Published on February 21st, 2014 | by James Whittington
Doctor Who – The 50th Anniversary Collection Reviewed
Doctor Who is as famous for its inventive music as it is for its stories and this collection of pieces of music from the show’s past is a timely reminder of this fact. I guess you could call it, Now That’s What I Call Doctor Who then again, maybe not.
As you’d expect this Doctor Who – The 50th Anniversary Collection kicks off with the astonishing and unforgettable “Original Theme” which, even in today’s world of synths and digital recording is a sublime piece of arrangement and invention. From here on in we work slowly across each Doctor’s era.
CD 1: 1963-1974
This CD covers the first three Doctors but dedicates most of its time to the Hartnell and Troughton years. After the “Theme” we’re treated to the awesome “Three Guitars Mood 2″ which sums up the time perfectly and fades into one of the most distinct sounds in TV history, the TARDIS take off piece. Still sends shivers up my spine. We have more experimental sound effects and unworldly soundscapes with the selections from The Daleks with the effects “Dalek Control Room” and “Capsule Oscillation” being of particular interest. “Chumbly (Constant Run)” brings back monochrome memories whilst Excerpts From The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon from The Gunfighters shows just how brave the series became and never afraid to try out new things. It also gives you a chance to enjoy the wit of this often talked about piece of music. Then we’re back into the cold blackness with “Space Adventure Part 2″ from The Tenth Planet. This cinematic experience is a bold stab at orchestration with reverb and is incredibly satisfying.
We enter the Troughton era with “Heartbeat Chase” from The Macra Terror and bizarre is one way to describe it. Then the pieces “Chromophone Band” and “Propaganda Sleep Machine” (now there’s a name for a Prog rock band!) are pure 60s weirdness. “Birth Of The Cybermats” is haunting to say the least and “Zoe’s Theme” isn’t actually a theme as such more a set of pulsing beats. “The Dark Side Of The Moon” from The Invasion is hypnotic in its structure which is at odds to “The Company” which could easily have formed part of a theme to any 60s drama show from ITC. Titles from The Seeds Of Death is electronic creepiness that lead the way for many such pieces in the 1970s. “Doctor Who – New Opening 1967″ is tremendous, blast this through your speakers and applaud its eccentricity.
“The Master’s Theme” is a classic piece, full of sinister stabs and strange electronic echo which is appropriately carried over into “Hypnosis Music”. “Keller Machine Theme” is as dramatic as such things gets rising to an ear-bleeding ending. “The Axons Approach” is filled with the electronic sounds that Pertwee’s era were filled with, slightly grating when listening without the benefit if mages but will appeal to the hard core massive. “Music From The Sea Devils” is much of the same but with more restraint whilst “Music From Frontier In Space“ signals where the theme from Blake’s 7 may have come from. “Metebellis III Atmosphere” is all that was right in creating unnatural soundscapes for the Third Doctor and finishes off the first disc in fine style.
CD 2: 1974-1984
The “Opening Title Theme” (which still after all these years gets the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention) welcomes us to disc 2 and then jumps to the “Nerva Beacon Infrastructure And TMat Couch” piece which is less than inspiring but “Music From Revenge Of The Cybermen” is much more pleasing. “Terror of The Zygons: Zygons Attack” and “Music From The Android Invasion: Episodes 3″ and “4″ are classic Doctor Who compositions with deep orchestrations and plenty pf percussion clashing around. “The Seeds Of Doom: Antarctica-The First Pod” goes for the spine-tingling classic sound of 1940s and 50s B-movies with a creeping, underlining menace. It’s carried on through the next track displaying so wonderful composition from Geoffrey Burgon.
“The Invasion Of Time” is superb, simply brilliant work from Dudley Simpson. Five and a half minutes of nostalgic wonderfulness. Much like an early Hammer score with added synthesisers, its bombastic at one moment and gentle the next. One of the stand-out moments on this set. The Tom Baker era continues with “Closing Theme” immediately followed by “Doctor Who 1980 Opening Titles“ realised by Peter Howell. Now I got to say this is a great version, not as strong as the original but well worth praise.
“The Leisure Hive: Into Argolis” and “The Keeper Of Trakken: Nyssa’s Theme” is when sysths really kicked in when scoring the show and lack the dramatic impact the more tradition scores had. “Logopolis: It’s The End“ gets the balance right and is as emotional here as it is when accompanied by images. “Doctor Who 1980 Closing Titles“ rounds of the Fourth Doctor’s time but signals the start of the Fifth’s.
“Castrovalva” continues the ambiance of the previous adventure, slightly experimental and at times sounding like a ZX Spectrum game. Roger Limb’s “Four To Doomsday: Exploring The Lab” hits the Vangelis style of scoring and is a cracking audio moment. “Mawdryn Undead” has a tacky piece of throwaway music which I can’t recall where it appeared. Sounds like a game show/sitcom piece, awful but this may have been the desired reaction. We’re right back into classic territory with “The Five Doctors Suite“, an exceptional track that has the nods to the past in all the right places. “The Caves Of Androzani (Alternative Suite)“ is another exceptional and emotional track that gives us the chance to visit its dark themes. The disc finishes with “Doctor Who Theme – 1980 Full Version“ and sounds awesome when turned right up, especially the end blast.
