Doctor Who: Series 4 – music by Murray Gold

It just goes to follow that, as I liked season 4 of the new Doctor Who better than season 3, I hold its soundtrack album in a similar regard. In terms of both story and soundtrack, the new Who’s fourth season is everything I wanted – but didn’t get – from the third season, and composer-in-residence Murray Gold delivered music to match the more effective storytelling.

Most of the season’s highlights are represented here, with a wealth of music from Voyage Of The Damned, Silence In The Library / Forest Of The Dead, Turn Left, The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End, and even slightly less obvious gems like Midnight. Voyage is represented by a ten-minute suite of highlights from that expanded, nearly-movie-length Christmas special, while there’s no shortage of music from the season’s two-parters – with one disappointing exception. The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky sported some suspenseful, brassy music to accompany the attempted invasion by the warlike spuds, only one piece of which – a rehash of the first soundtrack volume’s UNIT theme – shows up here. As fearsome as this two-parter made the Sontarans out to be, their music is notable by its absence here.

Fan favorites such as the Ood songs from Planet Of The Ood (reprised in the climactic moments of Journey’s End), the reverse-echoed rendition of the Doctor’s theme from Turn Left, and even the rapid-fire techno-action piece “Hanging On The Tablaphone” (which, aside from being a play on a Blondie song title, underscored frantic preparations in Torchwood during the finale) can be found here. My favorite surprise is the brutal music from Midnight, truly scary in its intensity (and apparently the composer’s homage to Jerry Goldsmith’s music from Planet Of The Apes). It’s an exhausting listen, even with its just-over-three-minute running time, and really makes you feel like you’ve been beaten up by the end of it. It’s interesting to note that some of the Midnight music – whose howling, descending trombones call to mind Michael Giacchino’s music from Lost – also shows up in the “Davros” track.

4 out of 4The real question now is: will Murray Gold stay? Several major behind-the-scenes figures are following departing showrunner Russell T. Davies out the door after what has almost certainly been an exhausting four years, and even David Tennant is going to bow out in the last of the 2009 special episodes (airing in place of a full season). Having collaborated on such projects as Second Coming, Torchwood and Queer As Folk with Davies, Murray Gold is definitely a Davies loyalist. It remains to be seen if he’ll follow his boss out the door, though – if I’d been asked a season ago, I would’ve said that it was perhaps time for a chance in the show’s creative and musical directions. But season four was so engrossing that I’d like to see Gold stick around long enough to score some Steven Moffat episodes with the 11th Doctor – and yet at the same time, I’ll admit that I could do with fewer appearances of the “orchestra plus a rock drummer” sound. Time, as always, will tell.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who Season Four Opening Credits (0:46)
  2. A Noble Girl About Town (2:14)
  3. Life Among the Distant Stars (2:30)
  4. Corridors And Fire Escapes (1:12)
  5. The Sybilline Sisterhood (1:53)
  6. Songs Of Captivity And Freedom (4:03)
  7. UNIT Rocks (1:11)
  8. The Doctor’s Daughter (1:38)
  9. The Source (3:21)
  10. The Unicorn And The Wasp (3:11)
  11. The Doctor’s Theme Season Four (2:47)
  12. Voyage Of The Damned Suite (10:21)
  13. The Girl With No Name (2:45)
  14. The Song Of Song (2:14)
  15. All In The Mind (1:18)
  16. Silence In The Library (2:57)
  17. The Greatest Story Never Told (6:17)
  18. Midnight (3:07)
  19. Turn Left (2:20)
  20. A Dazzling End (2:22)
  21. The Rueful Fate Of Donna Noble (2:44)
  22. Davros (2:07)
  23. The Dark And Endless Dalek Night (3:44)
  24. A Pressing Need To Save The World (4:55)
  25. Hanging On The Tablaphone (1:07)
  26. Song Of Freedom (2:51)
  27. Doctor Who Season Four Closing Credits (1:07)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 76:27

Torchwood – music by Ben Foster & Murray Gold

Torchwood - music by Ben Foster & Murray GoldFeaturing the darker, moodier music of Doctor Who’s darker, moodier and decidedly more “adult” spinoff, the Torchwood soundtrack album is full of surprises, but some listeners may be dismayed to find that part of the surprise is what isn’t on it.

