Doctor Who: The Fifth Doctor Audio Adventures

Doctor Who: Music From The Fifth Doctor Audio AdventuresThie CD contains the musical highlights from three of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio adventures starring Peter Davison, from three different composers.

Loups-Garoux, the first “classic Doctor” story following an extended run of eighth Doctor adventures, was a strange audio adventure revolving around a clan of werewolves undercover in Rio De Janeiro. Kicking off with the intentionally cheesy faux theme song “Jaguar Maiden”, this intriguing story winds up with music that reminds me – strangely enough – of Nino Rota’s score from The Godfather. Something about its emotional tone does indeed help me make the mental leap from music for a Doctor Who audio play to Nino Rota. Not bad at all.

The music for Eye Of The Scorpion, the audio adventure which introduced the fifth Doctor’s new traveling companion Erimem, has a strong start, but minus the accompanying dialogue and sound effects of the story, it quickly becomes a bit of a grating listening experience. It’s fun to hear David Darlington trying to straddle the fence between a sound befitting the story’s ancient Egyptian setting and something much more modern, but it also becomes clear that one only has so many options trying to get those two styles to meet.

Primeval, with its return to familiar settings for Doctor Who – namely, deep space, huge battlecruisers (on a BBC budget) and the planet Traken – winds up being the musical score with the most in common with the era of TV Doctor Who it’s trying to emulate. Russell Stone’s expansive, spacey synths and unusual chords are not only a good pick for that kind of story, but they’re not a million light years away from what the in-house composers at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop would’ve done musically for such as story on TV.

3 out of 4With two scores that I’d individually give a rating of 3 out of 4, and one that, to be diplomatic, I wouldn’t, this collection of music from the early years of the fifth Doctor’s new lease on life winds up being my pick for the least essential of the Big Finish music compilations. There’s good stuff on here, but it’s more of a “completists only” release than a must-have.

Order this CD

    Loups-Garoux

  1. Loups-Garoux trailer (1:14)
  2. Theme from Jaguar Maiden (0:49)
  3. Stubbe’s Trial / Rosa (3:19)
  4. Shadow Across The City (0:57)
  5. Spirit Across The Forest (1:42)
  6. Winter Wolf (1:49)
  7. Closer Than Companions (1:16)
  8. Stubbe’s Dance (2:55)
  9. Into The Forest (2:37)
  10. The Summer Wolf (1:26)

    Eye Of The Scorpion

  11. Eye Of The Scorpion trailer (1:28)
  12. They Gave Us Dust (1:00)
  13. You Can’t Say Pharaoh Than That (0:50)
  14. Thebes (0:57)
  15. The Erimem Show (2:47)
  16. Dead Again (3:39)
  17. Sand (5:20)
  18. Sarcophagus (3:46)
  19. Eye Love 1400 B.C. (4:44)

    Primeval

  20. Primeval trailer (1:44)
  21. Arrival (0:30)
  22. A Vast Spaceship / Kwundaar (3:14)
  23. Pleasant Music Is Playing (0:56)
  24. The Maligan Takes Hold / The Union Is Beautiful (1:45)
  25. Don’t Turn Around (1:26)
  26. Healing Waters (1:38)
  27. A Place That Stifles (2:03)
  28. The Definition Of Save / Creeping Evil (2:39)
  29. Captive Emotions / Loose Threads (2:29)
  30. Darkest Before Dawn (2:04)
  31. We’ve Got Work To Do (0:45)

Released by: Big Finish
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 63:48

Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor Audio Adventures

Doctor Who: Music From The Sixth Doctor Audio AdventuresFollowing the success of its double disc compilation of music from the first four audio adventures featuring Paul McGann, Big Finish Productions decided that grouping its music compilations by Doctor and not by composer was the way to go. Hence, this collection of the original scores from three 2002 audio plays starring Colin Baker – two of which, musically speaking, were among 2002’s best.

