The Eight Truths
London, 2015. The Doctor’s looking for a lost space probe. Lucie Miller’s feeling just plain lost, on a world she no longer quite belongs to. Perhaps there’s someone who can help. A chance encounter with an old sparring partner leads Lucie to the Eightfold Truth – a bunch of crystal-bearing cranks who reckon a rebel sun is on its way to purge the Earth. As if! But what if they’re right? The apocalypse is upon us. As humankind counts down the last days of its existence, the Doctor races to unmask the Eightfold Truth – and uncovers an old and deadly enemy.
The production is solid, with Martin Johnson’s sound design and music occasionally reminiscent of this story’s prequel.
Behind the Scenes
The Eight Truths has a lot of parallels to its 1974 prequel Planet of Spiders starring Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor. When I read the script I found myself imagining Pertwee in the role rather than McGann and Elisabeth Sladen as the Doctor’s companion Sarah Jane Smith instead of Sheridan Smith’s Lucie Miller. I couldn’t help it! Writer Eddie Robson seems to have created a story that feels like classic Who but with a New Series flair. I wanted the production to reflect this classic feel through the sound design and music.
I have Planet of Spiders on VHS so I watched it for research, and yes I do still have a video player for occasions such as this because there are many Doctor Who stories not yet released on DVD, though some no longer exist due to the BBC wiping stories before they had an archival policy in 1978. It is a fantastic story and Pertwee is on top form before his regeneration into fourth Doctor Tom Baker. After watching this story I turned my attention to the sound effect used for the voice of the Eight Legs. I wanted to recreate this effect for The Eight Truths and Worldwide Web.
The Planet of Spiders VHS took some wear and tear while I was recreating some of the story’s most recognisable sound effects. I spent a couple of days getting the Eight Legs voice spot on. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless all the 1974 sound effects were recreated as faithfully as possible. I took the ‘spider’ voice at the end of part one and patched it through a flanging processor. It took quite a few attempts to get the adjustments right because there is a very slight reverb effect added too, which is hard to hear on a poorly recorded VHS.
The one location I wanted to sound as if it came straight from the classic series is the tracking station. I filled the background noise with old dot matrix printers and those fridge sized magnetic tape machines. Not exactly the technology of 2015, but a modern day scientific space facility wouldn’t be quite as sonically interesting.
There is a rather crude device that the Doctor gives Kelly to convince people that this second sun is being controlled by someone and not a natural phenomenon. Kelly activates the device and sends a huge beam of electrical energy into the sky to turn the stellar manipulator green. I used a trick I learned from sound designer Ben Burt when he created the laser blaster effect on Star Wars. Take a metal slinky, hang it at a good height from one end so that it doesn’t touch the ground, place a microphone at the bottom end and when you tap the slinky it produces the recognisable sound of a laser blast. This happens because the high frequency vibrations travel much faster through the metal coil than the low frequency vibrations. I love creating sound design from random objects like this. It’s the reason why this job is so much fun!
I had to come up with a way to indicate that a Metabilis crystal was present in a scene and being used to manipulate the minds of suggestible subjects. Mixing together various percussive instruments with some electronic effects gave a distinct crystal-like sound. It wasn’t quite working so I cut some of the lower frequencies. It became more visual and mysterious in my mind. It worked.
Unlike the previous eighth Doctor story I worked on, Hothouse, the music in The Eight Truths is theme driven. The first theme we hear is during a tracking station scene and is the music for the stellar manipulator. I composed a few variations on this theme because it is the main driving force in the story. Sure, the Eight Legs are the main threat but the manipulator has been a part of this third season since the first story Orbis and it is now looming over the Earth just waiting to be activated once again. The second theme is heard at the end of the story. It is a composition I call March of the Eight and it represents our eight legged menace and the army they bring upon the human race. The rest of the music score is a variety of cues inspired by Dudley Simpson and his incidental music for the 1974 story Planet of the Spiders. Because I wanted to follow the same classic series feel as Eddie Robson’s script I saw this direction as the best way to go. It works very well while retaining some of that new series action when things get a little faster. All I had to do is compose with instruments like the harp, clarinet, a bit of brass and various drums and the listener should be instantly transported back to the 70’s. I did think about processing the music score to feel like it’s an old classic series recording but decided against it for quality control purposes.