Audio Adventures
Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons soundtrack

Released 2000

Music by Geoffrey Burgon, Produced by Mark Ayers

Synopsis: A release of the music from Terror of the Zygons.


The Exception Proves The Rule by Stephen Maslin 18/2/19

Incidental music in Doctor Who. Thesis: tradition. Antithesis: modernity. Synthesis: post-modernity. Discuss.

Or, to put it another way...

Thesis: The Keys of Marinus and The Romans. Antithesis: The Wheel in Space and The Sea Devils. Synthesis: ???

This process starts when Doctor Who starts, at a time when it would have been inconceivable not to use actual musical instruments for the production of music. The Radiophonics Workshop was all very well for the sound of an alien control room or a futuristic bomb, but it does not do to go too far. It is hard to pinpoint just when they realized that knobs and dials could make musical noises as interesting as strings and embrasures, but it started somewhere in the Radiophonics-heavy Troughton era. From there we headed to the eclectic early 70s (Crumhorns, the EMS Synthi 100), before settling on the idiosyncratic Dudley Simpson house-style of the later 70s. When it tried to be like something else, Doctor Who's music failed (The Space Pirates aping Star Trek, the McCoy era aping Trevor Horn) but even something as derided as the electronica of the early 80s has much to be admired. However, with apologies to Malcolm Clarke (see NOTE below), of all the Doctor Who music releases ever made available to purchase, Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons is the only one that stands up on its own merit; that is, as music by itself. Why?

Well for starters, it has not been re-recorded (which means that it is not re-rotten), having been beautifully restored from composer Geoffrey Burgon's own tapes. That alone would not be reason enough to buy it. More importantly, the music on offer (need one point out) is the best that Doctor Who ever had (and it doesn't need Tom and Sarah being brilliant over it to make it brilliant). Wonderfully evocative of an entire era of human endaevour, its uniquely crystalline fragility is streets ahead of anything else written for the show and would be a worthy addition to any discerning music collection, even if it had been recorded to accompany Mr Bean. (Now there's a thought.) This is a young composer being given a chance to prove himself, and it is to director Douglas Camfield's everlasting credit that he decided to trust a composer who was then so little known. It is surely to our eternal regret that more such deviations from the norm were not made. Though Dudley Simpson created so much of the tone of that era, his ubiquity meant that he was over-stretched, often leaving us with music we felt we had heard many times before. It is the rarity of the music for Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds of Doom that is part of what gives it such freshness.

How one wishes that the music of those two stories had become the template for the show's incidental music thereafter, rather than the post-Simpson synthesizer or the post-commonsense Murray Gold. No doubt Mr Burgon had far better things to do with his time, but think of all the Classic Era stories that could have been immeasurably improved by a half-decent music score: The Brain of Morbius, Full Circle, Logopolis, Mawdryn Undead, Ghost Light to name but five (not to mention every single TV story since 2005).


Geoffrey Burgon passed away in 2010, and, though he left a sizable body of work, there are not as many available recordings as there should be. Aside from his justifiably famous soundtracks for TV and film (Brideshead Revisited, The Dogs of War, Bleak House, et cetera), there are a few currently available discs worth checking out: the pick of the instrumental stuff is probably the recording of two concertos, for viola and for cello, on Chandos.


Malcolm Clarke's outlandish synthesizer-wrestling for The Sea Devils, available on Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Volume 2, is almost as essential, not because it's the best TV music you'll ever stumble across but it's so delightfully barmy (and that the purring warmth of its analogue electronics is now so seldom heard). Without it, The Sea Devils would be very dull fare indeed; with it, it is a thing of wonder. An honourable second place.