Wednesday, September 15, 2010

REVIEW: The Specials Soundtrack

Series Four: The Specials

2 Discs

Music by Murray Gold

Release Date: Oct 4

Tracklisting: Visit HERE

How times have changed, how spoiled we fans have become...

Cast your mind back to 2006 when the first Doctor Who soundtrack featuring Murray Gold's music as released - one glorious CD covering two series. Glorious, yes. But still only one disc. The next year, Series Three got one all to itself. And now just four stories, The Specials, get TWO CDs all to themselves. In fact, The End of Time gets one all to itself.

So, to recap, in four years, we've gone from one disc covering 22 stories to just one disc covering only one story. Now that's what I call progress.


And what progress it is too.

Allowing more space lets Gold's music to breathe. As good as the previous soundtracks were, and they were bloody good, they had a 'compilation' feel to them; mainly because the composer was covering so many differently~toned episodes. But now, the listener can really enjoy the music from The End of Time, for example, as an experience - akin to an album from an artist - and not as part of a 'greatest hits'.

This is how it should be from now on please!

Thankfully the theme tune is dispensed with (not that it's bad, we've just heard it enough and, frankly, I feel it wouldn't fit the tone of the soundtrack), allowing for even more of Muzza's music to fill the set. It's neatly presented with cues appearing chronologically from The Specials, making for a fascinating journey through the last televised adventures of The Tenth Doctor.


In a recent Doctor Who Magazine interview Murray noted that the music from The Next Doctor (review HERE) may not have been the first thing that fans would have been clamouring for (I had to agree) and yet the cues collected here from the 2008 Christmas special are an absolute delight.

Flitting between light and dark within the bat of an ear, Gold expertly switches from Crimbo romp (A Victorian Christmas) to cinematic stomp (The March Of The Cybermen) to the more doleful and melodic (The Greats Of Past Time and Not The Doctor). Both these cues display the composer's forward thinking and sensitivity as they include snatches of the Vale decem melody which would accompany the final moments of David Tennant's Time Lord. Beautiful touch.

The music from Planet of the Dead (review HERE) receives the least time on the set but it's distinctive nonetheless. Brilliantly odd synth sounds and beats in The Cat Burglar juxtapose very keenly with the vastly different instrumentation of Stirring In The Sands as the action moves from Cardiff crime thriller to alien desert hunt.


Like the Specials episodes themselves, the music from The Waters of Mars (review HERE) is a completely different kettle of ball~game. Letter to Earth is deliciously haunting and, like the rest of the score from the Hugo Award~winning tale, unnerving. You'll certainly be getting the jitters by the time By Water Borne begins. Pizzicato strings fight with unhinged melodies that then, somewhat startlingly, ramp up into "chase" mode (I did an actual jump).

This is really the only "actiony" bit of music from this score as Gold concentrates on the more pensive pieces, removing any of the heroics from the story and leaving one with the sad realisation of The Doctor's mistake on Mars. Rather than an actual account of the music, these tracks display the mood of The Waters of Mars, a remarkable story with an achingly downbeat emotional core - a core Murray Gold captures only too well.


And so Disc Two is devoted to both parts of The End of Time (review of Part 1 HERE, Part2 HERE). A score that is surely defined by the music heard as everyone's favourite Time Lord, bit the big one Vale decem. The recent Proms concert certainly demonstrated the power of the piece; utterly mesmerising and heartbreaking in equal measures. Gold's choral work is that of unparalleled beauty and this track stands, quite simply, as his best.

But hey, there are other tracks too though! And flippin' magnificent they are too.


Again, because we have an hour or so featuring cues from the same score, the feel is uniform and pleasing. Though I saw "uniform", it does range from the fun 'n' bouncy Wilf's Wiggle and A Frosty Ood (reminiscent of Donna's jaunty theme) to the brass~tastic blasts of The End Draws Near and The Master Suite.

But it's the soulfully touching melodies in tracks like The Four Knocks (the start of The Tenth Doctor's end) and A Lot Of Life Behind Us (the Time Lord's chat with Wilf) that'll make you break out the tissues. And this is even before Vale begins - the prelude to the very end as The Doctor visits his past companions. A sparse and affecting arrangement with a melody that hints at the approaching menace of regeneration (don't worry though kids, it turned out alright in the end).


Negatives? Well, it seems daft to mention it but, to be utterly frank, I'm not that keen on the cover (it's a bit too copy 'n' paste for me) and the placing of Vale after Vale decem seems a bit odd (it came before it in the episode). Yup, my negatives are daft. Anyway, these two very, very slight points don't stop The Specials soundtrack from being true perfection. To be honest Vale decem, as I'm sure you know, is worth the price of the set alone.

Murray Gold, again, has delivered an audacious piece of work; ranging from the light and dainty to the cinematically dramatic to the devastatingly emotional; the ultimate reminder (well, apart from the episodes themselves) of the golden age that was the RTD era.

BLOGTOR RATING 10/10

Thanks to Silva Screen

11 comments:

Jalen said...

NEED THIS. NOW!!
Thanks for the review :)

Anonymous said...

Awesome review!! Am now even *more* excited for this release (if that's possible! :D ). Thanks for posting! :)

Kelly said...

This is great! I've listened to quite a few myself and LOVE IT! My children love it too.

Darkglasses said...

I'm keen for this release as well but haven't decided whether I want the physical CD or to buy it off iTunes and get the 2 extra tracks...

Anonymous said...

I need to get my hands on this...very excited!! :D

Mark said...

How is the Song For Ten reprise that popped up on the tracklisting? Is it an instrumental version?

Cameron McEwan said...

It's very good. It's an orchestral version, a lot slower.

Heard briefly in a number of eps during 10's era including The End of Time.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

I was listening to the Series 4 soundtrack earlier today and wishing I was listening to Vale Decem instead. I hope it doesn't take forever to reach the U.S. this time.

Thanks for all you do!

KevinCV said...

I was listening to the Series 3 soundtrack, and the track "The Doctor Forever" made me want to hear "Vale Decem" in all it's glory, Karen. I can't wait to get this! I've got the other Doctor Who soundtracks, as well as the Torchwood ones, and there's some great pieces in there. I honestly still tear up a little listening to "The Ballad of Ianto Jones" from the "Children of Earth" soundtrack... :'(

Anonymous said...

I love Doctor Who soundtracks so much!! I'm hoping one day soon there will be Doctor Who music solo books available for piano, saxophone, trombone and the like...That would be truly AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

Hiya.

Could you please tell me if that variaton of Vale that plays during Verity Newman's scene is on the OST as well? Thank you. :)