Doctor Who: Music From The Excelis Audio Adventures

Music From The Excelis Audio AdventuresOnce upon a time, as hard as it is to imagine from the vantage point of 2011, Doctor Who wasn’t on TV, existing only as a steadily growing series of audio plays, a steadily waning range of original novels, and a steady stream of merchandise related to a TV show that wasn’t there anymore. In 2002, to offset the fact that the regular monthly audio stories would follow the eighth Doctor for half of that year, Big Finish released a quartet of additional stories, chronicling previous Doctors’ sequential encounters with an immortal being named Grayvorn. This kept fans of the earlier Doctors happy, and was an interesting early experiment in story arc plotting for Big Finish.

It also gave resident composer David Darlington a shot at creating a quartet of thematically linked music scores to go with the quartet of linked stories. Each story has overlapping musical ideas, as well as a unique tone suiting the ever-evolving setting of the planet Artaris, from its zombie-infested bronze age, to a Renaissance-like era, to a dystopian dictatorship. A fourth story, featuring not the Doctor but the reckless Time Lady Iris Wildthyme (a character introduced in the BBC’s line of novels), went even further back in time. The material common to all of the scores is a mesmerizing, repeating guitar riff which – uncommonly for synth-dominated early Big Finish – actually sounds like it was played on a guitar. If you can recall the hypnotic quality of the Alan Parsons Project instrumental “Sirius”, it’s sort of like that.

Strangely, a maddening series of equally repetitive drum loops represents the middle ages for the music from Excelis Dawns. This is the least enjoyable element of this series of soundtracks. I’m not completely opposed to the apparent anachronism, but the repetition is maddening – one particular drum loop spans two tracks and just doesn’t let up. By the time the Excelis Dawns music gets interesting, it’s like the drum loop has delivered a dose of a potent mental anesthetic – my ears were desensitized to the more interesting elements.

Excelis Rising continues the guitar riff and adds echoing church bells befitting the story’s reason-vs.-superstition storyline. This story’s soundtrack also includes some attempts to emulate the small acoustic ensemble sound of the Dudley Simpson era of Doctor Who music; it doesn’t quite hit the mark, but the contrast against the other scores on this CD is welcome.

Excelis Decays opens up with a musical suite featuring dialogue from the story in question. I’m not a big fan of that practice, but here it has two interesting twists: Excelis Decays was savagely edited down at the last minute to get it to fit on the single CD that Big Finish had scheduled for it, and the track in question (“There’s More To This Than You Know”) consists largely of dialogue that was edited out of the episode. Slightly less welcome is that the dialogue has been processed to include a layer of dialogue which is slightly auto-tuned to match up with the background music. It’s mixed down behind the spoken version of that dialogue, but it’s a curious – and ultimately distracting – stylistic choice.

The rest of Excelis Decays is much more interesting listening, twisting the church bells of Excelis Rising into dissonant industrial percussion. The composer’s liner notes mention a fixation on Vangelis’ Blade Runner score, and that influence is very evident. The last score, to the Doctor-less Plague Herds Of Excelis, combines elements of all of the previous approaches, with that hypnotic guitar riff still prominent.

3 out of 4Excelis seemed like a bold experiment back in the heady early days of Big Finish-produced Doctor Who (these days, every Doctor gets a thematically-linked three-story “season” every year), and the music helped to cement the connections between the four chapters of this mini-epic in style. I might’ve gone lighter on the drum loops if it was up to me, but overall it’s one of the more cohesive Big Finish music soundtracks.

Order this CD

    Excelis Dawns

  1. Excelis (1:39)
  2. The Mountain of Adventure (6:26)
  3. Dawn of the Dead… (2:36)
  4. …But The Hills Are Alive (1:20)
  5. Welcome To The Jungle (2:02)
  6. A Handbag (1:34)
  7. Vanishing Point (1:46)

    Excelis Rising

  8. The Sacred Art Of Stealing (2:22)
  9. Live Forever (1:42)
  10. Ouija Board, Ouija Board (2:54)
  11. Burn Off Into The Distance (4:40)
  12. Hosanna In Excelis Deo (1:51)
  13. Made of Stone (2:49)

    Excelis Decays

  14. There’s More To This Than You Know (3:28)
  15. Oppression (1:54)
  16. Electric Urban Youth (3:10)
  17. Lake Of Fire (3:20)
  18. Propoganda (2:30)
  19. Time to Die (2:12)
  20. Two Hearts Under the Skyscrapers (3:35)
  21. Let the Nuclear Wind Blow Away Our Sins (0:58)

    Bernice Summerfield And the Plague Herds Of Excelis

  22. Panic On The Streets (2:54)
  23. I’m Under A Cow (1:21)
  24. Two Tortured Souls (3:19)
  25. When the Screams Subside (3:43)
  26. Something Savage and Pure (1:05)
  27. But Now the Weakness Comes (2:19)
  28. The Secret (2:03)
  29. Slight Return (1:19)

Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 72:51

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


  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)


  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