Or maybe that’s three. I wasn’t that thrilled with Bloodtide as a story, but listening to the music by itself, I can see that I hadn’t given Alistair Lock enough credit for finding really obscure motifs to build the music around. In this case, he musically references the fluting three-note sounds emitted by the Silurian technology in 1970’s Doctor Who And The Silurians, as the bipedal reptiles are once again on the move in this story. Lock’s flair for making synth-orchestral textures sound realistic is evident here – it’s a very good listen.

Project Twilight‘s techno influence works well for that sinister modern-day story. As stand-alone music…well, if you haven’t already heard it and been enthralled by it in the context of the story itself, Jim Mortimore and Jane Elphinstone’s disturbing, heartbeat-and-piano-driven music may not do much for you. Even though I loved the music within the play, it could just be that all of the Twilight cues are too similar to one another to be heard all in one sitting. It’s good stuff though.

The One Doctor may just be Alistair Lock’s finest contribution yet to Doctor Who in its audio form. Cinematic and quirky, seldom have the music and the actors’ performances sold each other so well. One cue in particular, “The Cylinder”, strikes a dramatic chord powerful enough for any big-screen blockbuster, while others (such as the groan-inducing “Lonely Jelloid”) are hysterically funny, even when heard with no 4 out of 4dialogue or sound effects. If you think that the idea of listening to music from an audio-only drama production is silly, give The One Doctor a listen before swearing it off completely.

All in all, this just might be the best Big Finish music compilation yet. Highly recommended, along with Project Twilight and The One Doctor themselves.

Order this CD

  1. trailer: Bloodtide (1:04)
  2. Tried (2:57)
  3. Convicted (2:26)
  4. Into The Cell (2:31)
  5. Lost Brother (1:28)
  6. The Jailhouse (1:19)
  7. The Cave (1:20)
  8. Empty Cells (1:00)
  9. The Adult Myrka (1:16)
  10. Regressing Lawson (1:19)
  11. Deep Freeze (1:53)
  12. Goodbyes (0:49)
  13. trailer: Project Twilight (0:52)
  14. Bite Me (5:04)
  15. Corpuscle Free (4:39)
  16. Arrow To My Heart (3:52)
  17. Flow (8:41)
  18. trailer: The One Doctor (2:04)
  19. The Signal (1:12)
  20. Unheralded Arrival (0:40)
  21. Sokkery Celebrates (2:53)
  22. Doctor In The News (1:18)
  23. Banto’s Scam (1:23)
  24. The Two Many Doctors (1:03)
  25. The Cylinder (1:43)
  26. Finding ZX419 (2:15)
  27. Mel’s Christmas Story (1:31)
  28. The Assemblers (1:14)
  29. Challenge Mentos (2:17)
  30. The Lonely Jelloid (2:54)
  31. The Treasures (1:31)
  32. One Doctor Identified (1:09)
  33. Sally Meets The Fans (1:28)
  34. The One Doctor (1:11)

Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 71:36

Doctor Who: Music from the Audio Adventures Vol. 1

Doctor Who: Music from the New Audio Adventures, Volume 1Shrewd move, this. Big Finish Productions’ line of well-received radio-dramas-minus-the-radio spun off from the BBC’s much-lamented Doctor Who series has featured some above-average music. Big Finish has wisely decided to release some of the music on its own – and why not? They own the recordings, so they’re able to capitalize on them.

The proceedings kick off with the harpsichord-heavy menace of the period drama Phantasmagoria (the second Audio Adventure to hit the stores). The Fearmonger features some of the best music on the disc. Several suspenseful cues evoke memories of the best all-synth music of early 80s Doctor Who, while the more evocative “Butterflies” and “I Am Afraid” tracks remind me of Mark Ayres’ better music toward the end of the life span of the TV series. More vintage sounds are heard as The Marian Conspiracy relies heavily on recorders and pipes (or, at the very least, samples thereof). The Spectre Of Lanyon Moor, comprising the final eight tracks, has some very effective choral samples mixed in with instrumentation that evokes the tremendously effective Dudley Simpson scores of Tom Baker’s early adventures. It’s all very dark and menacing, but in an intimate way – which, in some cases, makes it all the scarier.

