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 Eight Legs are realised splendidly well, aurally speaking. Sound designer Martin Johnson has really managed to make them sound unerringly close to how they did thirty-odd years ago, with the voices of the relevant ‘possessed’ characters modulated in precisely the same way.
Behind the Scenes
The second story in a two-part finale directly follows on from The Eight Truths. Unlike the previous story that had the stellar manipulator as the threat to the Earth, Worldwide Web focuses more on our eight legged menace. The dynamic between our heroes and the enemy threat changes dramatically going into this story. No longer is the Doctor trying to convince the human race that the manipulator is being controlled by an alien force. It is one of very few times that he couldn’t prevent his unseen enemy for carrying out their plan. He is now trying to put a stop to the madness that was created by the Eight Legs and save the Earth from an invasion. The problem is that these mutated spiders have managed to get humanity to view their arrival as a good thing through the power of suggestion.
I had collaborated with Nicholas Briggs before on the Doctor Who: Unbound story Masters of War. He was taking the directorial role when Big Finish Productions company owner Jason Heigh-Ellery was unable to because of his many work commitments. Of course, Nick has been a part of every Big Finish story I’ve worked on as he is executive producer and has the final say on all aspects of production. The Eight Truths and Worldwide Web is the first time we have worked together in such capacity. As the director of the season three finale, Nick was in studio making sure his voice actors were on top form and on hand during my work on the post-production. After each stage of my contribution the edits are sent to him for approval. After listening to these edits he would then make notes on things that need changing or in some cases decide to cut bits altogether if they’re just not working on audio as intended in the script. Nick is a great director and understands every aspect of the audio production process. I’ve worked with some directors that don’t quite understand the way my creative imagination works but he does. He is also an amazing guy to work with and made my job feel easier when things might have become difficult.
The sound design for this story remains as the previous two episodes of The Eight Truths. Again I had turned to the 1974 story Planet of the Spiders to research the original sound effects of the Eight Legs. There are a few things I wanted to get right in the second part of the finale. The spider energy bolt and materialisation/dematerialisation needed to remain the same and was reconstructed using electronic synthesizers mixed with a poor recording of the original sound. This gave a new updated effect which was broadcast quality. Also in the original Pertwee story is a sound effect used when the Eight Legs cause pain to a host by using a powerful psychic pulse. When I read the script I knew the same pulse should be applied when the stellar manipulator is activated. I used the same technique as I did with the energy bolts but had to improvise around spoken voice and fill in the gaps.
When the countdown is completed and the manipulated is activated I decided to cut all sound and leave a high pitched frequency to suggest the level of noise that is being produced by this object. It makes it sound like you’re being temporarily deafened before your hearing is slowly restored and the world around you reappears with horrific distress.
Inside the huge sun is an empty white void of nothingness. I kept thinking of creating an updated version of the place the TARDIS lands in during the Patrick Troughton story The Mind Robber. When listening to a slowed down recording of the vacuum cleaner used in Masters of War I noticed a very odd low throbbing drone effect when it powered down. I increased the low frequencies, produced a repeating pattern and applied reverb. The sound effect now felt like the internal powerhouse of a synthetic sun.
Sometimes the little things get missed out when mentioning sound design. Blowing the roof from a car was created using a combination of banging on a large metal skip and rattling an oven tray on a hard floor. Running the car over a human body was a recording of a speed ramp from inside a car mixed with rolling large cardboard box down some concrete steps. There are hundreds of these little recordings that rarely get a look in.
The style of music for the second part of the finale carries on from the first. The two stories were produced at the same time much like the two-disc main range. This time the theme for the stellar manipulator is virtually gone and taking its place is the March of the Eight theme. At the end of the story an important character dies and I composed a piece of sad emotional music to underscore this scene. It is called Prophecies of the Eight and is a variation on both the March of the Eight theme and the stellar manipulator theme using strings and piano. Because what happens is completely out of character I scored the scene as I would on a film where a loved one dies. I wanted the listener to feel sad about the character that dies when maybe they shouldn’t. I also wanted the conflict of these feelings to cause confusion because when an emotional mind is confused it is easier to suggest that you should feel a certain way about something. If you’ve ever eaten too much chocolate and then cried over something so silly, maybe a film you’ve seen a dozen times before, then you know what I’m talking about. The huge intake of sugar confuses the mind and makes you susceptible to the smallest of things. In most cases it’s the music in those films that cause this.