Doctor Who Series 6 OST
The composer for Doctor Who has been (since 2005 – the beginning of NuWho) a lovely fellow named Murray Gold. If you’ve ever watched Doctor Who, you probably know his themes, even if you don’t realize it – Eleven’s epic and eccentric theme I Am The Doctor, Nine and Ten’s little tragedy of a theme, even Ten’s dramatic (and overblown for some) regeneration song Vale Decem. Those are the famous ones, but Murray is pretty amazing in almost every track. (A few of my favorite “little pieces”: here, here, and here.) And he’s gotten even better than he was before. Sure, there are definitely some extremely notable ones that just jump out at you, and some that are less amazing on the first listen, but with a lot of listening you can come to appreciate the hidden complexity of each and every one.
Murray’s gotten a lot of crap in the past for two main things: being too overblown, and using his main themes, or leitmotifs, as he likes to call them, way too often. And sure, he does like to incorporate “I Am The Doctor” into things. On this album and the last, I could probably count at least 20 songs that have some bit of it in it. But it is a great song. It sums up an awful lot about Eleven so succinctly. It says what it might take 3,000 words to normally say, or a couple episodes, in 4 minutes and 4 seconds, and it’s also extremely catchy. I agree with Murray on leitmotifs – they’re an effective and succinct aural language. They can make a great moment on the screen have so much more meaning and vice versa. In this album, he does a lot to make “I Am The Doctor” and “The Mad Man With A Box” even more powerful than it was before, by associating it with Lake Silencio and other angsty situations.
As for songs being too overblown? Pssh! It’s Doctor Who, for Rassilon’s sake! I mean, I adore it, but it’s not a show about realism. Eleven brought a lot of subtlety and class to the show, but it is what it is, and what it is is fanciful and lovely and stylized. (Too many ises in that sentence. Sixie would not be pleased.) You could do plenty of fan videos set to Muse to it. That’s all you need to know.
The actual album is organized by episode, helpfully. There are about 5 songs per episode, more or less (there are actually 65 songs on the album, which is 13 x 5). However, the length of the songs varies wildly, from 44 seconds to 4 minutes, 55 seconds. This helps to stop the album from feeling monotonous. You could conceivably listen to the whole album (in fact, I have – twice), something that’s strange for most OSTs.
The fact that it’s performed with a full orchestra is imperative. It makes the album sound extremely big and epic, and just really high-quality. For example, the violins on “The Enigma Of River Song” are absolutely amazing. Also, the choir adds a lot to the whole vibe of it. The shimmering and slightly spooky “Melody Pond” would be nothing without the choral bits.
Of course, the album won’t be nearly as good if you don’t actually watch the show. In fact, it won’t be as wonderful as it is to me if you aren’t slightly obsessed with the show. “Enigma Of River Song” won’t be nearly as good if you don’t recognize the scene it appears in (snog in LKH) and are a bit of a Doccy/River shipper. “My Time Is Running Out” probably won’t make you cry unless you recognize that little soliloquy in “Closing Time”.
And then there are the ones that depend on your knowledge of the leitmotifs established in the Series 5 OST. “Forgiven” is a tearjerker already, being the soundtrack for a bit of Silencio action, but when you realize it has River’s theme (“A River Of Tears” (Murray likes really sad puns)) mixed with a bit of an edited (read: more angsty) version of Doccy’s… well. As a shipper, you might just explode with terribly angsty/romantic sadness/happiness. Or, as the Tumblrites like to say, “I JUST HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS!”
There are a lot of songs on here, so here are the ones to listen to first:
(Note: All the songs are composed incredibly well, and every one, I think, is impressive musically. But the ones that pull my heartstrings, and thus attract my ears, are associated with the main arc, with main character-based stuff. You really should listen to the whole album.)
1. “1969″/”The Impossible Astronaut” Together, these songs really set the frightening and sad, yet strangely beautiful tone of the Doctor’s death scene in “The Impossible Astronaut”. And even without the context, the beautiful mix of the instruments and the choral singing is absolutely brilliant.
2. “Help Is On The Way” Wow. This track is a proper theme for the America two-parter – at once menacing and reassuring, a great romp and a thriller. Definitely knocks me off my feet.
3. “Run, Sexy” Very effective and creepy at the beginning, then turns into a nice little action theme. Rather simple, but that’s often best.
4. “The Chemical Castle”/”Which One Is The Flesh?”/“Scanning Me” These songs are all part of the Cloney Time two-parter, so they naturally go together. And though I really didn’t like Cloney Time, I really do like Murray’s music for it. “Scanning Me” is my favorite, creepy and a little sad.
5. “Melody Pond” Oh, the feelings. The chorus, minor keys, and distinctly hummable bits all combine to create a very lovely and shippy experience.
6. “The Enigma Of River Song” (My massive ship isn’t affecting this list at all.) My favorite song of the album. Epic and tragic and OH THE VIOLINS. That Celtic-ish jig that turns into the violin and piano bit… brilliant.
7. “The Hotel Prison” This song (and the whole “God Complex” soundtrack) gets kudos simply because it’s so weird. The funky, dischordant notes, whatever instrument they’re using, the computer-generated bits, the Muzak/hotel music influence… it all comes together to create something that probably shouldn’t work, but does.
8. “Definitely Going” I’ve got to appreciate this one because it’s so sweet. One of the only songs on here that makes you go and say “Awwwwww…”
9. “Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart” Without context, this is some sad and beautiful stuff that transitions into an epic rendition of “I Am The Doctor”. With context, this is the Doctor going from “I’m never gonna die. There’s still tons of stuff to do, like go to all of Jack’s stag parties” to “Well, maybe all of Jack’s stag parties is a little crazy. And all my old UNIT friends are dead, so I suppose I’ll nip off and die now.” And that gives it a completely different meaning. The epic “I Am The Doctor” reprise isn’t “Let’s have awesome adventures,” it’s “Let’s go die!” And that makes it a lot more special and interesting to me.
10. “Forgiven” Hullo, giant shipper here, what else was I going to choose? Like I mentioned before, “Forgiven” is a brilliant and heartbreaking mix of Doccy’s theme and River’s.
The Doctor Who Series 6 OST is an absolutely brilliant mix of music that’s surprisingly (for soundtracks) easy to listen to as an album. There’s some great composing by Murray Gold here, but it probably won’t appeal to you if you aren’t a big fan of the show. If you are, go out and buy it, pronto! And if you’re a pseudo-classical music fan, I suggest you give it a listen anyway. (There’s some on YouTube here, but it probably won’t be up for long – darn BBC Worldwide is interested in protecting its copyright for some reason.)