Doctor Who has now passed its 50th anniversary in 2013. Even though the programme was off our screens for a few years, that's still a lot of episodes. If you include movies & specials, spin-off series, video & audio stories, and a ton of fan material, there are many, many hours of viewing time dedicated to the Doctor. Right from the start of the programme, music and sound have been a key part of the series. The theme music itself was revolutionary and the original theme has been re-arranged many times but it is still recognisable as a vital part of the show. Certain sound effects associated with the show are equally iconic, including sounds associated with the Tardis and the Daleks. The incidental music has evolved and changed more often than the Doctor himself, and many respected composers have worked on Doctor Who stories including Richard Rodney Bennett, Tristram Cary, Stanley Myers and Francis Chagrin. In the early days the music might be stock tracks from the BBC vaults, or weird electronic sounds and sometimes pushing the boundaries of experimental techniques. Doctor Who's music might be played by a small group of performers or it might be created on synthesisers, and today it is the norm for the music to be recorded by a symphony orchestra. In this article we look in more detail at the music and sound world of Doctor Who and the people who have created it.
Since the 50th anniversary of the show (2013 through 2017 and beyond), there has been an increasing number of soundtrack releases old and new, starting with "The Caves of Androzani" and "The Krotons" in 2013 and continuing with "Survival" and "The Daleks" in 2017. For more details about these releases as they are announced, skip to Post-50th Anniversary Music Releases.
For many years the music on Doctor Who was closely linked to the output of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a unit created by the BBC to specialise in sound effects using electronic equipment and often experimental techniques. Though they created music and effects for many productions (such as "Quatermass and the Pit" and "The Goon Show") electronic sounds were most often associated with Science Fiction on both the big screen and on television. So it was almost inevitable that there would be such a close relationship with Doctor Who, and many members of the workshop received credits on the programme for the music or the sound effects and frequently both. Even when the Unit wasn't credited directly, it was often involved behind the scenes, taking the music from the composer and enhancing it electronically with additional layers and effects.
The Workshop supplied the BBC from 1958 to 1998, and was born from a recognition of the growing potential of electronics in the creation and manipulation of sounds. Indeed there was a phenomenal change in technology during these 4 decades. In its early days, the Unit typically used basic oscillators and tape recorders, and assorted pieces of junk used to generate sounds before later manipulating and enhancing the recordings. These pioneers devised a sound world for Doctor Who that was not the cold electronic sound of some other productions but a strangely warm and organic one. Though the perception of their output is at the subconscious level much of the time, their work undoubtedly raised the production values of the show and its popular appeal. During the 1970s and 1980s many different types of hardware synthesisers became available, but this was still prior to the widespread use of computers for sound production. The BBC released many albums of the team's work on vinyl, and with the current resumption of interest in early electronic music many of these have been reissued on both CD and vinyl.
Sadly with the proliferation of cheap synthesisers and music software, the BBC decided to close the department in 1998. Although the Radiophonic Workshop no longer exists as a BBC department, it still has a large legacy of audio material and equipment whose main curator is Mark Ayres. In addition, Mark Ayres and other former members of the organisation (Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Dick Mills, Paddy Kingsland, Mark Ayres and Kieron Pepper) have reformed as a group to continue to make electronic music. The new group call themselves The Radiophonic Workshop (without the "BBC") and are actively recording and performing, having appeared at a number of concerts across the country including the Prom concert in 2013 marking the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the Glastonbury Festival in 2014 and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The reformed group released their first independent album in May 2017 under the title "Burials in Several Earths" and provided the soundtrack to the film "Possum" in 2018. Issue 28 of Electronic Sound magazine with a TARDIS cover features an in depth article about the old and new incarnations of the workshop and an optional CD of Workshop music.
Some very special signature sounds were created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop at Doctor Who's inception and they have stayed with the programme throughout its evolution. For the theme music, the show's first producer Verity Lambert went to Ron Grainer who had composed notable television themes for Danger Man, Maigret and Steptoe and Son. Like many composers and song writers, Grainer started by creating a piano version. His theme already had two notable characteristics: a low rhythmic pattern in the left hand (called the "tum-te-tum" or "tiddily-um") and a high melody starting with a big upwards leap (the "woo-ee-oo"). Rather than orchestrate the theme it was instead handed to Delia Derbyshire of the Radiophonic Workshop. She created the sounds for the notes and literally mixed and spliced all the pieces together on strips of magnetic tape.
Ron Grainer was so impressed by the originality of Delia Derbyshire's realisation that he tried to get her a co-composer credit for the theme, but this was forbidden by the BBC rules which wanted the unit's members to be anonymous. Ron Grainer's theme has stayed as a cornerstone of the show ever since, though it has been revamped a number of times by various composers. Essentially Delia Derbyshire's version stayed with the show until 1980, although it was edited and updated several times by Derbyshire herself and others at the Workshop. The revamps included adding some different electronic features and also creating slightly different edits to better match the title sequence when it was altered and updated with the faces of the Doctors.
The first major theme change was a version created by Peter Howell in 1980 which lasted until 1986. A version by Dominic Glynn was used from 1986 to 1987 after the programme's enforced 18-month rest, and a version by Keff McCulloch was used from "Time and the Rani" until "Survival" in 1989. The theme for the TV Movie (a Fox-BBC collaboration) in 1996 by John Debney was largely orchestrated for a conventional symphony orchestra. When Doctor Who restarted in 2005 under the guiding hand of Russell T. Davies, he brought in Murray Gold to provide the show's music. Gold retained the orchestral sound and his up-tempo version added some counterthemes and synth sparkles, and he has created further updates to this version from time to time. The following youtube videos are an excellent summary of the main changes to the theme and opening titles: The Doctor Who Themes: 50th Anniversary Edition (HD) Part 1, and other Doctor Who themes: The Doctor Who Themes: 50th Anniversary Edition (HD) Part 2. And a new website has appeared which analyses the original theme in some detail: dwtheme.com.
After the theme, the next major audio requirement back in 1963 was the Tardis dematerialisation sound, and this was created by another member of the radiophonic team Brian Hodgson. Hodgson famously recorded the sound of a door key being dragged along the wound base strings of a piano, and treated this recording with special effects to create the tardis's sound. Quite often the Tardis sound was edited on the show for reasons of pacing, but it was a magical effect when the sound was played in full. Hodgson also created the Tardis "hum" and provided the characteristic throbbing sound of the Dalek city. Some sounds were created by recording source sounds and then manipulating them, while other sounds were created purely from electronic circuits. The Dalek voices were created by processing the actors' voices (initially Peter Hawkins and David Graham, then a few years later Roy Skelton, but now performed by Nicholas Briggs, who incidentally as executive producer of "Big Finish" has also created music for some of their earlier audio releases) through a device called a ring modulator. Peter Hawkins and Roy Skelton went on to create the voices for other monsters including the Cybermen. For their first appearance in "The Tenth Planet" the Cybermen's sing-song voices used unnatural rhythms and inflections, but their voices in later stories were processed electronically.
It has to be said that in some cases the monsters and visual effects were not totally convincing, but often the sound effects made up for this deficit and stirred the imaginations of children. The sound really added to the feeling that viewers were witnessing a real alien planet, beast or spaceship, though often at the unconscious level with most people not appreciating the creativity required to invent the sounds. Sometimes the sounds alone would turn up the disgust factor with creepy bubbling ooze, or the fear factor with strange heart beats. The range of sounds required and created is really quite wide. Many of the shorter action sounds needed to be closely synchronised to activity on the screen, for pressing buttons, firing guns, explosions, bursts of the sonic screwdriver and other pieces of equipment.
Robots also required their own sounds, sometimes of a slightly comical nature e.g. for the Chumblies and the Quarks, making them seem more like pets than robots. Other audio effects were quite long and complex in form creating atmosphere on alien planets, or representing the sounds of machines and spaceships, or invisible things like hypnotic fields and force fields. Frequently the origin of certain sounds wasn't obvious, such as the pervasive mechanical sound for the Cyber Invasion, first heard in the story "The Wheel in Space". These longer sound effects served a similar function to incidental music, and indeed obviated the need for music. Brian Hodgson built up a sizeable library of special Doctor Who sounds on magnetic tapes which he later passed on to Dick Mills when he left the show during the Jon Pertwee era.
Dick Mills joined the Radiophonic Workshop in 1958, initially as a technical assistant to look after the team's hardware, but he was soon working with the others recording effects. Dick Mills assisted Delia Derbyshire on the theme music in 1963, and later he became the backbone of the Doctor Who sound effects from 1972 until the show was cancelled in 1989. Indeed the pairing of Dudley Simpson on incidental music and Dick Mills on special sound seemed unstoppable for many years. Dick Mills' contributions to Doctor Who were many and varied. To mention just a few examples he created the insect-like sounds for the "Wirrn" in the story "The Ark in Space", the evocative Time Winds in the story "Warriors' Gate", the wind chimes effect which accompanied the White Guardian, the "cloister bell" sound when the Tardis senses danger (first heard in the story "Logopolis"), and new sounds for the sonic screwdriver as the Doctor found new uses for the tool.
Mills also worked on the spin-off show "K-9 and Company", the sci-fi series "Moonbase 3" (for which he realised Dudley Simpson's Theme), "The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy" (the original radio series) and "The Two Ronnies". He has often made appearances demonstrating sound effects, whether live at Doctor Who conventions or on other television shows such as Blue Peter. Mills also conceived and produced the show's first music compilation albums - "Doctor Who: The Music" in 1983 and "Doctor Who: The Music II" in 1985. These vinyl albums were later re-issued (with some minor changes and additions) on CD by Silva Screen with the subtitle "Classic Music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop". Volume 1 had the title "Earthshock" and Volume 2 had the title "The Five Doctors". See the later section on Soundtrack Albums for more details about these releases.
When the series returned in 2005 many aspects of its sound were retained, or in some cases re-created, adapted or updated, such as the sounds of the Tardis, the sonic screwdriver and the Daleks. However new sounds are required for every episode, and the new sound department has continued to demonstrate creativity in providing these while respecting the traditions of the show. People such as Sound Effects Editor Paul Jefferies, Dubbing Mixer Tim Ricketts, and Foley artist Julie Ankerson have worked on most of the episodes of the new show, with many others contributing to the overall sound.
