As the latest series of Doctor Who draws to a close – it’s not over yet, we still the New Year’s Special to cap it off – the BBC has released the full theme for the 13th Doctor, composed by new series composer Segun Akinola.
When the show was brought back in 2005, Russell T. Davies and producer Julie Gardner wanted to signal that it wasn’t the cheap-looking show of the 1970’s, with its cardboard sets, creature make-up that looked like it cost 50p. One way to do that was to have a full-on orchestral score instead of the synthesizer music cues. Murray Gold became the composer for the show over its next ten series, creating not just music cues but also entire orchestral suites and symphonies the way composers like John Williams and Howard Shore composed for big Hollywood epics like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Gold’s music often did the emotional heavy-lifting for the show, linking moments and motifs together as part of the story.
The BBC also used the music of Doctor Who as a “gateway drug” to interest kids and young people in Classical Musical by having the soundtrack performed at the Proms every year. The music of Doctor Who has become as crucial a character on the show as the Doctor and her companions. It has become a tradition on the show for each new Doctor to have their own theme tune, one that sums up the many layers and colours of the Doctor’s personality. It’s fascinating to listen to them on their own.
The 9th Doctor’s Theme
The first new Doctor of the show’s new era might be the saddest. Christopher Eccleston was many people’s introduction to the Doctor and his theme is the most low-key, mournful, like a requiem. He dresses in black to keep people at arm’s length. He looks like an angry social worker who has no time for nonsense when you go see him at his office. He’s lost his world and his people, and he has survivor’s guilt. His theme is a lament for everything he lost and wishes he could get back.
The 10th Doctor’s Theme
The 10th Doctor, played by David Tennent, is more extravagant than the 9th. Covering up his angst with an exuberance and a smart-alecky Mockney hipster persona. His theme tune is an evolution of the 9th Doctor’s, the choral lament is elaborated upon and layer with more orchestration to show his more outsized personality but with the darkness and mournfulness still lurking underneath.
“I am the Doctor” – the 11th Doctor’s Theme
Matt Smith’s Doctor is a geeky oddball given to silly diversions and flights of fancy. Gold created a brash, bombastic, grandiose rollercoaster of a theme to take us through the peaks and troughs of this Doctor’s personality, a madman with a box, an old man in a young man’s body. This theme sums up the crazy, over-the-top whimsy and eccentric bombast of the 11th Doctor. You can almost imagine this is the theme playing in his head whenever he does anything. For him, everything must be EPIC because he’s trying to be cool.
“A Good Man?” – the 12th Doctor’s Theme
The 12th Doctor’s theme might be the most complex and layered suite Gold ever composed for the show. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is a man of doubts and an endless pit of history and regrets, quizzical, alien, increasingly tumultuous like an emotional rollercoaster. Unlike the declarative nature of the 11th Doctor, this Doctor questions himself, asking if he is a good man, and his arc through Capaldi’s three series was about the Doctor deciding on the need to be a good man. His theme takes us through his arc of initial questioning, mystery, then increasing rage – and finally, conviction.
“Thirteen” – The 13th Doctor’s Theme
Segun Akinola took over from Gold as the show’s composer this season. His approach is less classical than Gold’s, more modern, low-key and subtle. Instead of the operatic bombast of Gold’s compositions, Akinola’s score for the show relies more on strings and electric keyboard to slip into the mood of the story. Gone is the sadness and melancholy of the past Doctor’s themes and a warmer, more intimate feel before it opens up to a sense of vastness and endless promise, the dawning of something new, just like the personality of this new Doctor herself.