It’s telling that the majority of this release concentrates on the latter half of the most recent series of Doctor Who. The music in the opening episodes was quite repetitive and I was getting a tad miffed at constantly hearing the same cues from Series 3 reused. It wasn’t really until The Moff two-parter that the music started to interest me again. Oddly, this was the point where the fourth series started to hit its stride too. I will say, however, that a good tune is always worth hearing again, but Murray Gold could, nay, should, have been asked for more original material.
So, what do we get? Sadly, unlike the previous two soundtracks, there’s no Christmas preview. There goes my bet that David Morrissey was gonna burst into Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft during The Next Doctor. Bah! (At least my tenner on Robson Jerome to succeed Tennant is safe…) There’s also the opening and closing title themes included (something that I was thankful Silva Screen left off last year’s CD) which are a bit extraneous. What we are left with is a collection of themes and songs that display Murray Gold competently performing his role as composer.
I’ll start with the highlights for the time being and these include cues from The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End with Gold ramping up the pomp and bombast but backing it up and filling it out with real tension and emotion when required. The choral work for the Daleks’ invasion is to be commended, for its haunting evocation of pure menace, as is the arrangement in Davros – a melody so simple and slight but mimics ‘ole Blue eye’s evilosity (is that a word?) perfectly, with some sublime (and incredibly subtle) guitar work going on in there too.
The aptly named Midnight notches up the sci-fi-ometer to the hilt, whilst also doffing its cap to the soundtracks of Hitchcock’s thrillers, proving that not every minute of an episode need be filled with the sounds of an orchestra. In the sleeve notes, Gold proffers his opinion that the score to this particular story would sit well as a stand-alone album (much like last year’s Human Nature two-parter would have) and it’s hard to disagree with the composer. Curiously, we are only presented with a few minutes of it here, contrasting with the lesser scores that get more ear time. Maybe Murray should take more editorial control of his next release? The Sybilline Sisterhood, from Fires of Pompeii, also provides us with his talent for vocal arrangements.
The best, if you will permit me to be so reductive, is A Dazzling End – the music played whilst Donna stood in the circle of mirrors during Turn Left. For me, that episode contained, not only one of the highlights of Series 4, but also of Doctor Who‘s vast history – coming up for forty-five years, fact fans! Donna’s triumphant “Circle Of Mirrors” speech was accompanied by some of the most emotive music I’ve heard on television since… well, 2006’s Doomsday probably. And that makes this soundtrack worth the paying price alone (though why it was not called ‘Circle Of Mirrors’ is beyond me).
In second place, if you like, in the Who Top Ten this year, sits the hairs-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck-inducing, Song Of Freedom. Its performance at this year’s Proms concert was outstanding (despite one of the singers being a tad off) and its inclusion here is a tear-inducing end to a strangely cry-lite listen. These two tracks sit at the top of the Who Music pile along with 2007’s This Is Gallifrey and the aforementioned Doomsday but, frustratingly, the pieces mostly tower above everything else on this release.
For every hanky-grabbing melody or heartfelt tune, there’s also repetition (yet another version of The Doctor’s Theme) and music that comes off as hollow and laboured – none more so than the Voyage Of the Damned Suite. The score complimented last year’s Christmas special snugly but, taken out context, it’s a completely different entity, with no style (actually, that should probably be no substance) and, worst of all, nothing tangible. There’s seemingly never-ending blasts and rhythms with not one melody to attach your ears to. Sadly, this particular track comes in at ten minutes, which is about nine too long.
Similarly, the featured music from The Doctor’s Daughter and The Unicorn & The Wasp, along with the track UNIT Rocks (only, perhaps, if you think that Status Quo are the epitome of ‘rock’), all suffer from being empty and unmemorable.
I’m not keen on comparisons, but I feel I should here to elucidate further. Series 3 was the perfect album, no skipping of tracks involved, and it also felt like an album with cohesion and moods. But Series 4 has the essence of a hastily compiled selection, some good, some average and a few groin-grabbingly beautiful tracks. There’s nothing bad here, just a large dose of the familiar. Maybe, your humble Who fan wonders, with the incoming changes to the production team, that a new composer should be on that list along with New Writers, New Companion and New Doctor too. Now, we know Robson Jerome can sing…