Usually sound effects are associated with things happening on the screen: machines, equipment, ray-guns, doors and spaceships. But electronic composers, whether from the Radiophonic Workshop or freelance, also provided incidental music for Doctor Who. Often the incidental music was quite traditional in nature but some composers seemed to blur the distinction between sound effects and music, often creating an eerie atmosphere. It was often not immediately clear that the weird sounds were just background. In the viewer's imagination the sounds could be coming from the alien jungle, from the wind or from some strange unseen creature, and sometimes this ambiguity could be particularly effective.
The Incidental Music for Doctor Who went through an interesting evolution. In the 1960s the programme was still trying to find its feet. It was created by the BBC Drama department but clearly aimed at a family audience, with an educational remit intending to alternate between historical stories and stories set in the future. The popularity of the science fiction stories and the monsters in particular meant that the historical stories gradually became less frequent, and the monster era was in full swing when the second Doctor Patrick Troughton joined the show in 1966. This element of finding a direction also impacted the incidental music and a number of composers were involved bringing a range of different ideas to the show. For obvious reasons, the historical stories were more likely to have acoustic scores and those set in the future were more likely to have electronic scores, but there were exceptions to this rule.
Indeed it was something of an experimental era and this was the period when some highly accomplished composers worked on the show for one or more stories: including Stanley Myers, Geoffrey Burgon, Tristram Cary, Francis Chagrin and Richard Rodney Bennett. The music budget was generally very small, and if new music was recorded then at best only a small group of musicians could be employed. Several stories were made where all the background music was provided by stock music. Other stories were scored entirely by electronic music, giving them a particular feel of alienness e.g. Tristram Cary's score for "The Daleks" in 1963/64 which is comparable to the totally electronic score for the film "Forbidden Planet" in 1956.
Towards the end of the 1960s Doctor Who became firmly established in the television schedules, and the programme entered a period of relative stability. Although the use of stock music continued for some stories, the name of Dudley Simpson became more and more associated with the show. By the time Doctor Who burst into colour in the 1970s with Jon Pertwee as the new Doctor, Simpson had essentially been established as the house composer and he was to continue in this role for much of the 1970s including most of the Tom Baker era. Although Simpson wasn't a member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, he often worked closely with them to realise his music, and when he left the show the task of creating the incidental music again reverted to the workshop alternating between Paddy Kingsland, Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Malcolm Clarke and a few others.
Moving into the 1980s the creation of the incidental music experienced a shift towards sythesisers, since these instruments were now more common and affordable, and composers such as Dominic Glynn, Keff McCulloch and Mark Ayers provided strong support for the show as it went though an increasingly stormy period at the BBC. Although the programme was off air for many years after its cancellation in 1989, interest continued in the programme. On the one hand there were a number of fan productions keeping the show alive, and at the other end of the scale a Doctor Who movie was created as a joint Universal/Fox/BBC project in 1996. Although this movie built on the established foundations of the show, in many ways it also pointed towards its future restoration to our screens. With a sizeable budget and realistic effects, the TV movie also had a full orchestral soundtrack created by John Debney.
When the show returned to television in 2005 it was an obvious move to keep the orchestral background music and Russell T. Davies chose Murray Gold as the new composer for the show. Davies and Gold had worked together previously on "Queer as Folk", "The Second Coming" (with Christopher Eccleston) and "Casanova" (with David Tennant). Gold has continued in that role ever since, with his synth music orchestrated and conducted by Ben Foster and played by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. In this way the show is enjoying a rebirth with bigger budgets, and bigger audiences coming from a new generation of children who haven't seen the older show. Television scripts in the black & white days had evolved from stage plays, and it showed with a lot of dialogue. The shows were also filmed on huge bulky cameras with little capacity for editing. The show today has a lot more action and conveys the story more by visual means, and as a consequence has more opportunity for music and it is not unusual for the music to overlap the dialogue (though kept low key so that viewers can still hear the words).
Quite apart from its higher budget, Murray Gold's incidental music has mirrored changes in the programme in other ways too. The show and its music is more overtly emotional - emotion has always been there to a degree but usually toned down. Gold's music has also used recurring motifs to a greater extent, just as the show has placed more importance on the companions and how their characters develop as they join the Doctor on fantastic adventures, and then figure out their identity and place in the universe. Some musical themes also relate to the concepts which make up the story arcs. Although the seeds of these ideas had been sown earlier, and so they are not completely new, it has now become firmly established as a key part of the show. The Music of Doctor Who is now rightly celebrated outside of the show itself, with regular Doctor Who Concerts, more frequent CD releases and a wealth of fan activity on the internet. As the show passes its 50th anniversary, who knows what musical treats lie in store.
It should be noted that in the 60s composers would score stories often without even seeing the scenes. If the music was too long for a scene then Dudley Simpson mentions that the composer would have to identify where to physically cut the magnetic tape to make an edit. Although things progressed, even in the 80s composers did not have the facilities to edit their music directly on to a copy of the video. That has all changed now and today's computer software allows precise synchronisation to picture. The other trend evident from comparing stories from different eras is towards more and more music on the show. Some early stories were quite sparse in terms of music, and a 25 minute episode might have only 1 or 2 minutes of stock music, perhaps a little more if a composer was commissioned. Again that has changed over time, with stories from the 70s, 80s and the current series averaging more and more music per episode. Another important point is that composers might have only a few weeks to create a story's music, and occasionally only days to compose, create parts, record, add effects and mix the sound. Under these circumstances the quality has varied, but some truly memorable music has been created.
A great number of composers have contributed to the sound world of Doctor Who, and here we want to briefly summarise some of composers and their contribution.
As mentioned above it was Ron Grainer (1922-1981) who composed the theme music for Doctor Who. Grainer was born in Australia and moved to Britain in 1952. Although Grainer was an accomplished film and television composer writing lots of incidental music for both media, it is his television themes which are best remembered since he had the knack of capturing the essence of a show and translating that into music. Among his memorable TV themes are "Maigret", "That Was the Week That Was", "The Prisoner", "Man in a Suitcase", "Paul Temple", "Steptoe and Son", "Tales of the Unexpected" and of course "Doctor Who". Among Grainer's other accomplishments are a number of film scores composed in the 1960s and 70s, he wrote some musicals for the stage and he and his wife managed a British group called The Eagles (not the American group of the same name). There is a comprehensive Ron Grainer website at www.rongrainer.org.uk.
Norman Kay (1929–2001) was the composer for the very first story "An Unearthly Child" and he went on to compose for two other early William Hartnell stories "The Keys of Marinus" and "The Sensorites". All three stories are still available and benefit from Kay's mysterious mood setting. Outside of Doctor Who, Kay had previously served as rehearsal pianist at the Royal Opera House, as chorus master for Scottish Opera, as coach for the Welsh baritone Sir Geraint Evans and as a freelance composer for the concert hall and for numerous television series including "Out of the Unknown", another 1960s sci-fi series from the BBC.
Tristram Cary (1925-2008) was already an established film composer when he joined Doctor Who. One of his first films was the Ealing comedy "The Ladykillers" and he also worked on a number of British films from the 1950s to the early 1970s. Although his background was with traditional orchestral instruments, he had already experimented with electronic music before his work on the programme. Doctor Who gave him further opportunities to use electronics and he became known as a pioneer in this field designing early synthesisers. Cary was initially considered to compose the Doctor Who theme music, but this didn't happen when the director was changed for the first story. However he went on to compose incidental music for the second story called "The Daleks" or "The Dead Planet", the pivotal story which introduced the Daleks. Some people might classify his music for this story as sound effects, because it largely consists of eerie atmospheric effects created by manipulating sounds electronically. Whatever you call it, it takes great skill to produce these extended sounds and Cary was a master.
To create a particular effect Cary would sometimes record musicians playing music or individual notes and then process the recording electronically, with the result often sounding as though it was created electronically. Although he wasn't part of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Cary was clearly experimenting in a similar space. He also served on the ambitious historical story "Marco Polo" (whose score and master audio/video tapes are largely lost, but the score is mostly instrumental with some nice oriental touches) and "The Gunfighters" where he wrote the ballad music sung at intervals throughout the story by the actress Lynda Baron. He also composed for another landmark Dalek story, the 12 episode "Dalek Masterplan" (this time with instrumental music as well as electronic effects). His music for these two serials was re-used on "The Rescue", "The Ark" and "The Power of the Daleks", the story which introduced Patrick Troughton to the lead role. He later supported Jon Pertwee in the story "The Mutants" again with an electronic score with occasional cues sounding like a keyboard synth. There is a double album called "Devils' Planets: The Music of Tristram Cary" with his music for some of these stories, The Daleks, The Daleks' Masterplan and The Mutants produced and digitally remastered by Mark Ayres.
Richard Rodney Bennett provided the music for an interesting early historical story "The Aztecs". This ambitious and well-constructed story raises the question of what happens if you alter Earth's history and is available on DVD, though the audio track is not available separately. Bennett's music is acoustic in nature using a handful of musicians conducted by Marcus Dods. The music conveys three distinct moods: it is eerie and even creepy in the temple's tomb, the garden scenes with the Doctor are pleasant and serene accompanied by a flute, and Ian's fight scenes are accompanied by timpani and percussion. Richard Rodney Bennett is best known as a film composer, for a number of British productions including "Billy Liar", "Billion Dollar Brain" and "Nicholas and Alexandra". His most famous film scores are probably "Murder on the Orient Express" and more recently "Four Weddings and a Funeral" though he has also worked on a range of TV productions including the mini-series "The Charmer" and "Gormenghast".
Stanley Myers (1933-1993) created the incidental music for another historical adventure "The Reign of Terror". The music is acoustic using a handful of instruments to good effect, with little hints of "La Marseillaise" to subtly remind viewers of the story's setting. This was an early role for Myers and he went on to amass a huge credit list of films and television shows. Among his many accomplished film credits, "The Deerhunter" is surely the best known and its main theme "Cavatina" is a popular tune on guitar or piano and in orchestral arrangements. Stanley Myers worked with the then up-and-coming Hans Zimmer on "My Beautiful Laundrette" on which they both served as Music Producers.