Alistair Lock has obviously done his homework – which consisted largely of growing up with the good Doctor’s adventures and absorbing a good deal of the series’ musical stylings. While bringing the sound into the modern day, Lock’s music stays faithful to the atmosphere of Doctor Who underscores past, and plays a big part in bringing the new adventures to life. Not to downplay the alternating musical contributions of Nicholas Briggs and Russell Stone, but Lock’s music gets it right on the money most of the time – even to the point that, having listened to all of the Audio Adventures thus far, I was hoping that Big Finish had a music CD in the wings before they even announced it.

One minor gripe: valuable time is taken by introducing each story’s music with yet another copy of its minute-or-so-long teaser (which many listeners will recognize from the “coming attractions” track at the end of most 4 out of 4of the Audio Adventures’ second discs). In a way, I suppose this CD serves as a marketing tool, but I really have to question whether anyone would buy the music CD without first having heard the audio dramas whence the music came? The result is nearly five minutes of the CD that could’ve contained music, rather than a promo most everyone will have heard already.

Order this CD

  1. Phantasmagoria trailer (1:17)
  2. Cards and Papers (1:40)
  3. Valentine’s Calling Card (4:37)
  4. Town Crier (1:53)
  5. Card Chase (5:18)
  6. House Hunting (1:53)
  7. Interlude (0:35)
  8. The Fearmonger trailer (1:07)
  9. First Shooting (2:42)
  10. Nightmare Rally (2:36)
  11. Bomb Threat (1:12)
  12. Kitchen Attack (1:11)
  13. Butterflies (3:21)
  14. I Am Afraid (2:20)
  15. A Word From Mike (0:07)
  16. The Marian Conspiracy trailer (1:10)
  17. Historic Argument (1:53)
  18. The Court Of Queen Mary (2:57)
  19. Religious Fervour (4:09)
  20. Tea With The Locals (2:37)
  21. Out Of Time (2:09)
  22. Marriage For The Doctor (1:10)
  23. Escape From The Tower (2:20)
  24. Rescued By An Angel (2:25)
  25. The Spectre Of Lanyon Moor trailer (1:15)
  26. Stranded (1:14)
  27. Ghosts Of The War (0:58)
  28. Imps On The Cliff (0:59)
  29. Recalling The Attack (1:35)
  30. Dead Soldiers (0:49)
  31. The Lab (4:07)
  32. Sancreda (4:17)
  33. Saving The World (3:11)

Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 72:41

Doctor Who: Music From The Audio Adventures Vol. 2

Doctor Who: Music From The Audio Adventures Vol. 2An unusual mix of music from Big Finish Productions’ wonderful Doctor Who Audio Adventures, Music From The New Audio Adventures Volume 2 presents cues from an episode that quite a few Who fans haven’t even heard. The exclusive one-parter Last Of The Titans, which was included on a free CD with Doctor Who Magazine’s first issue of 2001, seems like an odd choice, but it has an excellent score reminiscent of Dudley Simpson’s Doctor Who music of the 1970s. Moody, whimsical and just a little bit creepy at the same time, Last Of The Titans has music that suits it perfectly…even if half the people who hear the music haven’t heard the story.

The juiciest score on here, however, is the much more modern-sounding Shadow Of The Scourge (coincidentally, all three scores included on this album are from stories featuring Sylvester McCoy as the seventh Doctor). Scourge, an adventure set in the era of the New Adventures novels published by Virgin between 1991 and 1997, benefits from some fantastically creepy music boasting everything from modern beats to some of the weirdest sounds I’ve ever heard coaxed out of a synthesizer. The Scourge cues are followed by a new piece of music, “Benny’s Theme”, which seems to be equal parts modern dance music and Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Not actually heard in the story itself, it’s a fitting theme for archaeologist Bernice “Benny” Summerfield, the Doctor’s quirky companion in the New Adventures era.