From the beginning, Torchwood’s musical score has been the work of two composers, Doctor Who maestro Murray Gold and Ben Foster, who has served as his orchestrator for several years. Foster steps into the limelight here, as the Torchwood CD concentrates almost entirely on his work. However, what this means is that some of the most recognizable pieces of music associated with Torchwood are missing from the album. Many of Gold’s themes, established in the series premiere, were reused throughout season one, and they’re absent from the album, including the drum beat lead-in to the opening teaser (over which John Barrowman explains the show’s premise), and an energetic, pulsating theme that often accompanied the appearance of the team’s trademark black Land Rover in season one. There’s one suite of music from the premiere episode, Everything Changes, and it’s hardly the most striking music from that episode.

What is on the CD is no slouch, mind you; there isn’t anything that’s so bad that I’m reaching for the skip track button. But sometimes it all seems to blend together – there are lengthy stretches of fairly similar music that reach across several tracks. There are some standout cues: “Sleeper”, “Look Right, Then Leave” and the one-two punch of “Jack Joins Torchwood” and “Captain Jack’s Theme” are action-oriented highlights. The best of the lower-key fare includes “Out Of Time”, “Owen’s Theme” and the eerie back-tracked piano work on “Pearl And The Ghost Maker.” Some pieces, like “Into The Hub”, straddle the fence between gentler orchestral music and the show’s trademark electro-inspired action music. A nicely expanded version of the Torchwood theme (which is almost painfully short on TV) rounds out the collection.

Compositionally, there are some incredibly clever things about the music from Torchwood – in the track “Owen Fights Death”, it’s possible to hear how the themes for the various characters are in a common key, making it possible to interweave the themes for Jack and Owen in this track, or the themes for Owen and Toshiko in “Goodbyes”. Toshiko’s theme also finds its way into the extended version of the show’s main theme.

3 out of 4I can understand that it vastly simplifies things to limit an album to one composer almost exclusively. But the problem here is that there are memorable major themes that have been left out in the cold. Casual fans may not notice…but then again, how many truly casual fans will bother to pick up the soundtrack? Perhaps some of Gold’s compositions should be piggybacked onto a future Doctor Who soundtrack release (particularly the rumored “best of the first four seasons’ music that didn’t make it onto any of the other CDs” album that, like the TARDIS, may or may not materialize), or offered as download-only pieces; without his work from the first season, as nice as Foster’s music is, the Torchwood CD just seems to be missing something.

Order this CD

  1. Everything Changes (1:24)
  2. The Chase (3:28)
  3. Ghosts (2:00)
  4. Sleepers, Awake! (1:14)
  5. Toshiko And Tommy (3:09)
  6. Into The Hub (2:08)
  7. The Mission (2:36)
  8. Gray’s Theme (2:45)
  9. Jack’s Love Theme (1:53)
  10. Another Day, Another Death (2:48)
  11. Look Right, Then Leave (2:50)
  12. Welcome To Planet Earth (1:54)
  13. The Plot (3:25)
  14. Out Of Time (1:31)
  15. The Death Of Dr. Owen Harper (2:13)
  16. King Of The Weevils (4:12)
  17. Owen Fights Death (1:52)
  18. The Woman On The Roof (2:26)
  19. Owen’s Theme (3:13)
  20. Pearl And The Ghostmaker (2:28)
  21. Flat Holm Island (2:12)
  22. A Boy Called Jonah (4:55)
  23. Toshiko Sato: Betrayal And Redemption (3:49)
  24. Gwen And Rhys (1:15)
  25. Jack Joins Torchwood (1:37)
  26. Captain Jack’s Theme (3:20)
  27. I Believe In Him (1:34)
  28. Memories Of Gray (2:32)
  29. Goodbyes (2:23)
  30. The Death Of Toshiko (2:23)
  31. The End Is Where We Start From (2:28)
  32. Torchwood Theme (1:36)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 79:33

Doctor Who: Series 3 – music by Murray Gold

Keen observers may have noticed that I wasn’t as thrilled with the third season of the new Doctor Who as I was with the first two. When the tracklist for the eagerly-anticipated Doctor Who Series 3 CD was revealed, I’ll admit that I was a little underwhelmed there too: half of it seemed to come from the two-parter Human Nature / The Family Of Blood, and those just weren’t my favorite episodes. Apparently I’d forgotten that they sported some of the season’s most distinctive music by a long way.

