Reviews | Written by Paul Mount 07/04/2020

DOCTOR WHO – SERIES 12

COMPOSER: SEGUN AKINOLA | LABEL: SILVA SCREEN RECORDS | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Murray Gold provided numerous reworkings of the iconic Doctor Who theme alongside all the incidental music for the first ten seasons and associated special episodes of the 21st-century version of the show between 2005 and 2010. His incidental music, in particular, was often hugely memorable and he proved adept at creating earworm ‘themes’ for recurring characters, great sweeping orchestral extravaganzas for more heart-stopping moments of drama and spectacle and mournful, melancholic soundscapes for the show’s poignant and emotional sequences. When he quit the show in 2010, he left an aural void that was always going to be hard to fill. 27-year-old Segun Akinola, who has now provided the music for the two subsequent seasons curated by showrunner Chris Chibnall, appears to have a rather different musical approach to Gold who is all about the tone and the tunes. Akinola’s work – especially in Season 11 – was significantly less concerned with themes and motifs and beyond his moody version of the theme tune and some haunting pieces in Jodie Whittaker’s first episode, his Season 11 soundtrack came and went without really making much of an impression.

Season 12 upped the game not only in regard to the series itself but also to Akinola’s own contribution. Where much of his season 11 score was discordant and atmospheric, the changed dynamic of the series itself seems to have focussed him a little and this new 48 track 2 CD presents not only Akinola’s heartiest work for the series but also, here and there, tunes that rival some of the best of his predecessor.

Season 12 blew the cobwebs off Doctor Who as a series by rediscovering its sense of action, adventure and serious jeopardy. Akinola reflects this in sturdy, powerful tracks which underscored the high-paced hi-jinks on screen. This is best demonstrated by the suite of tracks from the giddy season opener ‘Spyfall’ where Akinola clearly revels in crafting a score which cheekily riffs on the episode’s James Bond affectations; ‘Doctor, the Doctor’ and ‘Going Undercover’ are thrillingly Bondian, muted, lush beats followed by brass stabs, and urgent staccato rhythms as the Doctor and her team infiltrate the villain’s lair and set off on a high-speed hot pursuit chase. ‘The Spy Master’ superbly conjures up the growing sense of unease and gradual realisation as the Doctor’s “best enemy” emerges from his apparently-benign alter ego. Across the whole collection, Akinola seems to have nailed exactly what’s required to support the episodes from the percussive clatter of ‘Praxeus’ to the military crunch of ‘Ascension of the Cybermen’ and the doomy portents of ‘The Timeless Children’. But he still favours a ‘less is more’ approach here and there, and this set is still full of quieter, more reflective moments punctuated by subtle background atmospherics that serve the narrative rather than drown it, an unfortunate tendency of some of Gold’s more bombastic work.  

The ‘Spyfall’ suite is the best stuff here (some of its motifs drift in and out of other tracks) – much as the story itself was the best and most joyous of the season – but even duff episodes like ‘Orphan 55’ and ‘Praxeus’ are gifted powerful and emotive scores - and the pacey, urgent music of ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ deftly captures the constantly-surprising and unpredictable turns of the episode’s plot. Constantly inventive, often heart-poundingly-thrilling and only very occasionally drifting into a wall of sonic fuzz, the Season 12 soundtrack is a huge step up from Akinola’s forgettable music for the previous season and really allows him to show what he’s capable of when he’s working with material that deserves and demands a high octane approach.