a B low-high dum-dum-diddy
November 10, 2020 8:20 PM   Subscribe

"The Definitive Guide to the Doctor Who Theme Music," it claims to be. A website featuring analysis and discussion of the familiar theme music's bassline, melody, structure, using the original Delia Derbyshire version of the theme as the model and featuring audio files to illustrate the various points made. MeFi fave Delia Derbyshire previously and previously and previously.
posted by the sobsister (34 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Excellent link! I’ve recently started a rewatch of Classic Who (starting with Tom Baker, I’ll go back to the earlier episodes later), so this theme has been stuck in my head a lot lately.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:52 PM on November 10 [1 favorite]


*pushes glasses up nose* finally I have a visual reference to use when I'm explaining that, from a strictly Schenkerian perspective, the version of the Doctor Who theme with the bridge has a much more compelling harmonic structure than the version without one!

(this is so much fun, thank you!)
posted by C. K. Dexter Haven at 10:53 PM on November 10 [3 favorites]


Having grown up with Derbyshire's authentically spooky rendition, I've never really got over resenting the various tizzyings-up that it's been put through over the years. It's like somebody put Trump in charge of renovating St. Paul's Cathedral.
posted by flabdablet at 11:00 PM on November 10 [10 favorites]


This is lovely
posted by Foaf at 11:08 PM on November 10


Thanks! That was a delightful rabbit hole.
posted by daam at 12:34 AM on November 11


Reading the post title made me him Children of the Grave to myself and then I realized those songs have a lot of overlap

I wonder if there is a Children of the Who mashup?

Doctor of the Grave?

Dum de dumbadumdumbadumdumbadadumb rawr rawr ooo-eeee-oooooooo
posted by museum of fire ants at 4:27 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


Re flabdablet: Here's a video of All Doctor Who Title Sequences. Between 3 and 6 minutes there are some pretty awful ones using early digital synthesizers instead of Delia Derbyshire's analogue electronics.

That's also kind of what happened to St Paul's Cathedral. There's a load of gold and twiddly stuff inside put in by the Victorians who thought the original was too stark and empty.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:01 AM on November 11 [3 favorites]


Came just to drop some KLF.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:19 AM on November 11 [4 favorites]


"The dum-de-dum, the diddly-dum, and the dum-dum-diddy."

Doo Wah Diddy Diddy
posted by Paul Slade at 5:39 AM on November 11


Mention for Dick Mills (co-conspirator with Delia D). He specialised in sound effects and was responsible for the legendary Major Bloodnok's Stomach sound effect for the Goons (which turned up almost as often as the Wilhelm Scream in my childhood). I assume he did the whooshes.

I've often wondered what Ron Grainer thought it would sound like when he wrote it down.
posted by Grangousier at 5:47 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


The Big Finish audio dramas commissioned a new version of the theme for their War Doctor line. It is appropriately bombastic and martial. Doctor Who by way of John Williams.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 5:56 AM on November 11




Wow, I've been rewatching a lot of Stargate SG-1 lately and that War Doctor theme reminded me so much of it in comparison. The SG-1 theme for reference.
posted by traveler_ at 7:28 AM on November 11


Did Dick Mills do Fred The Oyster as well? I've often wished that the Doctor's writers had found a way to slip that in as the Tardis opened its door.
posted by flabdablet at 7:38 AM on November 11


Doctor Who, arranged and orchestrated by Ron Grainer

Now I understand Grainer's reported puzzlement on being informed that the sounds Delia Derbyshire made were his composition.

That's truly awful! It's trying so hard not to be Hawaii Five-O.
posted by flabdablet at 7:43 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


A bit from Derbyshire and Mills on constructing the theme.

And in defense of the 80s, a segment on Howell's arrangement.

(I guess this is what it takes to get me out of lurker mode.)
posted by joshleejosh at 7:46 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


That music (and the entire opening credits sequence during the Fourth Doctor's tenure) terrified me as a child. But I kept watching, largely because it was something my dad and I did together.
posted by Shohn at 7:53 AM on November 11


I adore the bridge melody. I'm sure there are ways to explain it with music theory (I guess it's the switch to a major key?) but it's like a little hug to my brain every time I hear it.
posted by beandip at 8:24 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


the version of the Doctor Who theme with the bridge has a much more compelling harmonic structure than the version without one

I adore the bridge melody. I'm sure there are ways to explain it with music theory (I guess it's the switch to a major key?) but it's like a little hug to my brain every time I hear it.

