on 18 December 2013
Caressed with the most delicate of touches that ensure that this original soundtrack cannot be mistaken for anything other than DOCTOR WHO, master craftsman, Murray Gold has, once again, artistically surpassed the eager expectation of millions of fans who relish in reliving the Time Lord's fantastical world (read: universe) sans visuals, enveloping themselves in an aural landscape befitting a similarly eager Gallifreyian seeking the new, the unexplored, and the unexplained.
This dual-OST release from SILVA SCREEN embraces two Special episodes (THE DOCTOR, THE WIDOW AND THE WARDROBE  and THE SNOWMEN ) as part of Matt Smith's 11th (or 14th ) era as the iconic `mad man in a box', and it consolidates the composer's musical mastery and effectively delivering a Thesis on how to compose specifically for the `small screen' whilst encompassing a vision and a tempered temerity to think that it was actually to be delivered on the `silver screen' (i.e. the cinema).
Instantaneously, from the first musical bar (or measure ) and from the intricate high-wire space-defying phrases, you know that it is Murray Gold and DOCTOR WHO. This is a remarkable feat that can only be mirrored by saying the same thing for the works of John Williams and STAR WARS or the prolific British composer, John Barry (1933-2011) and JAMES BOND. Illustrious company that Gold should be proud, and, unashamedly, mildly overawed by.
With his OST, like others that he has provided since 2005, Gold does not compromise or patronise the viewers/listeners with insubstantial or predictable `television stings' or aural detritus that common-place (plundered from nefarious Royalty-free sound archives) in today's broadcasts. Isn't about time, for Gold only, that the OST was re-defined as UST? Unique Soundtrack.
DOCTOR WHO - THE DOCTOR, THE WIDOW AND THE WARDROBE OST demands, unlike any other DOCTOR WHO story/soundtrack, much more from the viewer/listener. Seeking emotional inner reflection, questioning of personal existence and of life's inevitable frailty - whether expected or potential - of our short existence on this `blue rock in space', Gold's score subtly resonates across your heart-strings without being overly sentimental or with heavy-handed plucking pastiche, and yet skilfully is contrasted with musical themes that wheel with unabated majesty in an untempered sky, lifting hearts and spirits alike.
"Madge's Theme" (Track 5) is inherently haunted by sorrow, of loss, or grief, yet knowing that she has two young, impressionable lives to engage with Gold injects an optimistic phrase with soaring Strings and a foundation of Horns that gives the character a sense of duty and of hope, if not in herself then perhaps the mysterious `Caretaker' known enigmatically as the Doctor. And this sanguinity within Madge is released from within in "Armchair Waltz" (Track 6) and "I know" (Track 7) as Gold channels, like an Orchestral Medium ["...hold batons everyone..."], the heyday of RKO or MGM musical scores that whimsically enlighten a seemingly desperate situation.
Melancholic but never maudlin, Gold's balances light and shade (without lines or borders) like an artist effortlessly painting another masterpiece. However Gold's innate ability & strength is that his can consolidate contrasting styles and medium within a single score. At an audio brushstroke, he can inject a symphonic splattering wildness - like Jackson Pollack - that blends to a precise stroke from a singular brush-hair - like LS Lowry - to create a musical painting of sublime quality and depth that irrevocably seduces the listener to engage with it more than one occasion due to intricate nuance and theming throughout.
An understated choral start to DOCTOR WHO - THE SNOWMEN OST is charismatically enchanting as a prelude of mystery, intrigue, re-birth and an impossible, inexplicable sacrificial death.
Tangibly different to THE WIDOW OST, this incidental music score sees Gold orchestrally sincere and confident enough to take a compromising challenge for die-hard DOCTOR WHO fans, sidestepping into the world of Randy Newman (TOY STORY) or Danny Elfman (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS) whilst retaining the series' music heritage that the likes of Dudley Simpson had installed within the CLASSIC SERIES.
For "Clara Who" (Track 24), the familiarity is tinged with a discord (perfectly pitched, of course) of choral disharmony that ably demonstrated to the viewer/listener that Clara Oswald, the Victorian Nanny/Barmaid, is not who is seems to be.
The ethereal moment that the `impossible girl' wanders into the equally `sexy TARDIS' reveals that, potentially, that `impossible' and `sexy' do - or will, or have - shared an intimacy that the Doctor could only dream of (see DOCTOR WHO - THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR). With that said, "Clara In The TARDIS" (Track 25) is almost a love theme.
The sweeping, visionary "One Word" (Track 28) is a true epic that could equally at home within a John Ford `western' or a David Attenborough `wildlife' series. Its scale challenges the constraints of widescreen itself.
The quirkiest track, "Sherlock Who?", is a pure delight of appreciative pastiche of the BBC's `other' primetime drama series' main theme (composed by David Arnold/Michael Price).
However, whilst Gold is composing a score based upon the requirements of the Producer/Director, the only criticism of THE SNOWMEN OST I have to proffer is that many of the tracks vary too wildly in intensity with more subtle themes far too quiet only to be juxtaposed with an explosion of sound. To hear the quiet segments the volume has been increased in order for it to be audible, only for a mad dash back to the volume dial as the unexpected crescendo bellows out disturbing Mrs Cathcart living three streets away as she nibbles on her Digestive biscuit. Recently, BBC television programmes have been criticised for having an excessively music track that drowns out dialogue, and, subsequently, the Corporation has taken positive action. Perhaps, the future OSTs could take a more considered approach in its final `mixing'?
And another minor quibble and one that fan forums have questioned. Why is the main DOCTOR WHO theme music absent from recent OST releases? Royalty Rights cost?
With a deft appreciation of Irving Berlin or Roy Webb, Murray Gold has crafted a confection of cinematic delights for WIDOW and THE SNOWMEN that not only surpasses the challenges set within, by Steven Moffat, the (on-screen) storytelling but the expectations of the viewer/listener.
Remarkably, after composing 94 (up to and including THE SNOWMEN) incidental scores for the series, you might expect that Murray Gold to regurgitate the same music episode-after-episode theme-after-theme but, as this OST ably demonstrates, he remains as creatively adroit, fresh and insightful.