Doctor Who: The Krotons

Doctor Who: The KrotonsA curiosity in Silva Screen’s sparse handful of classic series single-CD music releases early in 2013, this CD – weighing in at barely half an hour – is easily the most obscure entry, and the one that met with the most hoots of derision from fandom. Why The Krotons? Why not a full score for The Five Doctors or Logopolis or something more… pivotal? Why not release the best of the BBC’s Doctor Who Proms concerts on CD?

The answer is actually just this side of the obvious: the existing musical material from the 1970s could fill a teacup (and, between a couple of past releases from the BBC’s now-extinct in-house music label, almost all of it is out there already). So, instead of individual CDs showcasing Doctor Who’s sound in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, we get an example of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s musical style (the Caves Of Androzani CD), an example of the freelance composers who supplanted the Radiophonic Workshop in the show’s waning years (the re-release of Ghost Light), and an example of the Radiophonic Workshop at the height of its tape-manipulating powers in the ’60s (this one).

The Krotons is also a canny choice because it’s a rare example of a ’60s Doctor Who serial whose musical material survives intact, and is the product of a single composer’s “voice”. Radiophonic Workshop co-founder Brian Hodgson had a new experimental analog synthesizer to play wiith for The Krotons, and play with it he did, creating the story’s sparse but utterly alien music and its unearthly sound effects with the new synth and the time-tested methods of the Workshop.

Even if you’re a fan of early electronic music – say, Raymond Scott or John Baker or White Noise – you haven’t heard anything quite like this. It has rhythm and a strange sort of not-of-this-world tonality, but human ears trained in western musical traditions may not really register it as “music”. The rhythm and structure are there, but rather than traditional melody or harmony, there are strange, stacatto dronings that are right “out there” with Velvet Underground’s Metal Machine Music – the otherworldly sounds of something so unmusical by any traditional standard that it’s a challenge to stay with it long enough to discern the structure behind it.

While fans expecting more traditional musical underscore may find little to like here, especially if they’ve only been weaned on the grandiose sound of Murray Gold, what can be found here is a cross-section of the glue that held early Doctor Who together: the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s utterly strange and yet appropriate sounds, married to the sometimes less-than-special effects concocted by the BBC’s in-house effects artists (and 3 out of 4occasional outside contractors who, nevertheless, had only a BBC budget within which to work). Back then, there was no surround sound or CGI to hold the show together – only offbeat scripts, usually better-than-decent performances, and unusual worlds which were just as often sold by sound as by sight. That tradition continued well into the 1970s, even after the BBC realized that its sci-fi output was now competing with the likes of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica (the original, mind you), and it’s a big part of the appeal to many an older fan. Whether it registers as “musical” or not, The Krotons soundtrack is a nice example of the artistry and technical wizardry behind that appeal.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who (New Opening Theme, 1967) (0:55)
  2. The Learning Hall (2:43)
  3. Door Opens (0:39)
  4. Entry Into the Machine (1:36)
  5. TARDIS (New Landing) (0:21)
  6. Wasteland Atmosphere (1:26)
  7. Machine and City Theme (1:52)
  8. Machine Exterior (1:46)
  9. Panels Open (0:20)
  10. Dispersal Unit (0:43)
  11. Sting (0:22)
  12. Selris’ House (0:44)
  13. Machine Interior (1:19)
  14. Snake Bleeps Low (1:04)
  15. Silver Hose (The Snake) (0:48)
  16. Snake Bleeps High (0:33)
  17. Teaching Machine Hums (0:46)
  18. Forcefield (0:50)
  19. Burning Light (1:08)
  20. Birth of a Kroton (1:14)
  21. Kroton Theme (2:16)
  22. Kroton Dies (0:37)
  23. Link – Rising Hum (2:07)
  24. Kroton Dies (Alternative) (0:19)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 2013
Total running time: 26:28