The Importance of Doctor Who’s Theme Tunes

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Guest contributor George Brooks looks into an often overlooked element of the show.


You hear most people say which Doctor is ‘their Doctor’, which was the episode that drew them into watching the show and what has kept them watching the show. My first was the reboot in 2005. I hadn’t heard of the show beforehand and my parents said I might like it. Was it the Doctor’s character and mysterious personality that drew me in? Was it Rose, a normal shop assistant thrown into adventures, leaving her family behind that kept me watching? No. It was the theme tune. The moment ‘Rose’ came on, I was hit by it. I had never seen a show with a theme tune of this calibre before that moment. By the end of the opening sequence, I was hooked. Regardless of what would happen in the opening episode, I knew I would keep watching this show and I knew that I would enjoy it. Because it had a cool theme tune.

From that moment on, I didn’t let my parents change the channel until the closing credits had finished and the BBC Wales logo appeared at the end. But it wasn’t just the sound and the visuals, it was the next time trailer at the end of each episode. I had never experienced a show with a ‘next time’ before that, and the combination of the tune and the preview seemed like a perfect way to handle a series, to me. The two parters that put the preview at the end, with the back end of the theme tune over them, made them seem that more dramatic and exciting.

The cliffhanger at the end of Army of Ghosts seemed to be the perfect lead up to the theme tune and I just don’t know why. I suppose my point is that without the theme tune, I don’t think Doctor Who would be what it is. To me, it would seem empty without it. I have a similar opinion of shows like Primeval, Game of Thrones and The Sarah Jane Adventures. To be quite honest, I didn’t like SJA too much as I was a little too old, but the theme tune kept me there until the end.

My shock at the 2007 Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned, with the new theme tune, I don’t think I will ever experience again. I adored it. It was so powerful and again, perfectly married with the show. And then Series 5 came along, and the new theme seemed flat. I thought I hated Matt Smith, but he wasn’t the problem. It was his theme tune. But then I heard ‘I Am the Doctor’ for the first time. I was hooked instantly. It was a little overused in The Eleventh Hour, but its various revisions and thematic changes throughout Series 5, 6 and 7 allowed it to live on. It kept me watching.

I don’t mean to say that I don’t appreciate the acting and the stories. They are brilliant. But I don’t think the show would be what it is without its absolutely exceptional soundtracks. It seems to improve the stories for me (I hope I am not alone in this) and I just don’t know why. But it does.

The same goes for the soundtracks over the TV trailers, for example The Day of the Doctor trailer. Its version of ‘I am the Doctor’ was purely epic, as was the episode it was advertising. It just seemed like a perfect marriage of sound and visual features.

I chose to write this because I’ve heard rumours that there will be a new theme tune/opening titles (at least visually) for Series 8, and I know that I look forward to that, almost more so than meeting our new Doctor. Will it pack the ‘punch’ that I have missed since Series 4? Will it be darker to match with our new, darker Doctor? I think it will. Every tiny piece of information we have received about Series 8 make it seem like it will be the best yet. And I really think it will be.

Please post in the comments if you agree with my view on the importance of the theme tune, or at least understand where I am coming from. Thank you for reading.