By comparison, I’ve found that when taking in the entire CD in a single sitting, I’m still reeling from Shadow Of The Scourge by the time the relatively low-key, pseudo-orchestral score for The 4 out of 4Fires Of Vulcan kicks in. Nice in its own way, maybe the Fires Of Vulcan music should have been put before Scourge on the disc, though that also would’ve meant putting two synth-orchestral scores back-to-back, so I can see why things were sequenced this way.

In any event, the finished product is a testament to Alistair Lock’s ability to find what the story needs musically, and it’s a good listen.

Order this CD

  1. Vilgreth’s Ship (3:16)
  2. Tea And Shortcake (1:17)
  3. Bomb Warning (2:59)
  4. Troubling Thoughts (1:56)
  5. A Planet Saved, A Home Destroyed (2:47)
  6. Benny In The Circle (2:27)
  7. Hotel Relocation (3:27)
  8. Casting A Shadow (2:24)
  9. Consumed (2:35)
  10. The Doctor’s Head (1:45)
  11. Over The Edge (1:14)
  12. Facing Our Fears (6:27)
  13. Benny’s Theme (3:57)
  14. Arrival (1:55)
  15. The Street Of Plenty (2:28)
  16. Murranus’ Theme (1:47)
  17. Eumachia (3:04)
  18. The First Quake (2:50)
  19. Final Destination (2:01)
  20. Foreknowledge Of Disaster (3:12)
  21. The Sacrifice (1:35)
  22. Escape Plans Arrested (1:57)
  23. Hypnotic Escape (2:05)
  24. The Arena (2:42)
  25. The Fight (3:21)
  26. Death Of Pompeii (2:45)

Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 73:46

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures

Doctor Who: Music From The Eighth Doctor Audio AdventuresWhile some fans may still be debating the merits of the first “season” of Doctor Who Audio Adventures starring Paul McGann, I’m sitting here being wowed by the music. Big Finish Productions has seldom let us down on the musical side of things, but what with the eighth incarnation of the wayward Time Lord having appeared in only a big-budget TV movie that featured an ambitious orchestral & synth score, this raised the bar somewhat. And for the most part, Big Finish’s composers in residence stepped up to the plate and delivered.

Alistair Lock’s synth-orchestral score for the first story, Storm Warning, sets a new high water mark for his work. Lock’s scores for the Doctor Who audio plays have seldom been less than exceptional, but the depth and texture of the samples used for the Storm Warning score achieve the aim of picking up where the TV movie’s music left off – it feels big-budget.

The only entry that I routinely skip on the entire two-disc set is Nicholas Brigg’s music for The Sword Of Orion, which he also wrote and directed. Briggs has a habit of scoring the stories he scripts, and while I applaud anyone who wishes to extend their creative vision in such a fashion, I’ve seldom found his musical output to be entirely pleasing to the ear, and sometimes it commits a worse offense: it doesn’t serve the story. I can see and heard what Briggs was trying to do here – using massively echoplexed percussion and brass samples (perhaps too echoplexed), he’s trying to evoke the feel of the famous stock music used in such Cybermen stories as The Tenth Planet and Tomb Of The Cybermen – but purely as a musical experience, it becomes extremely grating. It worked better with dialogue and sound effects to distract from the repetitive nature of the music itself, and the over-reverbed style of production.

One of the biggest surprises for me was Russell Stone’s lovely score for The Stones Of Venice, a moody, offbeat story which required music to match. Stone’s largely piano-based music gives it that, with everything from unnerving suspense music to a jaunty march that appeared in part three (a piece of music which jumped out at me even when I was first listening to the story itself). Of the four McGann stories released in 2001, Stones is the one that benefits the most from its music. The score does just what’s required of it in an all-audio medium, including occasionally taking center stage as narrator.

