Doctor Who - Series 9: Original Television SoundtrackBookmark and Share

Friday, 27 April 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who - Series 9 (Credit: BBC / Silva Screen)
Music By Murray Gold

Released by Silva Screen Records Ltd - April 27, 2018

Available from Amazon UK

It has been a while since I picked up a Doctor Who Soundtrack.  Not really for any reason in particular, I just stopped keeping up with them after the Series 5 Soundtrack.  I had really loved Murray Gold's work in the RTD Era, but while still shined through in the Series 5 set, I just found there were less tracks I needed to listen to over and over.  I mainly liked the big themes, and I was less enthused by the run of the mill incidental music of a standard episode. I even started to go back and delete tracks of previous soundtracks as well. There is just too much music of a television series to keep up with.  I like certain pieces of music quite a bit, but I don't need every single piece of background music from a decade's worth of TV. 

And so, we come to the soundtrack for Series 9...and there is 63 tracks spread over four discs.  For comparison, the first Murray Gold soundtrack, which was for Series 1 and 2, was just 31 tracks. And that was covering two whole series!  This is just overkill in my opinion. If you are a completist, I can understand the appeal of having every single piece of incidental music the show has ever had on screen...but that has got to be a niche audience I would think.

In listening to this set, my initial plan was to listen to it all through, to not skip around and find what I liked as I have in the past. This time I was reviewing it, I couldn't just find the bits I liked and deleted everything else. And yet, there are so many bits of music that, while not awful, just didn't grab my attention that I just started to skip and skim, find bits that jumped out at me and forget the rest. I couldn't help myself. There are too many bits of music on this that so clearly feel as if they were in the show purely as atmosphere for the episode...but lacking the accompanying visuals, and the music isn't nearly as interesting. 

That said, there are some great pieces of music in here, and I don't want this to be a knock on Gold, because I really have loved the music he has provided the show over the last decade plus. As a guy whose task it is to write a ton of different music for wildly different episodes week in and week out, the guy is just tremendous. The problem is less in the quality of some of the music, and more in the selection process for what ended up on the disc.  There are bound to be pieces of music that were placed behind the Doctor and Clara walking down a hallway.  And the music maybe added that layer the show needed in that moment, but it isn't terribly interesting on it's own.  So why include that here?  As I've said, probably for the completists. 

The highlights on this big set include "Clara's Diner" (which is an electric guitar version of "Clara's Theme"), "The Bootstrap Paradox," and my personal favorite track from the set, "The Shepherd's Boy" which also accompanied the fantastic climax of my favorite episode of this particular season, Heaven Sent.  In fact most of the music that connects to that episode is pretty good, but "The Shepherd's Boy" is the lone track in all 63 tracks that I can't stop listening to. I didn't realize it until now, but as much as that episode was Capaldi's tour de force, Gold was putting in some excellent work as well.

But again...this soundtrack is too big for me. I will probably delete several tracks off of my computer, keeping some highlights.  I will definitely listen to "The Shepherd's Boy" many more times.  If you are a big time collector of the music and really do want every little piece of music from the show, you will not be disappointed in how comprehensive this set it. But the more casual fans of the show's music may find it overwhelming, and will just want to sift through for the highlights.





BBC Radiophonic Workshop - The SoundhouseBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 4 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock

Originally released 1983

CD/vinyl album by Malcolm Clarke, Jonathan Gibbs
Paddy Kingsland, Roger Limb, Dick Mills,
and Elizabeth Parker

Released 7th October 2016, Silva Screen Records

The latest of Silva Screen’s series of reissues of BBC Radiophonic Workshop albums shows the collective in their 80s pomp, having long since abandoned tape loops and slide rules for then state of the art synthesisers. The Soundhouse, from 1983 showcases their love affair with the Fairlight CMI, the first digital sampling synthesiser, over 22 tracks spanning 1979-83. This revolutionary machine opened up doors to a new kind of impressionistic pop music in the hands of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. In the hands of the workshop it’s put to perhaps slightly more conventional melodic use, but the results are still pleasingly weird.

The Soundhouse features tracks by house composers Peter Howell, Jonathan Gibbs, Roger Limb, Elizabeth Parker, Paddy Kingsland, Malcolm Clarke, and veteran effects and ideas man Dick Mills.

The opening Radiophonic Rock is a group effort, with only Kingsland and Clarke sitting it out, whilst the other five go mad in Maida Vale. Everyone gets their own distinct part, and it's quite, quite bonkers. It’s fairly typical of the Workshop’s output of the time, its four minutes are pretty much a CV for the group, and sets the tone for the album pretty well. One minute it evokes Jean-Michel Jarre, the next minute we’re into a jaunty ditty like Gibbs’ Computers in the Real World or Limb’s Rallyman, which is part glacial New Wave Synthpop and part current-affairs programme theme. Dick Mills’ contributions like Seascape and Catch The Wind are all ambient atmosphere, swirling flanged drones that could almost be Brian Eno outtakes, and his anarchic Armagiddean War Games is the sound of a man surrounded by machines having a bit of a party. Liz Parker’s work is under-represented here, but her serene, spacey Planet Earth is a highlight.

Howell and Limb, meanwhile, experiment on a couple of tracks with putting the synths in the background and putting more traditional instruments to the fore, like in Howell’s Lascaux, and Limb’s haunting Ghost in the Water, which is one of the best tracks here.

There’s more of the typical 80s workshop sound courtesy of Kingsland and Howell, all languid pads and familiar plinks and plonks - but the real ‘stars’ of the collection are some very familiar tracks by Kingsland from The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, including the unmistakable strains of the synth-sailor’s hornpipe, The Whale.

The album ends on Malcolm Clarke’s The Milonga, the baroque ball music familiar from its use in Doctor Who, in the ‘pirate ball’ scene from Enlightenment - once heard, never forgotten, even if you’re not the kind of fan who can identify a Who cue from 50 yards.

The Soundhouse doesn’t have the mystique of the trail-blazing days of Delia Derbyshire's oscillators and found sounds, but it’s still crammed with quirky innovation and invention. The sounds that the second generation Workshop sculpted may have come from Synthesisers rather than being coaxed from household objects and coaxed into something unearthly, but they’re just as pioneering in their own way.