TORCHWOOD: ORIGINAL TELEVISION SOUNDTRACK Ben Foster & Murray Gold



SILCD1267
CD released 22nd September 2008
MP3 downloads currently available from Silva Screen


I've been rather ambivalent about both series of Torchwood to date and I still feel it hasn't yet found its feet. The proposed Children Of Earth 5 episode epic promised for Spring 2009 will I hope be the specific shakedown that the format still needs. However, one thing that I'm impressed with on the series is the music composed by Murray Gold and Ben Foster. Boy, they've kept us waiting for a CD release but it's worth it. The album boasts 32 cues with a total of 78 minutes of music so you certainly get your money's worth here.

Murray's work is actually limited here to work he did for Series 1. I believe he covered the theme, the incidentals for the first and fourth episodes of Series 1 and then handed duties over to Ben Foster. Ben, an alumnus of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama has been orchestrator and conductor for Doctor Who, and has collaborated with Murray on many other projects including the films Alien Autopsy, I Want Candy and Death At A Funeral. Ben has also orchestrated scores for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The League Of Gentlemen.

His work for Torchwood has so far received nominations for Best Music at the 2006 and 2007 BAFTA Cymru Awards. Many of us will also have seen Ben brilliantly conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Doctor Who: A Celebration, which was held at the Wales Millennium Centre in November 2006 as well as similar duties conducting the BBC Philharmonic at this year's Doctor Who Prom.

...a surprising and welcome expansion beyond the original work
So, here we get some of Murray's cues from the very first episode of Torchwood and the main theme. The theme is the same opening titles music you'd recognise - all shifting strings, treated vocals and urgent rhythms - but it then segues into a selection of the incidentals for the show and adds a driving piano motif. It's a surprising and welcome expansion beyond the original work. There are also some creepy electronic tonalities in the incidentals for the very first episode of the series, Everything Changes, that bear the Murray Gold 'experimental' trade mark.

The rest is a well deserved showcase of Ben Foster's work on both series to date. Foster's approach is to put a singular emphasis on the lush use of the string section of the orchestra whereas Gold often goes for more brass and woodwind. Both composers also have a pop sensibility and will throw in electronic washes and beats as well as electric and acoustic guitars. And Doctor Who is a very different beast, where Gold is not only trying to provide a consistency overall but is also putting together soundscapes for 13 episodes that have a different setting and flavour week in week out. What's clear here is that Foster has created a rich, consistent mood for Torchwood that's much darker, more melancholic than the more schizophrenic qualities of Doctor Who. His aim is to get under the skin of the characters in the series, give them definite themes and motifs as well as musically framing the series darker settings. Series 2 is given greater representation here and I think justly so, no matter what you think of the quality of the individual episodes themselves, because the trajectory of Series 2 was the loss of two main characters, Owen and Toshiko and the tragedy of Jack's past catching up with him in the form of his brother Gray.
...that builds and builds into a smashing piece of epic music and is as good as anything Gold has provided for Doctor Who
The tragic nature of the Gray story arc is brilliantly evoked by Memories Of Gray and Gray's Theme (from Adam and Exit Wounds) where the vocal talents of Annalise Whittlesea, combined with fabulous strings, create an elegaic mood for the character's downfall. The themes for Owen Harper and Toshiko Sato are also given plenty of room here with the utterly wonderful Owen's Theme; a subtly shifting piano and guitar motif with bold colouration from strings and those recognisable Torchwood electronic tonalities that builds and builds into a smashing piece of epic music and is as good as anything Gold has provided for Doctor Who, and Death Of Doctor Owen Harper; a lovely orchestral piece with choir and a repeat of the piano motif. This is again used on Owen Fights Death to even greater effect when the piano motif is given a full blown orchestration and develops into a huge, epic piece that gradually gathers speed. Toshiko gets a melancholic theme played on woodwind in Toshiko Sato - Betrayal And Redemption, combined with urgently driving percussion and strings with a final coda on what sounds like an oboe which is often reminiscent of Gold's score for Blink.
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Captain Jack is represented by a thrilling theme of chugging strings, brass flourishes, pulsing electronics, guitars and crashing percussion, iterations of which are heard throughout the series, and it is certainly a highlight of the album. In contrast you also have Jack's Love Theme that again showcases Foster's use of strings and piano and is a much slower, more contemplative piece. I also love the Jack Joins Torchwood theme too, using that little Torchwood signature with woodwind and strings to slowly build up to a variation on Jack's theme proper.
Pearl And The Ghostmaker shows that Foster can deliver something slightly different in its use of a slowed down carnival motif
Welcome to Planet Earth is supremely poignant and has a feel of Michael Tippett with those high strings. The Chase is a theme from Sleepers and watching at the time I thought the music was exceptional and had moved on a level from Series 1. It drives along energetically and is a very rousing action theme. Pearl And The Ghostmaker shows that Foster can deliver something slightly different in its use of a slowed down carnival motif and that signature passage of piano that's almost vaudeville like in feel combined with the harps. Definitely the music is a stand out element from a very risible episode.

