Cybertech Part II: Pharos

Cybertech Part II: Pharos soundtrackAn interesting and somewhat obscure release, Pharos is the second collection of musical atmospheres by Cybertech (a.k.a. Michael Fillis and Adrian Pack). The two Cybertech CDs share a common thread: they try to evoke the atmosphere of past eras of Doctor Who music and, at the same time, pay tribute to what was the only source of new Who in the early 90s, Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who: The New Adventures novels. In a way, Cybertech’s works are rather like the Doctor Who equivalent of the infamous Star Wars soundtrack-to-a-book release Shadows Of The Empire. Pack and Fillis composed original scores for specific scenes of some of the books (with the relevant passages quoted with permission in the CD’s lavishly illustrated booklet), while other adventures are given a score more evocative of a general mood, and some are accompanied by original, non-novel fiction. A few pieces unrelated to any specific book are dotted throughout the disc as well.

Lending the proceedings more of a stamp of Who authenticity are brief cameo appearances by Sylvester McCoy and the late Jon Pertwee, and their respective fellow time travelers Sophie Aldred and Caroline John. McCoy and Aldred’s appearances are “in character” as the Doctor and Ace, even though they each only speak a handful of lines of dialogue in their respective tracks. On the other hand, Jon Pertwee and Caroline John don’t seem to be playing the roles of the third Doctor and Liz Shaw, but instead act as narrators delivering the overall mood in the album’s opening and closing tracks. Mark Gatiss also makes a vocal appearance for the musical theme to his own novel, “Nightshade”.

And the music itself? Pack and Fillis toy around with the Doctor Who sounds of both the 70s and 80s, and nail some of the best approximations of those eras’ moods I’ve heard. Some of the non-story-specific pieces pick up the pace a little bit with more of a dance beat, but nothing terribly incongruous. It’s all very atmospheric, 4 out of 4and right in line with where the music of Doctor Who left off when the series vacated the small screen.

So, overall, what do I think of Pharos? I think Big Finish Productions should really be talking to these guys about joining their rotating cast of composing characters. They’re that good.

Order this CD

  1. Precipice (1:45)
  2. The Pharos Project (3:12)
  3. Time’s Crucible (3:15)
  4. Prometheus Bound (6:45)
  5. Prometheus Unbound (2:50)
  6. First Frontier (3:45)
  7. Yeti (9:15)
  8. Iceberg (8:00)
  9. Nightshade TV Theme (4:20)
  10. Trevithick’s Monsters (5:55)
  11. Interstitial Time: A Static Vortex (1:20)
  12. Legacy (3:20)
  13. Type 40 (3:20)
  14. Master Mind (10:30)
  15. Cyberia (4:45)
  16. Wavelength (2:00)

Released by: Jump Cut Records
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 75:25

Who Is Dr. Who?

Who Is Dr. Who?A release that screams “diehard completists only!” at the top of its lungs, this collection of Doctor Who-inspired novelty tunes and singles spans the years 1963-1973.

The singles tracked down and remastered by Doctor Who sound guru Mark Ayres for inclusion here cover the entire spectrum, from interesting (Jon Pertwee and Frazer Hines’ amusing takes on the phenomenon), to things that make you wonder why anyone bothered (Roberta Tovey’s attempt to cash-in on her appearance in the two Peter Cushing films of the 1960s, along with several standard-issue guitar rock tracks whose only tie-ins seem to be including the word “Dalek” in their titles), to truly cringe-worthy (the infamous Eric Winstone rendition of the Doctor Who theme tune, and the even more infamous “I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek”). You really have to have a taste for nostalgia – some of it in the worst musical taste you can possibly imagine – to stomach this CD.

The aforementioned tracks by Pertwee (the third Doctor himself) and Hines (who played the second Doctor’s Scottish sidekick Jamie) are actually rather good; Pertwee’s single – performed and produced by former Deep Purple members to the tune of the series theme song – probably sticks the closest to the spirit of the show (the unrelated B-side leaves a little to be desired, save as a reminder of the unmistakable voice of the late, great Mr. Pertwee). Hines’ singles, sadly enough, may be the most musically valid (which ain’t sayin’ much in this case), with some light touches of psychedelia.

I suppose the album would’ve had a gaping hole if “I’m Gonna Spend A Christmas With A Dalek” had been omitted. This shameless cash-in by a band called the Go Gos (years before Belinda Carlisle’s group of the same name, of course) features a lead vocal performed much in the same style as “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”. Those very teeth will be grating as you listen to this particular track. You should listen to it at least once, just to say you did.

The late Don Harper’s wild, almost retro-loungue-style cover of the theme song is another peak of weirdness in the proceedings. Every once in a while, he hits the notes right. Just for sheer strangeness, it bears at least one listening.

Some hidden treats come in the form of “The Eccentric Dr. Who”, “Daleks And Thals” and “Fugue For Thought”, single arrangements of themes and incidental music from the two 1960s Doctor Who theatrical films which starred Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey. These are likely to be the only time you’ll ever hear anything even approaching soundtracks from those two movies. Tovey’s own cash-in singles are adorable or annoying, depending upon your mood at the time.

Overall, a choice pick for those who, like myself, absolutely have to hear everything ever recorded in connection to the BBC’s longest running science fiction series. But not even all the fans will necessarily dig this musical trip back in time. If the hinted-at second volume of novelty tunes does happen, it may have some 2 out of 4more accessible material – some understanding of the historical context of these songs, both within the framework of Doctor Who’s history on TV and and within the musical trends of the mid-1960s, is probably required to enjoy them. Extensive liner notes offer lots of that information, but it will ultimately be up to the tastes of individual listeners.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who Theme – BBC Radiophonic Workshop (2:22)
  2. Dr. Who – Eric Winstone and his Orchestra (3:10)
  3. I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek – The Go Go’s (2:28)
  4. Landing Of The Daleks – The Earthlings (2:47)
  5. March Of The Robots – The Earthlings (2:12)
  6. Dance Of The Daleks – Jack Dorsey and his Orchestra (2:33)
  7. Who’s Who – Roberta Tovey (2:28)
  8. Not So Old – Roberta Tovey (2:48)
  9. The Eccentric Dr. Who – Malcolm Lockyer Orchestra (2:25)
  10. Daleks And Thals – Malcolm Lockyer Orchestra (2:09)
  11. Fugue For Thought – Bill McGuffie (2:14)
  12. Who’s Dr. Who? – Frazer Hines (3:08)
  13. Punch And Judy Man – Frazer Hines (2:22)
  14. Who Is The Doctor – Jon Pertwee (2:23)
  15. Pure Mystery – Jon Pertwee (3:16)
  16. Dr. Who – Don Harper’s Homo Electronicus (4:19)
  17. Landing Of The Daleks (alternate version) – The Earthlings (2:43)
  18. Time Traveller – Frazer Hines (2:34)

Released by: RPM Records
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 48:21