Doctor Who And Desert Island Discs: The Doctor's Choices - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who And Desert Island Discs: The Doctor's Choices

Castaway with the Doctors...

The BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs invites castaways to choose eight pieces of music, a book (in addition to the Bible or a religious text appropriate to that person's beliefs, and the Complete Works of Shakespeare) and a luxury item that they would take to an imaginary desert island, where they will be marooned indefinitely. The rules state that the chosen luxury item must not be anything animate or indeed anything that enables the castaway to escape from the island, for instance a TARDIS. The choices of book and luxury can sometimes give insight into the guest's life, with that being said let us look back through the choices of the actors who have played Doctor Who on screen. To date five of them have appeared on Desert Island Discs, the first coming prior to his tenure as the Doctor...

Jon Pertwee
Five years before he was offered the role of the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee was invited onto Desert Island Discs to discuss his choices with original host, and creator, Roy Plomley. In an episode broadcast on October 12th 1964, Petwee chose The Culture of the Abdomen: A Cure of Obesity and Constipation by F A Hornibrook as his book. Essentially a diet book (which seems a rather odd choice), the 1924 tome sees the author extolling the benefits of exercising the abdomen for better health.

Pertwee's musical choices were...
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Venite inginocchiatevi (from The Marriage of Figaro) 
  • Choir of the Russian Church of the Metropolitan of Paris Multos - Annos
  • Lonnie Donegan - Love is Strange 
  • Rafael Romero & R. Montoya Jarrito Cuatro Saetas 
  • John Lee Hooker -  Dimples 
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  -  Der Hölle Rache (from The Magic Flute)
  • Miriam Makeba - Suliram (Indonesian Lullaby)*
*Not to be confused with his later Venusain Lullaby.

Jon's favorite track was Georgia On My Mind by Ray Charles.

For his luxury item, Jon Pertwee chose his guitar. Pertwee was very musical so this isn't so surprising. The picture above shows him performing on the BBC's 1957 youth programme Six-Five Special and in 1962 he recorded the album Jon Pertwee Sings Songs For Vulgar Boatmen, as well as later releasing music to tie-in with both Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge. Pertwee was always performing, always entertaining his audience, right through to the days leading up to his passing. The consummate entertainer, how he'd react with no one to perform to doesn't bear thinking about.

It's a real shame this episode of Desert Island Discs is now lost to time. Like many other radio (and television) programmes of the day Desert Island Discs was originally broadcast live and was generally not recorded. This, in addition to the BBC's policy of wiping that was applied during the 1950s and 1960s, means very few episodes from the first 20 years of the show are known to exist. Thankfully, a few have been rediscovered from off-air recordings, including one featuring our next Doctor.

William Hartnell
The original, you might say, was castaway on August 23rd 1965. Hartnell was on a break between seasons two and three of Doctor Who and chose English Social History by G M Trevelyan as his book to be marooned with. A study of six centuries of English history, from Chaucer to Queen Victoria, the non-fiction hefty publication would definitely take some time to read whilst waiting for rescue, and would no doubt be educational too.

William Hartnell's choices of music included...
  • Paul Robeson - Trees
  • Alexander Borodin -  Polovtsian Dances (from Prince Igor)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven - Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major, Op. 47 'Kreutzer'
  • Albert Arlen - El Alamein Concerto
  • Louis Armstrong - Lawd, You Made the Night Too Long
  • Sergey Rachmaninov -  Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor
  • Flanagan and Allen - Underneath The Arches 
With his favourite track being The Spring Song (from A King In New York) by Charlie Chaplin

William Hartnell remains the only actor to appear on Desert Island Discs whilst he was still playing the Doctor. With that in mind his choice luxury item was cigarettes. Clearly 1965 was a very different time, but it's not something you can imagine any current Doctor Who actor, smoker or not, citing as their luxury item for fear of repercussions from 'up above' for not setting a good example.