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There are some other equally good moments - I Believe In Him - a sensitive piece of orchestration and piano, Goodbyes - the moving and sad coda to Exit Wounds that encompasses passages of the Owen and Tosh themes, Death Of Toshiko - stunningly beautiful and highly reminiscent of the Philip Glass music from The Hours. Special mention to for the achingly sad music for Adrift - both A Boy Called Jonah and Flat Holm Island are gorgeous chamber pieces that were a notable element that went into the success of that episode. The album closes with The End is Where We Start From. Appropriate that we leave Torchwood at that point as the music signals a triumphant moment of hope that the remaining members will carry on. The Mahler like sweeping strings are joined by percussive beats and an uplifting coda. Lovely.

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This is an exceptional album with hardly a duff track but perhaps it's a little too melancholic for those used to the more ebullient and triumphal music that's become much loved in Doctor Who. It might not get the big concert adulation that Gold's music has but Foster is as equally gifted a composer. Torchwood is darker and the music reflects this but it's no worse for that with its concentration on themes for each of the characters and their respective story arcs. Judging by the splendid compositions here, I for one would be interested to see what Ben Foster could do with Doctor Who itself.

Torchwood Series 2 Reviews: Torchwood Archive

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Comments
4 Responses to “TORCHWOOD: ORIGINAL TELEVISION SOUNDTRACK Ben Foster & Murray Gold”
  1. Jason says:

    Thanks for a thoughtful and deep review. I've been listening to the soundtrack this afternoon and enjoyed it a lot, but you've managed to put it into words :)

  2. FRANK says:

    Thanks, Jason.

    Glad you enjoyed the album. The series itself may have its ups and downs but Ben Foster's music is to be cherished.

    F

  3. John says:

    Thanks for a really useful review of the album.

    I feel like I'm the only person in the world who is a total Torchwood nut, yet completely disinterested in Doctor Who. I absolutely adore Torchwood's darker feel, and the music is a huge factor in creating that.

    Glad you picked out Owen's Theme, as I think that's a truly superb piece, bringing to mind his beautifully shot death scene - one of the few scenes in TV to turn me into a sobbing wreck.

    As for the show itself being up-and-down, sorry but no - for me, it's the most refreshing thing I've seen on TV in years. The only downs for me are occasional daft episodes like Something Borrowed, where it feels a bit too much like Doctor Who. Ah well, we'll agree to disagree I guess :o)

    Thanks again!

  4. FRANK says:

    John,

    There are plenty of Torchwood nuts out there who couldn't give a fig for Doctor Who and vice versa I'm sure. Horses for courses. I haven't let my personal disappointment with Torchwood to blind me to some of its better qualities. The music being one them. I think Torchwood can become a consistently good series but it isn't there yet.

    I was much more affected by Tosh's death, personally. She was a great character and din't deserve her fate. Owen, on the other hand....:)

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