Music on Doctor Who

Music on Doctor Who October 7, 2019

There is a lot that one can write about the music composed especially for Doctor Who. But there is also a lot to be written about the already-existing music that the show has included at times. For instance, Anton Bruckner is a composer whose music I love. Yet somehow I was not consciously aware of the fact that part of his Symphony No.7 (which I can immediately recognize) is incorporated into Part 5 of “The Mind Robber,” an episode from the era of the Second Doctor, portrayed by Patrick Troughton. Have a listen to just after the 14 minute mark:

Music by Bela Bartok also featured in episodes featuring the Second Doctor. When I was hoping to lead a short term study abroad trip to Transylvania, I thought perhaps we could include his birthplace and other things about him in some way. He more than anyone else is known as Hungary’s national composer. And yet his birthplace is today located in Romania, in the region of Banat which is sometimes considered part of Transylvania and sometimes considered separately. Either way, the subject of creation of modern nation states and how they relate to past empires, regions, and emerging ethnic identities is a fascinating topic to explore in this region in particular, given the role that research by Bartok and Kodaly into different groups’ folk tunes played in that emerging national consciousness. Hopefully one day the Doctor will visit Transylvania in an episode. As a result of writing this, and double checking my memory that the Doctor never did so, I discovered that there is an audiobook that I need to listen toSon of the Dragon. Dracula, of course, sort of appears in the classic episode The Chase.

In some ways even more striking to me, given one of my current projects, is the use of music by King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer on Doctor Who. There is a significant intersection of science fiction and rock music, and in the latter category prog rock takes the lead. There also turns out to be a significant number of current and former musicians with interest in UFOs and alien abductions – that’s part of yet another project.

Everything I do seems to be connected, even things that I never expected to be…


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  • Otto T. Goat

    Delia Derbyshire did the classic “electronic” arrangement of the Dr. Who theme. This is a electronic/sound collage piece she co-created in 1964:

    Delia Derbyshire & Barry Bermange – Invention for Radio No.1: The Dreams.

  • Don’t forget hymns also. The episode Gridlock featured 2 hymns – a British one and an American one. Also the Tenth Doctor episode where he became human to hide from the Family featured a hymn based on Pilgrim’s Progress. Also the various Christmas episodes – Silent Night, In the Bleak Midwinter etc.

  • John MacDonald

    I’ve manged to get another comment trapped in moderation? I wish I had a list of key words or something so I would know beforehand what not to say.

  • John MacDonald

    My takeaway: Ecclesiastes had the wise, tragic insight that life was seemingly meaningless (eg. Ecclesiastes 1:9), and that the way out of this tragedy is through relationship with God. Nietzsche had the brilliant response that if life was meaningless and godless, it was neither inherently good nor bad, but open to interpretation, and hence was determined by our healthy, or ill, interpretations, valuations and approach. Nietzsche advocated a healthy glass half full approach/attitude where we learn to dance in our chains and, in Nietzsche’s words, celebrate Amor Fati while saying Yes and Amen to all of existence!