When it first aired in March 1987, The Caves of Androzani was immediately historically important for Doctor Who fans. It ended the show’s 21st season, and was the final serial of Peter Davison’s third year as the fifth doctor. In the last minutes of the adventure, Colin Baker made his first appearance as Davison’s successor.
In subsequent years, The Caves of Androzani has proved to be a fan favorite. In 2003, a 40th anniversary poll placed it in the number two slot. In 2009, Doctor Who Magazine readers rated it number one. It was released in several DVD packages with various commentary tracks in 2001 and 2010. Unless I miss my guess, it will be airing at the end of May this year on BBC-America as part of the Doctor Who 50th year celebration when it will be time to honor the fifth Time Lord. After all, Davison later claimed if all the scripts had been as good as this one, he’d have stayed on longer.
Now, for the first time since the 2005 relaunch of Doctor Who, Silva Screen has dug into the show’s archives to release a Doctor Who soundtrack. They chose to give us The Caves of Androzani. Naturally, the new disc opens and ends with the then-current version of Ron Grainer’s immortal theme. (Grainer, for the record, was responsible for many a classic TV theme including The Prisoner and the criminally neglected piano-driven Man in a Suitcase.) In between, we hear the music of composer Roger Limb with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the group that had worked on the program, in fits and starts, since 1963.
While he contributed to many BBC productions throughout his career, Limb is best known for his work on eight Doctor Who serials between 1981 and 1985. He’s credited with scoring some of the more memorable serials of the era, such as Revelation of the Daleks. (In 2005, he discussed his work on that story for the DVD release.) As his forte was futuristic electronic instrumentation, Limb was ideally suited for Doctor Who, especially as he was able to incorporate sounds from the new Clear Light CMI (Computer Music Instrument) and the latest Yamaha synthesizer. There’s no question his compositions added much to The Caves of Androzani, his seventh outing for the series. But how does his incidental music fare as a stand-alone soundtrack?
Ah, there’s the rub. Just looking over the track list of The Caves of Androzani and seeing 35 titles, it’s easy to see most of these pieces are short and truly incidental. After all, that was their purpose, to underline and support what viewers were seeing on the screen. There are no developed pieces that would serve, say, as good new age melodies for relaxation or meditation. On another level, they don’t flow together as a seamless, cohesive work. But, again, they were never intended for such. Just as the scenes in the show are typically short, strange, and episodic, so too the music.
The good news is that the music for The Caves of Androzani holds up in sound clarity, despite the fact it’s limited to a monophonic range as that was how it was originally recorded. Because it was very well re-engineered, listeners may be forgiven for thinking they’re getting a stereo experience even though we don’t hear the usual, as it were, spaciness and bouncing effects typical of the electronic music genre.
So, in the end, the soundtrack for The Caves of Androzani is a pleasant keepsake for classic Doctor Who fans who can match the images in their heads with the sounds in our speakers. We also get a very nice booklet with brief notes from Limb and a number of color photographs. Beyond the doctor’s very devoted audience, I’m not sure who else would appreciate the release. However, the fan base is not only likely to be grateful for this disc but hopeful that more are forthcoming.