For several years now the modern iteration of Doctor Who has been a high water mark for genre television. Upping the ante with incredible writing, good budget effects and a group of actors that would put most prime time line-ups to shame.
Among this mountain of quality is also the superb musical scores Murray Gold has written for the series since it returned in 2005. The Doctor has always had one of the best themes in the history of television, but what Gold has been able to do is add so much life to the show by crafting complex themes and ideas that span across entire eras of the show.
The last two seasons have been the era of Moffat and Smith, who together have reformed the show into a stylistically very different beast than the Russel Davies run. Massive credit to Mr. Gold who has adapted to this new stylistic direction to write some of the best music of the show’s long and storied history.
So we come to the sixth series, the most recent and thus far most ambitious soundtrack yet. Series Six is a season dominated by answering very large and very important questions that have been presented over the course of the last few years. The season was also split down the middle which gives it a really great pace and flow.
The soundtrack operates under the assumption that if you are listening to this right now you already know the Doctor and his well established main theme. No where is the modern rendition of the Doctor Who Theme to be found on the soundtrack, which is fantastic because it appeared on the last release and hasn’t changed since series 5.
The structure of the album is in episode order, so if you have a concept of the episodes this soundtrack is from you know where the music is coming from with out obvious prompts to which episode the songs represent. Again, the album assumes you are a fan and due to the size of the release it benefits from the assumption.
The album’s strongest points, much like the season itself, are the beginning and the end. The first few tracks have a very western american west sort of feel, that comes from the fact that those episodes were the first ever to shoot extensively on location in the United States.
The first track, ‘I Am The Doctor in Utah’ is a great variation of Matt Smith’s Doctor theme which we have heard in several forms in the last two seasons. It is fun and different enough to be worthy as it’s own listening experience as opposed to other variations which don’t work as well on their own.
The ending set of tracks is also beyond stellar. All of the music from the final episode ‘The Wedding of River Song’ captures the epic scope of the finale exceptionally well. Starting with ‘5.02 PM’ to the end of the album is about fifteen minutes of pure sonic gold.
Among those tracks is a very sweet piece named after the Brigadier, the character played by the late Nicholas Courtney, who appeared in many episodes during the show’s original run. It is a nice nod to an important part of the Doctor Who universe who unfortunately passed away this past year.
The album is not perfect, however, as the middle does get a little soggy. I was also bummed that more music from the Neil Gaiman written episode, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, didn’t make it onto the album. I seem to remember the episode having some stellar musical moments, and I just don’t hear them on the soundtrack.
Three Favorite Tracks:
Help Is On The Way by Murray Gold – The first episodes of the series were the first to shoot on location in the US, and the western inspired version of the Doctor’s theme is brilliant, but the best music from that set is inspired by the decade, not location. In a very James Bond-y way, this track weaves the current era Doctor Who soundscape with some very bold and classic John Barry Bond sounds. The collision of these two very British icons in the soundtrack just makes the mind run with visions of the Doctor coming face to face with Jaws, or Bond matching wits with The Master.
Deadly Siren by Murray Gold – This episode ended up being one of the nicer surprises of the season. Mostly because it could have easily been a forgettable one off episode, but it left a lasting impression, which is in large part due to the excellent music. This track is the perfect representation of that music. It starts with a very pirate sounding romp and transitions into an eerie and ethereal siren song. One of the few complaints that can be levied on nearly all TV show soundtracks is some level of repetition. This is music like I have never heard for Doctor Who, and to come in such an unassuming way, among such epic and large set piece episodes seals this as some of my favorite music of the series.
The Majestic Tale (Of A Madman In A Box) – by Murray Gold – Wow, just wow. I often find myself listening to the track ‘I Am The Doctor’ from the Series 5 soundtrack because it is sort of an ultimate, concentrated piece of music that represents the current era of Doctor Who. I would never have guessed that track could be out done, but it happened, and I love it. It retains a very similar sound to that first track, but it is enhanced by so many epic flourishes. This feels like the original track was always being held back, and for the first time you are hearing it as it was always meant to be heard. My goosebumps have goosebumps when this track reaches it’s finale. If you can only listen to one Doctor Who track for the rest of your life, this would be it.
Least Favorite Track:
Ladieswear by Murray Gold – There are a few moments in the show and in this soundtrack that the show has a bit of a jarring tonal shift. It is at these times one must remember that at it’s core Doctor Who is a kids show. Generally these moments don’t take you out of the context of the episode, but where this track lands on the album it did feel jarring while I listened. I honestly had to check to make sure I was still listening to the right album and didn’t accidentally click away from it on my iTunes. This track also suffers from tiny run time syndrome… which I hate. In the case of music tracks, size does matter.
In the end, this is another excellent soundtrack in a long series of excellent soundtracks. With the epicness of the beginning and the ending standing up as some of the best music ever associated with the show. That said, the album is a bit soft in the middle and isn’t as smooth of a listening experience as some of the previous soundtrack releases have been.
Final Score for Doctor Who: Series Six
4.5 out of 5