupological U-turn would simply create a firestorm around the veracity of previous toupee denials. Only 7% thought that it would make up for years of such toupee denials. Thanks for voting!

Meanwhile, in an article for the August 25th, 2010 edition of the Chicago Tribune, author Steve Dahl poses an interesting question, and one which our philosophers have been grappling with for years. Speculating what questions could be answered if he were an undercover reporter posing as a washroom attendant at the Emmy awards, he asks: "Who washes his hands? Who speaks at the urinal? Does William Shatner comb his toupee?" A perhaps more important question: if Bill Shatner removes his toupee and no-one is there to see it, has he really removed his toupee at all?

Multiple Emmy Award-winning actor William Shatner!

Finally, we're going to take a rare detour away from the subject of Bill Shatner's toupee. As many of you know, an endorsement from the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies (one of the world's foremost scientific and research institutions - and in no way formally associated with William Shatner, the man) is a prize that many companies, products and even politicians frequently try to gain. Knowing that such endorsements could sway elections and otherwise have a dramatic impact on global events, we mostly turn down the thousands of such requests that we receive. But in this case, we actually volunteered to bring something to the attention of you, our valued readers - so please forgive us for the departure.

Section of Ron Jones' isolated score for the TNG episode "11001001". Hear more Ron Jones cues here.

Our friends at Film Score Monthly are releasing a mammoth 14-CD collection of the work of Star Trek: The Next Generation composer Ron Jones. For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, Ron Jones was hired as one of two regular composers at the start of the series. He insisted on approaching each Trek episode as a unique work, devising memorable leitmotifs for characters, alien races, emotions and situations, and underlining atmospherics and dramatic undertones with his compositions - all of this ended up getting him fired from the show at the end of the series' fourth season.

Ron Jones on the scoring stage of Family Guy, image sourced here.

Inexplicably, executive producer Rick Berman, perhaps the least popular major figure in modern Trek history, viewed great music as distracting and "noticeable". Instead, he wanted something called "sonic wallpaper", which often (though, to be fair, not always) basically amounted to a lot of bland noise.

"I am The Patron Saint of Mediocrity"

Jones wouldn't/couldn't budge and despite producing scores that were original, dynamic and truly loved by fans of the show (such as for the Borg two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds"), his principled refusal to conform ultimately got him fired (interestingly, the series' first cinematographer Edward R. Brown also got himself dismissed by Berman for lighting scenes according to emotions). Firing a man for scoring great music, we think, represents one of the more significant injustices in the history of motion picture entertainment. It hurt Ron Jones, who gave his heart and soul to the show, badly.

Ron Jones' celebrated score from "The Best of Both Worlds" - sourced from YouTube.

The firing, we feel, also heralded Berman-Trek's slow descent into bland "NASA realism" instead of the more aesthetically punchy and individualistic "where the mind went..." concept favored by old-school Trek producers Gene Roddenberry and Bob Justman. Up to that point, Star Trek had a great musical legacy, and Ron Jones' efforts, we think, belong up there with the best of them. In a broader sense, a marked and genuine fear of decent and dynamic musical compositions has become an industry-wide problem in much big-budget Hollywood product today. Composers were once viewed as genuine creative partners of film directors; today, they are often asked to merely subtly copy the temp music that adorns rough cuts of movies, replicating one tired cliché after another.

Anyway, we are truly delighted for Ron that FSM has released a box-set of his efforts, compiled by (unabashed Shatner's Toupee fan) Lukas Kendall. It's a large and thus expensive set, but to those of you who can afford it, we heartily recommend it. Place your orders here. FSM also have some very detailed on-line notes on Ron's music here. Thanks, and our apologies again for the non-toupological diversion. Is there a toupee connection? Kind of: Ron Jones was hired by Bob Justman, a man who also found and fought for the bald Patrick Stewart to be hired on ST:TNG...


  1. "a marked and genuine fear of decent and dynamic musical compositions has become an industry-wide problem in much big-budget Hollywood product today".

    Couldn't have put it better myself. Don't watch that many modern movies, but I get the impression there hasn't been anything around in a long time that's even half as striking as older scores like The Magnificent Seven, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly or Blade Runner. These days there seems to be a widespread misidentification of blandness with subtlety.

    At least the Trek films benefited from the talents of Jerry Goldsmith, and they had the sense to retain the Alexander Courage fanfare and Goldsmith theme for TNG.

  2. Did any of the original Star Trek composers wear toupees? maybe that made a difference.

  3. Music To Watch Toupees Go By

  4. Great post ST. I've always felt the Star Trek franchise went downhill when Gene Roddenberry passed away. I thought TNG was a very good series, but after Gene died, the show went downhill.

    Every subsequent series sucked - IMO. Even the TNG films were like bland later season two-parters.