Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2010 March 08 • Monday

Soundtrack of the Week #103 is Joe Harnell's music from The Bionic Woman episodes "Doomsday Is Tomorrow Part 2" and "The Martians Are Coming, The Martians Are Coming".

The Bionic Woman was my favorite TV show when I was in elementary school. After moving into my first New York City apartment in 1991, I was delighted to find out that it was being shown on TV at three in the morning every Monday. It would be followed at four by Mission: Impossible. I stayed up every Sunday night to watch it.

The music was always great and I sometimes recorded it directly off the TV to listen to later. Jerry Fielding's theme for the show is still one of my favorite pieces.

Joe Harnell, whose beautiful theme music for The Incredible Hulk television show also haunts my memory, scored several episodes, including the second part of "Doomsday Is Tomorrow", a thrilling mixture of plot devices from The Andromeda Strain, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove. This fan-made trailer is great—except for not using the music originally in the show.

The CD begins with Joe Harnell's unused theme for the show. It's excellent and should be familiar to Bionic Woman fans as Harnell frequently worked it into the music for episodes he scored.

After that is music for "The Martians Are Coming, The Martians Are Coming", which mixes slinky funk/disco rhythms with synthesizer and delay freak-outs and the Blaster Beam, an electronic instrument much cherished by sci-fi soundtrack composers.

The CD liner notes point out that "While most people associate the first use of this device with Jerry Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where it was used as the voice of V'Ger, Joe actually used the Blaster Beam nearly a year before in this episode of The Bionic Woman".

(According to the liner notes of Film Score Monthly's CD of James Horner's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan score, the Blaster Beam was invented by Craig Huxley, who also played it for at least the first two Star Trek movie scores. Huxley also appeared in two episodes of Star Trek when he was a child, and was William Shatner's musical director for a while.)

After "Martians" there's an 11-second commercial bumper, then the music for "Doomsday", which is alternately eerie and driving, suspenseful and marital.

Again the liner notes point out some things worth knowing:

"While Joe was very confident with his dramatic instincts as a composer, he never passed up an opportunity to wink at the audience. To represent the ALEX 7000, Joe chose to write a theme that was essentially Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" from 2001 but backwards as an in-joke for fans who would make the connection between ALEX and HAL 9000. In the track called "Father and Son", Joe quotes from the Ernest Gold theme to Exodus when David Opatoshu, a star of that film, hugs his son, after he discovers that his actions have started the doomsday device.

After "Doomsday" come Harnell's unused end credits music, bonus alternate tracks of music from both episodes and some very cool "music effects" tracks that could be great sample fodder for people who are into that sort of thing. (One of them includes that haunting solo piano from The Incredible Hulk.)

I got my copy of this excellent CD from Joe Harnell's website but it's also available from Screen Archives Entertainment.