One of the things I truly enjoy about Doctor Who is its background music. I love orchestral music, and composer Murray Gold writes and arranges music that goes so wonderfully with the action on the screen. I’ve purchased the soundtracks for seasons 1-4 and the season 4 specials (maybe in February I’ll purchase the soundtracks for the rest of the seasons) and I selected a bunch of them for the playlist that I listen to at work – instrumental music is awesome for concentrating. I’ve selected my favorites below, listed in no particular order. The links take you to YouTube videos of the songs, and the tooltip on the link tells you what series the video comes from.
As a note, you can buy almost all of these songs on amazon.com individually, if you don’t feel like buying the entire CDs.
What fan doesn’t like the theme song? This is the only song on this list that wasn’t composed by Murray Gold. It was written by Ron Grainer, then realized by Delia Derbyshire using entirely electronic means, rather than conventional instruments, and because of this, was very striking – it was the first TV theme that was completely electronic. For the new series, Gold arranged it for orchestra, though the main melody remained electronic. The show has featured different arrangements over the years, and my favorite is the one used in series 2 and 3. (I’m not sure, but I think series 1 had a different arrangement. I could easily be wrong.)
If you’ve watched series 5-7, you know this song: it’s the one used for most of the action scenes in which the Doctor is, well, doing anything. In my opinion, it is very much overused, and I’m hoping that a new action theme is introduced with the Twelfth Doctor. However, I still love this piece. It was introduced in series 4, and to me, it means the Doctor is about to save the day. It’s very heroic, and also a bit alien, as the main part of it is composed in 7/4, throwing you slightly off the beat you’re expecting.
The Doctor’s Theme was introduced in series 1 and was used through series 4; I’m not sure it was used at all for the Eleventh Doctor. It evokes the mystery and majesty of the Doctor, which to me doesn’t really apply to Eleven, but is definitely perfect for Nine and Ten.
This song starts with a slow, sad, beautiful vocal section. Then, halfway through, it switches to fast and heroic. In fact, the second section was used for the Doctor’s action scenes before I am the Doctor took that over (one scene it was used in was in “Gridlock,” when the Doctor started jumping down from car to car to get to the fast lane).
One of my absolutely favorite songs on this list, this was the music that played over the scene in “The Family of Blood” when John Smith and Nurse Redfern saw the life they would have if John Smith could remain human. The music is both happy and sad at the same time.
This was the theme for Gallifrey during Ten’s tenure, played whenever he talked about his home. It was also used during “Utopia” whenever Professor Yana was affected by his returning memories. The main theme was rearranged for The Council of the Time Lords, to add the feeling of majesty and corruption that characterized the High Council on the last day of the Time War.
This piece in itself evokes the despair of the world without the Doctor in “Turn Left,” and includes a sad, mournful, ghostly version of “The Doctor’s Theme” near the end.
This is the drum-and-fife music that plays when the scarecrow army starts to move in “The Family of Blood.” It’s just so pretty.
“Song for Ten,” performed by Tim Phillips, is the music that plays while the Tenth Doctor is choosing his wardrobe and the Tylers are having Christmas dinner in “The Christmas Invasion.” It’s one of my favorite songs, but my husband hates it, so I have to sing it on the sly. The version that you can buy on amazon.com is a different version than the one in the show. It is sung by Neil Hannon and includes extra verses, and in my opinion, is vastly inferior – while Mr. Hannon has a great singing voice, it doesn’t “fit” the Tenth Doctor. As far as I can tell, the Tim Phillips version has never been released commercially, but you can find copies of it on the internet. The link above is to the Tim Phillips version on YouTube.
This song is not in my playlist, because it makes me tear up when I hear it. The title means “Farewell, Ten” and it’s the music that plays during the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration. It’s a gorgeous song, but I just can’t listen to it casually.
I’m not quite sure when this song is played in the show, but I assume it’s during “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End.”
I prefer this Dalek theme, but the previous one is also good. This is from the episode of the same name, and I love the choral chanting in this piece.
This is a very schizophrenic piece of music, which fits the Master very well. It is also punctuated by the Master’s four-beat drumbeat, which can really make your heart skip.
This is the music from the original trailer, but it’s used in the show sometimes.
Donna’s Theme is very appropriate for her, being very spunky and jazzy. Love Donna!
This is a longer piece from the episode of the same name, and includes the music that played during the taxi/TARDIS chase scene.
For some reason, though the Slitheen were pretty silly rubbery monsters, they got a great theme song with some awesome lower brass and timpani riffs.
Another song that really captures Donna’s essence, this is the music that plays when Donna is investigating Adipose Industries in “Partners in Crime.”
I’ve always loved this song, the first one that plays in “The Next Doctor.” It has a very authentic Victorian feel. Unfortunately, since the episode moves directly from the Doctor delighting in the Christmas atmosphere to running to respond to Rosita’s cries for the Doctor, the song transitions very abruptly into chase music with more of a 1930s feel, which kind of ruins the ending.
This is a beautiful version of Martha’s theme. I’m not sure if it’s played at the end of “The Last of the Time Lords,” when Martha defeats the Master, but I know it’s played at the very end, when Martha decides to take control of her life and leaves the Doctor.