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 Seventh Doctor Audio Adventures

Doctor Who: Music From The Seventh Doctor Audio AdventuresThe last collection to date of soundtracks from a single Doctor’s adventures, Music From The Seventh Doctor Audio Adventures puts together music from three of the 2001-2002 stories starring Sylvester McCoy. The music collected from each of these three adventures is pretty diverse – it may well be the only CD in my collection that has trance music, theremin and someone playing the spoons on the same tracklist – and it’s also a first in that it contains contributions from the seventh Doctor himself. But more on that in a moment.

The first seven tracks consist of selections from Dust Breeding, and they’re the only straight-ahead, soundtrack-ish cues you’ll find on this CD. In the liner notes, composer Andy Hardwick says he was trying to achieve a “breathy quality” to act as a motif for the dust, but as a standalone listening experience, it’s the moody piano work that stands out the most. The “breathy” synths, when they do appear, actually give the proceedings an almost dated sound.

The most surprising, and enjoyable, music included on this CD are the techno tracks from The Rapture, a story which centered around an Ibiza dance club of the same name with a sinister secret. The multi-talented Jim Mortimore, who has also authored and even illustrated Doctor Who novels from the New Adventures range, gets to work Doctor Who into his “day job” as a techno musician with some lively tracks; the various pieces of “source music” here are woven into a continuous suite whose component parts stand just as well on their own. I was really surprised by how good some of the music for The Rapture was. I also have to give mad props to whoever edited together the extended-length trailer for this story – normally I skip the story trailers because, well, I’ve heard the stories in their entirety by now at least once. I’m always up for listening to The Rapture‘s trailer again though – it’s that good.

From there we go into an all-out SF musical parody. I was particularly looking forward to hearing the music from the comedy story Bang-Bang-A-Boom! by itself, just to see if Russell Stone had worked any clever musical nods in there somewhere that weren’t immediately apparent under dialogue. If anything, Bang-Bang-A-Boom! stops just short of being a disappointment; while the story itself lampoons everything from Buck Rogers to Space: 1999, the music is decidedly more modern. Stone seems to be trying to make fun of the more droning passages of the music from Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5, but he’s trying too hard, and winds up with music that, for the most part, is far more droning and catatonic than anything that the composers on either of those shows could’ve managed – sort of a case of okay, we get the 3 out of 4joke. Things are livened up considerably with the various entries from the Intergalactic Song Contest, featuring Mr. Sylvester McCoy on the spoons. (This may well be the only time that the Doctor featured in one of Big Finish’s soundtrack collections can be counted as a performer in his own right.)

It’s a bit of an uneven listening experience if one tries to go straight through it in a single sitting, but there are some individual gems in the rough on Music From The Seventh Doctor Audio Adventures.

Order this CD

  1. Trailer: Dust Breeding (1:35)
  2. The Sadness That We See In Him (2:52)
  3. Damien Unhinged / Mr. Seta Unmasked (5:43)
  4. Like A Tiger, It Toyed With Me (1:52)
  5. The Dust Belongs To Me! / No Oil Painting (4:42)
  6. Always Knew I’d Die On Duchamp (4:12)
  7. The Future Has Already Happened (1:09)
  8. Trailer: The Rapture (0:52)
  9. Maggie’s Music (1:47)
  10. Triangle Chill (4:04)
  11. Freestyle (2:50)
  12. Brook Of Eden (4:03)
  13. Rebirth (1:41)
  14. Sorted (2:07)
  15. Jude’s Law (2:56)
  16. Pink Pulloff (1:47)
  17. Crystal Devildance (1:08)
  18. Gloves Off (with Jane Elphinstone) (1:29)
  19. Trailer: Bang-Bang-A-Boom! (1:57)
  20. Welcome To Dark Space 8 (1:22)
  21. The Trouble With Dark Space 8 (1:58)
  22. I’m Just Not Like The Other Boys! (The Pits Of Angvia) (1:20)
  23. Dead Drunk (The Death Of A Scientist) (3:02)
  24. This Is The Denouement (Oh No, Sorry, It Isn’t) (2:30)
  25. That Peace Conference (2:50)
  26. When Gholos Attacks (0:45)
  27. That Space Battle (1:04)
  28. Galactivision (3:33)

Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 68:31

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