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.

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