Following the news that Murray Gold is returning to write the Doctor Who music for the 60th anniversary and beyond, we look back at some of the composer’s most memorable pieces.
Few Doctor Who music composers have had as long an association with the programme as Murray Gold. He joined the production team when Russell T Davies first took over the reins in 2003, and continued to write for the series right up until the end of the Steven Moffat era in 2017. And whilst he passed the baton to Segun Akinola for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who music, it was recently announced that Gold would be returning to write the scores for the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors.
But can we expect any of his iconic Doctor Who music to make a return ‘appearance’? If so, these are some of the most famous ones to listen out for…
The Doctor’s Theme
This wordless composition made its debut in the very first episode of New Who, following the Ninth Doctor‘s famous speech about being able to feel the turn of the Earth. And throughout the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s run, it was often used for key moments of story progression or ‘general mysteriousness,’ you might say. It was often associated with the Bad Wolf enigma of Series One, and with moments that pertained to the Time Lord’s shadowy past, or identity.
It was also a piece of Doctor Who music that evolved. Murray Gold would later arrange a grander orchestral version for Series Four, along with a more ‘breathless’ rendition which featured prominently in ‘Turn Left,’ among other episodes.
Jokingly, this piece of Doctor Who music was referred to as ‘Flavia’ by Russell T Davies, suggesting that the mysterious voice actually belonged to a Time Lady from the Classic era, calling out from the vortex…
Song For Ten
When the Tenth Doctor first donned his iconic outfit in the TARDIS wardrobe, his transformation montage was underscored by a bombastic Christmas song that nobody was able to identify.
And the reason nobody was able to identify it was because it had never been heard before. This was an original song written for ‘The Christmas Invasion’ by Gold himself, originally performed by Tim Philips before being reworked for the soundtrack release by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy fame.
Following this, it became something of a tradition for Doctor Who Christmas specials to feature an original song, and ‘Song for Ten’ was soon followed by ‘Love Don’t Roam‘ and ‘The Stowaway‘ in subsequent years.
These weren’t the first original songs ever composed for the series, though. That accolade belongs to the infamous ‘Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon‘ which made its debut in the 1966 story ‘The Gunfighters,’ gaining a truly legendary reputation among fans.
Doctor Who music is a key ingredient for elevating the emotion of a scene, and few pieces have been as impactful as the haunting ‘Doomsday’ theme from the episode of the same name. This high-tempo piece signalled Rose Tyler‘s separation from the Doctor as she became trapped in a parallel universe, and played out as she hammered on the wall of Torchwood Tower, desperate to get back to her friend.
It’s an unusual piece in that it’s not objectively ‘sad,’ per se, and indeed this was not the effect that Murray Gold was going for. Rose was a teenager, and Gold wanted to compose a “sexy” piece that captured the burning, devastating passion of young love.
Appropriately, this piece of Doctor Who music was performed by ‘Flavia’ herself Melanie Pappenheim to the simple accompaniment of a bass guitar. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Vale / Vale Decem
The bell was tolling for the Tenth Doctor in 2009, and the Time Lord was being followed around by the haunting tones of a singing Ood who had foreseen his downfall. This first piece of Doctor Who music – ‘Vale,’ which is Latin for ‘farewell’ – made its debut in ‘The Waters of Mars’ and made a devastating return in ‘The End of Time‘ when the Doctor’s fate had been sealed. He had knocked four times and his song was ending – but the story never ends…
‘Vale,’ therefore, evolved into the more operatic ‘Vale Decem‘ in the moments leading up to the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration, sung by the Ood and culminating in a melancholic “vale, vale, vale” as the Time Lord, teary-eyed, stared into the middle distance and declared that he didn’t want to go. Sniff.
But what the words of this particular piece of Doctor Who music actually mean is still up for debate, as we can’t be sure of the exact Latin or its translation. But suffice it to say, ‘vale decem’ means ‘farewell Ten,’ so the main thing to grasp is that we’re saying goodbye to the Tenth Doctor. Although, by this point in the story, you’ve probably realised this…
I am the Doctor
Now you can put away your tissues. The Eleventh Doctor burst onto our screens in 2010’s ‘The Eleventh Hour’ with a new showrunner and a new signature theme. The racing strings of Murray Gold’s ‘I am the Doctor‘ are synonymous with Matt Smith’s energy and passion for adventure, and this piece of Doctor Who music made its debut as the Time Lord confronted the over-zealous Atraxi and told them, quite plainly, that he was the Doctor. Whether they liked it or not.
This is by far the most rousing, up-beat composition on the list, perfectly capturing the Eleventh Doctor’s zeal. It would be phased out after his separation from the Ponds as he descended into the shadows once more, but the spirit of this piece of Doctor Who music would later be recaptured in the Twelfth Doctor’s ‘A Good Man?‘
Of course, there are many, many other memorable pieces of Doctor Who music that Murray Gold wrote during his 14 year reign. Honourable mentions must go to ‘Rose’s Theme,‘ ‘The Long Song‘ and ‘The Shepherd’s Boy,’ but which others would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.