Since its triumphant return to television in 2005, Doctor Who has gone through a lot of changes. We’ve had nearly ten companions, with a new one waiting in the wings; we’re onto our fourth Doctor (or fifth, depending on how you count it), and we’ve been through three different TARDIS control rooms. 2010 saw the debut of a brand new production team, with Steven Moffat taking over as head writer and executive producer from Russell T Davies, who had held the spot for 5 years.
Across the last eleven years, there’s been a lot of change. But there’s been one key role that’s belonged to one man, right since the start - house composer, Murray Gold.
Even if you haven’t heard of him, you’ll certainly have heard his work. After all, each episode of Doctor Who begins with an iteration of Delia Derbyshire’s iconic theme that Gold himself has arranged! Outside of that, though, he’s written more than a few original ohrwurms of his own.
Perhaps one of the best is I Am The Doctor, the theme that defined Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. It’s uniquely well suited to Smith’s Doctor, flitting as it does between epic, soaring overtures, to moments of light hearted whimsy - all the while managing to be compulsively memorable, and genuinely fun to listen to. Another highlight from Smith’s era is The Long Song, which comes from the controversial episode The Rings of Akhaten. It’s an episode that I have, I admit, criticised in the past, but one aspect that’s entirely beyond reproach is Murray Gold’s music here. It’s a genuinely beautiful piece, that never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Rather wonderfully, the song was also used during Matt Smith’s regeneration, where the depth of meaning behind the call to “rest now, my warrior” became all the more apparent.
There are plenty of wonderful scores amongst Gold’s earlier oeuvre, naturally. Highlights during Tennant’s era include This is Gallifrey, a genuinely majestic that’s absolutely befitting of the Time Lords (I can often be found humming it while walking down the street) as well as the haunting, ethereal theme Doomsday. I’m also quite fond of the piece written for Madame du Pompadour, from The Girl in the Fireplace, and I’m convinced that “Song for Ten” is possibly the most quintessentially Christmassy music ever composed.
Last year, I was lucky enough to go to the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular - it was a ridiculous amount of fun, I’ve got to say. It was a brilliant experience to hear all of these fantastic themes being performed live, on a real orchestra; as much as I enjoy them as part of the show, or listening to them on YouTube, this performance was really on a whole other level - it was, as the name suggests, wholly spectacular. I’d absolutely recommend trying to go to such an event to anyone who likes Doctor Who, or indeed simply likes nice music.
There’s a reason why events like that can happen, and it’s because Murray Gold’s compositions are genuinely good enough to sustain them. Doctor Who, across its history, has attracted a lot of musical greats; there’s Delia Derbyshire for example, who was both a genius and a pioneer, as well as the Hans Zimmer, from before his Hollywood days (I wouldn’t recommend looking for his Doctor Who music, though, it might be best to just trust me that it exists).
It’s a real testament to Murray Gold’s skill that he can not only equal the talents of his predecessors, but indeed also surpass them. Doctor Who would be a genuinely poorer program without him.
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