CD: Doctor Who, Series 4, The Specials (2009) – 2-disc set
Label: Silva Screen/ Released: October 4, 2010
Tracks & Album Length: CD1: 21 tracks / (52:14) — CD2: 26 tracks / (64:21)
Composer: Murray Gold
Unlike prior Doctor Who compilations, the scope and sound of Murray Gold’s music for the Series 4 specials is much grander, and fans ought to be delighted material from the first 3 are organized onto Disc 1, and the full score from the 4th fills out Disc 2.
Gold’s personal writing style is a unique fusion of classical Hollywood and concert styles with electronic and rock elements that always feel completely natural, regardless of whatever mode – action, romantic, heroic – is in play. Each cue is energized by the composer’s own sense of humour, which often comes out through tiny little quotations and nods to films and characters that are part of cinema pop culture.
“Hidden in the Closet,” for example, snaps into a fast-moving action cue, set to a groovy beat inspired by Neal Hefti’s Batman TV theme, but before the cue’s finale, Gold also quotes the chilling high register notes David Buttolph used to characterize Vincent Price’s creepy presence in House of Wax. The cue eventually reaches a calm denouement, but not before a harmonic slope reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann.
In his liner notes, Gold admits his cues are goosed with some well-known homages, such as the tongue-in-cheek references to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (which also made its way into Paul Clemente/Bruno Nicolai’s Caligula score). The Prokofiev riff appears in “Not the Doctor” as well as a few subsequent cuts, and Gold uses the homage to add lovely moments of old-style romantic lyricism, giving the teleplays thematic richness and emotional scope far different than prior seasons.
Romance also dominates introspective cues such as “A Special Sort of Bus,” and there’s lovely interplay between plaintive strings and trumpet in “A Dream of Catastrophe” on Disc 2. The Bondian sounds of John Barry also work their way into the brassy “A Bit of a Drag,” recalling the action writing in You Only Live Twice.
If Disc 1 is dominated by emotionally mercurial cues, then Disc 2 is Gold’s closing symphony which salutes the outgoing and current Doctor on a grand scale, augmented by a chorus.
The 2-parter “End of Time” special is filled with lengthy cues and potent emotional statements, each of which guide the listener towards a large choral finale before Gold wraps up this collection with the rock-styled salute in “The New Doctor.”
Stylistic highlights on Disc 2 include the swaggering heroism in “All in the Balance,” and an homage to the western (“The End Draws Near”). Minimalist figures anchored to a jazz rhythm in “The Ruined Childhood” is where Gold employs an electric bass and orchestrations reminiscent of seventies action thrillers. A cartoonish mechanical figure in “A Chaotic Escape” is beautifully performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and invokes a deadly cat and mouse game between man and some blasted thing edging closer and closer to the Doctor with its destructive power.
Chorals are integral to the emotional thrust in “The End of Time,” and highlights are found in “The World Waits,” with a chant that sounds like “Hurry up you people!” and “Speeding to Earth” where a rock rhythm allows Gold to easily switch gears between strained heroics and full-tilt action mode with large background chorals.
Gold’s other action highlights are “By Water Borne” with an alternating 5-beat rhythm, and “The Time Lord’s Last Stand” that’s heavily dominated by brass writing reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith.
Much like Michael Kamen, Gold knows how to have fun with film scoring, and while the quotations and homages are functional components of his scores, Gold’s style dominates every cue, and reflects the huge emotional depth the he’s given Doctor Who since the series was rebooted in 2005. The original series was heavily affected by tight budgets, and while its respective composers managed to create a musical world that complimented the older BBC productions, it’s stunning the way the overall series’ musical scope has evolved over the past few years.
Silva’s 2-disc set is a fine sampler of Gold’s beautiful writing, and the composer should be proud of this stellar accomplishment.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan
Interview with composer Murray Gold
Categories: Soundtrack Reviews