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Soundtrack Review

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Doctor Who Sound Effects (Vintage Beeb)


Composers: Dick Mills and Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
RRP: £6.10, US $16.95
ISBN: 978 1 4084 7055 8
Available 02 February 2012

Everyone knows that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside; and the selection of aural locations from the Doctor’s travels will equally broaden your horizons. No fewer than seven alien worlds are visited, together with some extra-ordinary, extra-dimensional occurrences encountered on Earth (Sol 3 in Mutter’s Spiral). Add to these an audiogram of the Doctor’s own mind processes, TARDIS operations and some weapons for self-defence, and your galactic safety is ensured. Time Lord Note: a source of jelly babies is recommended to complete the illusion of time travel...

This compendium of sound effects is another worthy addition to the “Vintage Beeb” range of facsimile reissues of titles from the old BBC Records & Tapes label. The design of the disc and sleeve reflect those of the vinyl release way back in 1978.

It makes for gloriously nostalgic listening, bringing back memories of the shows themselves and of the album’s original release on LP and cassette. I vividly recall the use of many of these effects in teenage amateur audio productions - in which, for example, Sutekh Time Tunnel (from Pyramids of Mars) stood in quite effectively for Star Trek’s transporter beam.

Most of the tracks hail from the Tom Baker era, though there are a handful of effects from Jon Pertwee’s final season and more generic sounds such as the Dalek Control Room, the TARDIS Interior (in flight and stationary) and the Sonic Screwdriver. Some of the stories are referred to by working titles, such as The Destructors (The Sontaran Experiment) and The Enemy Within (The Invisible Enemy), presumably because that’s how they were known at the time that certain effects were created and filed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

The bulk of the album comprises atmospheric sounds, such as the Central Control Room in Exxilon City (from Death to the Daleks), the Zygon Spaceship Control Centre (from Terror of the Zygons), the Mandragora Helix (from Masque of Mandragora) and Atomic Reactor Runs Wild (from The Hand of Fear). It concludes with two and a half minutes of weapons fire, including the memorable Gallifreyan Staser Gun and the exciting Fission Gun (from The Ark in Space).

The timeless quality of the Radiophonic Workshop’s output is attested to by the fact that many of these sounds are still being used or emulated to this day - such as the Gallifreyan Staser Gun in Big Finish’s audio productions and the Sonic Screwdriver in the new television series.

One glaring omission is the TARDIS materialisation / dematerialisation sound (which is actually classified as music), especially given the album’s running time of less than 35 minutes, but in all other respects this is truly vintage Beeb.


Richard McGinlay

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