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Soundtrack Review

Book Cover

Original Television Soundtrack


Composer: Rob Lane
Moviescore Media
RRP: £14.99
5 050693 219727
Available 17 November 2008

The mythical city of Camelot, in a time before history began. A fantastical realm of legendary beasts and mysterious peoples. A dangerous world in which magic has been banned by the ruthless tyrant, Uther Pendragon. Merlin, a young man gifted with extraordinary magical powers, arrives in the kingdom and the mythical city offers a world of opportunities for him - but also hidden dangers. After saving the life of Prince Arthur, their friendship develops. Guided by Uther's wise physician, Gaius, Merlin is soon using his talents not just to survive but also to unlock Camelot's mystical secrets. As he does so he discovers that his destiny and that of the kingdom's young leader in waiting, Arthur, are inextricably linked...

Rob Lane's score for the BBC's Merlin is an impressive soundtrack - especially when you consider that it's for a TV miniseries. Historically music has always been seen as one of the least important aspect of TV shows instead as one of the most important - which it is.

Lane is a pretty accomplished composer in his own right, most notably for period TV dramas - including The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002) Elizabeth I (2005), Jane Eyre (2006) and most recently Tess of the D'Urbervilles (2008). He also composed the music for 2003's documentary on the chess match between Kasparov and IBM's supercomputer Deep Blue; Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine; as well as for TV dramas including Prime Suspect and Hearts of Gold and movies including The Young Poisoner's Handbook and Red Dust.

The second track, 'The Tournament Begins' - has a very familiar march incorporated into it. It sounds very similar to the last minute of John Williams's 'The Chess Game' track from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. This is then repeated later, a lot more obviously in 'Arthur's Final Battle.'

In fact, John Williams seems to be a bit of a recurring theme here. Another obvious example being Lane's 'Meeting Arthur / Lady Helen Possessed' which borrows a sequence - note for note - from William's 'Parade of the Ewoks' from Return of the Jedi; 'The Magic Shield' - which gives a nod and a wink to Raider's of the Lost Ark's 'In the Idol's Temple'; and 'Defeating the Afnac', which is reminiscent of parts of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Now I'm not complaining, I'm a huge fan of Williams's music, and I'm sure the producers of Merlin will have used numerous William tracks as the temp music for the program, before asking Lane to step in and compose something in a similar vein for the finished episodes. And, to be honest, Williams himself is no stranger to being inspired by other people's work - Gustav Holst's The Planets suite was obviously the main inspiration for Willliams's score for the original Star Wars movie. Maybe there are parallels to be drawn between this and Merlin - in that Lane is Merlin to William's Gaius. No, maybe not.

Other notable influences include Hans Zimmer's Pirate of the Caribbean score - which can be witnessed in 'Fighting in the Market'; and Zimmer's score for Gladiator seems to provide the inspiration to the main parts of 'Arthur's Final Battle'. And, of course, there's the obvious comparison to be made towards Howard Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Still, to be perfectly honest, how many sad anoraks are there out there like me who will notice the similar beats and themes? At the end of the day this is an incredibly complex and beautifully orchestrated score. Thank goodness TV executives are finally starting to give TV soundtracks the attention and budgets that they deserve.


Darren Rea

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