Murray Gold interview: Doctor Who, Russell T Davies, Batman, David Bowie & more…

More from Cameron's interview with Doctor Who composer, Murray Gold, feat. favourite stories and scores, Russell T Davies, Batman & more...

Read the first part of Cameron’s interview with Murray Gold, here.

Let’s go back to series one, how did that first year feel?

It kept on upping. In season one, I didn’t know what it was. Russell obviously knew what it was but I hadn’t really shared it. I had’t read many manuscripts. I read Rose and Father’s Day. What happened with it was that it just kept on upping the ante and the country kept on responding to it with more and more euphoria. 

I remember World War III and Aliens of London and I just discovered fans – I didn’t know they existed – and they were really bummed off about those two episodes. They were annoyed about how light-hearted it was. There was, admittedly, a problem – we hadn’t worked out the CGI versus prosthetics [on the Slitheen]. 

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It was episode four [Aliens of London] and it made an impact on me when Charlie Brooker wrote that Doctor Who has finally attained the status of art. He said it was so joyous, so fun and so free and funny and sort of satirical, in its own way. I remember thinking, ‘That’s fantastic!’. 

That was the first, the very early point of when I was working on the show and the internet was relatively new. They’d just stopped having dial-up. I noticed [online fans]. I suppose it gave me a lifelong inoculation at an early stage. It was like being present at the first outbreak of smallpox and never catching it.

It has been hinted at there were some difficulties on production on series one, did any of this filter through?

I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Somebody was in a massively good mood when they wrote those thirteen episode. No Doctor Who fan is probably going to understand this but I’d seen the first episode of Shameless and done that series two years prior and it was so full of its own exuberance. It was so joyous and I’d not seen anything like that on British TV before. But it was framed within a normal Northern working class environment. Like Queer as Folk, it just had this fucking exuberance.


Doctor Who came along, and that had the same thing. I thought, ‘Oh my god, you’re really going to town on this!’ You’re not just taking it and copying something American, you’re taking a love of life, you’re taking something beyond television shows and – I’m pretty sure it was all Russell – you’re taking your love of life and you’re using this television show to talk about that. You’re taking your love of life, and using Doctor Who, hijacking Doctor Who to express it. That’s what it felt like he was doing. It was just awesome. 

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I’d done a lot of television shows but I couldn’t believe how euphoric it was about existence, so happy. I don’t think it came from Doctor Who. Honestly, as someone who watched Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, I never saw that in Doctor Who. This exuberance, this love of life was latent but it wasn’t there before in Doctor Who

Every television show has ups and downs. You can’t keep up that intensity all the time. It ebbs and flows. The energy that was in Season One could never be sustained. 

So, pop quiz time. What’s your favourite Doctor Who story?

The Seeds of Doom – with a really gigantic piece of snot! [Laughs] The Ark in Space. Planet of Evil. The Green Death. All that body horror – I love it. I don’t really like monsters per se, I like madness. Madness themes/parasite – where you yourself become your enemy. One I always loved, never seen but I’d read the Target book was Carnival of Monsters. It was a bit Sapphire & Steel, to read as a book. Still never seen it. It’s like The Hunger Games, a bunch of aliens enjoying the spectacle of toy things.


Favourite Doctor Who scores from the past? I love Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds of Doom.

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You’re going to get into trouble for saying that! [Laughs] They’re not typical. They’re not Radiophonic Workshop, they’re acoustic instruments. They were both excellent scores. You know who never gets a look-in? Elizabeth Parker. She was credited on so many Doctor Who scores that I loved. Nobody ever asks about Elizabeth Parker. 

Tell us about Elizabeth Parker…

[Laughs] I liked The Claws of Axos with its weird synthesiser sound.That was a good score from Dudley [Simpson]. 

Would you like to bring the synth back in to Who?

I use a lot of synthesisers. 

I mean the 70s/80s style.

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No. I don’t want to do it like that! [Laughs] To be honest, I don’t want to be cold to the episode. 

Do you have any favourite composers?

I like a lot really. I loved Hans Zimmer’s Sherlock score. I loved James Newton Howard’s score for The Hunger Games, it was really nice.


When it comes to films, can you turn off from the score?

