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Dr Who

Up to date as of January 31, 2010
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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

This article is written from the Real World point of view. TARDIS

The Doctor Who theme was composed by Ron Grainer and made its debut with the first episode of the Doctor Who series in 1963. Although it has undergone many rearrangements, this piece of music has remained the sole theme for the series throughout its history, making it one of the most recognizable television themes in history. It has also been used for all licensed works featuring the central Doctor Who, with the exception of the two Peter Cushing films of the mid-1960s.

The original version of the theme (heard from 1963 to 1966, and in a modified arrangement from 1966 to 1980) is considered a milestone in electronic music and a predecessor of the electronica genre of music.[1]

Contents

History

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The black and white era

Origins

Although Ron Grainer has always received sole credit for the theme music, Delia Derbyshire with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was responsible for all the arrangements for Seasons 1 through 17. She was given the composition by Grainer and asked to create the music. The method she chose was to create each sound from scratch using a variety of methods from pure tones to piano strings. Each sound was then changed in pitch and duration using purely analog equipment. The final arrangement of the theme was made by making a recording of each section (bass line, melody, etc.) then putting the sections together to form the final mono track. Her first arrangement was released as a single, but never used as the opening title music. It consists of the main theme and the 'middle eight' in an ABABA pattern. Two versions of this arrangement exist, one with the TARDIS' dematerialization sound and one without. In addition, a variant version was used for the unbroadcast pilot episode version, which incorporates the sound of a thunderclap at the beginning.

The second version

The studio requested some changes and the second arrangement, used until the middle of Season 4, features some wind/wave effects. The master recording for this arrangement has an extended section of the bass line instead of repeating the main theme or the 'middle eight'. This version was heard through the start of the repeated bass in An Unearthly Child. The subsequent episodes it just faded out as needed.

Grainer attempted to obtain co-writer credit for Derbyshire, but was prevented from doing so by BBC rules. Derbyshire, as a result, never received screen credit for this work, although the BBC Radiophonic Workshop did. (Derbyshire would receive screen credit, but for creating the TARDIS dematerialization sound effect).

During the William Hartnell era, two feature films based upon Doctor Who were released internationally. For these films a new theme score was composed by Barry Gray, best known for his work on various Gerry Anderson series. As a result, a few reference works such as The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs 1947-1979 by Vincent Terrace, erroneously credit Gray, rather than Grainer, with composing the television theme.

With Patrick Troughton now playing the Second Doctor in Season 4, came a new title sequence and another request for Derbyshire to change the arrangement of the music. She returned to the first arrangement and added what has been called a 'spangle' sound effect. Again, this arrangement was just faded out as needed for the opening title sequence. This third arrangement formed the basic theme from mid-Season 4 through Season 17, although as noted below there were some modifications.

The 1970s

The third version

In Season 7, Jon Pertwee took over from Troughton as the Third Doctor. The music created this time around wasn't so much a new arrangement as an edit of the 1967 arrangement. An overlap edit shortened the lead-in by about 8 seconds and, after the main theme, the music moves to a repeat-to-fade ending. Early episodes have a stutter effect at the start which disappears after Season 9. For some unknown reason, several episodes at the beginning of Season 8 reverted back to the 1967 arrangement.

Another arrangement, not intended for television, was released by Jon Pertwee as a single during his tenure as the Doctor. "Who is the Doctor" was a more pop-oriented version of the theme featuring newly written spoken lyrics performed by Pertwee.

In addition to changing the opening theme, the closing theme was edited too. Previously the closing credits had faded in to the main theme and then faded out after the credits. Four new edits were created for Season 7. The first was used in the first few episodes. The other three, were the same except in length. They were 40 seconds, 52 seconds, and 72 seconds long. Each started with a scream sound that was created by using a generated tone falling in pitch and the first few notes of the theme rising to pitch. This was fallowed by the main theme. In the 40 second version it was repeated once before the ending. In the 52 second version it was repeated twice. The 72 second version features the main theme, the 'middle eight', and the main theme again. Each one ends with the same whirling sound effect. The 72 second version was only used on a few of the Fourth Doctor's stories including Season 15's The Invasion of Time and Season 16's The Armageddon Factor, both six part season finale stories. (Presumably, had it been completed, it would have also been used for Shada which would have ended Season 17.) Otherwise, the 52 second version was used on all other broadcast episodes with the 42 second version only appearing on the audio LP of Genesis of the Daleks.

