Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review Friday: Fish Custard

In my recent blogging hiatus, I decided it was high time to see what all this fuss surrounding Doctor Who was about. I watched my first ever episode, The Impossible Astronaut, exactly a week before my twenty-second birthday. In the space of about a month, a friend lent me each of the boxsets starting on season 5 to fill in the Eleventh Doctor's story, and then back to series one to fill in all the fun from the Ninth and Tenth incarnations.

It took me a grand total of about 2 minutes to completely fall in love with the show. I am totally in awe of the acting abilities of all the involved cast who brought the characters to life. I am also constantly blown away by the intricate writing abilities of Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, and all the rest of the writers who passionately contribute their imaginations to the show. BUT, that's not what I'm reviewing today.

I've been listening to the soundtrack* from Season 5, and while I'd like to review the soundtrack as a whole, I feel like there are a few stand-out tracks that really deserve a review post of their own. One such track is "Fish Custard". If you haven't watched the series and intend to, be aware that there are spoilers ahead. If you want to watch the series without having it all spoiled for you (which I highly recommend - Doctor Who is one of those things that should never be spoilt), I suggest you turn back now. Once you've caught up, then, feel free to come back and read, but don't say I didn't warn you.


The track "Fish Custard" is played during the scene where little Amelia Pond is letting the Doctor into her house and offering him food to eat. Eleven** is still very newly regenerated, and adjusting to his new body. He requests several different types of food, all of which he expresses his taste for before he tries, and promptly spits out and changes his mind upon tasting. At the end, he finally finds what he needs to eat. Fish fingers and custard. Together. The scene is very quirky and comedic and that is exactly what Murray Gold injects into the music. This is one track that I can listen to and instantly picture exactly what was going on.

The track starts with some sparse pizzicato, channelling some tip-toeing vibe. Already the track is perfectly endearing, and complements Matt Smith's new portrayal of the Doctor beautifully. The track bends and sways with lilting strings and brass, punctuated by woodwinds and quirky percussion, breaking off and building back up with each failed food. At one point, the orchestra*** strikes a dissonant, suspended chord, as the Doctor flings a plate of food - this time bread and butter - out the front door, "AND STAY OUT".

The oboe's tone makes it perfect to audibly describe the new doctor's inquisitive, bizarre nature, as he rediscovers himself. One of the reasons I absolutely love this scene is that it's the perfect opportunity for the audience to rediscover the Doctor as well. This was so, so necessary for this particular regeneration, considering the extreme popularity of his previous regenerated form, portrayed by the ever-charming David Tennant. When you lose such a loveable face, it can make it really easy to spite the next one, simply because it isn't the last. As a fan of the show though, it's one of those facts you just have to come to accept. But I digress.

Later on in the track, after all these failed foods, the pace of the track picks up a bit. It signals that the trial-and-error phase is over, and now, he has a rough idea of what he wants, but he just can't put his finger on it. Apparently carrots are not it ("Are you insane?") and as he takes over the search, the music keeps building and getting even more frantic, until he finds exactly what his new taste buds have been looking for - Fish Fingers and Custard. Here, the music hits its peak and ends boldly on a dominant chord. It feels finished, but not quite, like a sentence finishing on a comma. It's perfect though, because the musical silence that follows is perfect for the next part of the story.

The music doesn't take over the whole scene, rather, it lifts it to a whole nother level, which is exactly what it should do. As a whole, the track gives us clues to the Doctors new character, provides emotional - in this case, comedic - cues, and put's the whole audience into Little Amelia's shoes. It musically describes the scene without spelling it out or stealing the spotlight. But it's still distinctive enough that you can listen to it on its own and the scene floods back into your head. As far as I am concerned, this track, this crucial element, has been what has made this particular scene so memorable. Of course, it wouldn't have been without Matt's incredible performance either; and I in no way suggest otherwise, but the track pulls the whole thing together. Murray Gold has done a fabulous job yet again, and reflects the enthusiasm and gusto and passion for the show that seems to echo and emanate from everybody involved.

I can just imagine being a member of the orchestra. Being in one myself, I know full well that you have certain pieces that you adore more than the most for whatever reason. It could be a particularly difficult piece that took you forever to get but you finally mastered, and now you love it. It could be that piece that wells up some deep emotion right from the pit of your stomach. Or it could be one like this. Quirky, fun, and full of attitude. I imagine quite a few BBC musicians list this one among their favourites.

I'm going to end it there. It is stupidly late again, which means I need to stop writing before my ability slips, if it hasn't already. Thank goodness I did restrict the review to just one track, otherwise I'd be here all night.

Hope you all have a nice weekend, I'll be back on Sunday with a report on this week's creative endeavours.

Love :D

This reviewed item out of 5: Definitely *****
Average stars this year: 5

Days I've kept this going: 3

*I should mention at this point that I'm going to be reviewing LOTS of soundtracks. They make up about 70% of what I listen to at the moment, the other 30% consisting of classical music (about 25%) and whatever else on my iTunes takes my fancy.

**I will henceforth refer to the Doctors by their regeneration number. Eleven refers to the regeneration played by Matt Smith, who is the current Doctor, and will be up until the 50th anniversary year 2013, so we have recently heard.

***BBC National Orchestra of Wales if you were wondering. They do, and have done, all the soundtrack work on the modern series, and they're phenomenal and severely underrated as an orchestra.


  1. Wales, Wales, WALES!!! Not the BBC National Orchestra of Whales!! They'd just be playing (imagine Dory from Finding Nemo here...) oooOOOooo__ooOOOOOo000oo!

    And yes, I take the credit for initiating you into the world of the little blue box that is bigger on the inside ;)

  2. Haha, mistake noted and corrected. Do note the publishing time of this post.