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Soundtrack Review

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Doctor Who
Series 5


Composer: Murray Gold

Silva Screen Records

RRP: £8.99


Available 08 November 2010

Following on from the success of Doctor Who - Series 4 - The Specials (UK Top 50 Chart album entry and UK Chart No 1 Soundtrack Album) comes a further 63-track, 2-CD set of striking Murray Gold music. Steven Moffat’s new vision of Doctor Who, with Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, is perfectly matched by Gold’s score. Completing music for more than 50 episodes over a prolific five years, Gold has proven to be the contemporary composer of choice for Doctor Who. The double album features music from all 13 episodes of Series 5 and includes the new arrangement of the classic Doctor Who signature tune, as well as new themes for the Doctor and his assistant Amy Pond...

When new executive producers (Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger and Beth Willis), a new Doctor (Matt Smith) and a new companion (Karen Gillan as Amy Pond) took over for the fifth series of the revived Doctor Who, part of me had hoped that the new creative direction would be reflected by a shake-up in the sound department. Though composer Murray Gold had done great work for the show, I felt that his musical style was inextricably linked with the Russell T Davies era of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, and that it was time for a change.

To be fair, Dudley Simpson had remained a mainstay through several changes of production team on the classic series, so Gold’s continuation is far from unprecedented. To his credit, he does give Series 5 a sufficiently different sound - though initially as I sat down to watch The Eleventh Hour, the first few tracks did strike me as being more of the same. “Down to Earth” rearranges elements from The End of Time’s “All in the Balance”, while the eccentric “Fish Custard” reminded me of Donna’s themes from The Runaway Bride and Partners in Crime.

The new signature tune, “Doctor Who XI”, is, of course, very different from what had gone before, its deceptive lightness of touch and apparent disorganisation (the “whoosh” that comes in too early) echoing the character of the Eleventh Doctor. In terms of the incidental music, though, the turning point comes during “The Sun’s Gone Wibbly”, which combines aspects of The End of Time’s “The World Waits” with the emergence of “I Am the Doctor”, the defining theme of the season and of this double album. Out goes “The Doctor’s Theme”, which had accompanied the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, and in comes a triumphal and extremely memorable new theme for the Eleventh. The magnificent “I Am the Doctor” is reprised during several tracks, including “Amy in the TARDIS” (from The Eleventh Hour), “A Useful Striker” (The Lodger), “Words Win Wars” (The Pandorica Opens), “The Sad Man with a Box”, “I Remember You” and “Onwards” (The Big Bang).

There’s a decidedly magical, fairy-tale flavour to many tracks, including “The Mad Man with a Box”, “Amy in the TARDIS” (The Eleventh Hour), “A Lonely Decision” (The Beast Below), “The Vampires of Venice”, “Beneath Stonehenge” (The Pandorica Opens), “Honey, I’m Home” (The Big Bang), and all the music concerning the young Amelia in The Eleventh Hour and The Big Bang: “Little Amy”, “Can I Come With You?”, “Little Amy: The Apple”, “Amy’s Starless Life” and “Into the Museum”. “River’s Path” (The Time of Angels) has a Celtic quality to it, indicative of River Song’s Boudicca-like authority and mystique.

Things get more unnerving during “This is the Dream” (Amy’s Choice), “Rio De Cwmtaff” (The Hungry Earth) and “The Silurians” (Cold Blood), the latter two of which have the creepy, reptilian Silurian theme slithering through them. However, the most unsettling track has to be “The Time of Angels”. Possibly inspired by Brad Fiedel’s music for Terminator 2, Gold’s accompaniment to the Weeping Angels is punctuated by musical stings that are halfway between human screams and the squeal of fingernails being dragged across a blackboard.

The composer also seems to be influenced by David Arnold and Alan Silvestri, among others, with some decidedly Stargate-style flourishes during the militaristic “Battle in the Sky” (Victory of the Daleks) and echoes of the comical confusion of the Back to the Future trilogy in “Roman Paradox” and “The Big Day” (The Big Bang) - which is appropriate enough given that Amy experiences her own “Mom, is that you?” moment.

My favourite music is mainly from the pivotal bookends of Series 5, The Eleventh Hour and The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang. Tracks from the opening episode establish most of the major themes of the series, while those of the closing two-parter, just like Steven Moffat’s writing, combine and develop the motifs, raising them to new levels of sheer audacity. It would appear that these are also Gold’s favourite tracks, since about half the running time of the album comprises material from these three episodes.

The lasting impressions left by this soundtrack (which, incidentally, is a bargain at less than nine quid for more than two hours of music) are of chaos and magic, fun and fear. This is a fitting combination to accompany Moffat’s writing style and Matt Smith’s characterisation of the Eleventh Doctor.


Richard McGinlay

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