Unused arrangement

In 1972, the BBC played with another arrangement, the first not based on the work done in 1963, using the Delaware synthesizer that the Radiophonic Workshop had. Brian Hodgson and Paddy Kingsland, with Delia Derbyshire created what has become known as the Delaware Theme. It was not well received and was not used on any BBC Broadcast in the UK. However, it had already been applied to several episodes before being replaced. At least two episodes sent to Australia and broadcast on ABC still had the Delaware Theme. A new opening credits sequence was created to go along with this theme and this can be seen on the The Pertwee Years VHS release.

The 1980s

Season 18 saw a new producer and many changes. The first was a new arrangement of Grainer's theme and a new opening sequence. The new theme was arranged by Peter Howell using his Yamaha CS80 synthesizer and some additional processing to that recording. He created three recordings, the opening theme, closing theme, and an extended cut for release as a single. The opening and closing themes followed the pattern set in 1970 with the opening doing a repeat to fade and the closing starting with a scream. The closing includes the 'middle eight' and ends with an explosive sound. This theme was used from Season 18 through Season 22 unchanged. The Howell arrangement would be revived in the 2000s when BBC Video chose it to be the menu theme for its Doctor Who DVD releases (for all 1963-89 era and 1996 TV movie releases).

Season 23 saw another new arrangement by Dominic Glynn. It was more haunting and ethereal than the previous themes, but very similar to Peter Howell's arrangement in most respects (enough so that the opening credits remained unchanged from the final Howell season). Again three versions were created: opening, closing, and extended for release as a single.

The arrival of the Seventh Doctor called for a new title sequence. Keff McCulloch's high-pitched, synthesizer-heavy arrangement was the first to feature the 'middle eight' as a default part of the opening (although the rejected "Delaware Theme" also featured the Middle Eight). The opening and closing themes are very similar with the opening being longer. No version was made for release as a single. It was used from Season 24 to the end of the regular series at Season 26.

The Wilderness years

Re-mixes and variants

After the original series ended, a number of wildly variant renditions of the Doctor Who theme were recorded. An EP release, Doctor Who: Variations on a Theme (released in vinyl, standard CD and an unusual square-shaped CD variant) featured new arrangements of the theme by Mark Ayres, Glynn and McCulloch. One of these, a Latin-based arrangement, was adopted by BBC Video and used as the theme for its series of "Years" retrospective Doctor Who videos (i.e. The Hartnell Years, etc.). Another CD release The Worlds of Doctor Who, included several more arrangements, including a dance mix that featured Sylvester McCoy playing the spoons! Ayres also recorded a unique arrangement of the theme to lead off the soundtrack album for the music he composed for The Curse of Fenric. In the early 90s, a dancehall group called The Timelords had a hit single with "Doctorin' the TARDIS", which melded together a pop arrangement of the Doctor Who theme with "Rock n' Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter.

Back on the BBC itself, a very brief new arrangement was used for the 1993 charity Doctor Who mini-episode Dimensions in Time.

The TV movie

The next new Doctor Who did not appear until 1996. For the made-for-TV movie, composer John Debney did the incidental music and arranged Ron Grainer's theme. Unlike all other versions, Debney's arrangement begins with a building introduction (to coincide with the on-screen narration setting up the tale), before opening with the Middle 8 (in similar fashion to the Delaware theme). The familiar bassline (da-da-da-dum, da-da-da-dum...) was somewhat muted in its melody and did not drive the theme the way it did in previous arrangements. The closing theme is a similar but different arrangement. Again, no extended version was created. Reportedly, Debney wanted to replace the Grainer composition with one of his own, but was overridden by the producers and the BBC. Grainer did not receive screen credit for composing the theme, leading to some reference works -- as well as reviews of the film -- erroneously crediting Debney with composing the theme. This theme was published onto CD as part of a promotional CD featuring all the incidental music from the TV movie.

