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Soundtrack Review

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Doctor Who
Series 9
Original Television Soundtrack


Composer: Murray Gold
Label: Silva Screen Records
RRP: £15.99 (CD), £13.99 (download)
SILCD1520 (CD), SILED1520 (download)
Release Date: 27 April 2018

Premiering in September 2015, the ninth series of Doctor Who featured Peter Capaldi in the title role in his sophomore season as television’s favourite time traveller. This all-encompassing four-part collection features general cues on discs one and two, the complete score from the episode Heaven Sent on disc three and on disc four the Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song. Five-time BAFTA nominee Murray Gold recently confirmed that he is stepping down from composer duties on the show after 12 years of providing some of the finest music to be heard on contemporary television. Underlining the breadth of Gold’s composing skill across more than 160 minutes of music, this album is also the 12th Silva Screen release of his music since the 2005 Doctor Who revival...

Fans have waited a long time for this release, which comes three years after Murray Gold’s score for Series 8. It’s been more than two years since Series 9 completed its premiere transmission on Christmas Day 2015. Series 10, Peter Capaldi’s final season as the Doctor, has come and gone, and that was after a gap year in the production schedule. At this rate, the incoming Jodie Whittaker might well have completed her tenure as the Time Lord before any of her soundtracks enjoy a commercial release!

At first glance, it may appear as though Silva Screen are offering us extra material to compensate for the delay, as the physical audio product comprises four discs in comparison with Series 8’s three. However, the total running time is 20 minutes less than that of the previous release: the four-disc split is simply in order to give the episodes Heaven Sent and The Husbands of River Song each their own disc.

For the first couple of discs, Gold’s compositions seem to be, as I previously said about Series 8’s music, pretty much more of what we are used to. There are numerous callbacks to “A Good Man? (Twelve’s Theme)”, in tracks such as “Finding the Doctor” (from the opening two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar), “The Ghosts” (from Under the Lake / Before the Flood), “Defending the Earth” (from The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion) and “Saving Rigsy” (from Face the Raven). The theme gets a tender and melancholy makeover in “The Last Thing We Need” (from The Woman Who Lived). Clara’s signature tune receives fewer airings, though it does pop up in “Another Ghost Has Appeared” (from Under the Lake / Before the Flood) and, via the medium of mellow guitar strings, in “Clara’s Diner” (from Hell Bent).

Military drumbeats set the tone for the horrors of war in The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar, tracks from which are predominantly doom-laden – though the experience is livened up by a chaotic scratch mix at the end of “A Message from Missy”, which encapsulates the dangerous eccentricity of the villainous Time Lady. There’s more techno terror in the music from Under the Lake / Before the Flood, which gets decidedly industrial towards the end. The strident bass notes of “Deep Cover”, symbolising the subterfuge of the hidden Zygons, are reminiscent of a James Bond soundtrack, combining danger with action. “The Morpheus Song”, the only entry from Sleep No More, is a musique concrète affair of prolonged electronic tones punctuated by unsettling buzzes, scratches and grinding. From a more distant point in history, vintage pipes and percussion evoke the era of the Vikings in music from The Girl Who Died.

Face the Raven is where things start to get really interesting. Compositions from this episode are dominated by deep piano notes, which mark the inevitable passage of time like a heartbeat, and funereal bells, signalling the fate that awaits the Doctor’s companion. The final track from this suite, which shares its title with the episode itself, also includes a poignant arrangement of Clara’s theme.

I have to confess that at this point in the television series, I was getting a bit bored with Doctor Who. The show seldom surprised me any more and the plots didn’t really engage me. Then along came Heaven Sent. Everyone involved in the production of this episode raised their game, including Peter Capaldi (who carried most of the show by myself), writer Steven Moffat, director Rachel Talalay – and, of course, Murray Gold. Much of his music for this instalment comes across more like a classical composition than the soundtrack to a television programme. I was reminded in particular of the sombre second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (which was put to effective use at the end of the movie Zardoz). However, Gold reminds us that we are listening to music from a science-fiction series by mixing in synthesised sounds: the disturbing fluttering and buzzing of flies (which surround the terrifying figure of the Veil) and electronic music that would not seem out of place in 1980s Who. The composer’s witty pastiches and knowing juxtaposition of ancient and modern styles are reminiscent of the great Michael Nyman.

It is entirely appropriate that Gold’s music for Heaven Sent should be presented on its own disc, so that it can be enjoyed as a separate entity in its own right. When listening to the album as a download or as ripped MP3 files, it can be disconcerting to be thrown into the whimsical world of The Husbands of River Song immediately afterwards, and you may wish to preserve the sanctity of Heaven Sent by putting it in its own playlist.

Compositions from the Christmas episode make for a much more light-hearted affair. The seasonal tone is established straight away with an excerpt from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” in “Carol Singers Will Be Criticised”, and this and many of the subsequent tracks have an impudent, Danny Elfman quality to them. “Harmony and Redemption” plays like a twinkly musical box. Clockwork or mechanical sounds (signifying the artificial body of King Hydroflax) pervade various other tracks. Things turn poignant again for the final three entries, “A Restaurant with a View”, “The Woman He Loves” and “The Singing Towers”, which accompanied River’s final night with the Doctor.

It would have been nice to have more music from Hell Bent than the four tracks included here (there’s plenty of room on the final disc), but even so this collection represents good value for money. It’s almost worth the price of admission for the Heaven Sent material alone.

But guys, please don’t make us wait another three years for Series 10… okay?


Richard McGinlay

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