Francis Chagrin (1905-1972) was a Romanian born composer and conductor who scored Doctor Who's second dalek story "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". There is plenty of percussion in his instrumentation, which seems to complement the bleakness of London in 2164 A.D. after the dalek invasion. He scored many movies from the 1940s through to the 1960s including "The Colditz Story", "The Deep Blue Sea" and the Disney flick "Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog". Although his Doctor Who music is not available on audio, a good selection of Chagrin's film music is available on a CD called "The Film Music of Francis Chagrin". Chagrin also composed many works for the concert hall including symphonies, songs and chamber music, and he also founded the "Society for the Promotion of New Music" (or SPNM) and through this oganisation has given his name to the Francis Chagrin Awards. His son Nicolas Chagrin was an actor and performer for stage and screen, and one of his many parts was the Doctor Who story "Vengeance on Varos".
Raymond Jones composed and conducted the music for "The Romans" (a light comedy story) and "The Savages". "The Romans" is an acoustic score using a handful of instruments, including harp, brass, flute and other woodwind. The harp is used at times as the sound of the lyre played on screen by the Roman Emperor Nero and also by the Doctor. Jones also worked on a few other television dramas including "Wodehouse Playhouse".
Charles Botterill is credited with playing percussion on the story "The Time Meddler". In the absence of any other music credits it can only be assumed that he also composed or improvised the percussion music. The story also features some library tracks.
Humphrey Searle (1915-1982) composed the incidental music for the story "The Mythmakers" where the Tardis crew meet the legendary characters of the Greek myths. The music is acoustic with oboe, brass, drums and guitar. He also scored a few other TV programmes and several films mostly during the 1950s including the horror movie "The Haunting" in 1963. Although his Doctor Who music is not available on audio, his film music and classical works (including 5 symphonies) are well represented on CD.
Brian Hodgson has been mentioned before as a key person behind the "special sound" of Doctor Who starting from the show's beginning in 1963. Nowadays this process is called "Sound Design" and Hodgson's work included various Tardis sounds including the unforgettable dematerialisation sound, the effect for creating the Dalek voices and the various sounds of the Daleks' City. Most of the sounds on the album "Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume 1: The Early Years (1963-1969)" were created by Hodgson, including some memorable electronic tracks from the Patrick Troughton cyberman story "The Wheel in Space" for which Hodgson received a composer credit. Hodgson also receives the main credit on "The Krotons" the 2nd soundtrack release of 2013 for the show's 50th anniversary. His non-Who credits include "Bleep and Booster" (the cartoon series which started on Blue Peter, narrated by Peter Hawkins who did the Daleks' voices), Derek Jarman's film version of "The Tempest" in 1979 and more recently the music for Jeremy Clarkson's videos.
Don Harper (1921-1999) (along with Brian Hodgson and John Baker) composed the incidental music for the earth-based cyberman story "The Invasion" , where the creatures were seen at several London landmarks. He worked on some other TV shows including "Sexton Blake", an episode of "Out of the Unknown" and the theme for "World of Sport". Alongside music by Dario Argento and Goblin, Harper's stock music was used on the George A. Romero horror movie "Dawn of the Dead" in 1978. Outside of Doctor Who, Harper experimented with electronics, contributing alongside Delia Derbyshire to the Radiophonic KPM recording Electrosonic. However he was best known as a jazz violinist performing with many notable jazz acts including a tour with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. He also composed the original theme for the Saturday ITV series "World of Sport" (not the later theme by Jeff Wayne). Harper was Australian by birth and after spending some time in the UK in the 1960s returned to Australia to continue his music career. In June 2014 the Australian record company "Dual Planet" released a Don Harper album called "Cold Worlds" with his music for "The Invasion" in addition to film cues from "Dawn of the Dead" and other tracks. His complete score for "The Invasion" has now been released by Silva Screen, including some additional cues and electronic score & sounds by Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Stock Music or Production Music is essentially pre-composed music held in and administered by a "library" (a music licensing company or record label). Many composers have contributed to Stock Music libraries, perhaps simply creating music to boost their income when they don't have a specific commission, or some composers may make a living by creating stock music on a full-time basis. Composers may receive a fee when their music is accepted by a library and will receive royalties when their music is used. The use of Stock Music may be seen as a cheap and convenient option for a low budget TV programme, but the music should not be considered as poor quality. Many well-known and respected composers have written for Music Libraries, and the use of Stock Music on Doctor Who has sometimes been particularly effective. It would be difficult to create a complete list of Stock Music used on the programme, but here are some examples of Stock Music composers who have contributed to the soundscape of the series.
Sometimes stock music worked very well indeed, and we'd like to mention just a few of the composers involved. William Hartnell's final story "The Tenth Planet" was also the first to feature the Cybermen. The incidental music for the story came entirely from stock libraries and among the tracks are percussion cues called "Drumdramatics" 7 & 10 written by the composer Robert Farnon (1917-2005), who composed for film and TV and arranged many works for his orchestra to play and record with leading artists of the time including Vera Lynn, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. Dennis Farnon was Robert's younger brother and his tracks "Drama in Miniature" 1 & 2 were also used in the story. Dennis Farnon was also an experienced film and TV composer who composed the incidental music for the "Mr. Magoo" animations in the 1950s and in the 1970s provided the theme music for the series "Bouquet of Barbed Wire". Angela Morley (1924-2009) born Walter or "Wally" Stott, who wrote "Music for Technology" used in the story, was a protege of Robert Farnon who worked in a similar field. In the 1960s she composed for several TV comedy series including "Hancock's Half-Hour" and "Hugh and I" and in the 1980s she composed episodes of several US series including "Hotel", "The Colbys", "Dynasty", "Falcon Crest" and "Dallas". She scored a number of films including most of "Watership Down" and acted as orchestrator for John Williams on several of his films.
Roger Roger (1911-1995) was a French film & TV composer and prolific contributor of stock music for libraries including some electronic works. His television work includes the 1950s "Flash Gordon" series and "The Prisoner" , and he wrote the track "Blast Off!" used on "The Tenth Planet". Douglas Gamley (1924-1998) was a prolific Australian film composer, orchestrator, conductor and music arranger, two of whose library tracks were also used in "The Tenth Planet". Buxton Orr (1924-1997) was a composer who wrote songs and operas, works for chamber groups, brass bands and orchestra, and music for theatre and film. His films include the oscar-nominated "Suddenly, Last Summer" starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift. His stock music track "Musique Concrete II" was used in the stories "The Edge of Destruction" and "The Space Museum". Also used in "The Space Museum" is the track "World of Plants" by Jack Trombey. Jack Trombey is one of the alises used by Dutch composer Jan Stoeckart (1927-) who was a prolific writer of instrumental library music. His music was used on many television series, though he is most famous as the composer of "Eye Level" (which became a no.1 hit) the name of the theme for the TV series "Van der Valk" and "Domino" the theme for the series "Never the Twain".
Wilfred Josephs (1927-1997), often credited as W. Josephs, composed extensively for film and television from the 1960s through to the 1990s and also contributed to Library Music collections. His films include "Swallows and Amazons", "Mata Hari" and the film version of "Callan" and among his TV themes the most memorable is surely "I, Claudius" which played while the titles showed an adder moving across a mosaic (later parodied in Blackadder 2). His stock tracks called "Space Time Music" Parts 1 & 2 were used in stories including "The Web of Fear" and "The Tomb of the Cybermen". Martin Slavin (1922-1988) was a jazz musician and film composer who also contributed to stock music libraries. His "Space Adventures" 1-3 are a mix of acoustic and electronic and they essentially became the theme of the Cybermen (though also used with the Yeti in "Web of Fear"). These tracks were first used in "The Tenth Planet" and were later used in "The Moonbase" and "Tomb of the Cybermen" where the music also accompanies the famous scene where the Cybermen emerge from their hypersleep chambers and then release the Cyber Controller.
Eric Siday (1905-1976) was an electronic pioneer who was born in England and emigrated to the U.S. in 1939. He was a musician and composer, whose forte seemed to be the creative application of electronic sounds. In particular he found a niche creating music logos and signature sounds for TV stations and commercials. In his compositions he used a variety of techniques including Musique Concrete methods and he studied and applied ideas from Psychoacoustics, the scientific analysis of sound perception. He provided valuable feedback to Robert Moog and commissioned him to create the first percussion synthesizer, an instrument he then used in a number of his compositions. He also created a number of stock music albums notably the "Musique Electronique" series which were used extensively in a number of Doctor Who stories, including "The Edge of Destruction", "The Space Museum" (where some tracks were played back at the wrong speed!), "The Time Meddler", "The War Machines", "The Moonbase" and "The Tomb of the Cybermen". The album "The Ultra Sonic Perception" was released by "Dual Planet" in June 2014.
Another particularly effective use of existing music can be found in "The Web of Fear". We call it existing music rather than stock music because Bela Bartok (1881-1945) composed classical music for concert halls and theatres rather than for music libraries. However the 3rd movement of his "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" contains some very eerie atmospheric music on strings followed by some timpani glissandi and a big crescendo. This music was edited to fit an early part of the "Web of Fear" where a Yeti is on display in a museum, but a spherical control unit finds its way into the robot and the Yeti comes to life.
As mentioned previously Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was the person who put together the Doctor Who theme based on the composition by Ron Grainer. In her works she generally used musique concrète methods i.e. recording real sounds and then manipulating them electronically. As a member of the workshop for 10 years she created electronic works to accompany various BBC productions, but after the title theme (which she reworked in 1967 for the Patrick Troughton era) she had only a minor involvement with Doctor Who. She realised a happy track called the "Chromophone Band" composed by Dudley Simpson for the story "The Macra Terror" (available on "Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume1: The Early Years 1963-1969), and a couple of her works "The Delian Mode" and "Blue Veils and Golden Sands" were used as stock music on the Jon Pertwee story "Inferno" (these electronic compositions are evocative and mysterious, and included on the CD "Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume2: New Beginnings 1970-1980").
In 2009 a documentary film was made about Delia Derbyshire's pioneering work, also called "The Delian Mode", and a number of additional tracks she composed are on the album called "BBC Radiophonic Music". There is a website dedicated to the composer at www.delia-derbyshire.org and another website about the documentary film at www.TheDelianMode.com. There have been at least 2 full length albums specifically dedicated to stock music used on Doctor Who: "Dr. Who - Music from The Tenth Planet" contains stock music tracks used on this particular Who story, and "Space Adventures - Music from Doctor Who 1963-1971" has stock music from several stories from this period.