Big Finish and Webcasts

Another arrangement of the theme was commissioned for the Eighth Doctor audio adventures produced by Big Finish starting in 1999. Instead of licensing the Debney arrangement (which was unpopular with fans), David Arnold — best known for his association with the James Bond film series — created a sombre new arrangement. For audio dramas featuring Doctors from other eras, one of the TV versions of the theme is often used instead.

In 2003, meanwhile, Creation Music devised a new theme arrangement for the Scream of the Shalka webcast, which, like the later Murray Gold arrangement, incorporated Delia Derbyshire's original electronic melody from the 1960s.

Meanwhile, several more versions of the theme emerged. In the early 2000s, the electronica group Orbital recorded a new version of the theme that proved popular with audiences.

The revival (2005-)

Preliminary themes/unused Gold version 1

The return of Doctor Who to television required a new arrangement of the theme. An advance version of the 2005 series debut episode, Rose, not intended for broadcast, used a version of the original 1963 Delia Derbyshire arrangement, which had been recreated by Mark Ayres in 2002.

Ultimately, BBC Wales commissioned Murray Gold to create a new theme arrangement. A trial arrangement, bass-dominated and bearing little resemblance to what came later, appeared on TV ads promoting the series (and can be heard on the "Series 1" DVD release of these trailers). It's unclear whether this version was ever actually intended for use on the series proper.

Gold version 2

For the broadcast versions, Gold went back to basics. Gold's theme is based on the electronic melody sound sampled from the original 1963 Derbyshire arrangement with rapidly rising and falling strings added as a counter melody. The opening theme follows the normal pattern of the main theme and a repeat to fade. The closing theme again has the scream followed by the main theme and an ending effect. Although the revived series did give Grainer screen credit for his composition (unlike the TV movie), some reviewers of the new series, unfamiliar with its history, erroneously considered the theme music a Murray Gold composition.

Gold version 2.5 (and variants)

Initially Gold was reluctant to use the 'middle eight', so during Series 1, only the main theme "chorus" is heard in the opening and ending. For The Christmas Invasion, the music was performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and a new version of the closing theme was recorded by the orchestra. For this version, Gold restored the 'middle eight' to the closing theme (opening credits were as per Series 1. For Series 2, the same opening as Series 1 was also used, but the closing theme continued to feature the 'middle eight'. A modified version of this new arrangement was recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for a soundtrack CD release (the CD version is notably missing the "howlaround" sound effect at the end). Yet another, abbreviated Gold arrangement of the theme was performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the conclusion of the 2006 "Music & Monsters" charity concert, which was broadcast on the BBC. This version focuses on the orchestra and omits the electronic sound of the TV version.

Gold version 3

For Voyage of the Damned and Series 4, Gold created a second theme arrangement (although if one counts the unused trial version, it was actually his third). It still features the original electronic Derbyshire melody, but the strings are different and drums and piano have been added to dramatically change the feel. A new ending arrangement, with middle 8 intact, was also composed and again recorded along with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Reflecting new closing-credits standards introduced by the BBC in 2008, this new arrangement is also considerably shorter than that used previously, and is more directly linked with the "Next Time" trailers at the end of most episodes; in most cases the closing theme "plays under" the sound of the trailer, and comes to the front with the middle 8 as the credit scroll begins.

For the 2008 mini-episode, Music of the Spheres, while Gold's current theme arrangement was used in the opening credits, for the closing credits the original 1963 Delia Derbyshire/BBC Radiophonic Workshop version was played (the DVD version of the concert, however, strips away the two credit sequences). The mini-episode was created for the 2008 Doctor Who Proms concert, which concluded with yet another new arrangement of the theme by Gold (his fourth major new arrangement); this version incorporated the "bridge" section which existed in the original Derbyshire, Howell and Glynn arrangements though it was never heard on TV. Unusually, the bridge in the Proms arrangement was placed between the first "verse" and the middle 8 (in most other arrangements the bridge occurs sometime after the first appearance of the middle 8).

The Series 4 arrangement was subsequently used for the "gap year" specials of 2009-10.

Gold version 4

In a January 2010 interview, Gold confirmed that he would be returning as composer for Series 5 in 2010, which will entail him composing yet another arrangement of the theme.[2]

External Links

Footnotes

to be added


This article uses material from the "Doctor Who theme" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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