Country: United States
Release Date: 14-Feb-1995
1. “To Be or Not to Be” – Main Title (01:03)
2. “To Be or Not to Be” – Preparing for Battle (02:50)
3. “To Be or Not to Be” – Bridger’s Dream (00:51)
4. “To Be or Not to Be” – Uncharted Waters (02:04)
5. “To Be or Not to Be” – First Engagement (03:17)
6. “To Be or Not to Be” – Darwin Speaks (00:58)
7. “To Be or Not to Be” – Dangerous Adversary (01:32)
8. “To Be or Not to Be” – To Adventures Bold (01:29)
9. “Knight of the Shadows” – Waltz With the Dead (02:45)
10. “Knight of the Shadows” – The Forgiving / Resurrection (04:50)
11. “Such Great Patience” – The Discovery (02:12)
12. “Such Great Patience” – Lucas Meets the Alien (02:30)
13. “Such Great Patience” – Solemn Oath (02:25)
14. End Credits (00:37)
Total Duration: 00:29:23
Review By Gary Kester
SeaQuest DSV (VSD-5565)
Music composed and conducted by John Debney
It may be because my entire life has been spent on or near the coast, but I’ve always enjoyed the differing ways composers find to give the impression of the listener being on or under water. The effects and instrumentation used to depict the latter particularly intrigues and satisfies me, from John Williams’ Jaws and Jaws 2 through Jerry Goldsmith’s Leviathan and Legend, James Newton Howard’s Waterworld and Elliot Goldenthal’s Sphere (amongst many others).
To this list must be added John Debney’s SeaQuest DSV, which ranks amongst the finest TV music ever composed. While people have been rightly wowed by Debney’s recent musical contributions to Seth McFarlane’s hit show The Orville (more or less alternating episodes with Joel McNeely), those of us of a certain age know he already has plenty of form for providing excellent scores to weekly science fiction television.
After dabbles with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (two episodes) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (one), Debney scored season one of Rockne S. O’Bannon’s SeaQuest DSV, as well as composing it’s celebrated theme. Debuting in 1993, the show was set in the future year of 2018 (can you imagine!?), where dwindling resources have led humanity to colonise the oceans as land resources run short. Policing this brave blue world (*ahem*) was the United Earth Oceans (UEO), a combined military and scientific organisation with as its flagship a super-advanced submarine, the SeaQuest DSV (Deep Submergence Vehicle).
Half undersea western (one episode literally was), half watery Star Trek, SeaQuest was a clever and well written show, lent gravitas by Jaws star Roy Scheider as Captain Nathan Bridger. Scheider, however, quit after season 2 (save a couple of contractually obligated appearances) when the hard science and environmental messages which drew him to the project were diluted by increasingly action-orientated scripts. By season 3 it had evolved into a pure adventure show, SeaQuest 2032, with Michael Ironside as no-nonsense Captain Oliver Hudson.
Steven Spielberg executive produced the first two seasons, keen to tap the educational potential of a show set under the seas. Brief pieces on oceanic conservation were included over the closing credits, presented by oceanographer and Titanic wreck discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard, the show’s scientific advisor. In season 2 the cast took over this job, and for season 3 it was abandoned altogether.
SeaQuest broke new ground in visual effects as first show to entirely use CGI, employing daisy-chained Commodore Amigas running Lightwave. It paved the way for the more complicated VFX of Babylon 5, before advances in computing made CGI much quicker, cheaper and more realistic.
Despite its serious message, enviable cast and high production values, SeaQuest arrived at a time when there was a glut of TV sci-fi on the back of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and so it had a lot of competition for audiences and at awards ceremonies (particularly from the highly popular The X-Files). Regardless, SeaQuest won the 1994 Emmy for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music”, beating Mark Snow’s eerie tune for the conspiracy show. A few years later the US magazine TV
Guide named SeaQuest the 48th best theme tune of all time.
It’s easy to see why – bold, optimistic, adventurous and tuneful, it swirls us beneath the rolling ocean before marching us through an exciting montage of scenes from the show under the credits. In 1995 Varese Sarabande released a short but excellent CD featuring selections from three episodes, framed by the theme as used in the opening and closing credits. The three episodes all had very different themes and tones, and so were a good showcase for the diversity Debney brought to the show.
First we had the pilot,“To Be or Not to Be” – an action episode, as pilots tend to be as they try to hook audience interest. Debney delivered some weighty, powerful combat music as the SeaQuest faces off a rogue submarine commanded by its disgraced former captain. The title theme featured prominently in full and in part – sometimes under gentle layers of sound as the vessel glides beneath the waves, at others over a relentless martial rhythm as it prepared for battle or hunted its adversary. The threat of the enemy sub was rendered through trombones and chopping strings, a sound that reminds me in hindsight of the (purely coincidental) sound used by Michael Giacchino for the Narada mining vessel in the JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek.
“Knight of Shadows” was an unusual episode in that it was a purely supernatural story with no scientific explanation, as restless ghosts haunt the wreck of a sunken liner discovered by the SeaQuest. Debney’s score was suitably spooky, with an eerie waltz for the rotting opulence of the lost vessel. “Such Great Patience” was, by contrast, a hard sci-fi episode, as the SeaQuest finds a million year old alien spaceship, giving Debney the opportunity to write music that was mysterious and wondrous.
At just 30 minutes this was merely a sampler of the exceptional scores written for the groundbreaking show, albeit making a wholly superb listen. Many have wished for a more comprehensive release at some point – perhaps a box set, as has happened with shows like the various Star Trek’s, The X-Files and even Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I’m one of them, as there is a lot of unreleased music not just from Debney, but also Don Davis, who handled season 2 (apparently getting commissioned for Bound and The Matrix because the Wachowskis were fans), while SeaQuest 2032 had a new theme and scores by Russ Landau.
Whether this will ever happen or not is, of course, down to two things – the availability of the music, and whether the proposition would be commercially viable. If those stars ever align, I’m sure Varese will deliver the goods. In the meantime SeaQuest DSV serves as a reminder that some of the best film music is… well, for TV.