Star Trek: Prodigy's Nami Melumad Composes the Score for the Future Of Which She Dreams

at .  Updated at .

For the throngs of Star Trek fans who have signed onto the newest series, Star Trek: Prodigy, Nami Melumad may not be the first name to jump to mind.

However, her contribution to the cinematic feel and sweeping scope of Paramount+ and Nickelodeon's animated family-friendly animated adventure is both integral and inspired.

Nami (pronounced "NAH-mee" like in "tsunami") is the first woman composer for any Star Trek project EVER, and it's the role she was born to play.

Nami Melumad - Star Trek: Prodigy

Speaking with TV Fanatic over Zoom, Melumad made no bones about her lifelong love for Star Trek.

She is not only a fan of the show and its ethos but even studied at the USC Cinema School with the late Kenny Hall, Jerry Goldsmith's music editor, who edited the scores of many of the Star Trek films.

Melumad's first chance to compose for the franchise came with Star Trek: Short Treks Season 2 Episode 1: Q&A, which chronicles Number One and Spock breaking the ice while trapped on a malfunctioning turbo life on his first day aboard the Enterprise.

It seems kind of perfect that, in a way, this assignment was Melumad's inaugural journey too.

"I got the call to come on board. It was totally unexpected. There were no spoilers. It was 'Hey can you make it to a spotting session in the next day or so?' It completely took me by surprise. I was super, super excited.

Q&A: Ask Me Anything - Star Trek: Discovery

"Just walking into the studio, the Secret Hideout, and meeting with Alex Kurtzman. It was just overwhelmingly great. They had already placed some temp music for the episode.

"Temp music is scratch music that you put in for when the editors are editing, so it helps with understanding the pace, the style, and the tone of the show.

"But they were pretty open to what I would bring in, and they were very open to including the Alexander Courage theme, which makes sense because it is the first day of Spock on the Enterprise.

"Then I freaked out [a little bit] because this is such a huge task. It is so important. I dived into writing, and I wrote and rewrote and rewrote until I submitted it. I was doing a lot of back-and-forthing with myself before I even sent it out.

"And then we recorded it at Warner Bros. It was just fantastic to do it, watch it on the big screen and everything. And then it aired! I was overwhelmed with how people loved it. And I loved it too. And I think that was the best intro to producing Star Trek. That was amazing."

Conducting at The Bridge Studio - Star Trek: Prodigy

To go from scoring a Short Trek episode to composing the entirety of a series is a considerable step up in both responsibility and potential.

"I think it was a couple of months after. They were definitely impressed with Q&A. There were no hints, but it's always this case with Hollywood stuff.

"You do something. If you do a good job, you're nice, and it's fun to work with you, they'll probably call you back. That's what happened.

"I think it was some time in 2019. It was pretty early. You start scoring animation very early, as soon as there's an animatic. I even read the screenplays before there was an animatic which got me excited and helped me start to think about the characters and what we will do with them musically."

Star Trek: Prodigy First Look

Animated characters require a more immersive strategy to develop their personalities. Melumad's music is vital in conveying each character's temperament and intrinsic nature.

"There are instruments that are more affiliated with a certain character. And motifs -- I like to write motif-based scores -- so, yeah, Zero has their own theme, Gwyn has her own theme. And there are instruments that are more aligned with them.

"For example, for Zero, we have a piccolo. Zero is a non-binary character, and I feel that piccolo is not affiliated with a 'him' or a 'her.' You can play it, and it's pretty natural, so you'll hear a lot of that. And Dal has his theme.

"Of course, there's the main theme by Michael Giacchino, and that's also incorporated into the score. I hope he approves of that. He hasn't heard it yet."

As all Star Trek fans know, every show's ship (or starbase) has its own vibe. The protagonists of Star Trek: Prodigy may not be Starfleet, but their ship, the USS Protostar, most definitely is.

"Oh, yeah, there is a Protostar [theme]... Well, you'll find out. It's pretty massive. In the first episode, when it's first shown, the music kind of sneaks in [there] in a very mysterious, grand way.

"It will develop throughout the show because the ship is a whole character. It has its variations.

"There is a melody and a motif that are very recognizable, but it develops. You'll see. It kind of develops with how the kids learn to fly this thing."

The Protostar - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 3

Melumad was cagey when asked about the theme she wrote for The Diviner, the villainous overlord pursuing the Protostar and its crew through the Delta Quadrant.

"I don't think I can tell a lot about The Diviner's background just yet because that would be spoilers, but The Diviner is a very unique character and the reasoning behind the choices of the way that his theme sounds are driven from that background.

"It does have this cinematic, almost religious, approach. It's very dark and mysterious. There are some vocals too."

By vocals, she doesn't mean that there are lyrics in his theme (yet), but voices are used as instruments in the orchestration.

"It's not unusual. There are films and tv shows that include vocals. I think it adds a layer of something, whether it is mystery, something that goes a little over the top, overwhelming, or adds some drama. I thought it was interesting to do that for The Diviner, and there is a reason that you will see."

Diviner - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 3

How is the production going about bringing the music she's written to life?

"We're recording remotely in Budapest. It's a full orchestra every time, which is super, super cool. We have a full brass section, full strings section, a lot of woodwinds.

"It's really fun because when you have everyone in the same room, the music always comes out better because they play with each other. There's this dynamic [where they're] understanding the music better than recording it separately.

"I'm very grateful that we could do that because there was a question about it. Because of COVID, how was it going to be possible? For a whole year, musicians were not recording in a studio. Everyone would just do things separately at home.