In 2013 a limited edition vinyl release celebrates some Stock Music from the William Hartnell era. Called "Sounds from the Inferno" by John Smith and the Common Men, this is a limited edition EP of 1000 copies which has 3 remastered tracks. "Three Guitars Mood 2" is the track which Susan is listening to on her transistor radio in the first ever episode of Doctor Who. She says the music is performed by "John Smith and the Common Men" - hence the album title. The other 2 tracks on the B-side of the 7-inch EP are "Latin Gear" and "The Eyelash" which are both heard in The Inferno Nightclub in the earth-based story "The War Machines". Being stock music these tracks were used on many TV shows in the 1960s, but have clearly been brought together in this release for their association with Doctor Who. You can buy the EP and hear samples of the tracks on the Juno Records website. In reality "Three Guitars Mood 2" was composed by Nelson and Raymond and performed by The Arthur Nelson Group. "Latin Gear" and "Eyelash" were composed by Johnny Hawksworth (who became famous as a jazz bassist with the Ted Heath Orchestra) and originally released on the album "The Mood Modern". The great thing about this EP is that it doesn't mention Doctor Who, but there are lots of hints on the back for those who know their Who.
Dudley Simpson is an Australian composer who became the backbone of Doctor Who music for many years. He first served on the William Hartnell stories "Planet of Giants", "The Crusade", "The Chase" and "The Celestial Toymaker", nicely complementing the Toymaker's sinister games. He scored even more Patrick Troughton stories including "The Macra Terror" with electronic keyboard music and holiday-camp style jingles (and a stock track called "Musak" created by John Baker of the Radiophonic Workshop), "Evil of the Daleks" where he gave new companion Victoria a romantic theme on oboe, and "Fury from the Deep" where a heartbeat was added to the music for the seaweed creature. A feature of some 60s stories was that the episode title and writer credits sometimes appeared on screen after the title music had faded. In some stories this served as a short prologue to remind viewers of the setting for the story. This prologue sometimes featured music or sound effects such as a stock drum roll in most episodes of the "The War Machines", some stock bagpipe music in "The Highlanders" and some battle sounds in "The War Games". But the best example of this was "The Seeds of Death" whose opening sequence at the start of every episode showed the sun, the moon and the earth accompanied by Dudley Simpson's dramatic music. This sequence was almost certainly inspired by similar sequences in the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" released the previous year.
When Jon Pertwee assumed the lead role, Simpson was effectively the house composer scoring the majority of stories through most of the 1970s until near the end of the Tom Baker era. Due to budget restrictions, his music was usually played by a small handful of musicians and then often augmented with synth sounds by members of the Radiophonic Workshop to make the sound thicker and more complex, essentially more orchestral. To pick one stand out example he scored "The Mind of Evil" and Brian Hodgson realised the wonderfully effective "Keller Machine" theme usng the Workshop's Delaware synthesiser. In total Simpson composed the music for 60 stories, including many stories now regarded as classics such as "The Three Doctors" (including some jingling otherworldly music for Omega's antimatter lair), "Genesis of the Daleks" (dramatic with great characterisation), "The Pyramids of Mars" (with its Egyptian sounds and memorable organ sound for Sutekh), "The Invasion of Time" which has a variety of different moods (both dramatic and wryly humorous) for the different locations and groups of protagonists, and "City of Death" (full of fun with the Doctor and Romana almost in holiday mood) a story written by Douglas Adams (who also wrote "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") and set in Paris (Simpson's theme suggesting car horn traffic noises is surely inspired by Gershwin's An American in Paris). A number of stories from the "Key to Time" season have largely acoustic scores: "The Ribos Operation" uses a small group of instruments and an organ to create a convincing atmosphere for the planet, and "The Stones of Blood" and "Androids of Tara" also benefit from an acoustic sound and some wonderful music.
The Master became a recurring character in the Jon Pertwee era (equivalent to Sherlock Holmes' Moriarty), and Simpson introduced a theme for the character which had a characteristic 3 note motif. An early appearance of the Master theme was in the aforementioned "The Mind of Evil" and could be heard as part of an audio collage put together by Dick Mills on the B-side of a suite of music from "Moonbase 3" also scored by Dudley Simpson. The record had the catalogue reference RESL 13. A few years later during Tom Baker's time, Simpson was to develop some musical ideas which briefly became the Doctor's Theme. In the Tom Baker story "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" Dudley Simpson also had an on-screen part as the music hall conductor.
Ironically, given his huge contribution to the series, there is not a lot of Dudley Simpson's music available on CD. One of the best albums of his music is a recreation by Heathcliff Blair of Simpson's music, since the original tapes no longer existed at the BBC but some manuscripts were kept. The album has several tracks from classic stories of the Tom Baker era: "The Ark in Space", "Genesis of the Daleks", "Pyramids of Mars", "Planet of Evil" and "The Brain of Morbius", plus the aforementioned Doctor's Theme. Simpson also comments on his music among the special features on the DVDs for "The War Games", "The Sun Makers", "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" and "The Brain of Morbius". Outside of Doctor Who, Dudley Simpson had a busy career writing music for many other television productions. He scored the BBC mini-series adaptation of "The Last of the Mohicans" and wrote themes or incidental music for "Paul Temple", "The Tomorrow People", "Target", "Sense and Sensibility", "Supergran" and Terry Nation's other famous creation "Blake's 7". The album "BBC Space Themes" has Simpson's themes for "Moonbase 3" and "Blake's 7". Simpson died in 2017 at the age of 95 shortly before the release of the partly-animated completion of "Shada" which carries his dedication. Mark Ayres' music for "Shada" aimed for an authentic period sound based on Simpson's Doctor Who style.
Carey Blyton (1932-2002) was variously a music editor, lecturer and professor of music at Trinity College of Music, and a freelance composer, primarily of songs and short works for small ensembles and particularly noted for his music for brass. He scored several international films, wrote music for adverts and for several television productions. For Doctor Who he wrote the music for "The Silurians", "Death to the Daleks" and (with Peter Howell) "Revenge of the Cybermen". His Doctor Who music is remembered mainly for his use of unusual instruments and its sometimes whimsical melodies. Though much of his music for "The Silurians" was dramatic in nature, he used medieval instruments to mirror the antiquity of the Silurian race, including the crumhorn with its odd slightly comical sound, and he composed a satirical March for the Brigadier's officious character.
His music for "Death to the Daleks" was played by the London Saxophone Quartet, and gave the evil machines a touch of absurd humour. "Revenge of the Cybermen" also used unusual wind instruments, the Serpent and Ophicleide, though the predominant sound is again brass with marimba and a touch of satire. Re-recorded Suites of his Doctor Who music can be found on the album "Sherlock Holmes Meets Doctor Who: Music for Brass". Blyton was a nephew of the children's author Enid Blyton, and he also became famous for his own children's work when he wrote the song "Bananas in Pyjamas" for the Australian TV series "PlaySchool". The song was a big success and led to a children's series also called "Bananas in Pyjamas" which used the same song as its theme tune. There was an 80th Anniversary Concert held in London in 2012 called "Carey Blyton & Friends" with music by Blyton, Arnold Bax, George Butterworth and others - see Fand Music Press for full programme details. The composer's website is at www.careyblyton.co.uk.
Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010) is another major television composer who did an early stint on Doctor Who with "Terror of the Zygons" and "The Seeds of Doom", both Tom Baker stories from the 1970s. His Doctor Who music is very different from Dudley Simpson's which was prevalent at the time, with an acoustic sound produced by a small band of musicians though sometimes using instrumental effects (and some minimal electronics added later by Dick Mills). "Terror of the Zygons" starts off with some hints of the Scottish setting and some innocent folk music led by harp, but there are some decidedly spooky moments for the suspenseful elements of the story. "The Seeds of Doom" slowly builds tension as an eerie 'Day of the Triffids', with an organ-like sound quoting the Dies Irae for a megalomaniac plant-lover called Harrison Chase. Geoffrey Burgon went on to provide the music for the TV series "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "Brideshead Revisited", "The Chronicles of Narnia" (the television serials from the late 1980s), "Bleak House", "Martin Chuzzlewit", the remake of "The Forsyte Saga" and "Silent Witness". He also scored some feature films including Monty Python's "Life of Brian" and "The Dogs of War". In addition to his film and TV work, Burgon composed numerous works for stage, much chamber music and a large number of choral works.
Malcolm Clarke (1943-2003) was a member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop who made some notable contributions to Doctor Who. His first role was on "The Sea Devils" where he used his skills with electronic sounds created using a huge Analogue Modular Synthesiser called the EMS VCS3 (or "The Delaware"). In places this positively drips with a feeling of the murky depths. Unfortunately the director Barry Letts made cuts to his music because he felt some of the sounds might confuse listeners because they appeared to be diegetic, i.e. coming from the on-screen environment, though Doctor Who had blurred the distinction between sound effects and music for many years. Clarke's uncut music for this story is available from the album "Dr Who At The Radiophonic Workshop Vol. 2: New Beginnings 1970-1980".
Years later Clarke returned to the programme for several stories spanning the Peter Davison and Colin Baker eras including "Earthshock", "Enlightenment", "Resurrection of the Daleks", "The Twin Dilemma", "Attack of the Cybermen" and "Terror of the Vervoids". His music for "Earthshock" is memorable for its atmospheric dripping in the caves and a memorable metallic theme (with its descending 3 notes) for the cybermen marching to the attack in the spaceship. His music for "Resurrection of the Daleks" is also memorably atmospheric but in a different way. It is dark and spooky in the streets outside the London warehouse, and suitably melancholic when Tegan leaves at the end. "Resurrection of the Daleks" featured the character Lytton, and Lytton was to re-appear in "Attack of the Cybermen" where Malcolm Clarke reprised his Cyberman theme. Clarke also responded musically to certain elements of subtle humour in "Attack of the Cybermen".
Peter Howell was also a member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop with a significant contribution to the programme. He had worked with Carey Blyton on "Revenge of the Cybermen" and provided special sound including alien jungle sounds for "Planet of Evil". A major break came in 1980 when John Nathan-Turner became Doctor Who's producer and requested the theme tune to be revamped. Rather than using recorded sound and tape, Howell used synthesisers which by this time were ubiquitous and his version of the theme music stayed with the show for 5 years. The B-side of the theme single, available in both Tom Baker (1980) and Peter Davison (1981) covers, is a track called "The Astronauts" by Peter Howell and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. John Nathan-Turner's changes for Tom Baker's final season gave the show a new look and a new sound, and it was Howell who introduced that new sound. He composed incidental music for the stories "The Leisure Hive" (and Dick Mills created great chirpy sounds for their voices), "Meglos" (with Paddy Kingsland stepping in for Episode 1), "Warriors' Gate" (with its ghostly banqueting music), "Kinda", "Snakedance", "The King's Demons" (with Jonathan Gibbs), "The Awakening", "Planet of Fire" (sometimes mysterious and sometimes earthy and ethnic), "The Two Doctors" (with its Spanish guitar sounds), as well as the special "The Five Doctors" (with its distinctive horn call in Gallifrey's Forbidden Zone) celebrating the show's 20th birthday. The score for "The Five Doctors" has now been released by Silva Screen with many extras.
