Now this is a real treat. Edmund Butt’s score to Mark Gatiss’ terrific Doctor Who drama. You all remember An Adventure in Space and Time, don’t you? It’s the 90 minutes last year that made several generations of Who fans get all moist-eyed and nostalgic, some for a time they weren’t even alive in.
An Adventure in Space and Time was an ensemble work of love and nostalgia for the show and everyone orbiting it. A near-perfect dramatic presentation of words and performance embossed by award-winning composer Butt (best known for Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes) and his melodies for times long gone and well-remembered. His is a musical achievement that made a heartfelt story all the more engrossing.
Separated from the rest of the show it stands up well. Most of the 25 pieces are almost unassumingly short, but each is distinctive and beautifully constructed enough to command your attention, with elegant arrangements that are hugely emotional without ever feeling overblown. And every so often something extra special will happen; something that makes you stop and prick up your ears and take a moment to let the notes touch a nerve. Like a musical anatomist, Butt is a composer able to reach through your ears and tug at your heartstrings.
This is beautiful, nuanced work. A musical time tunnel that will take you back to the dramatic highlights of those 90 minutes, and all the feelings they solicited. Not only that, it shows that if Murray Gold ever calls time on his tenure as composer on Doctor Who, Butt must surely be on the list of composers ready to step in.
As always, we summoned up all our piss and vinegar like Sydney Newman told us to, checked the fornicator, and picked our 5 favourite tracks…
A delirious helter skelter of the cheeky, dark, and whimsical. Well, that’s what Doctor Who is. Carry on.
Murray Gold has soundtracked modern Dalek invasions with fevered choral, but for their first ever appearance on our screens Butt fittingly communicates the menace and mystery of the Daleks with something simpler, more enigmatic and cold. Listen to that cello chew menacingly through the aggressive pulse of strings and horn, like a Dalek trundling menacingly along a corridor, perhaps chasing after an escaped cello.
The ‘pop pop pop!’ of the self-made caricature Sydney Newman in summarised in one enthusiastic minute of swagger and ebullience, with just a touch of transatlantic Broadway glamour thrown in in the final few seconds.
No doubt at some point someone’s going to put this track over the First Doctor’s actual farewell speech to Susan from ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ and, copyright enforcement lawyers aside, who could blame them. It is a beautiful piece of music. Neither too maudlin, nor too hopeful, but full of heart; the perfect ‘so long then’. Play it in the background the next time you have to drop someone off at the airport. You won’t even make it to the ticket barrier before bursting into tears.
‘The New Doctor’
That moment, as old William Hartnell (David Bradley) fires up the TARDIS for the final time and sees Matt Smith standing at the controls, will be replayed in exquisite detail in your mind as you listen to this. No kidding. Butt’s composition here is a show of range and emotional power, as the delicate choral fades into a Vaughan Williams-y arrangement of strings and flute, and then a mellifluence reminiscent of composer James Horner’s stunning work on A Beautiful Mind. If the hairs on the back of your neck don’t stand up at least once while listening to this, then you’re either dead inside or have just had a very thorough wax.
Released on Monday 3 March 2014 by Silva Screen Records.
What’s your favourite track on the album? Let us know below…