Hollywood Chamber Orchestra - Star Trek: Prodigy

"So I'm very grateful that we get to do that. And I have the most amazing orchestrator in the world -- shout out to Jeff Kryka. He orchestrated magnificently. We also had Jenny Dirkes doing Episode 4, so kudos to her! And we have a great mixing engineer, and his name is Shin Miyazawa. He's also producing the score.

"I have a really good team. I think that's my point. You can't fly this crazy ship of a score without a huge effort from the team members, and I'm very lucky to both be supported by the showrunners and Ben, the director, and also by my own incredible people that help out with this."

As a fan of Star Trek and the person tasked with building the audio world of Star Trek: Prodigy, there's a lot of big feelings in play. Melumad's reaction to listening to the cast's recordings of the episodes was more visceral than she could have expected.

"Oh my god. The first time I heard Kate Mulgrew! I was crying. I mean, I cry a lot when I watch these episodes. It's just so emotional. You'll see. There are so many great moments where it's just so heartfelt. Listening to the scratch voices really puts you in the mood.

Nami Melumad Close Up - Star Trek: Prodigy

"And I'll give the opposite example. When there is a missing phrase, or they're redoing something, and you hear an assistant editor who has recorded something as a [temporary] replacement, it throws me off.

"Like, all of a sudden, there's gonna be a man's voice for Gwyn, and you're like, 'Woah, what's going on?' It completely takes you out of the process.

"I think the actors totally formed the way that I shaped the composition. It's all [about] their pronunciation, the way that they talk, and even just the timing. Those things are, luckily, not moving by a lot, so the score is timed to their voices. And it's incredible.

"There are so many nuances, and I'm so amazed by these [actors]. They're so talented. We also have a great voice director. It's incredible. It's a group effort, again. Everything is a team effort."

Nami Melumad at the Catalina Film Fest - Star Trek: Prodigy

Growing up hearing the iconic themes of the many Star Trek series and films, how does that inform the composing of something wholly new like Prodigy?...

"It's an in-the-back-of-my-mind kind of thing, so it's already sort of there. Sometimes, I'm like, 'Okay, this is totally from a different movie or a show. I'm not going to do that.'

"But I think it just sits and even Michael Giacchino's Star Trek scores; I think their influence can be totally heard in my music because he's such a huge influence and a great mentor. I feel like, from that musical background of Star Trek, yes, it does influence, and it will influence the Prodigy score, for sure."

Having knowledge of all the episodes of the season, Melumad has an intimate understanding of the action and evolution of the characters. Without revealing any spoilers, can she pick a favorite?

"I love all the episodes. I think the score of Episode Ten is probably the most emotional for me. There are a lot of things that are closing and a lot of things that are opening.

Star Trek: Prodigy Key Art

"There's also a particular scene in Episode Five that I love so much, and I can't wait for the world to see. It is a very touching moment. There are great moments in every episode.

"When the Protostar is first revealed, I get emotional every time I watch it even though I've watched it a gazillion billion times. And it gets me every time. Hopefully, it will touch everybody else too."

Melumad's musical beginnings were as a flute player. Does she lean on her instrument when creating her scores?

"Yeah, you caught me. Guilty as charged. I'm a flute player, so I played in orchestras for years. Growing up, there was a school orchestra, and there was a youth orchestra, and there was the academy orchestra, and, as a flute player, you sit in the middle, and you get to listen to everyone.

Melumad on Flute - Star Trek: Prodigy

"You also sit in the middle of the woodwinds, so next to you is another flute player and the oboe, clarinet, bassoon. You hear them mainly because they're close to you.

"Flute is a melodic instrument. It's not a harmonic instrument. You can't play chords on it. You can play arpeggios that would resemble chords, but you can't play two notes at the same time unless you have an effect but whatever.

"Usually, [in] orchestral pieces, you only have one melody. So, yes, it influences the way I write because I am melody-driven.

"And I think that's also pretty useful for film scores because, at the end of the day, what you remember is the melody from the music. It's kind of hard to remember tone or texture, but you remember melody. You can sing it after. I think that adds cohesiveness to the story."

Melumad looks forward to what the future holds, both for her career and in general.

Rok-Tahk and Murf - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 2

"I want to do a movie starring Murf. I would like a solo movie for Murf. There was just a Twitter post about the suggestions for upcoming films about characters. I'm like, 'SIGN ME UP!'

She is optimistic that the aspirations of Star Trek -- Starfleet and the Federation's mandate to make the universe a better place -- could inspire the real world to aim higher.

Janeway: The United Federation of Planets. An interstellar union of different worlds and species with shared principles of universal liberty, rights, and equality.
Rok-Tahk: E-quality? That sounds nice.

"I would love to do more Star Trek. I enjoy it. It's fun to be part of this amazing universe with amazing people, amazing Trekkies. There's so much love in Star Trek, and there's so much hope too.

"And I hope that the entire world will [move] towards what Star Trek is. That future, that's what I want for this planet."

New episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy stream every Thursday on Paramount+.

More importantly, Nami Melumad's music for the double-episode premiere, Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episodes 1 & 2, is now available on Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon.

(And, between you and me, on its own, without the distraction of Prodigy's stunning animation and pesky narrative, it's just beautiful. Seriously, just incredible.)

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.

Show Comments
Tags: , ,

Star Trek: Prodigy Quotes

Drednok: Prisoner Dal Ar-El. What species are you?
Dal: Wow. Getting personal, borderline inappropriate.

Sorry, didn't quite catch that. You'll have to... chirp... a little slower.