PertWeek: Variations On A Theme

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Christopher Morley explores the many version of the Doctor Who theme from the Pertwee era.

The arrival of the Third Doctor on January 3rd 1970 meant one of television's best-loved theme tunes got a rejig...

That's the famous version but within just two years another was trialed and abandoned. Referred to as 'The Delaware Theme', and created by Brian Hodgson & Paddy Kingsland with Delia Derbyshire acting as producer, it was something of an early trial run for the Delaware synthesiser - nicknamed after the road on which the Radiophonic Workshop's studio could be found.

As Mark Vail put it in his book Vintage Synthesisers:
"In 1974, EMS introduced the Synthi 100, designed for those who didn't need a portable system. As [designer, Dave] Cockerell put it, 'You had to take walls down to get it into studios.' The Synthi 100 was originally based on three VCS3s, and grew from there to encompass 12 oscillators and associated filters, envelopes, etc. It also had a three-track monophonic digital sequencer and two 64X64 patch matrices. The Synthi 100 sold for around £10,000 (US $25,000), which limited the number of units sold, but it was the only thing Britain ever produced that could compete with the modular systems from American manufacturers. One Synthi 100 went to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which does electronic music and sound effects for a myriad of TV programs, including Doctor Who."
Gavin Fuller of the Telegraph wasn't impressed, though- calling it:
"A peculiar tinny version – apparently using the Jew’s harp as inspiration for the bassline. Sounding as though it was made by Martians on drugs, it was ultimately cut and unused, except for on a few tapes sent to Australia, which was the only country exposed to this horror."
The synthesiser itself did, though, have at least one admirer among the Radiophonic staff of composers. Malcolm Clarke used it to create his score for The Sea Devils after the Workshop had become one of the first studios in the country to take delivery of the newest EMS model. And the Delaware theme survives to this day as an extra on the DVD of Carnival Of Monsters.

If you thought the Delaware version to be strange, even odder perhaps was a version of the Doctor Who theme tune with spoken lyrics by no less than the Doctor of the time himself! Jon Pertwee scored something of a cult hit with Who Is The Doctor?...

I cross the void beyond the mind
The empty space that circles time
I see where others stumble blind
To seek a truth they never find
Eternal wisdom is my guide
I am the Doctor

Through cosmic waste the TARDIS flies
To taste the secret source of life
A presence science can't deny
Exists within, outside, behind
The latitude of human minds
I am the Doctor

My voyage dissects the course of time
"Who knows?," you say
But are you right?
Who searches deep to find the light
That glows so darkly in the night
Toward that point I guide my flight

As fingers move to end mankind
Metallic teeth begin their grind
With sword of truth I turn to fight
The satanic powers of the night
Is your faith before your mind?
Know me. Am I the Doctor?
Taking things further forward a little both chronologically and musically, though with a clear debt to the Radiophonic Workshop, Orbital released their own remix of the Pertwee-era theme as part of their 2001 album The Altogether...

They would later perform their version live at Glastonbury in 2010 with a special guest joining the Hartnoll brothers on stage!

The collaboration stemmed from a meeting between Paul Hartnoll and Matt Smith at Coachella. As Hartnoll told Digital Spy:
"We played in Coachella, which was a great gig, we went to an aftershow party in this big sort of villa place. It was typical, exactly what you'd expect - a massive villa with a swimming pool and palm trees in the garden."
And in front of him in the queue for a beer was Smith, who proved up for an appearance with them having raved over the Orbital attempt at giving the Doctor Who theme a makeover.
"We just had a beer together and a chat and he said 'Oh, I'd love to come on stage and introduce you one time'. Our lighting guy who was with us said, 'Why don't you come on at Glastonbury?' He sort of flipped out and said, 'Oh my god, I've never been to Glastonbury, that'd be brilliant."
Paul would subsequently contribute a remix of the aforementioned Malcolm Clarke Sea Devils score to an intended album of similar re-imaginings which never saw the light of day.

From the opening theme tune we move to the closing, and an innovation still used today which premièred during the Third Doctor's era. The sting...

As Philosophy Of Science tells us of the development:
"During the Third Doctor's era beginning in 1970, the "sting", an electronic shriek, was added to punctuate the episode cliffhangers and serve as a lead-in to the closing theme."
Although not heard very often, a few episodes, such as Spearhead from Space, also used a slight rearrangement of the Derbyshire theme for the closing credits, one which featured the "middle eight" section. A rare inclusion during the seventies as the "middle eight" was also only heard on four Fourth Doctor episodes, although Peter Howell would eventually make it a fixture in his 1980 arrangement.

An ear, Sarah-Jane?

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