A Golden Era – Part 4: Top 75 Murray Gold Tracks (49-40)
David Selby continues counting down the very best of Murray Gold’s music.
Catch-up on other articles in this series:
Something else worth giving a thought to is how Murray Gold can turn practically any scene into something really truly emotional. Take Doomsday; however much you’re connected with that scene, that bit where The Lone Dalek comes in always hits you right in the heart – and it’s not even an original track to the episode!
I’ve seen people talking about Murray Gold’s replacement recently, about how he should step down and let others do the odd episode – and, okay; I’d be curious myself to see how the likes of Thomas Newman or Edmund Butt would tackle a one-off, but I think fundamentally if the show was ever handed down ‘musically’, we’d all suddenly realise quite how good Murray Gold really was. So as soon as the guy thinks of quitting, we need to make sure we’re ready to chain him to his piano.
49. UNIT Rocks
UNIT are the pinnacle of Doctor Who’s ‘awesomeness’. If that horrible teen colloquialism “swag” was ever remotely appropriate, it would be now. UNIT pull off this astounding panache wherever they go and the assertion of authority is admirable.
A lot of this is thanks to their theme tune, which is as dominating, swift and downright stylish as the organisation itself. UNIT really does rock.
48. Trenzalore/Pain Everlasting
The final resting place of the Doctor isn’t a description that comes lightly. Trenzalore is truly, truly haunting; it’s made up largely of strings that are surprisingly subtle and ‘background’ by Murray Gold’s rather potent standards, and the same can be said for Pain Everlasting, a track that actually feels quite painful and depicts the tragic downfall that the Great Intelligence tries to inflict on the Doctor’s life. 1:38 is a particular favourite point in the second song: it feels final. It feels like everything is really ending for the Doctor – and it’s Trenzalore, so it really is. Plus it’s still quiet and sad the whole way through, never forcing the emotion down your throat.
Of course, the fact is that they don’t need to be big at all. It’s the final resting place of the Doctor – and that’s all that needs saying.
47. The Impossible Astronaut
The only gripe I have with this track is how Murray Gold appeared to drop the ending – heard in A Good Man Goes to War – on the way into the great soundtrack factory, because The Impossible Astronaut sadly cuts off at just the wrong time.
Aside from that little moan, The Impossible Astronaut is like many others a moving, evocative track – but it does something which none of the others do which gives it its own distinct uniqueness. Perhaps it’s the “ooo-ooo” vocals or maybe it’s the unfamiliar string patterns. It sounds unusual; not what you’d necessarily expect from the scene, but moments like 1:16 are so heart-rending that you think that no other track would have actually suited it better. Murray Gold experiments with string layers and creates something undoubtedly beautiful as the end product. Another big well-done.
46. Altering Lives
“You die. You die today.”
The declaration sends a shiver down your spine: the Doctor has ultimately ensured that Adelaide Brooke’s fate is set in stone. Altering Lives reminds me of what a complex, thought-provoking and point-blank heart-breaking story The Waters of Mars is. There’s something about this piece that practically plucks out my heart-strings, and perhaps Murray’s own description of the track is better suited:
“As he affects the people around him, without asking their consent, profound moral questions are asked of the Doctor. He is guilty of exaggerated pride, or what the Greeks called ‘hubris’. In so doing he seems to summon the forces that will lead to his downfall. This piece of music is really quite simple, but it speaks of those unavoidable powers beyond our control.”
Congratulations to Murray Gold on a piece that is absolutely buzzing with unearthly power.
45. The Enigma of River Song
Let’s Kill Hitler’s my little guilty pleasure. But don’t tell anyone I said that. No, it was Selby Davies who told you that. Completely different person.
The best scene, in my – and probably the general – opinion, is the moment where River Song finally realises who she is and what she means to the Doctor. This track still retains some of the mystery and bizarreness of River Song and her storyline, but you also hear the truth unravel before your very ears (does that work?).
I’ve spoken briefly to a few people on this site about this track to hear some other opinions (on particular user – yes, you), and from what I can gather it’s a track that has a strange way of bringing back memories and evoking nostalgia on a large scale.
44. A Machine That Makes Machines
With a surprisingly punkish – or even steampunkish – vibe, A Machine That Makes Machines is a track that I like to personally consider as the TARDIS’ theme tune: it’s dark and foreboding, but also quite funky and catchy. Sadly, it is ridiculously underappreciated, despite being one of if not the only track that originates in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. It’s half-way through where the track really gets fun and you’ll hear that same motif a lot throughout the aforementioned episode if you listen closely.
43. The Mad Man With a Box (and variations)
One of Murray Gold’s new-era tracks for The Eleventh Hour, The Madman With a Box has probably scooped up enough variations to reach the two digit figures. It’s one of the defining tracks of the Eleventh Doctor’s era and I’ll be sad to see it go when it inevitably does. Here are some of my favourites:
The Mad Man With a Box (Prologue) – The version heard in 2010 at the Royal Albert Hall. It’s mostly the same as the original but usually has some added vocals at the start that make for a more foreboding beginning.
The Sad Man With a Box – Murray Gold stays true to his shameless play on words as the Doctor bids what he thinks is his final farewell to Amy Pond. D’aww – grab the tissues!
Safe Landing – It’s The Mad Man With a Box – at Christmas! This one’s played as Madge Arwell is finally reunited with her husband. More tissues please. “Humany-wumany.” Actually, I’ll have the bucket.
42. A Voice in the Snow
It has a large enough portion of Christmas magic to be from The Snowman; showing Walter’s lonely childhood as he builds a snowman that wants more than just a hat and scarf. The track suddenly turns sinister, but then to keep us listening, there’s some more ‘Christmas’ atmosphere thrown in towards the end for good measure.
41. Day of the Moon
This track was originally intended as the score to the Doctor’s massacre of the Silence in Day of the Moon, until it was replaced at the last minute by The Majestic Tale. So we don’t hear the track again until The Girl Who Waited, until – in my opinion – a use that is just as if not more than apt for the track than the original.
When the soundtrack came out, this was my most anticipated track. It’s enormously powerful and extremely memorable.
40. Vale/Vale Decem
Vale and Vale Decem accompanied the Tenth Doctor’s tear-jerking farewell as he said a last goodbye to all his companions. ‘Vale’ is actually Latin for ‘farewell’, whereas ‘decem’ is Latin for ‘ten’. It’s not too hard to work it out but it’s nice to know that Gold put some attention into his lyrics.
Vale Decem could be a hymn, but it would have to be a funeral one; it’s incredibly melancholy and final, but it does one of my favourite Doctors the justice he deserves.
The Master Tape
One of the catchiest, nod-to-the-beat but menacing songs Murray Gold has ever composed.
Missed out because: I’m not sure. At the time it was at about 76th place and now I’m beginning to regret not including it. My challenge to you today is to listen to this piece without bobbing up and down on your chair.
Only Martha Knows
A calming, tranquil tune with an old-fashioned touch, Only Martha knows gradually develops into something more climatic as the truth about John Smith is revealed through a sequence of flashbacks.
Missed out because: Exactly the same as the above, perhaps save the bobbing. If I re-wrote this list today, it would probably come out higher.
A very recognisable Series Six piece that uses some terrific note clashes to create an eerie ambiance.
Missed out because: Again; lack of space.
Next Time: I look at some of the most frequently-recurring Doctor Who tracks