CD 3: 1984-1996
Disc 3 opens with “The Twin Dilemma Suite” and is far better than the story to which it accompanies and far more powerful than I recall. Not surprisingly really as I’ve only seen this adventure a couple of times. Same can be said for “The Mark Of The Rani Suite” which is quite beautiful in parts and a real joy and has an almost X-Files feel to it, years before that come to our shores. Elizabeth Parker’s “Timelash Suite“ is pure 80s sci-fi and is dark and foreboding and minimalist at times. “Doctor Who 1986″ is probably the worst official version of the theme ever. Sounding as if composed on a Spectrum 48k it lacks any sort of dramatic impact and cheapens a long legacy of superior arrangements.
“The Trial Of A Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet” is far better and as powerful as electronic music can be. Doom laden and melancholic it brought darkness to the story. “Trial Of A Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe” reminded me slightly of “The Five Doctors” (apart from the circus moment) and is probably Dominic Glyn’s finest piece on this release.
[pullquote align="right"]“Doctor Who 1986″ is probably the worst official version of the theme ever. Sounding as if composed on a Spectrum 48k it lacks any sort of dramatic impact and basically sounds cheap.[/pullquote]“Doctor Who 1987″ is the often debated Sylvester McCoy era theme and is a slight improvement on the last version that we heard. “Here’s To The Future“ from Delta And The Bannermen is a great, hammy piece of contemporary nostalgia but “Dragonfire” suffers from brass stabs overload. The piece from Remembrance Of The Daleks would have been so much better with an orchestra instead of a synth but Battlefield gets the electronic score just right as does The Curse Of Fenric which is a real “all guns blazing” piece of over-the-top scoring. This is one for the neighbours. …And Somewhere The Tea’s Getting Cold is a gentle and emotional goodbye to the classic series. But the disc isn’t finished with the Seventh Doctor just yet.
“Prologue: Skaro/Doctor Who Theme” brings us to 1996 and the Seventh Doctor’s last shout before turning into Doctor number eight. I love the version of the theme which was the first track of an impressive score. All the pieces from the TV Movie are bold, far removed from what has gone before and all the better for it. “Who Am I“ is dreamlike and hypnotic whilst “The Chase (Original Version)“ is pitched perfectly to the drama unfolding on screen. “Open The Eye“ is as over-the-top as Eric Roberts’s performance but “Farewell” is just beautiful and grabs the TV Movie’s emotional end moments perfectly. Disc 3 ends with another rousing blast of the “Doctor Who theme”.
CD 4: 2005-2013
We arrive at the show’s resurrection and it’s a bit of a hit and miss affair. This is mainly because the Ninth Doctor is only represented by only a couple of tracks. As this was an era that kicked the whole new run off it seems a tad short-sighted, but hey, we have that lush looking TARDIS Shaped Soundtrack Set to look forward to. There’s also only one version of the theme. Anyway, this version of the theme is as bombastic as it is melodramatic and is in stark contrast “Rose’s Theme” which is still as haunting as it is beautiful. And then we’re into Tenth Doctor territory with the gloom of Doomsday.
“Donna’s Theme” and “The Doctor Forever” from The Runaway Bride are the weaker moments on this collection, slightly over-done in the arrangement stakes but Gold makes things better with the ethereal “Martha’s Theme“ from Smith And Jones. “This Is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home“ is taken from The Sound Of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords and is a rousing, brass blasting moment that blows away any cobwebs and is a perfect companion to “Song Of Freedom“ from “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End. “Four Knocks“ is a triumph of composition. Subtle, bold and emotionally engaging it delicately informs us of the imminent demise of Doctor 10 and fades away leaving you pining for more.
“I Am The Doctor“ is a bold statement, of the new incarnation putting his foot down claiming his place in the series. “Abigail’s Song (Silence Is All Around)“ is a wonderfully realised operatic track from probably one of the most bizarre scenes ever to appear in Doctor Who. An its emotion all the way for the rest of this selection, “Melody Pond“ and “The Wedding Of River Song” have a melancholic deepness to them adding an extra depth of emotion to them. “Together Or Not At All” brings home the romance of Rory and Amy with a contemporary beat added to a classic theme. The CD finishes with “The Long Song” from The Rings Of Akhaten, a story that lacked plot but gained in imagination. I know it split a lot of fandom but it wasn’t that bad, was it?
So the, this is truly a celebration of the music that has graced the series over the last 50 years. If there’s ever a Vol.2 lets hope they put more from the Ninth Doctor’s time on it.
Fancy indulging? Amazon has Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Collection listed for a bargainous £11.83!