Television teme tunes: Dr.Who : why the percussion ?

Who'd have thought...The original theme to Dr. Who, written by Ron Grainer and given its eerie electronica-infused shrouding by Delia Derbyshire, was a wonderfully exciting theme; pulsing with excitement, and the promise of intergalactic misdeeds, fearsome enemies, and humankind under threat.

The re-booting of the Dr. Who franchise for the new age has seen the theme tune being given a make-over, primarily involving adding a wholly unnecessary pounding hi-hat and a kick-drum.

There’s a misapprehension, fostered by clumsy Hollywood film scores perhaps, that, in order to add pulse-raising excitement to a programme, you have to add thrashing percussion to the accompanying music. This is manifestly not true: consider the latent menace imparted by the theme to Jaws: the use of timpani is deft, occasional, and not overpowering.

Even in the 80’s, surely the unkindest decade of all for music, the re-incarnation of the Grainer’s original theme managed to keep the authentic looming menace whilst including electric guitar and synthesiser – normally the kiss of death for music, but here somehow managing to retain the feel of the original, without overpowering it with unnecessary instrumentation.

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s original creation, throbbing with latent menace, has now become a heavy-booted adolescent, thrashing around in its fury. The fleshing out of the original haunting electronica into a fully-fledged orchestral piece is interesting, with some majestic brass and string ostinati, and the portamento-infused melodic line is still present; but overall the effect is, well, disappointing.


4 Responses

  1. Howell’s ‘Human League’ version: LOL! I agree about the Pirates of the Caribbean style – perhaps he submitted it for consideration but it was rejected…

  2. Peter Howell’s version could be the Human League of ‘Empire State Human’ era. He did keep that middle eight that inspired Midge Ure so to write the ‘Feed The World’ bit of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’.

  3. Murray Gold’s version has this swashbuckling pirate on the high seas vibe – like he’d intended it for Pirates Of The Caribbean!

  4. Bill Bailey said the original was scary, but he later found it had chords more suited to ‘Belgian jazz’!

    ‘Docteur Qui’ by Bailey makes the Doctor seem something of a mysterious loner figure.

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