CD Review: TORCHWOOD

Composers: Ben Foster and Murray Gold
Label: Silva Screen
Suggested Retail Prices: $13.99
Grade: A

Though things may get dire for a certain revamped Time Lord, composer Murray Gold has usually made sure there was a ray of musical hope for the Doctor- if not an outright sound of whimsy. But the DOCTOR WHO spin-off show TORCHWOOD ain’t nothing like its cousin. This is a universe where all manner of ungodly E.T’s and “spooky dos” take a far nastier bite from the team of mere earth people who are out to keep intergalactic evil in its place. It’s Music in Black in more ways than one.

Facing a far more atmospherically ominous task at hand (not to mention even more music to write), Gold has brought along his DOCTOR WHO arranger and conductor Ben Foster to take a wild ride by composing for the dark side. The TORCHWOOD album proves they’re a team that can’t be beat. For while it might not be as wildly diverse as the music that Gold provides for DOCTOR WHO, he and Foster show just as much impressive muscle by taking off the “nice” gloves and slapping on the beastie-busting hardware. Think of the soundtrack for a Bruckheimer / Bay movie, and you’ll get an idea of the powerful symphonic beat they give to TORCHWOOD, the kind of cosmically rocking music that can stop a flaming meteorite or bust a move with a transforming robot.

No matter the two show’s differing tones, Gold, and now Foster’s music, has stood out with its movie-level writing and sonic quality. Like the work of their American genre cousins Bear McCreary (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) and Michael Giacchino (LOST), this is the kind of stuff that just happens to be “TV”- a place whose music hasn’t necessarily be known for themes in recent years (though a similar statement could be made about movies for that matter). What distinguishes all of these composers is a talent for motifs and melody that makes their episodic scores carry the kind of dramatic importance that’s beyond the small screen. And TORCHWOOD’s laurels include a dynamically lush groove for strings and samples that recall the feature work of Craig Armstrong- especially when he’s at his most perilous in scores like THE BONE COLLECTOR, or singing with the tragedy of ROMEO + JULIET.

Indeed, things don’t look too good for the Earth in each TORCHWOOD episode, as The Hub’s operatives desperately use the best in alien hi-tech against seemingly unbeatable odds. It’s a sense of urgency and melancholy that pervades much of the music, emotion that gives this soundtrack a cosmically melodic sense of fate. “Sleepers, Awake!” builds with imposing rock percussion, while “Into the Hub” takes us there with creepy samples, voices and a strangely beautiful tinkertoy piano. A mournful voice pervades “Gray’s Theme” as “Another Day, Another Death” has sweetly tragic strings accompanying a heartbeat. There’s true grandeur to the orchestra and chorus of “Welcome To Planet Earth,” while the escalating electric guitar and orchestral theme of “Owen Fights Death” and “Owen’s Theme” neatly brings to mind the riffs used in the British zombie catastrophe 28 DAYS LATER. And there’s no better angelic capper is “Memories of Gray,” as a chorus and sweeping orchestra assures the character a place of legend in the WHO universe.

There’s a cool, grim consistency to TORCHWOOD’s music. And at 78 generous minutes, its shifts from action to emotion always keep the soundtrack interesting, if not downright moving. There’s no kid’s stuff for Gold and Foster here, just a continuing battle with the Hub against the cosmic forces of evil, one that manages to be hip without jettisoning the symphonic quality that reflects an Earth in the balance like no other thematic force. So if you want “fun,” tune into the music of DOCTOR WHO, for TORCHWOOD is sci-fi nihilism at its coolest. Murray Gold and Ben Foster have taken off the kid gloves, not to mention the scarf.

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1 Comment

  • JC
    November 2, 2008 @ 7:51 am

    Ben Foster displayed his lack of originality when it came to scoring this. The pieces of music he did with a female singer, were not too different to what Murray Gold did with the Doctor Who soundtracks (though it was a better execution).

    Like the show itself, the soundtrack is a mess.

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