Say anything you like, but at the end of the day, you cannot have an insanely popular and successful television series without incredible music.
It is the glue that holds the acting, writing, effects, and filming together. It can certainly be argued (and I’ll be the first in line to do so!) that a great deal of the credit for the success that Doctor Who has had since the revival in 2005 belongs at the feet of the immensely talented Murray Gold. His scores have been the very heart of the programme and certainly made all the moments we fondly remember from Eccleston through Smith’s run all the more memorable. While Gold’s more recent work (“I Am the Doctor” and all of its marvellous variations, for example) has been arguably his most popular, it’s his work prior to The Eleventh Hour that really helped define the Doctor for a new generation. Thus, dear reader, join us as we take a look back over the top ten musical themes from the Russell T. Davies era…
10. Doctor Who Theme (Album Version and Series 4 Variations)
How do you take one of television’s most iconic theme songs and make it even better? Add production, horns, strings, and even some saucy guitar riffs and power chords to the classic piano arrangement and unforgettable “Woooooo!”
While the theme gets minor changes and updates from series to series now, the Series 1 remake and reworking for Series 4 and the Tennant specials is where the magic happens.
9. The Greatest Story Never Told
Regardless of which camp you reside in when it comes to how the River Song storyline played (maybe continues to play?) out, it’s hard to argue that her concept and Alex Kingston’s performance weren’t a perfect match in the Series 4 two parter, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. This track from the Forest of the Dead exudes both sadness and hope at the same time, a feat that rarely a composer can achieve. After all, hope in sadness is sort of paradoxical, isn’t it?
8. All the Strange Creatures
One of the reoccurring themes of Series 3, appearing in 4 of the series’ episodes, “All the Strange Creatures” is a driving fusion of modern classical music and pop sensibilities/electric sounds. I’ll probably be cited for having this appear so low in the countdown, but alas, it is a great track in a sea of great music from the first four series of the revival.
7. The Cybermen
Every villain worth their salt needs a tune that strikes fear and menace into the viewer’s heart – an Imperial Death March, if you will. Bold and brassy, Gold’s theme that accompanied the redesigned metal monsters in Series 2’s Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel is probably a little more menacing than the actual Cybermen in the two-parter. That being said, the score intertwined with the visual of the saws and lasers in the conversion chambers is certainly chilling.
6. The Dark and Endless Dalek Night
I am a complete sucker for great choral music. The beautiful thing about this is the inclusion of the all-male chorus that takes centre stage throughout the arrangement. Couple this with Davros’ plan to destroy all of reality itself, and it certainly makes for a compelling storyline (even if a little overcrowded by companions).
And let’s not forget this cropping up in The Day of the Doctor to the delight of fans worldwide!
5. Rose’s Theme
Love her, hate her, don’t care either way: Rose Tyler, divisive as she is, is really the face of the first 4 series of the revival. The Doctor is reintroduced through her eyes and understanding of him. The melody is stunning and has a touch of romance to it. Given that it was introduced long before the eventual love story that played out between the Doctor and Rose, it makes one wonder if the romantic pairing had been the plan from day one in the Writer’s Room or if Murray Gold is just that good at sensing where things may be going.
Following the final events of the same titled episode, “Doomsday” enriches the agony and sadness being portrayed on screen by Tennant and Piper. While some fans were more than thrilled that Rose’s story had appeared to come to an end, it was still an emotional moment as Ten says goodbye to Rose. The emotion is echoed through the single soprano voice and weeping violin work.
3. This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home
Reintroducing Gallifrey, the Time Lords, and the Master was always going to be a risk; and it was a brilliant tactical move to wait until the show had hit its stride in the first 3 and a half series before bringing them back. The stunning CGI imagery is equally matched by the arrangement put forth, and serves to add even more depth to the Gallifreyan mythos.
2. The Doctor’s Theme (Series 4)
If Matt Smith’s theme song is “I Am the Doctor,” then you would have to identify “The Doctor’s Theme” with Eccleston and Tennant. Originally introduced in Series 1, the haunting melody evolved from a single soprano voice to a choral arrangement in Series 4 reworking. The theme evolved, much in the way that David Tennant’s Doctor increased in power and popularity. While arguably a lesser composition when compared with “I Am the Doctor,” the Doctor’s Theme is still a tune worthy of the beloved Time Lord.
1. Vale Decem
This was inevitable really; it would be more than hard to argue that any other song from Series 1-4 and the Tennant Specials belongs in this spot. Serving as the soundtrack for Tennant’s goodbye and subsequent regeneration scene, the emotion of the moment does nothing but add to the beauty of the composition. At 3:19 seconds long, the song leaves you wanting for more. No doubt echoing David Tennant’s “I don’t want to go” dialogue. It is, in my humble estimation, Murray Gold’s finest composition – which is to say quite a bit, as there are very few missteps in the catalogue of his Doctor Who work.
What do you think, fellow Kasterborites? Do you agree with my assessment or would you have it ordered differently? Or maybe you’d replace a few of my choices? Feel free to respectfully join the conversation below!