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Soundtrack Review

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Doctor Who
The Krotons


Composer: Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Silva Screen Records
RRP: £7.99 (CD), £5.99 (download)
SILCD1371 (CD), SILED1371 (download)
Available 13 May 2013

Brian Hodgson was a member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, working closely with the seminal figure of Delia Derbyshire. As the original sound effects creator for Doctor Who, he was responsible for the chilling Dalek voices and the powerhouse sound of the TARDIS lifting off (created by running a back door key for his mother’s house along the bass string of a gutted piano and treating it electronically). His highly innovative techniques are fully on display in this collection of “special sounds”, which provided the background to the Patrick Troughton story The Krotons, originally broadcast in four episodes on BBC1 between 28 December 1968 and 18 January 1969...

Let the buyer beware: following the release of the soundtrack to the classic Caves of Androzani, this is a somewhat different entity. Instead of the hour-long duration of the Androzani soundtrack, this audio landscape from The Krotons is just 26 minutes long. Also, for the most part, it’s not really music.

As Brian Hodgson himself says: “I never used to call the stuff I made myself ‘music’. I was more interested in what I called the theatre of sound. I was creating atmospheres that were not conventionally music in their form. Nobody sat down to create a piece of formal electronic music, it was always a contribution to enhance a radio or television programme. I think that’s what gave the [BBC Radiophonic] Workshop its vivacity.”

In common with The Wheel in Space and The Dominators before it, The Krotons does not have any aural accompaniment apart from the “special sounds” created by Hodgson. He does not merely provide the sound effects, but has to compensate for the absence of a separate musical composer. This is primarily achieved by means of atmospheric background effects to differentiate the serial’s various locations and their implications, such as the mechanised, hypnotic qualities of “The Learning Hall”, the barren wilderness of “Wasteland Atmosphere”, and the semi-organic, semi-artificial burble of “Machine Interior”.

You may notice some similarities to special sounds from other Doctor Who stories from the mid-Sixties to the early Seventies. These were all created by Hodgson, after all, and using similar technology – the most recent innovation at the time being the “Crystal Palace”, a Perspex-clad device that could sample up to 16 inputs and combine them into a single output to create textures of sound. Common to several serials produced around this time is the abrasive electronic drone of “Burning Light” and “Link – Rising Hum”: similar effects can be heard in The Invasion and The Ambassadors of Death. The contrasting dreamlike quality of “Entry into the Machine” is akin to the ethereal ambience of the Time Lords’ planet in The War Games. “Dispersal Unit” is not unlike the web gun sound effect from The Web of Fear, while “Birth of a Kroton” is reminiscent of the life-force transfer process in The Savages – perhaps not surprisingly, since they fulfil similar story functions.

Apart from the series theme, the souped-up spangly 1967 version of which opens this disc, the only tracks that can truly be described as melodic are “Machine and City Theme”, “Sting” and “Kroton Theme”. “Machine and City Theme” suggests the lurking menace that is soon to be reactivated. “Sting” is used to dramatic effect within the story, as... well... a musical sting, following the dispersal of an unfortunate victim of the Krotons. Probably the most memorable composition is “Kroton Theme”. This perfectly captures the nature of these creatures, being harsh and metallic, while at the same time kind of dumpy and cute.

Hodgson’s work is certainly innovative, but this trippy medley won’t be everyone’s idea of recreational listening. One for “high brains” only.


Richard McGinlay

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