Starting with his first score "The Leisure Hive" Peter Howell introduced the idea of quoting a few notes from the main theme on appropriate occasions to represent the Doctor, an idea picked up by later composers including Keff McCulloch and Murray Gold. In "Meglos" which features a cactus plant alien impersonating the Doctor, distorted theme fragments seem to indicate it might not be the real Doctor. Peter Howell aimed to create a unique sound for each story that he worked on, and this seemed to give each of his stories a different atmosphere or feel. The first Mara story "Kinda" had some ethnic touches with a pipe/flute sound and a mysterious soundscape for the mental world. The second Mara story "Snakedance" also had dream sequences with mysterious sound effects, but the exterior scenes suggested a Moroccan feel so Howell created a Janissary Band theme. Peter Howell also scored the spin-off "K9 and Company" also known as "A Girl's Best Friend" with Sarah Jane Smith and the robot dog K9. For his Doctor Who work (1980s onwards) Howell used the Yamaha CS80, Roland Jupiter 4 and Roland 100M Modular synthesisers. Peter Howell's new synth sound for the show started with "The Leisure Hive" and this music is celebrated on Volume 3 of the "Doctor Who at the Radiophonic Workshop" album series, and the composer has a blog at www.peter-howell.blogspot.co.uk with some audio clips. Peter Howell's music from his Radiophonic Workshop days also features on an album called "Through A Glass, Darkly". (Note: Peter Howell the composer should not be confused with Peter Howell the actor who appeared in one Doctor Who story "The Mutants" and in many other TV and film roles.)
Among the other sweeping changes made by Nathan-Turner as part of his overhaul of the series, Dudley Simpson was effectively fired as the resident composer and the task of creating the incidental music was given entirely to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. So, for Tom Baker's final year as the Doctor, throughout the whole of the Peter Davison era and also for most of the Colin Baker era, the music came from various members of the Workshop. In addition to Peter Howell and Malcolm Clarke already mentioned above, these Radiophonic composers were Paddy Kingsland, Roger Limb, Jonathan Gibbs and Elizabeth Parker. Nathan-Turner's motivation for the change may have been partly creative putting his own stamp on the show, but it may also have been motivated by cost, cutting down on the cost of hiring musicians not to mention timescales as there was frequently pressure to turn around a finished and recorded score quickly.
Paddy Kingsland of the BBC Radiophonic workshop scored "Full Circle", "State of Decay", "Logopolis", "Castrovalva", "The Visitation", "Mawdryn Undead", "Frontios" and Episode 1 of "Meglos". He therefore covered the transition between Tom Baker and Peter Davison, and was one of the group of composers taking over from Dudley Simpson in 1980 and setting the standard for the new Radiophonic style, using synthesisers but frequently orchestral in conception. His music was fairly melodic and easy on the ear. Among other developments he created a theme associated with the character Adric (or with Alzarians in general) in "Full Circle" which was to be used later in the series, and a K9 theme which was only used in this story. He also briefly quotes the first 3 notes of the Doctor Who theme and the story has great sound design for the Marshmen emerging from Mistfall. He scored the first episode of "Meglos" because Peter Howell was ill with 'flu, but Howell recovered in time to complete the story. Kingsland and Howell had agreed on a consistent sound for "Meglos" and it works because the music doesn't appear to change significantly, and the story has vocoder type vocal effects for the Deons (using the EMS Vocoder). In "The Visitation" Kingsland uses period music (albeit created on synths) for the initial scenes which establish the mood and setting, near 17th century London linking the Great Plague and Great Fire. For his Doctor Who work (1980s onwards) Kingsland used the Roland SY2 and Oberheim OBX, Roland Jupiter 4 and live acoustic drums. He introduced a drum machine (Roland CR78) and also played a Fender Telecaster electric guitar. His music for "Full Circle" and "Meglos" (tracks by both Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell) are on the album "Doctor Who at the Radiophonic Workshop Vol.4", and Mark Ayres interviews him in a special feature on "The Visitation" DVD. Outside of Doctor Who Kingsland created the incidental music and sound effects from the TV version of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and his Radiophonic music from a number of shows is available on a album called "Fourth Dimension". Some of Paddy Kingsland's Doctor Who work was done as a freelancer after he had left the BBC. More about Paddy Kingsland can be found at his studio website at PK Studios.
Roger Limb of the BBC Radiophonic workshop scored "The Keeper of Traken", "Four to Doomsday", "Black Orchid", "Time-Flight", "Arc of Infinity", "Terminus", "The Caves of Androzani" and "Revelation of the Daleks". Among these stories "The Keeper of Traken" has some great contrasts in its music. The planet on the whole and its garden are very peaceful with some gentle relaxing music, a theme for Nyssa full of innocence, and a dark brooding theme for the Melkur which turned out to be the Master's Tardis. "The Caves of Androzani" (Peter Davison's last story) is more ambient than melodic, including some military drums (e.g. the execution scene) and a tolling bell and suitably eerie & disturbing when required by the story. Roger Limb's "The Caves of Androzani" is the first soundtrack album to be released in 2013 as part of the 50th Anniversary tributes to the show. In the 1970s, Limb contributed (along with Delia Derbyshire, Paddy Kingsland and a host of other Radiophonic composers) to a BBC Radiophonic Workshop album called "Out of this World" (originally on vinyl but re-issued on CD as "Essential Science Fiction Sound Effects, Volume 2"). A track by Limb called "Passing Clouds" was famously sampled by Prince on the track "Eye No" on the "Lovesexy" album. Outside of Science Fiction, Limb scored a number of television series including a great electro-acoustic score (now released on CD, complete with the theme from Victor Hely-Hutchison' Carol Symphony using the Christmas Carol "The First Nowell") for the TV series "Box of Delights" (starring Patrick Troughton), "The December Rose" and an episode of "Bellamy's Backyard Safari".
Jonathan Gibbs of the BBC Radiophonic workshop scored "The King's Demons", "Warriors of the Deep", "Vengeance on Varos" and "The Mark of the Rani". The first episode of "The Mark of the Rani" contains a long opening shot and Jonathan Gibbs created some gorgeous music to accompany this, with thick (synth) string harmonies suggesting the rural historical English setting. Jonathan Gibbs was not the first choice for "The Mark of the Rani" since John Lewis (Brian Hodgson's business partner) who had completed episode 1 became seriously ill and had to be replaced. The DVD for "The Mark of the Rani" contains an isolated score track of Gibbs' music, and an alternative score track to illustrate how the episode would have sounded with John Lewis' music. A further feature on the DVD is an interview with Gibbs called "Playing with Time". "The King's Demons" has some nice period music (both acoustic and electronic), and in the story the disguised robot Kamelian plays the lute on screen, which was actually played by Jakob Lindberg on the soundtrack. The Special Edition of "Vengeance on Varos" also features some interview questions with Gibbs talking about the story's television fanfares and the atmospheric music for the different pychological colour zones.
Elizabeth Parker of the BBC Radiophonic workshop scored one story "Timelash", and earlier provided sound effects for "The Stones of Blood". A Suite of her atmospheric sound-design based music from "Timelash" is available on the album "30 Years at the Radiophonic Workshop" and the story is also available on DVD. Earlier she had provided the special sound for "Blake's 7" from season 2 onwards, and in 1984 she composed the music for the David Attenborough series "The Living Planet" which received an album release initially on vinyl and now also on CD. Though the BBC Radiophonic Workshop has closed its doors, Parker has continued as a freelance composer writing music for many television series and documentaries. Her website is at Elizabeth-Parker.co.uk which includes audio and video clips.
In the mid-1980s the music moved back from the Radiophonic Workshop to various independent composers typically specialising in electronic music. In this period the growing sophistication of synthesisers meant that one person could use a single instrument to create a score which, though still sounding electronic, could be orchestral in conception being built from a range of instrumental sounds. Among these independent composers, Dominic Glynn made a new arrangement of the theme music for Colin Baker's final year on the show. He composed the incidental music for "The Mysterious Planet", "The Ultimate Foe", "Dragonfire", "The Happiness Patrol" and Sylvester McCoy's final complete story "Survival", and broadened his soundscape in some stories with a sampler in addition to standard synth sounds. Glynn creates an inventive score for "The Mysterious Planet". This opening story of the "Trail of a Time Lord" story arc starts with the famous effects scene of the Tardis landing on the Time Lord space station, which Glynn scores with a memorable gothic cathedral-type sound accompanied with church/cloister bell and falling sounds. This initial mood continues into the story itself but then disappears. Later in the story Glynn uses a small portion of his Doctor Who theme music when the Doctor is released from the robot.
"Dragonfire" uses some effective crystalline sounds in the Iceworld caverns, a cathedral organ for Kane's lair and melodic hints of the Dies Irae. "The Happiness Patrol" features a harmonica player who plays the blues. Glynn complemented this with piano sounds and used a sinister fairground melody for the Candyman. Glynn's electric guitar in "Survival" is wonderfully evocative. There is a compilation album of his music called "Black Light: The Doctor Who Music of Dominic Glynn" produced by Julian Knott. This was originally issued on cassette by the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, although you might also be able to find a bootleg CD version. Since his time on Doctor Who, Glynn has continued to write music for film and TV (including several tracks used on "Red Dwarf"), and he formed the techno duo Syzygy who released music in the 1990s including the ambient album "Morphic Resonance". More about Dominic Glynn can be found on the website for the record label No Bones Records, and he recently released "The Gallifrey Remixes" based loosely on arrangements of the show's theme.
Richard Hartley scored one story for Doctor Who "Mindwarp", featuring the return of the green grub-like creature Sil during "The Trial of a Time Lord" Season with Colin Baker as the Doctor. Outside of the programme he was a prolific composer for television and film scoring the series "Penmarric", "Jemima Shore Investigates" and "Rules of Engagement", and many TV movies. He also scored many movies for the cinema including the cult film "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" for which he created the incidental music and acted as song arranger and musical director. A number of his film scores are available on CD.
