The Doctor’s Theme – Evolving With the Character

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Murray Gold’s score for the revived Doctor Who has been breath-taking since 2005. Sales of the soundtrack have been consistently good and now orchestras are playing to sold out concert halls, delivering the music of the series.

One of the elements that has been particularly effective has been the use of a theme, a motif perhaps, used for various characters. Rose had a theme, Martha, Donna, Amy and Clara all have them too. Even the Daleks and Cybermen get their own music. But it is the Doctor’s own tune that I want to focus on here as I think it is a particularly good demonstration of the character’s evolution over the last ten years.

Back in 2005 the Ninth Doctor crashed into our living rooms and whisked us all off on incredible adventures across the stars. He was bouncy, excited, curious and mysterious. He could be brutal, kind, caring, and yet distant. Eccleston’s portrayal was full of contrasts and depth. His lively moments were balanced by his times of brooding and fury.

The theme Murray Gold chose a sombre, distant and singular voice to play against this Doctor. It makes sense – he is a loner, he is the last of his kind, he is isolated and tormented by what happened in his past. This simple and haunting melody gave voice to his sorrow and loneliness.

When the tenth Doctor came along, the theme was soon updated. It retains the basic melody, but now we have more grandness, we have more voices, and we have more instruments. This Doctor has found his friends; he has made a new family and has taken on a new mantle. No longer the lonely traveller, he is a legend, and this is reflected in the sheer scale of the new arrangement.

It builds from the slow and quiet, turning into the full orchestral experience that echoes throughout the latter part of the Tenth Doctor’s tenure.

The Eleventh Doctor’s theme has become incredibly popular. From the moment he stepped through the holograms on a hospital rooftop in 2011, the Eleventh Doctor has been followed by this tune. It has an optimistic and quick pace to it, played on strings; first a single violin, and then soon joined by more, until the whole section seems to be involved.

There is grandness once again to this arrangement but it is a complete departure from the slightly haunting and ancient-sounding theme of the ninth and tenth Doctors. Gold uses this motif again and again throughout the Eleventh Doctor’s run, seemingly whenever he does something significant, makes an entrance or defeats the enemy. There was even a ‘wild west’ version of it once.

Now that the Twelfth Doctor has arrived, we also have a new motif to enjoy. This one is a little subtler, having something of a blend of all the previous themes feelings.

It begins with a slow and quiet atmosphere, but soon we hear chimes, putting us in mind of the Doctor’s childish nature. This seems somewhat in contrast with Capaldi’s older portrayal, but as it goes on it rises and more elements start to filter in. The build up is gradual but chilling at times.

Slowly the strings and heavy drums come in and we get more of the ‘heroic’ feel reminiscent slightly of Eleven’s tune, but with more of a grand echo and range. Horns and more come along to give the theme a lot of weight and gravitas, much like Twelve’s personality.

The theme, much like the character, is full of contrasts; from quiet and childish, to sweeping and heroic. We have asked questions of the Twelfth Doctor, and the music seeks to give these questions subtle answers. Is he a good man? Perhaps he is not a man but a child, perhaps he is a hero, and perhaps he is an ancient being from the dawn of time. Perhaps the Doctor is all of these things.

The full soundtracks are all available from music shops both on and off the Internet. Go grab them if you can! They are well worth a listen or two. Or twelve.