Murray Gold’s third season of composing for Doctor Who was a very interesting one, as the musical tone shifted significantly from mysterious and alien to much darker and more action-based. Looking back, it was one of the best choices he made for the show.
Season three of Doctor Who turned out to be dramatically different from the previous two. The return of the Master and first sighting of Gallifrey since the Time War not only radically changed the perspective of the show as a whole, but also allowed Murray Gold to dive much deeper into the Doctor musically and compose one of the best themes for him ever created; The Doctor Forever.
We’ll start with that, I think. Despite being track fifteen on the album, The Doctor Forever is the musical backbone of season 3; continuing to make appearances in the show to this day. The track starts off slowly, using vocals to sing out a simplified version of the Doctor’s new theme. It is heroic and dramatic yet very mysterious, which pretty much nails the Doctor’s character (Gold has always been very good at that). Orchestra then slowly builds up behind the vocals to create a victorious and great-sounding piece of music. This doesn’t last long however as the music then dives out of dramatic and into a fast pace with the Doctor’s action theme for the season. It is darker and more on-edge than the main theme but at the same time very adventurous and exciting, once again doing a great job of representing the Tenth Doctor.
The starting track of the album is entitled All The Strange, Strange Creatures and is the main theme for the season as a whole, cropping up in most episodes. It is a fast-paced and dramatic action setpiece, and unlike the Doctor’s action theme it is not heroic at all, being much darker and giving off a mood of ever-present danger. The orchestra is used fantastically here, with brass and drums at the forefront to hammer home the dark nature of the season overall. Given what the theme represents (the arrival of the Master – the Doctor’s arch nemesis) it is easy to see why Gold made this musical choice for season 3. It is also a welcome shift in tone from the lighter seasons 1 and 2, and does a great job of setting the musical scene for the rest of the album.
Martha’s Theme is the theme for the Doctor’s companion of season 3, and if I am honest it doesn’t come close to how good Rose’s Theme was from the previous album. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good theme, it just isn’t as good. Here Gold takes a similar approach to The Doctor Forever, starting off with vocals to get the basic notes of the theme across before letting the orchestra take over to flair up the music a bit more. Martha’s Theme is quite dramatic but slightly more upbeat than the Doctor’s, although similarly heroic in a few places. Overall Gold has composed a great companion piece here that works well with the Doctor’s, but it just isn’t quite on the same level that Rose’s is.
We now come onto the duller segment of the score for season 3. The Dalek theme returns in Evolution Of The Daleks, but in a slightly worse way – being faster-paced and a lot less threatening than the original composition. There is also a lot of music here from the two part Human Nature story, which is a strange choice given how little musical time the rest of the season’s episodes get, and there are far better episode scores in season 3 than Human Nature. The only piece really worth talking about here is The Dream Of A Normal Death, a very sad yet hopeful piece where the Doctor dreams of having a normal human life. Once again vocals take prominence here as they seem to be Gold’s best way of getting emotion across.
The Runaway Bride is one of Gold’s best action pieces, where he brings out the brass and jazzy-sounding instruments in a frantic and epic chase as the TARDIS races to rescue Donna from an evil Santa robot driving a taxi. The fast pace continues with a good three minutes of action before concluding with a victorious and frankly amazing sounding finale, making for a fantastic and standout track overall.
The mood of the album then changes dramatically as the score enters the Master’s musical area. The Futurekind brings back that dark and frantic drama set up in All The Strange, Strange Creatures, which is then continued through Yana and into The Master Vainglorious, the main theme for the character. It is a villainous and ominous-sounding track, and does a great job of getting across the psychopathic and insane character that the Master is.
The score then shifts to a more solemn setting in This Is Gallifrey, the standout cue of the album. This is the first time Gallifrey has had a theme of its own, and it was so important that Gold nail the music for the Doctor’s people. Thankfully he did, in spades. Strings are primarily used but also a fair amount of percussion, with brass kicking in at small intervals. These combined created an amazing theme that somehow manages to be sentimental (to represent how the Doctor chooses to remember his people) and threatening (how they actually were before their “destruction”) at the same time. It is a musical feat not to be taken lightly, as it creates quite a sad yet hopeful feeling overall for the Time Lords which absolutely nails their characters. This Is Gallifrey is a fantastic composition, and the award of standout cue of the album is well deserved.
Overall then, Murray Gold’s score to season three of Doctor Who is amazing. The season had a very different tone to past seasons in order to represent the return of the Master and prepare for the Time Lords. The action music in particular is fantastic, with The Runaway Bride and All The Strange, Strange Creatures being the best examples. However Gold shines the most in his emotional pieces, particularly in The Doctor Forever and This is Gallifrey which have some pretty heart-wrenching as well as heroic moments.
So far, so brilliant, Mr. Gold.
Standout Cue: 23. This Is Gallifrey