But my favorite score of the entire collection has to be William Allen’s Minuet In Hell score. Delightfully atypical in that it leans heavily on honest-to-God electric guitar more than synthesized samples, Allen’s score wasn’t exactly favored in that story’s sound mix, an so hearing it sans dialogue and effects is an eye-opener. Allen’s guitar work is excellent, and not unprecedented in Doctor Who (remember the wickedly menacing electric guitar riffs in the series’ final episode?).

Closing the collection is something the fans would’ve lynched Big Finish’s entire staff for had it been omitted, Independence Day composer David Arnold’s creepy new version of the Doctor Who theme, arranged especially for Big Finish’s eighth Doctor audios. Though I’ve grown a bit weary of Arnold’s interpretation of the theme, it’s nice to have a complete collection of every theme music arrangement down through the years. This version tops out at around two minutes, much like the 45 RPM single arrangements of yesteryear.

Music From The Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures is a nice selection of the music from what many fans are regarding as the first real adventures of the McGann version of the Doctor (not everyone’s been 4 out of 4thrilled with the BBC’s eighth Doctor novels), attractively packaged and – considering it’s a 2-CD set – budget priced. Big Finish sweetened the pot by issuing a few thousand copies with McGann’s signature on the cover of the booklet – being the most reticent of the surviving Doctors, and not yet having hit the convention circuit, McGann’s autograph is damn near impossible to get on anything. It’ll be interesting to see how they top this after McGann’s six-story stint concludes in 2002.

Order this CD

    Disc one:

  1. Storm Warning trailer (2:06)
  2. The Timeship (3:00)
  3. Masters Of The Air (1:26)
  4. Aboard The R101 (2:54)
  5. Charley Meets The Doctor (1:28)
  6. Belly Of The Whale / Something On The Hull (5:18)
  7. Chasing Vortisaurs (0:56)
  8. Rendezvous At 5,000 Feet (3:30)
  9. Greeting The Aliens / Inside The Spaceship (4:07)
  10. War Is Declared (2:52)
  11. The Final Flight / The Edge Of Destruction (3:00)
  12. Charley Joins The Doctor (1:43)
  13. Sword Of Orion trailer (1:29)
  14. The Truth About Ramsay (1:44)
  15. Garazone: Evil And Bazaar (8:53)
  16. Mission Of The Vanguard (2:58)
  17. Awakenings (3:07)
  18. Undercurrents, Airlocks And Revival (5:05)
  19. Cyber Pursuits (3:16)
  20. Cyber Spooks (5:01)
  21. Ion Destruction (1:01)
  22. Farewell Deeva (1:39)
    Disc two:

  1. The Stones Of Venice trailer (1:37)
  2. Run Doctor! / Ms. Lavish (2:45)
  3. Drugged By The Cultists (2:30)
  4. The Holy Of Holies (2:19)
  5. Gondolier Attack (2:07)
  6. Plots And Dark Powers (2:47)
  7. The Death Of Venice (3:28)
  8. Estella (1:24)
  9. The Ducal Hoofers / Portents (5:40)
  10. The Truth / Into The Flames (2:11)
  11. You’re My Best Friend (2:51)
  12. Minuet In Hell trailer (1:22)
  13. Hell Or Malebolgia (1:50)
  14. Becky Lee (2:32)
  15. The Brigadier / Malebolgian Minuet (4:14)
  16. Deeper Into Hell (2:29)
  17. Zebediah Doe / Memory Lapse (3:23)
  18. Marchosias Arises (4:08)
  19. Political Subversion (3:19)
  20. Tentative Steps / Becky Lee Finds The Brigadier (4:12)
  21. A Trick For Victory (1:59)
  22. Private Hell (3:27)
  23. An Odd Idea Of Fun (2:56)

  24. Theme from Doctor Who – David Arnold’s full version (2:09)

Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: 2002
Disc one total running time: 70:21
Disc two total running time: 67:02