Keff McCulloch's version of the theme music was created for the Sylvester McCoy era and it is good how this has a hit-point with Sylvester McCoy's wink in the title sequence, and McCulloch also provided the incidental music for a number of 7th Doctor stories including "Time and the Rani", "Paradise Towers" (replacing David Snell), "Delta and the Bannermen", "Remembrance of the Daleks", "Silver Nemesis" and "Battlefield". McCulloch's music was mostly created on synths like other Who composers, though his tracks tended to have more of a contemporary 80s synth-pop feel than other incidental music on the show. McCulloch got off to a fine start with some varied underscore for "Time and the Rani", and unusually this score (as did "Paradise Towers") contains elements of an arrangement of Ron Grainer's theme for the show. In both "Delta and the Bannermen" and "Remembrance of the Daleks" McCulloch created cover versions of some popular tracks, and in the former story McCulloch can be seen on screen as part of the backing group called "The Lorells". "Delta and the Bannerman" is an enjoyable soundtrack which blends well with the rock music supporting the 1959 setting, and in "Remembrance of the Daleks" he makes appropriate use of a military snare drum and has a great nursery rhyme style motif for the little girl.
McCulloch helps the satire in "Paradise Towers" with some tropical musak and some contemporary electronica, and he created this score very quickly when the work of the original composer David Snell was rejected. In a special feature on the "Paradise Towers" DVD, Mark Ayres interviews both David Snell and Keff McCulloch. McCulloch's music is generally fun and energetic though in one or two stories over-use of the synthetic "orchestral hit" sound got get a bit tiresome. With the exception of various arrangements of Ron Grainer's theme there is an album of music by Keff McCulloch with an introduction by John Nathan-Turner. The album was first released in 1988 as "The Doctor Who 25th Anniversary Album", then in 1997 as "Evolution: The Music from Dr Who" and then again in 2002 as "Music from Doctor Who: Original Music from the BBC Series". The Douglas Adams 4th Doctor story "Shada" dating from 1979-1980 was not completed due to strike action at the BBC. When it was released on video in 1992 (and then later on DVD) with linking narration by Tom Baker, McCulloch provided the incidental music. However to those attuned to the incidental music, it does seem strangely anachronistic to have a Tom Baker story with the style of music associated with the Sylvester McCoy era. See Mark Ayres below for the 2017 release of "Shada".
Mark Ayres started out creating music for a series of videos by Reeltime Pictures called "Myth Makers" which featured interviews with various people connected with Doctor Who. He sent a demo tape of music to John Nathan-Turner and was hired to work on the Series itself. Among the demos he created before getting the scoring job were two cues for "Remembrance of the Daleks" and these can be found synchonised to the relevant scenes as a special feature on the DVD for "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy". After landing the composer job he scored three stories "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy", "The Curse of Fenric" (with lots of percussion and also the now ubiquitous synth orchestral hits) and "Ghost Light" (which includes some suitably ethnic music and pays homage to gothic movies, but avoids being too dark by scoring much of the episode with a plucked harp sound). When an extended version of "The Curse of Fenric" was created for video release, Ayres was commissioned to create more music. Not only did he have to ensure that the new music was in the same style, but he had to work around the different editing for the scenes he had previously scored. All three of Mark Ayres scores are available on individual CDs in addition to a compilation album called "The Best of Doctor Who: Volume Two".
The composer has gone on to provide a major service to the programme and its fans. Not only is he now the archivist for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, but he also has a busy role restoring and improving the audio quality on many old episodes so that they could be released on DVD (and initially on videotape). This work has gone beyond "restoration" when new versions of older stories have been created, such as the special release of "Day of the Daleks" with improved visual effects, new footage and re-edited scenes necessitating a re-work of the incidental music and sound effects. Mark Ayres has also been involved in producing many BBC Radiophonic and Doctor Who CD releases, describing and introducing the music in many sleeve notes. Although well out of date, Mark Ayres' website is at www.markayres.co.uk and the related website of the Doctor Who Restoration Team is at www.restoration-team.co.uk. In 2013 the composer scored the film "Scar Tissue".
For the completion of Douglas Adams' "Shada" released in 2017, Ayres put together a new score covering both the live action and animated sections of the story. Ayres' score aimed to be authentic to the period (i.e. the 1970s) so he used the sort of instrumentation that Dudley Simpson would have used, with period synthesisers and small group of instrumentalists. In addition to "Shada" being dedicated to Dudley Simpson, Ayres also includes a thematic tribute based on Simpson's best-loved score for "City of Death".
In the mid-1960s there were two cinematic films featuring Doctor Who and the Daleks. These might not be considered "canon" to many fans because the continuity doesn't quite sit with the television programme. Nevertheless they are a fun part of Doctor Who nostalgia. In fact you might consider these to be Dalek films rather than Doctor Who films. Although the Doctor was in them in the guise of Peter Cushing, he played the role as a human inventor so that the films could stand on their own with minimal explanation. The Daleks were the the real stars of these films, and indeed the movies were simply vehicles to cash in on the 1960s Dalek-mania. Compared with the TV show the main selling point of the films was that people could see the pepper-pots bigger and bolder on the big screen in glorious technicolor, since television was totally black and white at this time. Musically neither film used the television title theme.
Malcolm Lockyer (1923-1976) was commissioned by filmmaker Milton Subotsky to score the first film "Dr. Who and the Daleks" released in 1965. At the time Lockyer was well established in the music business in a variety of roles including playing, arranging, orchestrating and conducting. He composed a few film scores in the late 1950s and was to bring a contemporary "beat" style to the first Doctor Who film. He orchestrated his score for what might be called an orchestral band sound with electric guitars, similar to some of John Barry's music at the time. Lockyer wrote his own title theme and included references to that theme within the incidental music. As comedy gave way to drama the incidental music introduced a secondary theme with a notable rising and falling melody. This second theme evolves into an heroic march as the battle between the Daleks and the Thals intensifies. The slow pace of the march theme seems to emphasise that the Thals are pacifists by nature and the underdogs waging a revolt against the superior fire-power of the Daleks, and both themes are combined in the end titles. Lockyer was also involved in arranging his music for some spin-off singles associated with the film. The sound effects for "Dr. Who and the Daleks" were provided by Barry Gray (1908-1984) who composed the music for the Gerry Anderson puppet (and live action) series. (Short excerpts from Barry Gray's Gerry Anderson music and sound effects were also used on a vinyl mini-album from Century 21 Productions, which presented a condensed narrated version the 6th episode of "The Chase".)
The success of the first film and the continuing popularly of the Daleks meant that plans were soon underway for a second film which was released in 1966. For "Daleks' Invasion Earth 2050 A.D." Milton Subotsky went to Bill McGuffie (1927-1987) for the music score. The film's pre-credits sequence (which is picked up again at the end of the film) uses a piano arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in Dm. Thereafter McGuffie's music is closer to big band jazz and at times deliciously over-the-top, with the opening up-tempo theme including some electronic whoosh effects. Just like Lockyer in the earlier film, McGuffie introduces a march theme heard in the track "Daleks and Robomen" on the soundtrack album but also associated with the resistance fighters. Barry Gray returned to do the electronic effects for the second film, and based some of these on material from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The album "Dr. Who & the Daleks" contains music from both 1960s Dalek films (together with some bonus tracks) with an emphasis on the 1st film whose music was better preserved.
A long time was to pass before the third Doctor Who film was to be made, and this was a "made for TV" affair rather than a theatrical release. At the time the television show had been off the air for several years and "Doctor Who: The Movie" was intended as a pilot for a US produced series, but it also allowed the BBC to test the water to gauge the public reaction to an updated version of the show. The film wouldn't have been made at all were it not for the enthusiasm of the producer Philip Segal, and the additional funding which came from the co-production with Fox and Universal. The production team also decided to be true to the show's established continuity, and the film is therefore considered to be "canon" (after all Sylvester McCoy is seen to regenerate into Paul McGann). From a music perspective, the budget was sufficient to support a full orchestral score and hollywood composer John Debney was hired to create the music, with additional music composed by John Sponsler and Louis Febre. Ron Grainer's theme was re-arranged by Debney seemingly starting with synth sounds as though paying homage to its origins before emerging into a pounding orchestral form with full percussion.
Debney's incidental music is very much in the big hollywood style, with chorus introduced at particular moments and integrated sound effects. It played directly to the drama on screen including the overt emotional elements of the story. At the time, Debney was already a well-established television and film composer with "Hocus Pocus" and "Cutthroat Island" being 2 of his biggest movies. Since "Doctor Who: The Movie" in 1996 he has gone on to even bigger and better things with Mel Gibsons's "The Passion of the Christ", "Sin City", "Iron Man 2", "Predators" and the more recent Live Action/CGI version of "The Jungle Book". In several ways elements of the 1996 TV movie fed into the new television series when it restarted under Russell T. Davies in 2005, not least the music which has been firmly orchestral ever since. The soundtrack album of "Doctor Who: The Movie" was not given an official release at the time, though the composer released some copies as a promotional item. However the DVD does have some special features including an option to play 4 song tracks ("In a Dream", "Ride Into The Moonlight", "All Dressed Up" and "Auld Lang Syne") and the option to play the movie with the isolated score.
Russell T. Davies was instrumental in bringing Doctor Who back to television screens in 2005. With an eye on continuity he quite rightly kept various key aspects of the show the same, including the Ron Grainer's iconic theme music. However he made a number of significant changes to the show which could be summarised as higher production values requiring bigger budgets, and in several ways it was the TV Movie of 1996 which pointed the way to some of the show's changes. Davis had previously worked with Murray Gold on earlier projects, and he brought the composer in to give Doctor Who a new sound. Although Gold typically uses synthesisers to compose and synchronise music to picture, the budget (at least from 2006) allowed recording sessions with an orchestra and Ben Foster was hired to orchestrate the music and conduct the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The orchestral music (and other improvements like the CGI special effects) have now made the series more like a cinematic experience. Murray Gold created a new arrangement of the theme music, again with a bold cinematic feel. Though there are still many electronic elements to the theme and the music, electronics are used more to enhance the music's palette than to provide its foundation.
