New Doctor, New Music

With Jodie Whittaker, the new Doctor, and Chris Chibnall, the new show runner, Doctor Who will also be getting a new composer. The Music direction has, up to this point, been determined by Murray Gold, who also worked on The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. But now, Gold is stepping down, and his replacement has yet to be announced.

Speculation has been rife over the last few months about every aspect of Doctor Who since Moffat announced his own departure. The music is, perhaps, one of the most important aspects and can really help define a show. Gold has certainly put his stamp on it over the years to the joy of some, and the annoyance of others.

Generally, the soundtrack has, in my opinion, been of a high standard. Though, in recent times, a little lacking in variety. The occasional track will stand out, but lately, I had been feeling that Gold was just going through the motions and so when he announced his departure I wasn’t too surprised. After all, he’s been doing this job for over ten years now, he probably wants to do other things with his career.

An Epic Approach

Gold’s tenure on the show has tended towards created a feeling of ‘epic’. The sense that there is something legendary going on, that the Doctor is the great hero of our time, and that this is all part of something mythic.

Tracks like ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’ and ‘Am I a Good Man?’ are sweeping scores that catch you up in the magic of the tales. Then there are tracks like ‘I am the Doctor’ and ‘All the Strange, Strange Creatures’ that get you pumped up and admiring the heroics of the Doctor and their friends.

There has been something cinematic about Gold’s music that perhaps ties into the ambition of the show. To tell big stories, even on a small screen (and often a small budget). So what kind of approach should the new composer take?

Change, My Dear

With all of the other big changes coming to the show, it would not surprise me if the new composer tried to do things very differently. As an artist, they may want to put their own stamp on the show, give it a new sonic identity, as it were. Doing the same things Gold did but slightly differently would probably come across as going a bit stale.

That being said, Chibnall has said that he wants his Doctor Who to feel cinematic, and that would suggest something more in line with Gold’s style. Then again, cinema is a big field and there are plenty of varied and diverse composers and soundtracks out there. Cinematic could mean anything in this context.

Could we see a return of more synthesised music? It was what made a lot of the original series stand out at times. While Gold did experiment with synthesisers occasionally, the orchestral aspects remained centre stage.

After the success of Thor: Ragnorok, which featured a distinctly ‘retro’ soundtrack, audiences could be open to a more ‘techno’ style. Something in the vein of Magic Sword, perhaps.

Or, as would be a personal choice, something a little more Pink-Floyd inspired. Like this arrangement of the theme by ‘Vashta Nerada’ in 2011. It mixes the etherial and distant echoes that a lot of the new promotional material invokes. All while giving us a somewhat uplifting sound that reminds us we’re watching one of the best heroes on television.

But whatever direction the new composer takes, I hope it is different enough to establish that breath of fresh air the show needs. Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon.

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Joel Cornah
Joel Cornah is an author, journalist, and blogger. He is the author of a number of novels and novellas including; The Sea-Stone Sword, The Spire of Frozen Fire and The Silent Helm, with the upcoming novel The Sky Slayer, expected some time in 2016. He is an editor for The Science-Fiction and Fantasy Network, head of the Doctor Who department, and member of the Tolkien Society. He is a frequent blogger for the Pack of Aces blog, focussing on issues of Asexuality in media, specialising in sci-fi and fantasy.