Co-written with the lovely Suzanne Walker. You can find her over at Cognitive Recalibration.
SPOILER ALERT for endings of Doctor Who series 2 & 4, and Battlestar Galatica generally.
So what if you leave us in floods of tears? That's good television. That's great television.
Benjamin Cook, in Doctor Who: A Writer’s Tale
If there’s one thing we love, it’s a movie or show that tugs at our heartstrings, that almost begs us to love it. Of course, there are many of these pieces, and many ways to do it. But we would argue that there is one absolutely brilliant way to do it -- and that is through music. Movies or TV with marvelous, inspiring soundtracks are still not an everyday occurence, so when the brilliant ones come along, we take note. And these are ones that deserve much notice.
Doomsday by Murray Gold
In terms of number of tears shed, it’s hard to beat the series 2 finale of Doctor Who. And a good portion of that is due to Murray Gold’s stunning work here -- so simple, yet so elegant and effective. Starting with a simple piano keeping time alongside vocals perfectly accompanies the devastating moment when the Void closes, the Doctor trapped on one side and Rose on the other. You can almost see their faces pressing up against the wall that won’t let them through. The bass added provides a gorgeous segue to the time that passes for Rose, the driving, the final meeting with the Doctor on Bad Wolf Bay, and the utter heartbreak that happens there.
Song of Freedom by Murray Gold
But Murray Gold can write happy music as well. And if there's anything happier than this, well, I don't know it. The universe has been saved. All the Doctor's companions are flying the TARDIS back home with him. There are hugs, smiles, laughs, and for one moment, one shining moment, you can believe that everything will be alright, and that this show won't tear our hearts to pieces again.
Concerning Hobbits by Howard Shore
Professor Tolkien, always known for his brevity, wrote ten pages at the beginning of the trilogy concerning hobbits. This track of the same name manages to do all that Tolkien did and more, in less than three minutes. From it's opening notes, the music itself takes you skipping and running through the lush green forests of the Shire and jumping into Gandalf's arms. It's homey and whimsical sounds fade to more serious themes as Gandalf begins to worry, and then to the simple joy of children, and of being alive and home at Bag End.
The Return of the King by Howard Shore
Such a grand tale as the Lord of the Rings does not end neatly, nor all at once. It's the beginning of the end, the start of a new age, a grand day of coronation, as the splendor of Gondor is out in full force with grand orchestration. But all instruments drop away for the key moment -- Aragorn's invocation of Elendil's words when he set foot upon Middle Earth -- splendidly sung by Viggo Mortensen. Arwen's theme returns for her entrance and acceptance, and then it returns to the gorgeous sweeping theme of the Fellowship as the king, and thus the entire kingdom, bows to the four honored and surprised hobbits. The journey back again takes place under Frodo's narration, with the flute theme of "May It Be" coming in as they enter the Shire once more. Sitting in the Green Dragon together, it's almost a sad moment as the four hobbits, who have been through so much, toast amidst their fellows who have seen so little. That is, until Sam spots Rosie, and the familiar bouncy theme of the Shire comes back, and all is well with the world.
The Ballad of Serenity by Joss Whedon
One can argue that this isn't a soundtrack, it's a theme song. And you'd probably be right. But I don't care. Because in the beauty of this simple, Western-sounding ballad is the struggle to survive. Firefly does not pretend to meet with noble people, to see great battles, to do grand deeds. There is no claim to conquer the universe, no attempt to tame the wild, no desire to boldly go where no man has gone before. All there is is a yearning to be free, in the sky. As Mal says, "We're still flying." Simon replies that after all that's happened to them, "That's not much." But, "It's enough."
Roslin and Adama by Bear McCreary
I'm usually not one for love themes. Far too often they're cheesy, over-the-top, what have you. But Roslin and Adama deserve--and receive--so much more than that. This is simple, haunting, tragic. It conveys the extent to which these two care about each other, the yearning that they have for each other even as they're confronted by Roslin's illness or any crisis of the day they face as Admiral and President. And, in the end, it conveys the simplistic beauty of their love. I think about it whenever I think about any of my OTPs, nowadays. And it still gives me chills every time.
Will and Elizabeth by Klaus Badelt
Pirates of the Caribbean music is so much fun, you guys. Every time this soundtrack comes on my iPod I get into a fantastically swashbuckling mood. But I think this one is my favorite, if only for the swordfighting scene it accompanies. "And I practice with them...three hours a day!""You need to find yourself a girl, mate."
Fireworks by Nicholas Hooper
If any song were to describe the Weasley twins, of course it would be this one. It's madcap, and fun, and speaks so well to all the things we love about the Wizarding world. Because of course, if you can't stick it to Umbridge in a serious way, you're going to do it with explosions, sparks and color. And this captures that so well.
The Pointy End by Ramin Djawadi
Again, I love the entirety of the Game of Thrones soundtrack, but this is my absolute favorite, if only because it so accurately conveys what it should be like for Arya, the water dancer, to learn swordplay from Syrio Forel. It is lilting, slow, but oh so very deliberate. It is a dance, and a deadly one. Gorgeous.
Wander My Friends by Bear McCreary