Doctor Who – John Debney, John Sponsler, Louis Febre

Doctor Who soundtrackThis CD was a one-time-only promotional edition of the music score from the 1996 Doctor Who movie adaptation which aired on Fox. Promo CDs released by film composers are often almost bootlegs; the composers need to have copies of soundtracks they’ve done to solicit work from producers of future projects, and often the payoff of getting the CDs pressed is to let a few copies be sold to collectors at a premium. Normally I wouldn’t mess with these pricey items, but this one in particular completes my collection of Doctor Who soundtrack CDs to date, so I coughed up the money, and I’m glad I did.

If there’s anything I learned about this score, it is that it contains much hidden depth. The music wasn’t really emphasized in the sound mix enough to do it justice, and the mix overall seemed too muddy to let the music’s nuances shine through. One of the most brilliant things is a frequently recurring motif which is very reminiscent of the bells and chimes of a music box, which first appears in the “Time” cue (in which the Doctor looks up at the wall clock and says “Time… time… time”). It adds a little bit of enchantment, and its clockwork precision for some reason seems to enhance the idea that there’s some time traveling occurring here. The organ and harpsichord sounds reinforce that notion with a period feel that compliments the look of the TARDIS interior and so forth. Normally, I cannot stand harpsichord.

I also learned that there were some omitted sections; the cue for the opening scenes after the main titles have a much different musical twist for the scene where the Doctor goes to check on the Master’s remains and discovers that his charge has escaped. It’s a really interesting twist, and personally, I love it! Among my favorite pieces: the aforementioned first scene (an incredibly interesting thing to hear while watching the scene in question without the jazz record in the mix!); the music accompanying Chang Lee’s first visit to the TARDIS (especially the comical bit as he tries to figure out why it’s bigger inside!), the gorgeous cue played as the Doctor and Grade take their walk, and the long piece of music that goes with the climax of the movie.

But the ones that send chills up my spine are “To Hold Death Back” and “Farewell”. The former is divided into two sections: the first begins as the Doctor hugs Grace upon her resurrection, and the second is the piece played when the Doctor heartily thumps the TARDIS console. That second section is absolutely remarkable! So much we didn’t hear on TV! As for the “Farewell” cue, it always reached out and grabbed me even from a lousy, lowest-bidder-contracted TV speaker, and it’s lovely in headphones. Perhaps simply from the mental association with its accompanying visual – the Doctor stepping into the TARDIS and taking off for what may be the last time on television – it stops me dead in my tracks. The theme song is fascinating, and has a much more driving beat and bass line to it than I’d imagined before hearing it up close. And holy cow, I’ve even gotten to like “The Chase”. Yep, that piece played when TARDIS consoles go boom, when Doctors have seizures, and when ambulances chase motorcycles…again, enough hidden musical depth for me to begin appreciating the piece at last. My congratulations to the composers – they went above and beyond the call of providing a score worthy of 1990s Doctor Who. Even with the limitations of the average TV speaker, and competing with dialogue and effects for prominence in the sound mix, they managed to come up with music that added a huge amount of the sense of wonderment and playfulness and gothic, apocalyptic danger which simply oozed from the movie.

4 out of 4I can’t recommend this CD highly enough, nor can I adequately lament its lack of a general commercial release – it would have easily been the best-selling Doctor Who soundtrack ever, if for no other reason than the wide exposure and marketing of the Doctor Who movie, and could have easily paved the way for further releases of earlier material a la Silva Screen. Ah yes, BBC licensing wing, how we love your tremendous vision…not!

Special note: for those in the U.K., it’s worth noting that the DVD release of the Doctor Who movie contains an isolated score track featuring more music than was featured on this CD – including the much-sought-after song heard on the Doctor’s record player.

Order this CD

  1. Prologue: Skaro / Doctor Who theme (1:38)
  2. Breakout (2:39)
  3. Wimps / Doctor #7 is Shot (1:44)
  4. Aftermath (1:09)
  5. X-Ray / Snake in the Bathroom (1:28)
  6. "Who Am I?" (1:58)
  7. City Scape (1:07)
  8. Time (0:58)
  9. Primitive Wiring / The UnBruce (1:40)
  10. Two Hearts (1:15)
  11. The TARDIS / True Identity (2:16)
  12. Night Walk (1:49)
  13. The Eye of Harmony / Half Human (4:39)
  14. Until Midnight / Atomic Clock (2:03)
  15. Green Eyes (0:48)
  16. The Chase (2:23)
  17. Beryllium Clock / Wagg’s Key (1:16)
  18. Slimed (2:08)
  19. Under the Influence (0:50)
  20. Crown of Nails (1:16)
  21. Lee’s Last Chance (2:11)
  22. Open the Eye (2:29)
  23. "Reroute Power!" / Temporal Orbit (6:20)
  24. To Hold Death Back (1:48)
  25. Farewell (1:38)
  26. End Credits – Doctor Who theme (0:50)

Released by: SuperTracks
Release date: 1997
Total running time: 50:40