Doctor Who Series 4: The Specials Soundtrack Review
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
Murray Gold's soundtrack collection for David Tennant's final season proves an engrossing experience in its own right...
It might just turn out that, in the past, I may have been just the slightest bit critical of Murray Gold. His musical scores for the new Doctor Who series have been excellent compositions, even if at times overpowering for selected scenes of the show. And after all, going back and watching Who from the 80s and hearing the synthesizer-drenched excuse for a soundtrack, it’s refreshing to hear an actual score backing up these great episodes. It’s just that there are times when the music should accent the scene, or help deliver the emotion that’s being expressed onscreen. But with the last four specials that David Tennant starred in, all bets were off. We were sending off a Doctor that had worked his way into the hearts of so many, and for that, you need to pull out all the stops.
After everyone had been teased by the almost-regeneration in “Journey’s End”, we thought we’d see a lot more of Tennant in the role. That was not to be, however, as the next adventures he was about to have were to be his last. Instead of a new season, we got four new specials, all spread out throughout the year to count down to when he would leave the TARDIS. The specials all varied in style, and ranged from lighthearted to tender to near horror. And Murray Gold’s scores for these specials went all out. Where most episodes only have a few pieces that are repeated throughout the season, the specials all got a separate score. They have all been collected on SilvaScreen’s new 2-disc release. The first disc contains the scores for “The Next Doctor”, “Planet of the Dead” and “The Waters of Mars”. The second is the entire score for the two-part episode “The End of Time”.
"A Lot of Life Behind Us backs up a wonderfully played scene between The Doctor and Wilf, as the two have a heart-to-heart. It’s one of those scenes that requires Kleenex, and the music for it nearly puts you there on its own"
The first disc actually starts out with a track from “The End of Time”, “Vale”, which is used to book end this soundtrack. It’s a song represents the end, with feelings of both triumph and sadness. It prepares us for what’s to come. But after that, we jump right into “A Victorian Christmas”, which sounds like it came right out of A Christmas Carol. The music for “The Next Doctor” represents the episode well, with lighthearted pieces for an adventure through Victorian London at Christmastime, some action paced pieces for fights with Cybermen, and some thoughtful moments, such as “The Greats of Past Time”, where Jackson Lake learns that he isn’t the next incarnation of The Doctor, but a man who must remember who he is and why he is in London. The scene finds him and The Doctor using a time stamp, and the information is all about The Doctor. Suddenly, images of all ten versions of our hero are projected for Jackson to see. It’s a very moving scene – especially for older fans of Who, as we get to see all of The Doctors we have known and loved – and we see that even though he’s not a Time Lord, Jackson Lake is still a hero.
The music for “Planet of the Dead” is varied. It begins with several themes that would be at home in Ocean’s Eleven, as we are introduced to Lady Christina de Souza, an heiress who moonlights as a jewel thief for kicks. The rest of the pieces represent the desert planet The Doctor and the unfortunate group he is with are stuck on, as well as some triumphant moments for their return to Earth. And a track called “Lithuania”, which, according to Murray Gold, just stuck.
The music for “The Waters of Mars” sounds like it came from a horror movie, which isn’t too far off. The Doctor lands at Bowie Base on Mars, and realizes he shouldn’t be there. He’s arrived the day before the base suddenly exploded with no explanation as to what happened. There’s something in the water, and it’s desperate to get to Earth and its vast supply of H2O. It’s a claustrophobic episode, and the music helps give it that haunted house feel. There are only four tracks for this episode, but they are all great. The last two give emotion to the story at the end, where The Doctor has accepted that the rules of time don’t apply to him, and he’s going to change history. He saves the last few members of the crew, but the captain, Adelaide, is cautious. She has learned that her dying on Mars had set into motion events that would shape her granddaughter into a great space explorer. She is afraid that her living will change all that, and she challenges The Doctor’s claim of being “Time Lord Victorious”. She walks into her apartment, and shoots herself, leaving The Doctor in a state of melancholy. Has he gone too far? Can he be redeemed? As he tries to get back to the TARDIS, Ood Sigma makes contact, and tells him he needs to come to the Ood home world.
The last disc, dedicated entirely to “The End of Time”, is brilliant. There are so many layers and emotions brought forth in these pieces, which is necessary, since the two-part story has so much to offer. It starts off with “We Shall Fare Well”, where Wilf is in a Church on Christmas Day. A mysterious woman comes to tell him a story of a great physician in a blue box, and how he once saved the day. Will he do so again? There are pieces that reflect the approaching danger, like “A Dream of Catastrophe”, where the Ood show The Doctor what is about to unfold. There are some silly tracks, like “Wilf’s Wiggle” and “Minnie Hooper”, to offer some lightheartedness to an otherwise dark and heavy story. “The End Draws Near” covers a scene with The Doctor and Wilf at a café, and The Doctor explaining that the end is coming for him.
"All in all, this CD is great not only for fans of Doctor Who, but of great music in general"
But the end isn’t as straightforward as we might think. The Master has been resurrected, and is more dangerous than ever. But his threat pales in comparison to the larger threat looming in the horizon. That’s right, boys and girls, the Time Lords themselves are back! And as tracks like “Final Days” and “Gallifrey” reflect, that’s not a good thing. We all expected it at some point. Rumors floated around the internet, and fanboys around the world had theories about how and when it would happen. It’s a long, confusing story, and I’ll just point you to the local DVD shop to go buy the specials.
“A Lot of Life Behind Us” is really beautiful. It backs up a wonderfully played scene between The Doctor and Wilf, as the two have a heart-to-heart. It’s one of those scenes that requires Kleenex, and the music for it nearly puts you there on its own. The music keeps up with the action up until “Four Knocks”, where the prophecy comes to pass: “He will knock four times…” If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it. Just be forewarned, it’s a scene that will blow you away. “Song for Ten (Reprise)” may or may not have made it into the episode. Murray’s not sure. But it’s here, and it’s beautiful. “Vale Decem” is haunting, following Ten’s path toward the end. While many criticized the scene of Ten going out and finding everyone that he had ever touched during his reign, I think it’s wonderful. And the piece represents so much emotion. We return to “Vale”, as a truly scared and reflective Ten walks into his TARDIS for the last time. He goes over the controls, looks around, and with tears in his eyes, he shouts “I don’t want to go!” Indeed, none of us wanted him to. These last two pieces are full of strings and choruses and beautiful solo vocals, and they convey everything a Time Lord would be feeling knowing that they were about to leave.
But that’s not the end! The last track, “The New Doctor”, brings us a promise of more adventures, as David Tennant regenerates into Matt Smith. The track left an otherwise heavy, depressing scene and goes full speed ahead, showing us that everything we love about The Doctor is still there, just with a different face. Geronimo, indeed!
The insert for the CD has a brief introduction to the music from SilvaScreen. From there, we have every track listed with a little explanation of the scene from Murray Gold. There is some nice trivia on what they were going for on some of the tracks, and others just let us know what was going on in the episode. It makes for a fun read, and helps if it’s been a while since you last watched the specials. There are also some great production stills from the episodes. All in all, this CD is great not only for fans of Doctor Who, but of great music in general.
Doctor Who Series 4: The Specials Soundtrack is released in the US on disc and for digital download on November 9.
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