QFFT

I came to DW late. My sister had been a fan of Tom Baker's run, which she watched on PBS in the 80s, but I didn't start watching (starting with the best doctor, 9) until 11 was in his second series. I didn't hear the bridge version until, I think, the closing credits for "The Christmas Invasion", and it completely changed the theme for me.
posted by hanov3r at 8:31 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


the version of the Doctor Who theme with the bridge has a much more compelling harmonic structure than the version without one!

The Sylvester McCoy-era theme was cartoonish and comical, which was fitting for the comic book-inspired scripts...but at least it had the bridge.
posted by stannate at 8:35 AM on November 11


Composer Ron Grainer's disco-flavored arrangement is certainly a hell of a thing.

Big Finish has a bunch of variants of the theme. Going back to 2003, here's a 'Pirate' theme. If you like the bombast the 2011 Mary Shelley theme is right up there.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:55 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


Doctor Who, arranged and orchestrated by Ron Grainer

A slightly disappointing answer to the question, I suppose. Although Grainer is also responsible for the theme to The Prisoner, another candidate for Greatest TV Theme of the 60s, and more in-period, so perhaps it would be more like that.
posted by Grangousier at 9:12 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


The Prisoner is exactly what I thought of listening to that Grainer arrangement! I think, although it's really hard to remember, I never heard the bridge growing up with Doctor Who. The show I saw was late at night, on PBS, years out of date, rarely explained, often out of order. It added to the mystery! But the theme at the beginning of the episode didn't extend that far from what I recall. No the first time I remember hearing the bridge was in Orbital's cover of the theme.
posted by traveler_ at 9:28 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


Thank you for this! My wife is a big Dr Who fan. It is the great pleasure of my life to ask her what the TARDIS sounds like as it dematerializes. "Wooojee Woooojee Chunk". Something like that.

Made my day!
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:35 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


the theme to The Prisoner, another candidate for Greatest TV Theme of the 60s

There is only UFO. There are not candidates.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:44 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


UFO is 1970.

I mean, it's awesome, but it's 1970.

Two versions of Dr Who I've long had in my head, but never found until I went looking for them just now (I assumed they only existed in my imagination, though perhaps I might be corrected here): One would be by The Shadows (not the recent Hank Marvin version, which is ho hum, though his tone is still marvellous, but actual Shadows from the 60s, around the time they did their version Thunderbirds theme), which appears not to exist outside my diseased brain; The other was Augustus Pablo, dub reggae with melodica, which, it turns out, does exist.
posted by Grangousier at 9:46 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


Curious that nobody has linked the Orbital cover Doctor? yet.
posted by hippybear at 10:17 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


UFO is 1970.

It don't matter when it's Arcturian.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:01 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


The version that aired during the 12th Doctor series (Peter Capaldi) truly annoyed me with its leaning hard on the mod wheel vibrato on the melody to a degree that would make a late-70s Fuzak hack blush. One of several reasons I was glad to see Moffat leave. (I presume he'd have had final say on that version, as producer/showrunner.) Thankfully, the next iteration (13th/Jody Whittaker/Chris Chibnall) corrected that.
posted by Philofacts at 11:26 AM on November 11


If we're going to do cover versions, we should probably do Bill Bailey's Belgian jazz version: Doctor Qui.
posted by dannyboybell at 11:59 AM on November 11 [3 favorites]


Doctor Who, arranged and orchestrated by Ron Grainer

I believe that’s a version he did in like 1980, so it’s not necessarily the same as what he would have done for the original series.

Between 3 and 6 minutes there are some pretty awful ones using early digital synthesizers instead of Delia Derbyshire's analogue electronics.

The first major revamp is pretty good, IMO, and all vintage analog. There’s a good old BBC clip about the making of that version - they used an ARP Odyssey and a CS-80 - but I’m not finding it right now.

The ones after that get iffy for a while.
posted by atoxyl at 1:38 PM on November 11


Also, a reggae version from Doctor Pablo & The Dub Syndicate
posted by Ironopolis at 3:19 PM on November 11


If we're going to do cover versions, we should probably do Bill Bailey's Belgian jazz version: Doctor Qui .
posted by dannyboybell at 2:59 PM on November 11 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


OMG that was, as Ace would say, brill!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 4:05 PM on November 11


Let's not forget the version of the theme used for the Pertwee episode "Carnival of Monsters," which was so numbingly awful they only ever used it once. It sounds like a handful of rubber bands being tortured.
posted by webmutant at 12:42 AM on November 15


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