Right from the revised version of Ron Grainer’s signature theme it’s clear the musical scope of the new season is much bigger, goosed with mixed chorus and large orchestra.
Like the Series 4 specials, Murray Gold’s focus is on how characters change, grow, and are affected by adventures – perhaps the key ingredient that makes the new series and its music so strikingly powerful. That Gold’s scores hold their own outside of the series reboot is important, because unlike the limited synth dribbles near the end of the old series in the late eighties, Gold’s are rich musical misadventures with distinct flavours.
Gold’s use of chorals and a vocal lullaby are recurrent elements, as well as the moving Amy theme (first heard in “Can I Come With You?” with a child’s chorus), tying together the 10 episodic suites spread out over 2 CDs.
Disc 1 offers the most eclectic mix of material, mostly because the selections vary from 2 to 11 cues of varying length. The sequencing and editing are quite tight, making track transitions fluid. The first CD also offers additional moments of brassy comedic strokes and a few kinetic electronic cuts, including “The Beast Below,” with eerie female vocals that precede a grand fandango of full orchestra and mixed chorus.
Disc 2 carries over some of the action kinetics, but the three suites gradually progress towards emotionally affecting terrain. Murray uses woodwinds to create both tenderness and humour throughout the second suite (“The Lodger”), such as the jaunty Yiddish melody in “Doctor Gastronomy” which moves from solo clarinet to brass.
Once into the suite “The Pandora Opens / The Big Bang,” we get a much tighter portrait of the Doctor’s adventures, and Gold seems to have saved the meaty orchestral cues for the album’s finale. The Bondian scope – performed with a sometimes ferocious orchestra – brings this compilation to a rousing, emotional close. “Amy’s Starless Life” is the suite’s central theme – tender, imbued with a haunting, yearning quality – whereas the preceding cue (“The Life and Death of Amy Pond”) is a rumbling epic composition with Barryesque strings & brass, and a long melodic build-up.
The smartest decision for the album’s producers is closing with a complete episode score, but for the series itself, one can’t imagine anyone better suited than Gold for crafting such rich music for the new series.
The album cuts are crisply mastered (although track 22 on CD1 oddly appears to be in mono, an issue also present on the downloadable album).
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan