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Musical adventures in space & time
on 9 December 2013
Doctor Who - The 50th Anniversary Collection is a four CD set comprising some of the best music and effects from the complete run of the series. Although some of the material has been released before, on the Doctor Who at the Radiophonic Workshop releases for example, since those CDs are now deleted and command high prices, this is a cost effective way to get a good overview of the programme's different musical styles over the last six decades.
Disc One covers the first three Doctors, from 1963 - 1974. The first pleasing thing to note is that several pieces of stock music have been included, so we have "Three Guitars Mood" (the Shadows-like instrumental heard on Susan's radio in the first episode) and "Space Adventure Part 2" (used on the early Cyberman stories) amongst others.
There's not a great of deal of original music from this era that still exists (sadly most of the tapes would have been wiped or destroyed immediately after the music was overlaid onto the programme) but the little that we do have is still of great interest - Tristram Cary's haunting electronic soundscape for the first Dalek story and Don Harper's Bond-like score from The Invasion are highlights from the 1960's whilst Dudley Simpsons early 1970's electronic output is represented with The Mind of Evil and The Claws of Axos.
Another highlight of disc one is a five minute suite from The Sea Devils (Malcolm Clarke's score for the 1972 story). This music has long divided opinion, some rate it as not only a great Doctor Who score but also as a fine piece of experimental electronic music, whilst others regard it as just discordant noise. I love it, but it can be a bit much to listen to it all in one sitting, so these edited highlights (originally released on the 1983 album Doctor Who - The Music) are a good way of sampling the best bits.
Also included on the first CD are plenty of sound effects, which are nice to have but probably not the sort of things that will get replayed very often. There's only so many times you can listen to Chumbley (Constant Run) and Chumbley at rest, for example.
The most eye-catching things on Disc Two are two Tom Baker-era Dudley Simpson suites. I wasn't aware that any Simpson clean soundtracks from this era existed, so a six minute suite from The Android Invasion and five minutes of music from The Invasion of Time were both highlights for me.
The second half of Disc Two spans 1980 - 1984. From 1980 onwards, clean soundtracks exist for virtually every episode so there's an embarrassment of riches to chose from. The amount of material that could be included does mean there's not room for everything, so one of the best scores of this era (The Leisure Hive) is represented by just one track and Jonathan Gibbs' excellent score for The Kings Demons isn't included at all. But there's still some very good material here, and hopefully the complete scores for these stories will surface on their own releases in due course.
Disc Three concludes the original run of the series from 1984 - 1989 as well including tracks from the 1996 TV movie. Given my disappointment that Jonathan Gibbs' score for The Kings Demons didn't make the cut it's good to see that one of his other scores - The Mark of the Rani - has made it, and this, along with Peter Howell's strident music from The Two Doctors are highlights of the third disc. And as mentioned, excerpts from the TV movie score by John Debney are included, so a tip of the hat to Silva Screen for making the effort to licence this.
Disc Four brings the story up to date with a selection of Murray Gold's music from the 21st century incarnation of the programme. It's a good sampler of Gold's music - although it's more slanted towards recent series - with only one track from each of the 2005 and 2006 series for example.
Given there's only four discs (and maybe devoting one to Gold was a little generous, though understandable given the profile of the series at present) there's not room to include everything that deserves to be here but it's still a really good snapshot of the programme's music and sound effects. There were many reasons why Doctor Who was and continues to be the success it is, and a major part is due to the music. From Tristram Cary to Dudley Simpson to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and onto Murray Gold (and of course, many others) this CD is a fine celebration of their work.