And when I say “distinctive,” it brings me neatly around to something that did bug me about the third season’s music – it seemed to repeat, a lot. Whether intentionally or otherwise, the third season’s music took on the feeling of library music drawing from a limited number of pieces, much like the original Star Trek, which tracked many of its 80 episodes from only 20 or so original scores. But compress that effect into 13 episodes of a single season, and the effect becomes more apparent even to the casual viewer/listener. “All The Strange, Strange Creatures (The Trailer Music)” is a tune that cropped up incessantly throughout the season, almost like the Amok Time fight music from Star Trek. It’s a fine tune, but man, did we hear it over and over again. Let me point out that it sounds great on CD, and its habit of turning up every other episode may have been an editorial decision on the producers’ part, not the composer’s.

There are quite a few episodes that broke that mold, and they’re the ones that are featured most prominently here: The Shakespeare Code, Evolution Of The Daleks (the best excerpt from which is the borderline-risque Broadway-by-way-of-burlesque song “My Angel Put The Devil In Me”), Human Nature / The Family Of Blood, Blink, and the closing trilogy of episodes, Utopia / The Sound Of Drums / Last Of The Time Lords. The Runaway Bride is represented by three cues, one of which may well be the new Who’s best chase scene ever, and there’s a “preview” number from this year’s Christmas special, a seasonal (but original) tune called “The Stowaway”.

“The Master Vainglorious” is the cue that represented Professor Yana’s regeneration into the Master as well as the arrival of the Toclafane, while “YANA (Excerpt)” accompanied the launch of the rocket to Utopia and Yana’s hijacking of the TARDIS. These two tracks, along with “The Futurekind”, which is a much heavier take on the same basic melody as “All The Strange, Strange Creatures”, are great stuff, as is the wild “The Runaway Bride” cue, which was heard during Donna’s freeway-rescue-by-TARDIS in the episode of the same name.

What I had forgotten was how nice the music from Blink was – and that was an episode I actually liked and rewatched a lot. “Blink (Suite)” is unique and atmospheric, almost like a modern take on ’70s TV detective show music. Gridlock is represented by “Gridlocked Cassinis”, which has some unique sounds (even a little cheesy in places, but it works), and “Boe”, which heralded that character’s demise. It’s the same basic tune as “The Face Of Boe” from the first new series soundtrack, but takes on a more elegiac tone before turning into a gentle, pleasant variation on the same melody. The choral version of “Abide With Me” is also heard here, from the end of Gridlock, but it’s pretty enough to silence even that persistent voice that’s still wondering if we’re ever going to get the music from School Reunion on CD.

The Human Nature music is pleasant, reflecting on the shattering of simpler times by leaning on simple, sparse music played by a smaller ensemble than you’re used to from the show’s big action setpieces. In retrospect, and away from the context of the episode and my opinion thereof, it’s actually quite nice music, and it’s easy to see why it became the centerpiece of the whole album.

4 out of 4Doctor Who: Series 3 may well be an example of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture effect – i.e. the music was better than what it accompanied – and it’s a great listen.

  1. All The Strange Strange Creatures (The Trailer Music) (4:07)
  2. Martha’s Theme (3:42)
  3. Drowning Dry (1:54)
  4. Order this CDThe Carrionites Swarm (3:23)
  5. Gridlocked Cassinis (1:17)
  6. Boe (3:43)
  7. Evolution Of The Daleks (1:53)
  8. My Angel Put The Devil In Me (3:08)
  9. Mr. Smith and Joan (2:05)
  10. Only Martha Knows (2:31)
  11. Smith’s Choice (1:42)
  12. Just Scarecrows To War (1:30)
  13. Miss Joan Redfern (1:51)
  14. The Dream Of A Normal Death (1:55)
  15. The Doctor Forever (4:18)
  16. Blink (Suite) (2:55)
  17. The Runaway Bride (4:18)
  18. After The Chase (1:26)
  19. The Futurekind (1:44)
  20. YANA (Excerpt) (0:54)
  21. The Master Vainglorious (3:22)
  22. Martha’s Quest (3:19)
  23. This Is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home (3:17)
  24. Martha Triumphant (2:49)
  25. Donna’s Theme (3:14)
  26. The Stowaway (3:36)
  27. The Master Tape (1:55)
  28. Abide With Me (2:28)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 74:17

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