- Review by Leo Mayr - March 6, 2019
The day I dreaded for years was finally here when, back in early 2018, composer Murray Gold announced that he would not be returning to score the 11th season of Doctor Who. Gold’s music has been a vital part of the show since its revival in 2005, and over the span of that time Gold has delivered some of the most well-crafted television scores in recent memory.
Now that we finally have our hands on the first season scored by newcomer Segun Akinola, I have to admit that my worries about the show’s future have been proven wrong. Akinola delivers a wonderful and exciting score that honors the show’s history and boldly treads new ground for this new era of Doctor Who.
The main theme to Doctor Who has been engrained in the show since the very beginning, so it’s no surprise to hear it again here. Akinola has done an admirable job at infusing the theme with his own, fresh voice while also staying true to the show’s history.
Akinola’s score feels a lot more modern and ambient, compared to Gold’s, at times almost over the top orchestral compositions. Akinola embraces subtle electronic textures to masterfully flesh out the new worlds and characters, giving the score a unique and wonderful feeling that is both new and exciting, while also still being unmistakably Doctor Who.
The new Doctor’s theme, best heard in “Thirteen” is the piece that is most reminiscent of Gold’s music, but the similarities end here. Akinola’s use of electronic textures and unique sounds makes for a stunning and interesting experience, with more than a few spectacular moments that are worth revisiting time and time again. There’s an abundance of lengthy cues that are executed flawlessly, most notably the tracks “Tsuranga” and “Kerblam”. Overall, the 2-disc album features an unusual number of longer cues that wonderfully showcase Akinola’s talent for writing engaging and unique music to picture.
While no themes besides the main theme have survived the change of composers, Akinola fleshes out the show’s universe with a collection recurring sounds and motifs that pop up in all the right places, creating a nice sense of continuity throughout the season. The “Thirteen” theme also serves as a nice narrative guide throughout the score, starting out feeling quite raw and unpolished before slowly settling into a bolder, heroic theme. There’s a stunning sense of development in hearing the music start out fresh and unpolished in the first couple of episodes, leading up to the spectacular new year’s special, this season’s musical highlight. There’s just something really satisfying about hearing a theme grow over the course of 11 episodes and boldly closing out the season.
With the latest season of Doctor Who, Segun Akinola has achieved something remarkable. Akinola’s score embraces both the show’s long history and the exciting new territory ahead. The score could hardly feel more different from the music that came before, yet at its core, Akinola’s music is still unmistakably Doctor Who.
Doctor Who: Series 11 delivers what you’ve come to expect from the show and much, much more. While I had my doubts at first, the bold new direction the show is headed in has me more than excited for the future.