Doctor Who: The Five Doctors – music by Peter Howell

It says a lot for the evolution, over time, of what listeners expect from a soundtrack purchase, when one considers that The Five Doctors – the 90-minute Doctor Who 20th anniversary special – once lent its name to an LP of “suites” from various 1980s Doctor Who stories, but didn’t merit its own full soundtrack release until 35 years after its 1983 premiere. But now that it’s here, was it worth the wait?

In the liner notes, composer Peter Howell himself says that he was firing on all creative cylinders in a way that he hadn’t before. The Five Doctors was a special production, not part of an ongoing season, so there was a bit of breathing room to come up with ideas. The Five Doctors score is one of the high water marks of 1980s Doctor Who soundtrack music, being possibly the first use of sampling, or at least the first use of sampling as a key part of the music. The unearthly, menacing exclamation point of the Cybermen’s percussive music cues is the slowed-down sound of a lid being pulled off of a metal can. The foreboding horn heard in the Death Zone on Gallifrey isn’t a brass musican instrument, but a sampled ship’s horn. And the Time Lord-centric story gets appropriately clock-like percussive elements, very much a first in Doctor Who.

Of course, none of that would really matter if Peter Howell wasn’t one of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s masters of memorable melodies. It really wasn’t until the Radiophonic Workshop came along that any of the show’s various resident composers had employed Ron Grainer’s theme tune as a leitmotif; even Dudley Simpson crafted his own theme for the Doctor that had virtually nothing to do with Grainer’s theme. But here, Howell leans hard on the show’s signature theme throughout the adventure, which really helps to point up the momentous nature of the story being told: the story doesn’t just involve the Doctor, it’s about the Doctor and the Time Lords. And it’s not just the motif itself, but the fact that it’s still – after 20 years – the BBC Radiophonic Workshop doing the honors, bringing all of the lovely analog tricks and reverb to the table in quoting that theme authentically. The Five Doctors was really the first Doctor Who music that even a non-fan could listen to and say, “That’s Doctor Who music, isn’t it?”

Much of the second half of the disc repeats the score, but with some sonic enhancements Howell added for a 1990s extended VHS reissue of the story, which restored some deleted scenes and added new effects, forcing Howell to rethink sections of the score to match the new edit. Bonus tracks include the “cliffhangers” composed for syndicated versions of The Five Doctors that broke the story up into a traditional four-parter, as well as some Radiophonic Workshop sound effects.

4 out of 4It all adds up to a long, long overdue package. I know that there was a fairly comprehensive suite of highlights from the score of The Five Doctors on CD and, before that, on LP going back to 1984, and I know that the score was available on DVD as an isolated audio track…but it really has been a long wait for a properly remastered release of the original, pre-special-edition score as I remember hearing it back in 1983 when The Five Doctors blew my mind by finally showing me all of the Doctors and companions that I’d only read about in Starlog. It’s nice to finally have it, and even with all of the widescreen orchestral grandeur that has become the sound of Doctor Who since the turn of the century, The Five Doctors remains one of the show’s all-time great scores.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who – Opening Theme (0:36)
  2. New Console (0:24)
  3. The Eye Of Orion (0:57)
  4. Cosmic Angst (1:18)
  5. Melting Icebergs (0:40)
  6. Great Balls Of Fire (1:02)
  7. My Other Selves (0:38)
  8. No Coordinates (0:26)
  9. Bus Stop (0:23)
  10. No Where, No Time (0:31)
  11. Dalek Alley and The Death Zone (3:00)
  12. Hand In The Wall (0:21)
  13. Who Are You? (1:04)
  14. The Dark Tower / My Best Enemy (1:24)
  15. The Game Of Rassilon (0:18)
  16. Cybermen I (0:22)
  17. Below (0:29)
  18. Cybermen II (0:58)
  19. The Castellan Accused / Cybermen III (0:34)
  20. Raston Robot (0:24)
  21. Not The Mind Probe (0:10)
  22. Where There’s A Wind, There’s A Way (0:43)
  23. Cybermen vs. Raston Robot (2:02)
  24. Above And Between (1:41)
  25. As Easy As Pi (0:23)
  26. Phantoms (1:41)
  27. The Tomb Of Rassilon (0:24)
  28. Killing You Once Was Never Enough (0:39)
  29. Oh, Borusa (1:21)
  30. Mindlock (1:12)
  31. Immortality (1:18)
  32. Doctor Who Closing Theme – The Five Doctors Edit (1:19)
  33. Death Zone Atmosphere (3:51)
  34. End of Episode 1 (Sarah Falls) (0:11)
  35. End of Episode 2 (Cybermen III variation) (0:13)
  36. End of Episode 3 (Nothing to Fear) (0:09)
  37. The Five Doctors Special Edition: Prologue (Premix) (1:22)

    Special Edition

  38. Doctor Who – Opening Theme (0:35)
  39. Prologue (1:17)
  40. The Eye Of Orion / Cosmic Angst (2:22)
  41. Melting Icebergs (0:56)
  42. Great Balls Of Fire (0:56)
  43. My Other Selves (0:35)
  44. Nothing Can Go Wrong (0:35)
  45. Bus Stop (0:22)
  46. No Where, No Time (0:36)
  47. Enter Borusa (0:28)
  48. Enter The Master (0:14)
  49. Dalek Alley and The Death Zone (3:06)
  50. Hand In The Wall (0:20)
  51. Recall Signal (0:34)
  52. Who Are You? / Tell Me All About It (0:49)
  53. Thunderbolts (0:33)
  54. The Dark Tower (0:25)
  55. My Best Enemy (1:11)
  56. The Game Of Rassilon (0:17)
  57. Cybermen I (0:22)
  58. Below (0:43)
  59. Cybermen II (1:12)
  60. The Castellan Accused / Cybermen III (0:35)
  61. Raston Robot (0:24)
  62. Not The Mind Probe (0:32)
  63. Where There’s A Wind, There’s A Way (0:31)
  64. Cybermen vs. Raston Robot (2:04)
  65. Above And Between (1:41)
  66. The Fortress Of The Time Lords (1:04)
  67. As Easy As Pi (0:22)
  68. I Hope You’ve Got Your Sums Right / Phantoms (2:29)
  69. The Tomb Of Rassilon (0:29)
  70. Killing You Once Was Never Enough (1:26)
  71. Oh, Borusa (1:21)
  72. Mindlock (1:11)
  73. Immortality (1:17)
  74. Doctor Who Closing Theme – The Five Doctors Edit (1:16)
  75. The Eye Of Orion Atmosphere (3:07)
  76. Time Scoop (0:24)
  77. Transmat Operates (0:09)
  78. Rassilon Background (3:49)
  79. Borusa Ring Sequence (0:37)
  80. The Five Doctors Titles Zap (0:10)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: September 14, 2018
Total running time: 77:56