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Soundtrack Review

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Doctor Who
The Caves of Androzani


Composer: Roger Limb and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Silva Screen Records
RRP: £9.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
SILCD1370 (CD), SILED1370 (download)
Available 25 March 2013

Roger Limb began his career at the BBC as a studio manager, progressing to an announcer, before joining the famed BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1972. The mid-1980s gave him the opportunity to use new musical technology, including the Fairlight Computer Music Instrument (CMI) and the Yamaha DX7, a landmark in the development of the synthesiser. The Caves of Androzani was the seventh of Limb’s eight contributions to Doctor Who, and the first of two very successful collaborations with director Graeme Harper. Originally broadcast in March 1984, the serial showed the regeneration of Peter Davison’s Doctor into Colin Baker, and in 2009 the story was voted the best in the history of the show by Doctor Who Magazine readers...

This is the first release in a series of archive recordings from Silva Screen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. In fact, it’s the first release of a soundtrack from the classic era since Who’s 2005 television comeback – and it certainly brings back memories for me.

When The Caves of Androzani was originally transmitted (from 08 to 16 March 1984), I was a burgeoning fan who had started videotaping episodes off air only a few months earlier (with The Five Doctors in November 1983). As a result, I watched those recordings countless times. I played them to death! I know every rattle and shriek of Sharaz Jek’s theme, every note of the Fifth Doctor’s death knell.

I did not fully appreciate at the time what a step forward this soundtrack was. Having since expanded my Doctor Who back catalogue, thanks to BBC Worldwide, I realise that many of Roger Limb’s earlier efforts had been more lightweight affairs, especially the twiddly and twee Time-Flight. However, two things happened during 1984–5 that shaped Limb’s work for the better. The first was director Graeme Harper, who, unlike most directors, had a clear idea of what he wanted from the composer. The second was new equipment at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, including the Fairlight CMI, which Limb used to create distinctive rhythmic percussion.

Percussion is all-important in The Caves of Androzani, whether denoting the martial nature of Chellak’s troops, Jek’s androids and Stotz’s gunrunners, or foreshadowing the imminent demise of Peter Davison’s Doctor. A military drumbeat is heard during the preparations for the execution of the Doctor and Peri, in “Death Sentence” and “Death Under the Red Cloth”... but note how it reappears during “Spectrox”, when the Time Lord learns from Salateen that he and his companion have been infected by a lethal toxin – meaning that they have escaped from one death sentence only to face another. These sounds make way for deeper, doom-laden tones, metamorphosing from a bass drumbeat to the tolling of a bell as death draws nearer, in tracks such as “Milk of the Queen Bat” and “Is This Death?”

Ethereal vocal sounds also creep in, in the form of a mournfully bass sampled voice. We are now well acquainted to such choral inclusions, largely thanks to Murray Gold’s repeated use of soprano Melanie Pappenheim in new series compositions such as “The Doctor’s Theme” (known informally as “President Flavia”), but back in 1984 this was quite radical for Doctor Who. A higher, angelic voice, closer to Pappenheim’s work, is briefly heard as the Doctor gains a new lease of life at the very end of “Is This Death?”

However, the most attention-grabbing aspect of this score has to be Sharaz Jek’s theme, a sound like a rattlesnake indicating just how dangerous and volatile this character is. His theme first rears its serpentine head in “Morgus and Chellak” before being heard in full force in “Sharaz Jek” and numerous tracks thereafter, including “Nobody Lives For Ever”, “Tear His Arms Out”, “Do You Think I’m Mad?” and “Mud Burst”.

As I said before, I have watched The Caves of Androzani countless times on video and DVD... but hearing the music once more, I want to experience it all over again! Do you think I’m mad for this soundtrack? I am mad.


Richard McGinlay

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