I’m going to interrupt this blog’s scheduled posting to dedicate today’s entry to the memory of Joel Goldsmith. Joel, who passed away last night, was a much loved and respected member of our extended Stargate family; his considerable contributions to the franchise a key part of its long-running success. The son of renowned composer Jerry Goldsmith, he was an enormously talented in his own right, scoring all three Stargate incarnations (SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe) as well as the SG movies Continuum and Ark of Truth. His lengthy list of credits include such varied productions as The Untouchables, The Outer Limits, and Diagnosis Murder, but it was, of course, Stargate that introduced me to his musical genius, indefatigable spirit, and greatly appreciated kindness.
Joel was terrific at what he did. That goes without saying. Check out any episode of Stargate and imagine how much poorer it would be without his music: the haunting Ascension theme from the end of SG-1’s Meridian as Daniel Jackson says goodbye to Jack, the stirring theme to Stargate: Atlantis that accompanies visuals of the city rising up out of the ocean’s depths, the melancholy yet beautifully elegant ending theme that accompanied SGU’s closing montage. As producers, whenever we gave notes to anyone on the production, we always liked to balance our criticisms or requests with some recognition of a job well done. In Joel’s case, there was never an issue with finding something great to say about his work. If we had notes, they would be few and far between, and they would always be eclipsed by his tremendous accomplishments on any given mix.
The man was talented, but he was also genuinely gracious and thoughtful. Joel liked to know when we felt something wasn’t working so that he could improve upon it, but he also liked to know what WAS working (which, in all honesty, was about 99% of everything he did). Like any great artist, he appreciated the feedback. But he was also quick to recognize the hard work of others. I remember receiving a call from him about six episodes into Atlantis’s fourth season, the year Paul and I took over as show runners. He had picked up the phone simply to congratulate us on the job we were doing. He’d read the scripts, loved them, and was looking forward to working on the upcoming episodes. He was calling to thank us for the great material which I found incredibly touching and, quite frankly, amazing. And it was something he continued to do – not once or twice or even three times, but throughout those final two seasons. Joel not only worked on Stargate – he was a fan. And he sounded very much like a fan, echoing the online sentiment at the time, after learning of Atlantis’s cancellation. He was outraged and sincerely disappointed that the series had come to what was, in his opinion, a premature end. I was equally disappointed but the news of SGA cancellation was mitigated by that phone call from Joel. We’d be moving on to SGU, finding work on a new incarnation of Stargate, but it was a damn shame nevertheless, and he wanted me to know it.
Joel was a pleasure to work with because he was collaborative. He didn’t take dictation and yet, on the other hand, was never precious about his work either, ever willing to hear us out, make the necessary adjustments or, if need be, argue a point. I remember one episode where, in a rare instance, a producer suggested we purchase a song for a scene. Not all of the producers were onboard with the tune and we were leaning toward having Joel come up with something. But rather than do so, Joel listened to that song from a little known band and defended it – vehemently so. It would have been simple enough for him to create something but, instead, he recognized the talent in that song and, more importantly, recognized the opportunity it offered that band. It seemed such a trivial decision at the time but, in retrospect, says a lot about the man’s character.
Finally, we come to Joel’s last piece for the Stargate franchise, that beautiful closing theme to the SGU finale, Gauntlet. I have to admit that, at the time the episode was being produced, I wasn’t so sure I wanted Joel to score the montage. When we received the director’s cut, the sequence had included a gorgeous piece that I felt was nothing short of perfect. I loved Joel’s work, knew what he was capable of but, I have to admit, I doubted even he could trump the music that accompanied the director’s cut. But Joel wanted to try. He did. And succeeded. If that original piece was nothing shot of perfect, then the closing piece Joel came up with was beyond perfection.
And, I think, a fitting coda to this blog entry…