It always sounds really good. They always sound really good. There’s not many films I like, lately. I liked Looper! I used to love the Paul Verhoven movies, a real guilty pleasure. RoboCop, Total Recall and [laughs] Starship Troopers and Showgirls

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I’ve never really cared particularly about sci-fi as a genre above other genres. If anything, the thing that’s always got me is reality. I’m not talking about reality TV, I mean anything that resonates as having a sense of human truth. Whether it was Z Cars or Boys from the Blackstuff. The drama, for me, has to be real. 

I don’t care for the Batman franchise under Christopher Nolan. I don’t care for Superman, under David S Goyer, and all its ridiculous solemnity. It’s ridiculous because the more serious you are about something that’s ridiculous the more ridiculous it seems. It’s that straightforward. We’re living in a fucking world with Syria going on, for god’s sake. You’ve got some bloke writing Superman like it was the Fourth Testament. It’s idiocy. 

It’s madness. It’s men in capes and pants. Come on guys, give us a joke. Give us a little bit of humour. Anybody who’s actually lived a life knows that you have to fight bad things and the only way people get through it is with a sense of humour. These ridiculous movies that portray the world as a fight between good and evil, it really bothers me. 

What’s your favourite track and score of your own?

I still love The Pandorica Opens double episode, that might be my favourite score. The Angels Take Manhattan, I really like that. Favourite track? Other than the one in the Prom [Song For Fifty, celebrating the show’s golden anniversary], it’s either I Am The Doctor, Vale Decem or Abigail’s Song. I have to say it would be something with lyrics.


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Midnight has a fascinating score. How did you feel when you first saw the ep?

It’s great. I love anything that’s stagey. I love Rope by Hitchcock. I love Quentin Tarantino for being stagey and for keeping actors in a sort of long shot. I really like stagey direction rather than filmy with masses of cuts. It was a really good episode. 

I loved the fact that Russell wrote that, it felt like, he was fighting back at that time. People were being negative, not that Russell cares about that. It seemed like people were very critical of the show and then that came out. And then Turn Left

Russell could always surprise people by temporarily getting angry and using that state to write – I don’t know if he wrote it in an angry state. It was written in a hurry and I don’t know if you can do anything in a hurry unless you’re angry. It’s a fantastic motivating emotion. It’s very energising. It keeps you alive. It keeps you awake and it’s a good thing for honesty. 

It was a cleanser. It was like somebody wanted to write something sharp and a little bit misanthropic for Russell – in a good way. But it had the energy of misanthropy. It’s great. You had a group of ordinary people which, as a writer he characteristically would love, but instead he decides to turn into a seething mob a la Rwanda. You know, you hear enough shit about somebody and eventually you go after them in a mob. It had a good truth to it. 

You mentioned Turn Left, one of my favourite episodes with my favourite companion, Donna Noble.

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She had a lovely trajectory, like The Taming of the Shrew. It was almost like she discovered, like I discovered in the course of writing music for Doctor Who musical places I could go to that I didn’t know about before, it was like she [Catherine Tate] discovered places that she could go to as an actor that she hadn’t discovered before. Very few characters in television really have such an interesting development.


And it had that amazing “Circle of Mirrors” scene with your beautiful track, A Dazzling End.

I love that piece too. It’s funereal but at the same time it’s about life. It’s just so excited. I write really excitable music, like excited to be alive. 

That’s what Doctor Who is all about!

Yeah! I think that too! Like Walt Whitman or Stevie Wonder. They communicate the excitement of being alive. It’s nothing like that nonsense in America – dividing the world into good and evil. In the best possible way, it’s about people who lose gracefully in some ways. Winning is so boring. You don’t learn anything from winning. People who win all the time are arseholes! 

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Any musicians or bands you’d like to work with on a song for Doctor Who?

I ran into Bowie once in an ice-cream store in Reinbeck and he started talking to me about Doctor Who. He had no idea who I was, I was just a fanboy freak. [Laughs] And I said, ‘I would never bother a famous person in the world, I’m so courteous and mindful of other people’s privacy – except it’s you!’ [Laughs] 

I said, ‘I write music for Doctor Who,’ and he said, ‘I’m not doing it.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘They want me to do it.’ I don’t know what it means, to this day, but that’s what he said. I don’t know in what capacity, as an actor or as a musician. I would like to see an episode of Doctor Who scored by David Bowie.


Is Doctor Who different to other shows you work on?

Yeah. I probably get away with a lot more. There’s a lot more benevolence and generosity on behalf of the public towards Doctor Who. They give Doctor Who a chance.

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Murray Gold, thank you very much!

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