One of the more obvious elements of Murray Gold's music is the use of character themes or motifs. Although this had been done earlier in the show's history, its application to the new series seems more overt. The use of themes is clearly done for artistic reasons to resonate with the audience and provide a connection between different episodes, but it may also be partly for logistical reasons. Although a new Doctor Who series is shorter than a classic season, there is probably much more music to be recorded so it makes sense to re-use and adapt some material simply to help meet deadlines. Nevertheless Murray Gold has given individual episodes a distinct and unique feel, and new themes are introduced regularly for new companions, new enemies and new Doctors. Although the orchestra allows the music to go very big, at times the music is much more intimate with only a few instruments playing. The instrumentation can also be pop or jazz oriented or even introduce ethnic elements (e.g. in "The Fires of Pompeii") so there is considerable variety in the overall sound.
Since 2005 Murray Gold has used a number of themes to represent the character of The Doctor. Initially this was a mysterious theme (for Christopher Eccleston) but has increasingly shown the Timelord to be someone who brings a sense of fun and adventure. There have been many moments in the series which are played for fun, e.g. in "Partners in Crime" the Doctor and Donna perform a comedy double act and Gold has scored such moments to perfection. Nevertheless the role of the Companion has been to present the human side of the show and show the emotional arc of someone who experiences some real jeopardy or who is separated from their family or falls in love. In Series 1 and 2 Murray Gold developed "Rose's Theme" to follow her heartbreaking emotional journey as she gets completely separated from the person she loves. The emotional content of the music (both good and evil) has also increasingly been carried using human voices. Gold has written a number of songs for the show, e.g. in "Daleks in Manhattan" the song "My Angel Put the Devil in Me" is sung in true Broadway style by Tallulah, and then later Yamit Mamo performs Gold's Christmas song "The Stowaway" in "Voyage of the Damned". But some major moments deserve the big choral treatment such as when the Ood's "Song of Freedom" returns at the end of Series 4, sung by the Crouch End Festival Chorus.
Since 2005 there has been a growing recognition that Doctor Who's audience appreciate the music independently of the show. This growing understanding can be seen simply by looking at the frequency of the soundtrack albums. Incidental music from Series 1 and 2 had to share a CD when the first CD was released. In the next 2 years, Series 3 and Series 4 each had a dedicated CD to itself. Then "Series 4 The Specials" (which was a shorter than normal series) was released on a double album, and double albums has been the norm for subsequent series. In 2011 one single story "A Christmas Carol" had a whole soundtrack release to itself, though admittedly this was the episode starring Katherine Jenkins as Abigail. There have been other Christmas and Special releases (e.g. The Day of the Doctor / The Time of The Doctor double-album) and now in 2015, the new series' 10th anniversary year, the series 8 audio album has now been released on 3 CDs though one of these CDs is dedicated to the Christmas episode "Last Christmas".
Doctor Who music has also been increasingly celebrated in concerts. The first concert was part of the BBC's annual Children In Need appeal in 2006, and was held at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The concert was designed to appeal to the whole family with large screens to show clips from the show, hosted by the show's main cast and with guest appearances from the monsters. This has been followed by Doctor Who Prom concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2008, 2010 and 2013. In 2012 there was a "Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular" with a similar format, though this time performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Melbourne and later the same year by The Metropolitan Orchestra in the Sydney Opera House. The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular will also tour the UK in May 2015 - see Details and Tour dates here. Some of these concerts were recorded and are available as special features on the Series DVDs. There is also a "Doctor Who Fan Orchestra" on Youtube. This is a virtual orchestra where musicians from around the world record themselves playing tracks of Murray Gold's music. The resulting video and audio is then edited together and mixed to create a final video of the fan orchestra playing in unison. Here is the fan orchestra playing "Rose's Theme" and "Doomsday", and here is an ambitious solo effort from LorelaiMusic playing "I Am The Doctor".
By all these measures the incidental music of Doctor Who is going from strength to strength, and is increasingly appreciated by an audience outside of the programme itself. Doctor Who music has changed a lot in the course of 50+ years from experimental beginnings, but it would appear that it is in very good hands. Murray Gold has now been the series' composer for 12 years and 4 doctors (5 including John Hurt's The War Doctor) and in that time has created some memorable themes, some of these being reprised in Peter Capaldi's finale "Twice Upon a Time", but the news announced at Gallifrey One is that Murray Gold is not returning to score Jodie Whittaker's first season in 2018. With a new showrunner in Chris Chibnall, a new Doctor and gender, a new writing team and approach to writing, it seems like a good time for Gold to bow out to be replaced by Segun Akinola. For the new composer's approach to scoring the series see our review of the Doctor Who: Series 11 Soundtrack.
We have previously covered the dalek films of the 1960s starring Peter Cushing. These were not so much spin-offs as alternative film adaptations of the first two dalek TV stories. One of the earliest true TV spin-offs was the pilot show "K9 and Company" subtitled "A Girl's Best Friend" which if deemed successful would have resulted in a full series. Like any true spin-off it maintained a certain continuity with its parent television series, mentioning the Doctor and starring both K9 (K9 Mark 3 to be precise and still voiced by John Leeson) and Elizabeth Sladen as investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith. While Doctor Who composer Peter Howell of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop composed the incidental music, the theme music was composed by Ian Levine and Fiachra Trench and adapted by Howell. Alas despite good ratings, "K9 and Company" did not result in a series.
Unlike the 60s dalek films, "Doctor Who: The Movie" starring Paul McGann in the title role is now fully considered to be Canon. The next true spin-off series grew out of the first two seasons of the new series starting in 2005 which introduced the character Captain Jack Harkness and the origins of Torchwood itself ("Torchwood" being an anagram of "Doctor Who"). "Torchwood" the series was a more radical departure for Doctor Who, being aimed at an adult audience rather than a family one. The music too was also more adult, more akin to an action sci-fi series with less of the lighter elements of its parent series. The theme music was composed by Doctor Who composer Murray Gold, though the incidental music for the first three seasons was composed by Doctor Who conductor Ben Foster. Foster's excellent music for Torchwood features on two album releases "Torchwood" and "Torchwood - Children Of Earth" which is dedicated to music from the excellent 5-episode third season. Murray Gold himself then returned as the incidental composer for the 4th and final season, a 10-episode co-production called "Miracle Day" which also had Stu Kennedy as assistant composer for all 10 episodes and Luc Suarez as assistant composer for 2 episodes.
While Torchwood was still running in parallel with Doctor Who, Sarah Jane at last got her own spinoff series (this time with a much restricted K9) called "The Sarah Jane Adventures" and aimed at a younger audience on Children's BBC. This followed on from the parent series episode called "School Reunion" which featured both Sarah Jane and K9 alongside David Tennant's 10th Doctor. The Sarah Jane Adventures of course starred Elisabeth Sladen reprising her role as Sarah Jane Smith, returning not so much in her pre-Doctor role as a journalist but more of an investigator into alien activity in and around London in the same way that Torchwood was doing for an older audience in Cardiff and Wales. Murray Gold created the show's theme music though the main score composer for the series was Sam Watts. Sam worked with his older brother Dan Watts for most of the series' run, with Dan sometimes credited for "additional music" and sometimes as co-composer. In keeping with ths show's target demographic the music could be described as suitable for an adventure series with sci-fi elements, though there has never been a CD release. Dan and Sam Watts have gone on to score the music for the series "Wizards & Aliens" which in many ways has replaced the Sarah Jane Adventures in tone though it is not related to Doctor Who.
The latest Doctor Who television spin-off series is called "Class" which is set in Coal Hill School (now called Coal Hill Academy) which featured in the first ever episode of Doctor Who and then again at infrequent intervals until companion Clara Oswald became a teacher there. The basis for "Class" is that the Doctor has tasked an alien teacher called Miss Quill and a group of human pupils (and one alien student) with defending the area against alien menaces coming to earth through tears in the fabric of space-time at this location. The premise is therefore broadly similar to both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, but this time aimed at a "Young Adult" audience. The music for Class (both the title and incidental music) was composed by Blair Mowat, a composer who has previously worked with Murray Gold on arrangements for the parent show and Mowat included a couple of Gold's Doctor themes in the first episode of Class which featured Peter Capaldi's Doctor. Mowat also provided some music for "Doctor Who: The Fan Show" which is a BBC documentary production following the main series and available to view on YouTube. Unfortunately due to disappointing viewing figures (on the online-only channel BBC Three) "Class" was not renewed beyond Series 1. However Blair Mowat's music has now been released in a variety of formats (December 2018), with a couple of tracks on Soundcloud and a Blair Mowat interview is in the Doctor Who magazine's 2017 Yearbook.
While all the above series were produced by the BBC, there is a raft of other licensed material in various formats set in the world of Doctor Who. Big Finish have produced a long-running range of Doctor Who (and Torchwood) audio stories generally featuring a cast who have previously worked on the television parent shows, including past Doctors, Companions and Enemies. Musically speaking, Big Finish stories have featured the Doctor Who theme and music by a number of composers. One well-known film composer who has spoken about his Big Finish stories is Doctor Who fan Joe Kraemer whose feature film scores include Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and "Jack Reacher". His Big Finish stories include "Vienna", "The Defectors", "Absolute Power", "Static", "The Helliax Rift", "Vortex Ice" / "Cortex Fire", "The Behemoth" and "Jenny". An album of Kramer's Doctor Who music entitled "Escape to Danger" has now been released as a limited edition. This has little touches of 70s/80s Who, but leans more towards 70s/80s Hollywood. His version of the Theme Tune seems to suggest Murray Gold's.
Most of the images used to illustrate this article are Doctor Who album covers. There have been many releases of Murray Gold's music since the series resumed in 2005 with tracks from nearly every story, but is wasn't always like this. In the 60s and 70s album releases were sporadic at best. Some early releases on vinyl are considered to be collector's items today, such as various releases of the theme music, the Doctor Who Sound Effects album, Doctor Who and the Pescatons (an audio story with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen), the audio version of Genesis of the Daleks, and Doctor Who The Music. Some of these were later released digitally on CD though again they are frequently rare. In addition to this, the titles of some albums are confusing, partly because some different albums have similar titles, but partly because some albums were re-released with different titles or covers, and there has been a degree of re-cycling of existing tracks onto new albums. Here then is a list of albums which are catalogued on Amazon, though please note that some of these items are rare (or unavailable). Some items may be priced as collector's items (far more than the original retail price) and some of the items may only be available in a used condition. Dick Mills produced the first music albums: "Doctor Who: The Music" and "Doctor Who: The Music II", while Mark Ayres produced the 4-part series called "Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop" and mastered (or re-mastered for CD) many of the official releases.
