Doctor Who – music by Murray Gold

Doctor Who soundtrackAfter months of requests, demands, and probably everything short of threats of unpleasant acts from the fans, the soundtrack from the new Doctor Who series is here at last. Held up initially by a sweeping reorganization of the BBC’s in-house media divisions (a reorganization that has virtually shut down BBC Music, which had been releasing a series of CDs of music and effects from the series created by the now-defunct BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and has also seen BBC’s video division now farming out DVD publishing to a company called 2Entertain), the soundtrack was finally licensed to Silva Screen, a UK indie soundtrack label which released the first-ever complete recordings of Doctor Who scores in the early 90s.

The CD that has finally landed in the players of fans everywhere is a compilation of music from both of the new show’s first two seasons on the air, as well as both of its Christmas special episodes to date. It’s an impressive sampling that virtually fills the CD and only omits a few of the series’ 27 episodes (at the time of its release) from being represented on the track list. In case you haven’t been watching/listening, this isn’t the Doctor Who music of the 60s and 70s; the evocative but sparse chamber-style music of Dudley Simpson’s 70s reign and the occasional experiments with purely electronic music of the 60s have given way to something more akin to the 1996 TV movie. For the new series’ first season, composer Murray Gold (who also worked with producer Russell T. Davies on Casanova and The Second Coming, among other projects) did what John Debney, Louis Febre and John Sponsler did in 1996: fell back on synths and samples to produce an orchestral-sounding score. With the 2005 Christmas special, Gold brought things full-circle, bringing real, acoustically-recorded orchestral instruments into the mix.

In a few cases, the recordings here split the difference between the original synth-posing-as-orchestra versions and the later revised versions of the same cues with real instruments. The first track after the obligatory opening theme music is an example of this – “Westminster Bridge” is the music that opened the series in the very first episode; it was also rerecorded a year later for New Earth with twangy bass guitar that almost evokes the James Bond theme. On CD, “Westminster Bridge” opens Rose-style, and then gradually segues into the New Earth version. That’s a nifty way of satisfying sharp-eared listeners who might prefer one version or the other.

In many cases, the music from the new series of Doctor Who is reused in later episodes, almost as library music a la the original Star Trek. Many of the tracks here are frequent flyers in the show; for instance, I love the “Tooth And Claw” track, though aside from the killer percussive opening from that episode’s teaser (flying monks!), I remembered that music more for featuring in The Satan Pit. The Cybermen’s music reappears in Army Of Ghosts and Doomsday. And then, of course, there are “Rose’s Theme” and “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister,” which, while they’re both lovely pieces of music (and I enjoy listening to them on their own merits), became overused within the context of the series itself. Every time Billie Piper’s lower lip started quivering, you could bet there was a “Rose’s Theme” coming on just any second. If you felt that any given piece of music was heard too often on TV, chances are you’ll find that piece on this CD.

There are also plenty of stand-alone scores, and these are even referred to in the detailed track-by-track liner notes by Murray Gold himself. Episodes such as The Girl In The Fireplace and Bad Wolf have their own unique sound, and I’m glad they’re included. There’s a theme for UNIT (the military organization with whom the Doctor worked in the 1970s) which has, much like the organization itself, been retired from use on the show, and it almost sounds like something from the equally wonderful music from Torchwood, though I’m baffled as to why it cuts off with all the subtlety of someone hitting “stop” on the CD, without even a hint of fading out. (I’m also a bit disappointed that School Reunion isn’t represented here, since it had some smashing, end-of-the-world choral music, as well as some interesting cues built around “Song For Ten.”)

Ah yes, lest we forget, there are two actual songs with lyrics here, and they’re not “Toxic” or “Tainted Love.” Both sung by Neil Hannon, “Song For Ten” and “Love Don’t Roam” are original, specially-composed songs from, respectively, the 2005 and 2006 Christmas special episodes (the latter of which had yet to even air at the time of the CD’s release). Normally I’d be shaking my head at the thought of a “teaser track” filling space that could’ve been occupied by some School Reunion music, but “Love Don’t Roam” is so damned catchy that it gets a free pass.

“Song For Ten,” on the other hand, isn’t quite the same as we first heard it. For one thing, Tim Phillips sang on the original version heard toward the end of The Christmas Invasion, and the song wasn’t fully written out to a three-verse, three-chorus pop song structure (it only needed to fill about a minute or so of airtime). That version, fortunately, can be found here (thank you, BBC). The version on this CD loses the wonderfully atmospheric Phil Spector-style production that made it sound like something recorded in the early 70s, not the early 2000s, and has additional lyrics added that allude to the events of Doomsday. I don’t have a beef with the lyrics, though they do suddenly take the song’s original cheerful tone on a big downer, but the changes in the lead vocals and the production style are major issues. I’m growing to like this rendition, but it’s hard for me to regard it as anything but a cover version.

Overall, though, any quibbles I have are minor ones; even since about halfway through season one, I’ve been one of the many eagerly hoping for a soundtrack CD for the new Doctor Who, not just for the sake of being a completist, but because I genuinely like most of the music. Hopefully this CD is the first of many (come on, if Lost and Battlestar Galactica can get one soundtrack CD per season, new Who could do it at least every other season). That decision, ultimately, is up to the consumers. I feel obliged to point out’s nearly-ten-year-old interview with original series composer Mark Ayres, who spearheaded Silva Screen’s schedule of Doctor Who and related music releases in the early 1990s, and who pointed out in no uncertain terms that piracy put a halt to that schedule, long before the BBC would have pulled the plug in its post-’96-TV-movie reclaiming of all things Doctor Who from outside licensees. While the signs here are encouraging – Doctor Who now tops the ratings in the UK, attracting a large new audience for the CD, and this soundtrack was the #1 iTunes album in the UK when it was released – the playing field has changed significantly too, with the advent of file sharing. My point? If you want more releases like this one (and personally, 4 out or 4I do, and I’d like a side order of Torchwood music if Mr. Gold and Ben Foster wouldn’t mind), buy this CD. I don’t get into sermonizing here because that’s not what you’re here to read, but in this case it’s important enough to mention.

And the CD is definitely worth the money, too. Every note.

    Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who Theme – TV version (0:41)
  2. Westminster Bridge (2:08)
  3. The Doctor’s Theme (1:18)
  4. Cassandra’s Waltz (3:08)
  5. Slitheen (1:22)
  6. Father’s Day (1:55)
  7. Rose In Peril (1:40)
  8. Boom Town Suite (3:02)
  9. I’m Coming To Get You (1:12)
  10. Hologram (2:15)
  11. Rose Defeats The Daleks (2:31)
  12. Clockwork TARDIS (1:18)
  13. Harriet Jones, Prime Minister (2:13)
  14. Rose’s Theme (2:14)
  15. Song For Ten (performed by Neil Hannon) (3:29)
  16. The Face of Boe (1:16)
  17. UNIT (1:44)
  18. Seeking The Doctor (0:44)
  19. Madame de Pompadour (3:44)
  20. Tooth and Claw (3:50)
  21. The Lone Dalek (4:59)
  22. New Adventures (2:19)
  23. Finding Jackie (0:54)
  24. Monster Bossa (1:37)
  25. The Daleks (3:01)
  26. The Cybermen (4:32)
  27. Doomsday (5:09)
  28. The Impossible Planet (3:11)
  29. Sycorax Encounter(1:13)
  30. Love Don’t Roam (performed by Neil Hannon) (3:57)
  31. Doctor Who Theme – Album Version (2:36)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 75:26