While 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 thrilled 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.
- Storm Warning trailer (2:06)
- The Timeship (3:00)
- Masters Of The Air (1:26)
- Aboard The R101 (2:54)
- Charley Meets The Doctor (1:28)
- Belly Of The Whale / Something On The Hull (5:18)
- Chasing Vortisaurs (0:56)
- Rendezvous At 5,000 Feet (3:30)
- Greeting The Aliens / Inside The Spaceship (4:07)
- War Is Declared (2:52)
- The Final Flight / The Edge Of Destruction (3:00)
- Charley Joins The Doctor (1:43)
- Sword Of Orion trailer (1:29)
- The Truth About Ramsay (1:44)
- Garazone: Evil And Bazaar (8:53)
- Mission Of The Vanguard (2:58)
- Awakenings (3:07)
- Undercurrents, Airlocks And Revival (5:05)
- Cyber Pursuits (3:16)
- Cyber Spooks (5:01)
- Ion Destruction (1:01)
- Farewell Deeva (1:39)
- The Stones Of Venice trailer (1:37)
- Run Doctor! / Ms. Lavish (2:45)
- Drugged By The Cultists (2:30)
- The Holy Of Holies (2:19)
- Gondolier Attack (2:07)
- Plots And Dark Powers (2:47)
- The Death Of Venice (3:28)
- Estella (1:24)
- The Ducal Hoofers / Portents (5:40)
- The Truth / Into The Flames (2:11)
- You’re My Best Friend (2:51)
- Minuet In Hell trailer (1:22)
- Hell Or Malebolgia (1:50)
- Becky Lee (2:32)
- The Brigadier / Malebolgian Minuet (4:14)
- Deeper Into Hell (2:29)
- Zebediah Doe / Memory Lapse (3:23)
- Marchosias Arises (4:08)
- Political Subversion (3:19)
- Tentative Steps / Becky Lee Finds The Brigadier (4:12)
- A Trick For Victory (1:59)
- Private Hell (3:27)
- An Odd Idea Of Fun (2:56)
- 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