Doctor Who
Music from the New Audio Adventures - Volume III

Composer: Russell Stone
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 46 7, BFPCDMUSIC3
Available now

This volume turns our attention to the work of Russell Stone. The music presented here comes from the first three stories that the composer worked on: Red Dawn, Winter for the Adept and The Holy Terror. The device of prefacing each selection with dialogue extracts from the relevant story makes a return after being absent from Volume II, helping to remind the listener of the music's original context.

Red Dawn opens with optimistic and self-consciously synthesised signatures to accompany that story's manned mission to Mars. These distinctly '80s sounds evoke both the television era of the star, Peter Davison, and the pre-Challenger glory days of human space exploration. Before long, however, hollow-sounding percussion announces the unwavering military presence of the Martian Ice Warriors. The decidedly funky final track from this story, "Countdown to Destruction", ultimately lifts the mood again.

In contrast to the deliberate artifice of Red Dawn's space-age sounds, Winter for the Adept opens with - and is pervaded by - the more down-to-earth and soulful strains of the piano. During this pseudo-ghost story, the instrument is used just as effectively to convey mournful melancholy and, later on, Halloween-style tension. Elsewhere, a shrill synthesiser suggests both the freezing conditions beyond the walls of the Alpine finishing school (in much the same way that Dominic Glynn's score for Dragonfire helped to lower the temperature of Iceworld) and the presence of ethereal "spirits".

A solemn drum; a tolling bell; eerie choral samples; and gently plucked strings open the selection from The Holy Terror. The bizarre setting of this elaborate and inventive tale is matched by the eclectic mixture of sounds. Many passages feel creepy, while others convey sorrow and regret. Such emotions are later offset by the tinkling chimes that accompany the Child - the delicate chimes are deliberately out of place, imparting the sense that something is not quite right about this supposedly innocent boy.

In his sleeve notes for the CD, Stone expresses the belief that his music is "inseparable from the dialogue and situations that inspired it". Very little of it stands alone as memorable music in its own right, which is rather peculiar considering that it was written for an entirely aural medium in the first place.

But, as Stone goes on: "If listening to this CD makes you want to go back to the original stories and enjoy them all over again, then I will know I have hit the right note." This is certainly the case with the haunting themes of Winter for the Adept and The Holy Terror - and I didn't even enjoy Winter that much the first time around! In this regard, the collection can be considered a success.

Richard McGinlay