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Monday, November 17, 2008


Doctor Who - Series 4
Music by Murray Gold
Silva Screen Records SILCD1275 (UK)
27 Tracks 76:38 mins

I think my joy was audible when Silva Screen announced this title, having loved their previous compilations of Murray Gold's music for the first three series. The initial trepidation over the use of predominantly orchestral music in the initial reincarnation of the famous BBC series soon disappeared when I heard his great music, and he continued the good work through series 2, 3 and 4, the latter commemorated on yet another fine recording of highlights from the series. This time, however, the format is slightly different, in that there are more suites, which really give a flavour of the musical journey of each episode.
The album of course opens and closes with Ron Grainer's famous Doctor Who theme, even more souped up than before, perhaps to the point of overkill. This is followed by the theme for the Doctor's new assistant, Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate, who underwent a remarkable journey throughout this series, proving ultimately the unlikely saviour of the Universe, only to end up oblivious to everything that had gone before. The theme is quite a mix, part jazz, part Latin, lightweight, semi-comical, yet adventurous. Donna's grandfather, played by Bernard Cribbins, was also given a piano-lead theme, suggestive of the star watcher and dreamer he is, yet at the same time, solid and strong.
These themes out of the way, we have the first burst of typically exciting action writing in "Corridors and Fire Escapes." "The Sybilline Sisterhood" follows, generating a suitably ancient feeling for "The Fires of Pompeii" episode, with ethnic vocals to open and a suitably menacing finish. The alien slave race The Ood returned in series 4 and they received a suitably sad and downtrodden accompaniment, but with moments of soaring beauty, courtesy of Mark Chambers' vocals, demonstrated in "Songs of Captivity and Freedom." It's more action next with the driving "Unit Rocks." A kind of daughter to the Doctor was revealed, in the shape of ex-Doctor Peter Davidson's real-life daughter; and she was given quite heroic accompaniment, as she helped her "father" unite two warring factions, only to meet what initially looked to be a sad fate, as indicated by the music dominating "The Source." But I agree with the composer, in that something tells me we haven't seen the last of her.
"The Unicorn and the Wasp" is the first suite presented here, and is a mix of eeriness, intrigue and caperesque comedy, with a hint of romance thrown in. Next up is the return of "The Doctor's Theme," that had featured throughout the previous three series, but was more associated with his relationship with Rose, and therefore comes back in full choral majesty with her reappearance. The lengthy "Voyage of the Damned Suite" follows, and deserves such treatment as Murray's music for this special episode received a BAFTA nomination. The music covers just about every emotion in the book, revisiting familiar themes, and producing heart warming and rending moments amongst plenty of exciting and dramatic scoring.
The charming theme and almost fairytale variations for the little girl at the centre of the "Silence in the Library" episode follows, leading on to three further tracks from the adventure, with the magical, mysterious feel continuing in "The Song of Song," interrupted by some crashing action music. A folksy little tune for flute and guitar follows in "All in the Mind,"an approach which was subsequently rejected. The final episode title cue sees a return to the fairytale feel, whilst at the same time leaving one with a feeling of sadness at the ambiguous ending.
Choir features strongly throughout the lengthy and hugely dramatic "The Greatest Story Never Told," which presents variations on a number of the principal themes utilised throughout the series. "Midnight" is, by complete contrast, creepy, edgy and tense, and could easily have come out of an episode of Lost, with its twisted brass and string figures and explosive ending. Much mysticism accompanies "Turn Left," with its haunting, almost whispered vocals.
The tremendous series finale, spanning the episodes "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End" is duly represented by the remaining tracks on the album, starting out with the triumphant "A Dazzling End;" then followed by "The Rueful Fate of Donna Noble," with its fateful, almost spaghetti western-styled guitar-lead showdown feel. "Davros" sounds suitably deranged, and is followed by the all-conquering choral "The Dark and Endless Dalek Night." Some of the rhythmic, electronics-based action of "A Pressing Need to Save the World" actually has its origins in series 2 of Torchwood, as it flows to its exciting conclusion. The strange, propulsive mix of ethnic and electronica "Hanging on the Tablaphone" follows, leading to the showstopping choral "Song of Freedom," as the Earth is dragged back into orbit by the Tardis.
Accompanying the disc is the usual quality booklet, 16 pages of colour stills, the composer's guide to each track presented, and an interview with both Gold and his musical ally Ben Foster.
If you enjoyed the previous Doctor Who and Torchwood compilations from Silva Screen, it's a fair bet that you'll lap this one up also, so get along to for your copy now.


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