|Music by Alistair Lock|
A Review by Joe Ford 12/2/03
Music has always been a crucial part of Doctor Who's success in my eyes. In some stories where the budget has betrayed the production the music has stepped in and saved the day. It has conjoured up the magic of E-space, the horror of Tulloch Moor, the alieness of Thoros Beta, the tragedy of Sharaz Jek and even the rock and roll land of 50's Wales! Music is especially important because it connects with our senses and fires the imagination. And I have to say it, these Big Finish audios need the music to work for them even more, they are the only markers to the excitement and mystery going on. And I am happy to announce Big Finish have some talented people on their staff, these scores rival any full orchestral movie score and sometimes surpass them! Each story has an individual feel so I shall examine them induvidually...
Phantasmagoria: This is such a playful story and the music is suitably cheeky to match the mood. It is obviously a period piece with lots of old fashioned instruments and at times it lays on the Jack the Ripper/Victorian Londomn menace to reveal the sinister dealings of the villan, Sir Nikolas Valentine. Tracks four and six are the most fun though, snappy and melodic. Alistair Lock has created a fine atmospheric piece, I especially love the heavy bass instruments every time Sir Nikolas kidnaps another victim, it is quite scary and leaves you with no doubt of the foul deeds he is getting up to 8/10
The Fearmonger: This is so different in mood and pace it is hard to believe it is written by the same composer. Whilst Phantasmagoria was slower and more atmospheric this is a lot of fast, modern tunes to remind us we are in the the scary world of the future. Indeed the first track, number 9, Night Shooting is probably the best piece both pacey and terrifying with lots of unpredictable and sudden melodies competing for attention. It gives a real sense of tension and fear, ideal for the story. Track 11, Bomb Threat starts off very mysteriously with an echoing sense of dread then WHAM, the rising vloume and stronger instruments explode. Very exciting. That's not to say its all depressing, track 13 is actually a lot of fun playing games with you... it starts out with a haunting violin melody (accompanying the Doctor's beautiful "Butterfly" speech) and then towards the end the darker instruments invade again. It throws you right off balance. Expert stuff: 8.5/10
The Marian Conspiracy: My favourite story of the collection. A delightful mixture of fun and period atmosphere. The court of Queen Mary is captured so well, the beauty and the splendour in the dazzling recorder work and the horror of religious persecution with the harp (although I believe these are mostly snythesised instruments). Quite wonderful is track 17 which plays over the Doctor and Evelyn's first argument, it captures the mood wonderfully, the joy of the Doctor finally finding an equal and his exasperation at being talked down to... it's all there in the music. It's the simple instruments that work best here, the tamborine and drums are put to expert use. It doesn't take a full orchestra to create magical music! Track 24, Escape from the Tower, is deliciously fun, a pitter-patter tune suggesting the fun of Evelyn's fake 'illness' to lure in the guard! Great violin work too! A fantastic score: 10/10
The Spectre of Lanyon Moor: Alistair's first foray into more cinematic scores with the extremely powerful first track, Stranded, with a powerful ethereal choirs and strong build up. Of course this is a horror story so we have the whisperings in the background and ghostly music for Evelyn exploring on the moors. The creepy whistle that introduces tracks 27 and 28 is memorably spine tingling. Unfortunately some of the later tracks are quite long and tuneless, tracks 31 and 32 don't appeal to me at all being 4.07 and 4.17 respectively and not containing any of the spooks from earlier. It is the weakest score of the bunch but a lot of the earlier tracks are highly enjoyable indeed. Lots of vocals providing a brilliant taut atmosphere. Track 29, recalling the attack is frightening: 7/10
A fine collection of diverse styles then and worthy of a re-listen or two. These early scores were very important to secure a regular fan base for the Big Finish productions and they succeded admirably. Alistair Lock's first bunch of scores were memorable enough to secure him a long future with Big Finish. His work here is quite astonishing.