John Hurt
Just under 30 years before he played the War Doctor, John Hurt became one of Roy Plumley's last guests (Plumley died in 1985 after hosting 1791 editions). Films like Midnight Express, Alien and The Elephant Man had made Hurt a major star and bought him much acclaim.

His choice of book was The Complete Works Of Lewis Carroll, as a fan of Jabberwocky that's perhaps no surprise. Musically, John Hurt picked...
  • Lead Belly - Backwater Blues 
  • Johannes Brahms - Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major 
  • Dolly MacMahon - Love Is Teasing 
  • Giuseppe Verdi - La traviata Prelude to Act 3 
  • The Beatles - Hey Jude 
  • Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight 
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major
With his favourite disc being the tin-whistle Bean Dubh Ab Ghleanna by Paddy Moloney. I'm unable to find a video to embed for the track, but it is on spotify if you're interested.

The level-headed John Hurt picked a pillow as his luxury item, which makes sense when you imagine him as the War Doctor, teamed up with these next two Doctors...

David Tennant
Speaking to Kirsty Young on New Years Day 2010, ahead of that night's broadcast of The End Of Time Pt 2, David Tennant had filmed his last scenes as the Doctor several months earlier.His recorded choices had quite an 80s theme to them, with, perhaps unsurprisingly, a couple of choice cuts from Scottish acts...
  • The Proclaimers -  Over and Done With
  • Elvis Costello - Oliver's Army
  • The Housemartins - Me and the Farmer
  • Deacon Blue - Dignity
  • Eddie Izzard - The Starship Enterprise
  • Kaiser Chiefs - Ruby
  • Billy Bragg - Greetings to the New Brunette
His favourite recording is the Christmas song for non-believers, White Wine In The Sun by Tim Minchen.

As an in demand actor Tennant rarely seems to be without an upcoming role or production on the go, often multiple ones at the same time. Interestingly he picked Marcel Proust's In Search Of Lost Time as his book choice. This French seven volume novel would not only keep you entertained for a good long stretch whilst marooned on a desert island, but is perhaps also interesting in name. Especially combined with his luxury item choice, a solar powered DVD player with all seven seasons of The West Wing. Perhaps David was subconsciously crying out for more free time to catch up on things he'd like to enjoy but can't, with work getting in the way. He does appear to be a workaholic, even recording Staged during lockdown when he could've finally caught up with that French novel!

Matt Smith
The youngest actor to play the Time Lord spoke with Kirsty Young in March 2018. As well as discussing Doctor Who, Matt Smith went into detail about the research he undertook to play Prince Philip in The Crown and his promising early football career.

Smith also spoke about DJ'ing when he was younger and that's definitely reflected among his eclectic musical choices...
  • Oasis - Roll With It
  • Marvin Gaye -  Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
  • Paul van Dyk - For An Angel (E-Werk Club Mix) (feat. Rachel McFarlane) 
  • Arcade Fire -  Keep The Car Running
  • The Notorious B.I.G. - Juicy
  • Luciano Pavarotti - Nessun Dorma
  • LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends 
Matt Smith's favourite recording choice was one that could've, perhaps, soundtracked his final Doctor Who adventure. Although I doubt Pink Floyd would've given clearance for The Great Gig In The Sky to be used in The Time Of The Doctor.

Smith's book and luxury item choice also seem to very much echo his portrayal as the Doctor. Regardless of his age, I always felt that Smith successfully played the Eleventh Doctor as an old wizened man (which, of course, he was supposed to be), especially in his later years in the role. He conveyed that aged gravitas well, I believe, so the choice of Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes and an endless supply of English Breakfast Tea seems very apt for someone older than their outward appearance would allow you to infer.

Those are the only five actors who have played that Doctor that have appeared on Desert Island Discs to date. It's a real surprise that Peter Capaldi has either not been asked or accepted as I can imagine his musical choices to be very interesting indeed. What would you take with you to that remote island? Let us know in the comments below.

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