CD Review: Doctor Who – Season 3

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Composer: Murray Gold
Label: Silva Screen
Suggested Retail Price: $13.99
Grade: A

TV’s science fiction scoring has certainly being journeying to diverse and eclectic places, from the irritating yodeling of Wendy and Lisa’s music for Heroes to the brilliantly anti-traditional scoring that Bear McCreary has applied to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. And for three seasons, Murray Gold’s all-over-the-constellation stylings for DOCTOR WHO have occupied their own, wonderful niche. From the start, Gold’s been given a musical budget that accords with the Doctor’s souped-up T.A.R.D.I.S. But more importantly, this brash revamping of the long-running Time Lord has allowed for crazed storylines that have opened up new worlds of melodic potential. And with this new collection of Season 3’s best tracks, Gold continues amaze with an ability to have his music land at any place, time or planet- all with his distinctively playful voice uniting the swings of his musical stories.

The great thing about listening to Silva’s new DOCTOR WHO compilations is that you have no idea where Gold’s music will take you. And Season 3 just might be the coolest ride of them all. The first stop here is the percussive symphonic stylings of “All the Strange Creatures”’s trailer music, which the BBC’s National Orchestra of Wales belts out with aplomb. And matter where the album takes you from here, Murray Gold’s opening choice sets the tone for strong, driving themes that keeps a tonal continuity, whether the composer’s venturing to metal, 40’s jazz or the orchestrally epic.

With over 28 cues on hand, it’s difficult to choose the musical favorites from Season 3, as every handpicked cue impresses. But definite highlights include the surging chorus and pounding orchestra of “Drowning Dry” from “The Shakespeare Code.” The Crouch End Festival Chorus belts out imposing, unknowable lyrics for “Evolution of the Daleks,” while “The Dream of A Normal Death”’s lyrical voices take us to an angelic afterlife. A surf guitar drives “The Futurekind,” as whacked-out synths jam with a swirling orchestra on “The Master Vainglorious.” “Just Scarecrows to War uses whistle and a march motif to take the Doctor to WW1, while the grandiose strains of “Martha’s Quest” is the stuff of fantasy epics. It’s a sound that’s as big as the gentle, religioso chorus of “Abide with Me” (from “Gridlock”), a hymn that brings Season 3’s album to a gentle, memorable end.

What’s so great about Gold’s approach is that he’s going for the cinema instead of the television set, showing a lush talent for the orchestra that makes it a wonder he hasn’t landed a major Hollywood score- yet. But as big as many of the cues are here, it’s the truly eccentric stuff that really makes this album a joy. The Hammond organ and shuffling percussion of “Gridlocked Cassini”’s could be right at home in a Fellini movie, while the slightly off-key whistling of “Only Martha Knows” (from “Human Nature / Family Blood”) is cute in the best way. A muffled piano on “Miss Joan Redfern” (from “The Family of Blood”) is eerily moving. But perhaps the cd’s biggest left turn is “The Master Tape,” whose metal power chords and escalating, out-of-control orchestra turn the Doctor’s ultimate foe into a zonked rock god.

One melody that does pop up throughout Season 3’s soundtrack is “Martha’s Theme,” which plays the Doctor’s new companion with haunted voices and strings, an almost tragic vibe that tells of secrets waiting to be revealed. Then with “Martha Triumphant,” she leaves the Doctor’s side to a jazzy, grandiloquent orchestral accompaniment that practically screams “I am Woman!” Martha’s no shrinking violet sidekick, especially thanks to Gold’s proud treatment of her. Special note can also be made Yamit Mamo’s beautiful voice the big band jazz tune “My Angel Puts the Devil in Me,” or the catchy, contempo jingle of “The Stowaway.” It’s DOCTOR WHO’s amiable version of an Xmas standard, whose chorus includes Gold and 007 composer David Arnold.

As DOCTOR WHO continues to morph with new faces, adventures and spin-off series, we can only hope that Murray Gold stays along for the ride. When sci-fi tv is progressively entering a dark zone that would send even Kafka shrieking for some musical happy time, it’s nice to have episodic scores that are unabashedly fun. And yet again, Gold delivers on the musical possibilities of the Doctor’s wild ride.

Venture with Season 3’s soundtrack T.A.R.D.I.S. here.