Music and Sound Effects from the original Doctor Who series (1963-1989)
Some single-composer Doctor Who albums
Albums of stock music used on Doctor Who
Music from the Doctor Who films (1965, 1966 & 1996)
Murray Gold's Music from the new Doctor Who series since 2005
Segun Akinola's Music from Doctor Who Series 11 onwards
Other albums with Doctor Who audio
There is a wealth of other music connected with Doctor Who, and we've listed some of those items here. We've included some singles or short CDs of music connected with the show, some albums by Doctor Who composers, some Doctor Who novelty albums, some story albums (with background music) and albums of music from the Doctor Who spin-off series "Torchwood". A well-produced nostalgia-inducing album is "Who is Dr Who?" which is not music from the show itself, but a fun album of music and songs associated with the show and the 1960s Dalek films. Most of the tracks were originally recorded in the 60s and early 70s and some are sung by Doctor Who actors and actresses.
The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013 was a great opportunity to release some special merchandise, and the Music of Doctor Who will be a part of that celebration. Silva Screen have announced that in the course of the year they will release a number of soundtrack albums, old and new, and this is the story so far:
In polls among Doctor Who fans, "The Caves of Androzani" has consistently performed well and the story won the top spot itself in a 2009 poll among readers of Doctor Who Magazine. First broadcast in 1984, this is the adventure in which Peter Davison's Doctor heroically saves Peri and then suffering from Spectrox toxaemia regenerates into Colin Baker. At the time of this story, the show's music was provided by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with various members taking on the composer role from 1980 through 1985. Roger Limb was no stranger to the show having scored "The Keeper of Traken" (the penultimate story with Tom Baker) and a number of Peter Davison stories. This first celebration album is available now in the UK at Amazon.co.uk and in the US at Amazon.com.
For the second commemorative release we move back in time from the 1980s to the 1960s for "The Krotons" and with this step back in time it is no surprise to find that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was still playing a very big role in the show's sound and music, though at this time the workshop were using older equipment and techniques rather than synthesisers. The soundtrack for "The Krotons" is credited to Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop with a focus on the "Special Sound" of Doctor Who, i.e. the Sound Effects and Sound Design elements. Some tracks provide sounds for machinery and equipment, with others adding to the anbience and general atmosphere of the drama. This second album is available in the UK at Amazon.co.uk and also now in the US at Amazon.com.
For the third album in this anniversary series, Mark Ayres has quite rightly gone to one of his own scores from the late 1980s and re-released "Ghost Light", a late Sylvester McCoy story notable for its dark and spooky atmosphere. The new version of "Ghost Light" features a redesigned cover and has been re-mastered from the original analogue tapes, and some additional tracks have been included. In addition to this there are 11 alternative tracks taken from the part one demo version so it is now possible to understand the evolution of the score. Because of the additional material, the new running time is now 20 minutes longer than the earlier release. The album was released on 26th August and it can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
The next release was a true celebration of the show's anniversary, and it hit stores shortly after the big event itself and just in time for Christmas 2013. "Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversay Collection" is a superb selection of tracks on 4 CDs featuring music spanning the full 50 years of the series. The 1st CD concentrates on music from the era of the first three Doctors. The 2nd CD has music from stories featuring the 4th and 5th Doctors. The 3rd CD features music from the 6th, 7th and 8th Doctors (the 8th doctor being Paul McGann who at this time had appeared only in the TV Movie), while the 4th CD contains Murray Gold's music from all 7 series of the New Series since 2005 (i.e. the 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors). This very special box set is now available at both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
However that was not the end of the story. Another major celebration of Doctor Who Music had been many months in the planning and execution. An 11-disc collection this consisted of 1 CD for every Doctor. However as a limited edition this is now sold out. The release comes in 2 forms, one being presented in a conventional box and the "Tardis Edition" which comes in a special wooden Tardis box. These items were released in November 2014 fully a year after the anniversary itself. Although no more orders can be taken, you can see details of the releases at the following two web pages: Doctor Who: The Eleven Disc Edition and the special Doctor Who: The Tardis Edition. The Tardis Edition included many previously unreleased tracks making it a superb collector's item.
Another special release which came out the year after the 50th anniversary was "The Best of Series One Through Seven", a picture disc on Vinyl with all the best themes from Murray Gold including of course his arrangement of Ron Grainer's theme:
This video shows what the vinyl release looks like as it is removed from its packaging.
New releases for Autumn 2017 are "Survival" by Dominic Glynn and "The Daleks" by Tristram Cary with Special Sound by Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. While "The Daleks" has been released before the new release contains a small amount of new material that had not been released previously in this format. Cary's music for this first Dalek story was later used on "The Rescue", "The Ark" and "The Power of the Daleks". "Survival" on the other hand is a completely new audio release, and is somewhat special since it is the final transmitted story of the Classic Doctor Who series before it was cancelled in 1989, an adventure which starts when the Doctor takes Ace home to Perivale before they both end up in another dimension featuring Cheetah People and The Master. Not exactly a TV score as such, but Dominic Glynn has also now released for download only "The Happiness Patrol Remixes" EP which reworks his music for this earlier 7th Doctor story. See the image and links in the previous section above.
After a long wait the music of Series 9 was finally announced by Silva Screen and hit stores on 27th April 2018. Better late than never! This is a 4-CD release with disc 3 dedicated to "Heaven sent" and disc 4 to "The Husbands of River Song", with discs 1 & 2 covering the remaining episodes. The album features the new Doctor Who logo designed for the 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker. Now we are awaiting Murray Gold's final Series and new Who composer Segun Akinola's first Series which has been well received by fans.
In late 2018 we are spoiled with several new album releases. Firstly there is Don Harper's music for the story "The Invasion" featuring the Cybermen in London. Although this story was broadcast in the 60s it paved the way for 70s Who, with the album also featuring special sound from Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Next we have Peter Howell's music for 1983's commemorative story "The Five Doctors" celebrating the show's 20th anniversary. The music needed to be re-edited for different versions of the story and all versions are included, realised by the composer working again with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Bringing us up to date is the long-awaited release of Blair Mowat's music for spin-off show "Class". The booklet included with the album has extensive track notes by the composer himself, and there is the option of a limited edition bonus CD and also colourful vinyl versions (check Silva Screen's own store for these). Finally who would have thought that the loud boss-guy from the "IT Crowd" was so musical, but Matt Berry has played and recorded his own versions of some classic TV themes including our very own "Doctor Who" theme.
In 2020, while much of the world suffers under multiple work, social and travel restrictions to combat the Coronvirus, Doctor Who audio releases nevertheless manage to continue at pace. Representing the 1970s there is a welcome release of a Dudley Simpson score, namely "The Sunmakers" with a stunning album cover featuring then-current Doctor Tom Baker. The score is unusual in that it is largely acoustic rather than electronic, with some comedic elements in the music matching Tom's flippant style in this satirical story. From the 1980s Peter Davison era there is "The Visitation" by Paddy Kingsland and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. This is mostly dramatic synth and percussion, with a little touch of Renaissance-style music to emphasise the period setting. Bringing us right up to the 2020s and Jodie Whittaker's portrayal is the Series 12 release from Segun Akinola covering the 10 episodes broadcast starting on New Year's Day. Here the biggest story score-wise is the music from "Spyfall" with lots of references to classic Bond music and even hints of the Bond theme.
There are a huge number of music and sound references within the show, and reference to Doctor Who music outside of the show. It would be an impossible task to list them all, but here we want to give you a flavour of some of Doctor Who's references to music and sound.
Doctor Who stories which reveal the power of sound or music:
The Doctor Who Theme:
The Doctor and Companions play, sing or whistle music:
Classical Music heard in Doctor Who:
Selected tracks heard on Doctor Who:
Cameo appearances by composers in Doctor Who (click to enlarge):
Musicians and Singers appearing in Doctor Who:
Murray Gold's Doctor Who Songs:
Music and Songs related to Doctor Who:
Other Doctor Who Music trivia:
Selected examples of Doctor Who related Music on Youtube:
As previously mentioned, many of the images in this article are of CDs or Albums of Doctor Who Music. These images are copyright their respective owner, in many cases the BBC or the composers. The images have been downloaded from Amazon, or from Discogs, or are scans from my own collection. Here is a list of selected references, in part to give due acknowledgement to some wonderful resources and in part to provide a starting point for further research. There is a wealth of information contained in album liner notes, and of course Doctor Who DVDs of many episodes are available, sometimes with additional features about the music or sound. Where the original episodes are no longer available, there are soundtracks of lost stories in the "BBC Radio Collection" with the original soundtracks (including dialogue, music and sound effects) with linking narration. The Doctor Who books "The Sixties", "The Seventies" and "The Eighties" by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker include sections on Audio Releases, and Doctor Who Magazine issues no.115 and no.167 have had features about the show's incidental music. In addition many websites and reference books have been consulted for information. Some information has simply come from my memory, so I apologise for any inaccuracies!
In this reference section we provide links to other pages on mfiles related to Doctor Who music in some way.
Doctor Who Composer Pages:
Doctor Who Soundtrack Album and Concert Reviews:
Other Articles and Music Pages related to Doctor Who:
There is a wide range of music articles and music available on mfiles including the following items with a connection to Doctor Who. The music items below include Sheet Music, midi and mp3 files which are free to download for personal use.
Here is a CD cover signed by Murray Gold. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed CDs. Click the thumbnail below to see the image full size in a separate window.
My interest in music almost exactly parallels my interest in Doctor Who. I started going to piano lessons in early 1962 at the age of 7 and I am one of those fans who remember when Doctor Who started in 1963. I got the early Doctor Who annuals and dalek toys as Christmas presents, persuaded my parents to take me to the cinema to see the early Dalek films, and I got the sheet music for Ron Grainer's theme. However it was many years after that that I began to take more interest in the music of films and television, and in the creation of music by electronic means. With the re-appearance of Doctor Who in 2005 and the growing number of CD music releases and concerts dedicated to Doctor Who music, the time now seems right to put these interests together in this article about the music of Doctor Who.
I have composed music for Mobile Games and Videos, and samples can be heard on my music portfolio page.
If you have comments, corrections or additions to make to this article, please email me at email@example.com
My thanks to Adam Kintopf for identifying music tracks used in "Terror of the Zygons" and other stories.