Scoring this endeavor was three-time Emmy nominee Robert Duncan, a veteran television composer known for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lie to Me, The Unit, and recently Castle. What is immediately striking about his score for Last Resort is its scale. Big, mostly orchestral themes and ballsy action cues jack up the gravitas throughout. In fact, Last Resort gives off much more of a cinematic vibe than many of its television counterparts, indeed appropriate to the feel of the show. There is a dose of hopeful, patriotic writing here, but Duncan’s score rarely feels overbearingly militaristic, rather focusing on and nailing the show’s emotional undercurrent.
The brief "Pilot Suite" is the best representation of the score overall, first introducing the tender, emotional theme most often associated with Sam and Christine (also see "Sam and Christine") before moving on to an aggressively orchestrated, noble burst at 1:12 to accompany the emergence of the USS Colorado from the depths (The Thin Red Line, anyone?). It’s television writing on an impressive scale and it concludes with the ballsy "horn-of-doom" motif at 1:50 that serves as the debatable main identity of the show. This identity recurs in "Last Resort End Credits" and is indicative of much of Last Resort’s action material: loud, tension-filled, percussive, "modern", and occasionally familiar. Nevertheless, such material gets the blood pumping in cues like "Manila Rescue", "Same Attacks Booth", and "Battling the USS Patrick Lawrence". Though difficult to isolate in the soundscape, it’s also worthy of note that Robert Duncan recorded numerous "bangs" and "clangs" of submarine parts to be incorporated into these boisterous action pieces.
Though Last Resort’s action material certainly makes an impression on the eardrums and heart rate, it is Duncan’s alternatingly heroic and sweepingly emotional thematic writing that truly shines here. "Officer on Deck" features what is possibly the brassiest and most patriotic anthem to be found in Last Resort, reminding a bit of Zimmer’s action scores of the 1990’s. For subtler, less overtly heroic fare, the haunting "The Peacock and the Crane", the superb conclusion cue "Fall of the Colorado", and the score’s stirring, emotional peak in "Declaration" are all clear highlights. The minor, piano-led theme in "Marcus Sees His Son" and the variation of "Officer on Deck" heard in "About Your Father" are also welcome inclusions, as are the guitar-led pieces "The Waterfall", "Ginger Candy", and "James Buries His Friend" (though the pensive progressions of the latter cue take the cake).
While I was at first doubtful of Last Resort, the more I listened to it the more I came to appreciate Robert Duncan’s strong use of theme and the scale on which he scored these weekly episodes. This, as mentioned earlier, is why Last Resort seems so cinematic and why it is a step above the norm for television scoring. While I can’t say I liked Last Resort to the extent that I like Bear McCreary or Murray Gold’s various television works, I’m still extremely impressed by the magnitude and ambition of this score, a fitting testament to the talent of the composer and the quality of the woefully canceled series.
A Few Recommended Tracks: "The Fall of the Colorado", "Pilot Suite", "Officer on Deck", "The Peacock and the Crane", "Declaration", "James Buries His Friend"
Label: Madison Gate Records, Inc.
Availability: 22 Track Edition (approx. 41 minutes)