on 25 March 2013
In its 50th anniversary year, it's appropriate that SILVA SCREEN - the world's leading purveyor of `original soundtrack' releases - focusses upon one of the series' most highly regarded (and voted by fans as their ultimate adventure [voted by readers of DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE, 2003]) CLASSIC SERIES stories for a released-in-full for the first time.
Though not frequently credited by critics or commentators but an `original soundtrack' (OST) release is just as historically important as a `revisitation' DVD or an `abridged novelisation audiobook' or, even, a CLASSIC SERIES' monster being dusted off to appear in the NEW SERIES. Certainly, sound (whether incidental music or special sound) is an aspect of any drama series that is spuriously overlooked as an element of its subsequent success (or failure), and this is regrettable. Music, specifically, is a part of the director's armoury in supporting the on-screen visuals, and under the stewardship of a confident director music becomes, in effect, another actor to be utilised to drive the script/plotline forward.
And this is no less true for any DOCTOR WHO story directed by Graeme Harper, and, in particular, 1984's DOCTOR WHO - THE CAVES ON ANDROZANI. A conglomeration of talent was distilled into a definitive four-parter that concluded the all-but-short tenure of Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor. Combining the talents of Harper, Davison, writer Robert Holmes, and series producer John Nathan-Turner THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI had the destiny of "classic" written all over it from day one, however this was reinforced during the post-production's attribution of incidental music.
Engaged - and this seemed to be random process - on THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's Roger Limb added a gilt-edged aural frame to the visual masterpiece with a memorable `musical `suite' that, and I say this with all due respect his is current contribution to the NEW SERIES, at times eclipses more recent offerings from Murray Gold. Yes, Limb's incidental score is substantially `electronically' generated (compared to Gold's organic orchestral realisation utilising the BBC National Orchestra of Wales) and its `tone' is clearly that from the 1980s but, ultimately, it remains listenable, engaging and emotional nearly 20 years on.
Why is it so special and valuable for DOCTOR WHO fans?
It's brave. Almost pared down to a bare minimum with a militaristic nonchalance akin to a member of the Royal Engineers face down in the swirling dust of Afghanistan `disposing' of an IED whilst texting a message home with one hand and juggling a banana, apple and guava with the other.
Limb's approach is stunningly effortless and like the Universe's background static sound is ever present but not obtrusive, yet every musical stanza is compacted with intrigue and chilliness (notably, the lone snare drum is martialled to horrific effect to codify a portent of death - track 5).
Like a scaled- Ectothermic creature rectilineates with such verminous effect, the insidious and corrupt Morgus is aurally represented by the simple scrape along a Güiro, however, later in the incidental score the same percussion instrument is utilised to as a `signifier' for both Sharaz Jek and Chellak which, like aniseed used in a fox-and-hounds hunt to disguise the scent of the prey, throws the viewer of kilter; just who is the villain within THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI?
One element that fans will equate with Murray Gold's NEW SERIES music accompaniment is Limb's adoption of a `choral drone' as a billowing of Death's cloak as our Time travelling protagonists, the Doctor & Peri, realise that their future id destined to end with "...Death under the Red Cloth" (Track 7). The viewer's/listener's emotional contract is intensified by the cardiacally challenged insertion of additional, relentless snare drums marking time until death. And then silence falls just for a heartbeat, and then a Limb punctuates their execution (by firing squad) with a haunting echo of life that trails away.
Epic in scale, Track 15 hints at level of smugness, self-importance and a workman-like satisfaction as gun-running Stotz completes his project in securing "two kilos" of the Spectrox drug. As Krelper would have said, "Job's a good un."
Allegedly, the Magna Beast is powerful, carnivorous and truly terrifying yet on-screen it was lumbering, staid and as terrifying as Barney the Purple Dinosaur wearing a tutu and wafting a handbag he borrowed from Teletubbie Tinky Winky. However, as Track 16 demonstrates, without the interference of its visual presence on-screen Limb's musical sting instills with the Beast an uncompromisingly ravenous streak, unswerving in its flesh hunt.
Throughout Limb's score, a `high-pitched whine' (used to stunning effect in Track 18) is a reoccurring element that he uses a signal for the presence, or its oncoming apparition, that would mean that for our protagonists retreat would be the best or sensible option.
For Track 25's intriguingly titled, "Do you think I'm mad", claws at your skin, seeping beneath your epidermis to invade every cell, every corpuscle. Musical mastery in its unrelenting power play employed by Jek over the hapless Peri as she slowly come to the term that she will be spending the rest of her natural in the latex-covered arms of an acne-challenged psychopath. A chilling three-minute segment.
Like chess, Track 28 is multi-layered with duplicity and cunning as Morgus and his `employee', Stotz, enter into a new pact - and ultimately damaging - against Jek.
With a mournful droll and a singular, rhythmic heartbeat of a bass drum, "Milk of the Queen Bat" (Track 32) is, perhaps, the definitive track of this release. Whilst on-screen the visuals were mildly innocuous or vacuous in their intent - undignified, the Fifth Doctor scrambling through the Androzani Minor mud vents and blow-holes seeking the Queen Bat and her precious life-saving elixir - but here, in Limb's treatment that accompanied the scenes - we hear a pending lament for the inevitable death of the most self-effacing of his incarnations.
Re-employing the wailing drone of medieval-like Heralds, Track 33 is a sorrowful event as death approaches (Track 33). But who will die? Poisoned with Spectox toxaemia, Peri will inevitable die without an anti-toxin but is there hope for the similarly poison Time Lord? In sacrificing his own incarnation, the Fifth Doctor saves Peri and he regenerates into a new body whether we liked it (I did) or not (and many didn't).
Overall, DOCTOR WHO - THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI OST demonstrated that Roger Limb (and the story's director, Graeme Harper) comprehended the value of incidental music as an additional narrative without being over compensatory; his incidental score was subtle, authentic and chillingly dry that caused nightmares for legions of DOCTOR WHO fans in 1984, and his contribution - heard in its entirety for the first time with this release [released on SILVA SCREEN's 1992 release, DOCTOR WHO - THE FIVE DOCTORS] - should be considered as important as writer's script, the director's vision, and the actors' realisation of the printed page in ensuring that THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI remains the most highly regarded CLASSIC SERIES production ever.
If you were to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the series with the purchase of any one CD then this one would be it. Essential listening.