Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-oooo-eeee-oooooh-eeeee-ooooooooooh-ooh-eee-oooh-ooh-eeeeee-ooooh. One of the most famous theme tunes around, it’s been heard on and off since 1963, pre-dating Star Trek by three years. And if you’re good at math (I’m not, I had to look this up) you’ll notice this year is Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, so to celebrate Silva Screen are kicking off a series of classic Who soundtracks starting with 1984’s The Caves of Androzani.
Funnily enough, my interest in Who started around that time, and for me, Peter Davison was my Doctor (although I’ve since grown to love Tom Baker). I enjoyed some of the new series, but it’s never really connected with me, so I was excited to go back in my DeLorean and experience Who’s music via Nostalgia-Vision. That said, I don’t remember if I’ve ever seen The Caves of Androzani, although I know I haven’t revisited it as an adult.
In any case, I’m actually really surprised after listening to the album, although given the time period it was produced in I probably shouldn’t be. I think I was expecting something heroically melodic (I guess maybe I was stuck in Murray Gold-mode) but instead was drawn into a fascinatingly atonal and grey world. From the sound palette composer Roger Limb uses, I’d hazard a guess that he was a big fan of a certain John Carpenter, and perhaps Alan “In Association With” Howarth.
This isn’t solely in reference to the fact that the score is entirely electronic – which potentially could have been a cost issue as much as a conscious choice, given the older Who’s infamy regarding budget or lack thereof – but the general tones and atmosphere Limb has created. I’m a big fan of Carpenter because his horror scores have a certain structure to them, where he builds them up with a palpable sense of dread. Limb seems to be drawing from this, although I would say it’s inspiration as opposed to plagiarism, as while there is a heavy sense of foreboding and tension that Limb uses to interesting effect, it’s more shades of Carpenter as opposed to direct quotation.
What’s interesting is it does fit in with the general aesthetic of the electronic writing of the time. There are hints of Vangelis, a couple of parts that remind me of Arthur Rubinstein’s score for Blue Thunder, and a more obvious one in Brad Fiedel’s The Terminator, although curiously that film was not released in the UK until January 1985, ten months after the transmission of Caves. One nod I do think was intentional is the use of a low electronic choir, also used by John Williams for some of the music of the Emperor in the previous year’s Return of the Jedi.
Limb uses a lot of interesting effects to create a quite unsettling atmosphere, with a lot of echoing percussion and pulses, odd time signatures, ethereal high synth notes and what I can only describe as an “electronic rattlesnake”. It doesn’t always work, and some of the percussion is over the top, but the instrumentation and technique he uses always keeps you on the edge. However, I will say that the score is dissonant across the board, which may put some people off.
The Caves of Androzani is an interesting score and has been served well by Silva’s album release with its excellent sound quality. It’s not the easiest score to listen to given its darker and more atonal qualities, but it’s definitely a rewarding one.
DR WHO AND THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI is out now from Silva Screen Records
Words: Charlie Brigden