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Doctor Who - The 50th Anniversary Collection

Doctor Who - The 50th Anniversary Collection followed in the footsteps of albums released to celebrate the Twentieth, Twenty-Fifth and Thirtieth Anniversaries, though none before had ever been so comprehensive.

The Twentieth Anniversary in 1983 was marked with the release of Doctor Who - The Music which mainly featured music from 1980-82; the oldest material (besides the 1963 theme tune) was a suite from The Sea Devils. The 25th Anniversary Album in 1988 proved similarly modern, mainly featuring music from 1987-8; and 30 Years at the Radiophonic Workshop was comprised almost exclusively of sound effects, albeit from across the full 30 years of the programme, marking it out as a reference album rather than a musical ones. The closest to a 'celebration' album released before was the 1994 Silva Screen compilation The Worlds of Doctor Who (and the two US versions, The Best of Doctor Who Volumes 1 & 2), which acted as album samplers for the range of Doctor Who material on the label - covering Fourth and Seventh Doctor scores, the re-release of The Music I & II and new music from spin-off videos. It was a great CD, but with some very noticeable gaps.

For the Fiftieth Anniversary release, producer Mark Ayres ensured that the collection was as representative of the full 1963-2013 period as surviving tapes allowed. For the first time on one release, he brought together Radiophonic Workshop material with that of freelance composers, significant library/stock music tracks, music from the US Television Movie, and Murray Gold's New Series compositions. Most importantly, the compilation did not just rely on material that had been released before: there was a wealth of previously-unreleased music from the Classic Series, covering stories and seasons that had been overlooked by earlier albums. The compilation was preceded in the 50th Anniversary year by some special Classic Series releases - The Caves of Androzani, The Krotons and Ghost Light - and a vinyl re-issue for the first New Series album, Doctor Who - Series 1 & 2, before the concept and track listings of the celebratory collection was announced.

Back in 1993, Ayres' sleevenote to Pyramids of Mars had stated that nearly all of Doctor Who's music tapes - and certainly all those composed by Dudley Simpson - were lost, absent from the BBC archives. Only the Radiophonic Workshop's contributions survived to represent the Sixties and Seventies, and much of this was unlabelled at the time. As both the Workshop's archivist and the sound restoration expert of the Doctor Who Restoration Team, Ayes had been seeking, archiving and restoring Doctor Who material near-continuously since the late Nineties, and the 50th Anniversary albums served as an impressive reminder of just how much he had managed to save.

The Releases

11 discs, one for each TV Doctor, featuring over 14 hours of material
4 discs of highlights, including some unique edits and extra tracks, lasting over 5 hours
2 discs of highlights, featuring further unique tracks, running over 2 and a half hours

Silva Screen announced the three versions of The 50th Anniversary Collection simultaneously. The eleven-disc version was initially conceived as a limited edition release fixed to 1,000 copies, but demand prompted Silva Screen to re-gauge interest, enrol fans through email lists, and eventually offer a period of pre-sale where unlimited copies could be pre-ordered between two fixed dates. Although it was initially conceived as a special collector's product, exclusively packaged in a wooden police box cupboard (nicknamed 'The TARDIS Edition'), at the last minute (on the day before pre-sales opened) the company announced a duplicate version without the extensive packaging, available at half the price ('The Eleven Disc Edition').

The four-disc version (released first, in December 2013) retailed through normal outlets, and contained substantial highlights from the collection, whilst a two-disc version (the same material, cut-down) was marketed in the US. Speaking to Examiner in December 2013, Mark Ayres explained: "My understanding is that a 4-CD set containing 129 items is pretty much un-licensable in the US, hence the 2-CD set containing 45 tracks. I started with the 11-CD set, created a 4-CD set from that, and then was asked to further distil it to two CDs for the US."

Blogtor Who was the best place to read about the eleven-disc set, starting with this post from November 2013 about the first disc and continuing with discs two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten and eleven. As well as highlights from Mark Ayres' essay for the booklet, the blog reproduced composer notes from Brian Hodgson, Dick Mills, Dudley Simpson, Peter Howell, Paddy Kingsland, Roger Limb, Elizabeth Parker, Jonathan Gibbs, Dominic Glynn, Keff McCulloch and Ayres himself.

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