Tony Fyler gets his rocks off.
Something weird is happening to fandom.
Series 9 is doing things so right, it’s converting long-suffering Classic fans into admitting they really like the show again. Whereas the grumpy Doctor they were promised in Series 8 actually left many Classic fans wavering, the Keith Richards Doctor, along so far with tighter writing and the feel of Classic Who with a New Who style, seems to be floating the boats of even the long-jaded Moffat-haters across the mystery that is the internet. Sure, there are handfuls of people who are losing their sonic screwdrivers over the ‘coolification’ of the Grumpy Doctor – who think the sonic shades suck and the guitar’s just silly – but if you know anything about fandom, the first rule is that somebody will reliably be found who hates everything. The rest of the world though seems to have clicked with this series more already than some of it did during the whole of Series 8.
Way back at the Deep Breath premiere, I fell in love with the spikiness of the Twelfth Doctor and I’ve been waiting for the world to come properly round since then. The only thing that really worried me at that premiere was the version of the theme they chose, which to me sounded a bit weak and treble-rich, given the grumpier grown-up Doctor and the impressive new take on the title sequence.
Full disclosure – I came into Who fandom with Destiny of the Daleks, so while my first version of the theme is the classic mysterious Fourth Doctor version, the version that marked my most ardent fan years was Peter Howell’s screaming, threatening, bass-heavy version that punched you right in the ears every week and told every non-fan to shut the hell up, because this was your time now. So there’s every possibility I’m biased in favour of harder, more rock-sounding versions of the theme. I distinctly remember watching the first episode of Trial of a Timelord, opening up with Dominic Glynn’s stripped back, twangly version of the theme, and thinking ‘That’s not the actual theme they’re going with, surely? That would have its lunch money stolen by the Peter Howell version.’ That’s not a concern with the majority of the pre-Howell versions (let’s not talk about the Delaware version, shall we, that way leads only to pain and spangliness), because they all have that bassline, and from 1967 on, there’s a certain slamming into gear feeling about that bassline, rather than the more ambling ‘we’ll find it in a moment’ version of the spectacular original. The Trial version was the first that felt too weak to support the ambition of Doctor Who. Even Keff McCullough’s Seventh Doctor version gave us a punch and a scream and a ‘hellyeah, we’re on our way’ vibe. The Eighth Doctor’s TV theme was a bit Star Trek, a big grown-up and proper and orchestral to ever find its way into the heart, and again, its bassline was about as rock and roll as the Simpsons’ theme.
Since the show came back in 2005, there have been various versions of the theme, some more whispery, some with more oomph, some with only the barest resemblance to the original tune (Matt Smith’s first version, I’m listening to you) – but nothing with quite that hard rock edge of Peter Howell’s masterly re-invention. The Capaldi version is not by any means a complete disaster – it gets the job done well enough. But I also remember sitting in the Deep Breath premiere thinking ‘Oh. They’ve gone a bit Glynny.” And so they had – when I got to hear it properly it improved massively, but it’s still always struck me as a little lacking in hard rock oomph.
Until now. The opening to Under The Lake made me and many other Classic fans sit up and prick up our ears. It was the regular theme...but rockier and more kickass. That bass beat. That strumming guitar. Ohhhh hellyeah, let me grab my sonic shades and let’s run off into time and space.
I’ve long forgotten the sweet sweet memory of hair, but it was all I could do to stop myself headbanging along with it.
What’s more, if the electric guitar is going to be the Twelfth Doctor’s ‘thing,’ – his set of spoons, his decorative celery, his cat badge or bow tie or long scarf (and why shouldn’t it be? We know Capaldi himself is a guitar fan and can play it), then why not finally have a 21st century theme arrangement that really rocks? If he’s going to swan around the universe in sonic shades – and why shouldn’t he? They make as much sense as a sonic screwdriver (to quote Captain Jack, ‘Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks “Oh that should be more sonic?”’) then let’s give this Keith Richards, David Bowie Doctor a properly kickass, rocking theme. To many fans, it’ll make not a jot of difference. To Eighties fans it will be a signal that good times are here again. And to the world it would be a sign of consistent branding and marketing strategy – the Doctor with his guitar, the theme screaming out in great bass-backed guitar riffs. Did I mention the oh hellyeah?
A rocking theme for a rocking Doctor. You know it makes sense.
To the Twittersphere, Who-fans!
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk