After what feels like four and a half billion years of waiting, the first second of eternity has passed. Murray Gold’s original television soundtrack for Doctor Who Series 9 is finally here, and it’s been a hell of a long time coming. But, crucially, do we think it’s one hell of a score?
Things kick off, as you would expect, with a selection of musical cues from The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar. However, there’s no rendition of the Doctor Who theme this time around (having already appeared on the Series 8 tracklist). Just like the Series 9 premiere’s cold open, we’re dropped straight into “The One in a Thousand”, full of doom-laden undertones as we build to the shocking Young Davros reveal on the battlefield. Things only get more eerie from there, as “Davros Remembers” documents Colony Sarff’s slithering search through the cosmos. “A Message from Missy” playfully mixes in some techno trickery as Michelle Gomez’s Master makes her mischievous entrance, while “What Have You Done” is melancholy at its finest. The Doctor’s shame at betraying Young Davros really shines through in the music, before everything crescendos into a bombastic Dalek victory when Bors uncovers the TARDIS.
The remainder of the tracks from these episodes follow in much the same vein, making for a score that’s perfectly enjoyable in isolation from its visuals. By comparison, the music from Under the Lake/Before the Flood is a bit more atmospheric. It’s good stuff, no doubt about it, but much like the story’s base-under-siege setting, it feels a bit more tried-and-true and a bit more by-the-numbers. There is a notable shift in tone with the more upbeat “The Bootstrap Paradox” – the song that accompanies the Doctor’s fourth-wall breaking scene – but the rest all sort of blends into one. And unfortunately, we really did mean it when we said there’s no Doctor Who theme in this collection: Peter Capaldi’s rock variation from Before the Flood is sadly nowhere to be found.
The Hybrid Is (Do-Re-)Me
While the episodes themselves were a little forgettable, the tracks from The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived are actually some of the more memorable ones. “Two Days in a Longboat” brilliantly melds Viking and Celtic cues into traditional Doctor Who sounds. Maisie Williams also gets a recurring theme in “I Am Ashildr”, but the best of the bunch is “In a Way, She’s a Hybrid” from the cliffhanger ending to The Girl Who Died. As the immortal Ashildr lives on and the world turns around her, we hear her emotions turn from loneliness, to sorrow, to fury. It’s a real treat of a track, even if it does only last about a minute and a half.
The music from The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion falls into the good-but-not-great category – serviceable, but nothing you’ll rush back to. There’s also only one track from Sleep No More, which is sadly as forgettable as the episode itself. Fortunately, things pick up for Disc 2’s conclusion, particularly if you’re a fan of the Twelfth Doctor and Clara. “Face the Raven” from, well, Face the Raven is a heartbreaking seven-and-a-half minute long farewell as Clara accepts her death. In fact, most of the music from Face the Raven is wonderfully tragic, really bringing out the menace behind Sarah Dollard’s first script. The disc then concludes with a few cues from Series 9 finale Hell Bent, including “A Duty of Care” and “Clara’s Diner” which will both break your heart all over again as the Doctor and Clara part company for good.
Must Be Christmas
That’s eleven episodes covered so far: but there are still two whole discs remaining! They actually cover just one episode each, with the undisputed highlight being Disc 3. Or, in other words, the full forty-odd minute score to Heaven Sent. Everything from Moffat’s magnum opus is here, and just as glorious as you remember it. We’ve endlessly praised Steven Moffat’s and Rachel Talalay’s work on this episode, but this truly makes you appreciate Murray Gold’s contribution as well. Without his tremendous compositions, the episode might not have packed quite the same emotional wallop. Nowhere is this more evident than show-stopper “The Shepherd’s Boy”, which triumphantly soars towards a (literal) fist-punching finale. Trust us, if you haven’t already, you’ll want to stick this on repeat. Possibly for all eternity.
Disc 4, meanwhile, features the score to 2015’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song. Compared to what has come before it, this offers a nice (if somewhat unremarkable) change of tone. “Carol Singers Will Be Criticised” is a (half-)joyful jaunt that sets the festive mood from the off. After a choral rendition of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, the Doctor arrives and everything changes. The music suddenly shifts to a darker sound, just like the Grinch’s introduction in his 1966 animation. It’s a bit pantomime, really – all it needs is some booing and hissing. After that, it’s standard Christmas fare: full of fun and full of fluff. It’s not until the very end that we get the episode’s standout song, “The Singing Towers”. This is a beautiful melody, and even if you don’t like the Doctor/River dynamic, you can’t argue that this soundtrack doesn’t bow out on a high.
Setting the (Murray) Gold Standard
However, despite this release being a four-disc behemoth, there are still some (attack) eyebrow-raising omissions. We’ve already mentioned Capaldi’s rock theme, but the opening songs from Hell Bent are entirely absent as well. In our eyes (or ears?), the Western-style stand-off music between the Doctor and Rassilon was some of the episode’s finest. Not having any of it at all feels almost criminal. It’s by no means a deal-breaking decision, but after waiting so long to have this music at all, it would have been to own a truly “complete” collection.
On the whole though, a few missing tracks and forgettable songs aside, Series 9’s soundtrack is something spectacular. There was a time when we never thought it would release at all, and that by itself makes it feel pretty special. The music’s quality may not always be consistent, but when Murray Gold strikes (ahem) gold, he strikes it hard. The Heaven Sent music alone is worth the price of admission, and we’re sure you’ll find some other favourites along the way too. It’s been a long and winding road, but you can breathe a sigh of relief. The Series 9 soundtrack was definitely worth the wait.
Now, how many years until we get the Series 10 soundtrack as well…?