It is with great pride and excitement that I launch the first version of a site I have been wanting to complete for a great many years: a comprehensive reference guide to the Doctor Who theme music.
This site aims to be the definitive guide to the theme, and was designed to cover the legacy of the original Doctor Who theme, composed in 1963 by Ron Grainer, realised by Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, re-imagined 17 years later by the Workshop’s Peter Howell, and further re-interpreted during the series’ run by freelance composers Dominic Glynn and Keff McCulloch.
We have made a conscious decision to omit the various subsequent versions of the Doctor Who theme that have been used in productions made after the conclusion of the original series. The magic of the original themes is, as far as officially-sanctioned Doctor Who is concerned, lost in this modern era.
While there are many resources available covering the facts and history of the themes, our site aims to offer something a little more practical: how the themes were made technically, and how the notation is designed to be laid out and the themes structured. Though we are only launching today covering the original version of the theme, you may be assured that all of the versions appearing throughout the original show’s run will be covered in time with the same scope and attention to detail.
The site is a collaborative effort between myself, my brother Ian Stewart, and our friend Josef Kenny. It is a labor of love, and we hope you enjoy it and find it a useful reference for working with the theme yourself.
In what has proven to be the single biggest discovery of missing Doctor Who episodes ever, nine lost installments from the Patrick Troughton era have been found and returned to the BBC.
Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 of 1967/68’s The Enemy of the World join the already-held third episode of the story, meaning that the entire six-part adventure is once more complete in the BBC archives. But that’s not all – Episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the following adventure, The Web of Fear, have also been recovered. With Episode 1 of the story already existing in the archive, the story is now five-sixths complete, with only Episode 3 remaining lost.
Between 1991 and 2011, eight episodes were recovered in total. In one day, we just got nine more. I’ve never been happier. The most tremendous find not only of my lifetime, but in all of Doctor Who history. What a momentous day.
I just finished The Enemy of the World, and what a brilliant story it was. The pacing, direction, quality of writing, and Patrick Troughton’s performance were just superb. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have this story back. Tonight, Enemy will sink in, and tomorrow… The Web of Fear.
If I had all of Patrick Troughton’s era laid out in front of me and I could have picked two stories to save, I’m not sure I could have picked two better than these.
Rumors have been flying for months that an unspecified number of Doctor Who episodes, destroyed decades ago and thought to be lost, had been recovered. Fingers were being pointed in every direction, evidence had supposedly been dug up, and the internet reached fever pitch over it all. While I was hopeful at first, I quickly decided that the wisest course of action was to stay out of it and wait to hear something official.
The actual news will be revealed in a few hours, at which time I may post something more, but I felt it was important to say a few words about the circumstances surrounding the recovery of these episodes. All of this is speculation based on no special knowledge. I am only speaking as someone to whom Doctor Who has been very important for many, many years.
But there is one important thing to say: it was confirmed to me that the rampant speculation and personal attackes (sic) that has been going on in some quarters of fandom has made the acquisition more difficult. … I asked how, and was told even discussing that would create difficulties. The story can be told, but not yet.
It sounds to me like this whole thing has been a clusterfuck. I think these episodes were found by somebody who may have their own (likely reasonable) priorities and concerns, and it’s very easy to surmise that becoming involved with the rather “passionate,” shall we say, Doctor Who fanbase has created some bad experiences for them over all this. Add to that possible financial motivations and, based on the nature of these rumors over the past several months, possible poor management of the situation by the BBC, and it sounds like this whole thing has come close to derailing itself because of politics and greed, and political reasons may be why we haven’t gotten all the recovered episodes yet and “there may be more on the way.”
All I want to say is that people should just cool their heads here and back off. We all love Doctor Who, and I know we all would give any number of limbs or internal organs to get some of these missing episodes back. But the fact of the matter is that these episodes either exist or they don’t (and it’s sounding like more may indeed still exist). They are likely not going anywhere. It’s highly unlikely that anybody will maliciously destroy these episodes, although I would say those chances are reduced even further if everybody could just remain civil about all this. The best thing fans can do to ensure the safe recovery of these episodes—which is something that everybody wants—is to back off and let the BBC do what they need to do in order to bring them home. We’ll get what’s left eventually, and nobody is helping by letting tempers flare and resorting to baseless speculation and personal attacks. This needs to stop.
Don’t make a difficult situation worse; just let the people who are involved in this situation handle it the way they’re supposed to. And hopefully by tomorrow, we’ll all have some more Doctor Who that we never thought we’d be able to see.
Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable, if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset.
This week, Chris and Danny discuss Star Trek: Nemesis, the disappointing final entry in the original Star Trek franchise. Where did it go wrong? Why did they come up with these ideas? Who’s to blame? And is Nemesis the real reason that Star Trek died?
Chris and Danny return to discuss Star Trek: Insurrection. From the strange compromises made at the studio’s request to the compelling issues raised and the moral ambiguity, Insurrection stands out as one of the more interesting entrants to the Star Trek movie franchise.
Chris and I are back, and we should be back to a regular recording schedule as of now.
I object to a huge, creepy advertising company having that much access to me and my data, I think it’s unwise to use many proprietary, hard-to-replace services in such important roles, and I think it’s downright foolish to tie that much of your data and functionality into proprietary services run by one company in one account that sometimes gets disabled permanently with no warning, no recourse, and no support.
You clearly have some concept of what Doctor Who is about – your previous work is a testament to that. Your casting of Capaldi is an indicator of who the Doctor should be. But the show cannot be a shining beacon of Science Fiction whilst you are still at the helm. Let someone take on that mantle. Someone who knows what the show needs.
Great piece from Alistair Dalladay over at Eye of Harmony. My thanks to him for picking up the reigns and helping to bring that site back to life.
Betaworks has only owned Instapaper for a few months so far, and they’ve already hired a staff, moved the entire infrastructure to AWS, improved support, rewritten much of the back end, and overhauled the website design.
It’s bittersweet watching Instapaper take flight not under Marco’s stewardship, but incredibly exciting. I really like the new website design, and I’m thrilled that Marco is happy with it as well.
The Surface RT is an ill-conceived device that confuses users, but Microsoft’s problem is that it believed users would soon be clamoring to touch their screens. If you’ve ever used a touchscreen-enabled laptop or maybe a Chromebook Pixel, chances are you barely ever touch your screen. There are some situations where large touchscreens make sense […], but in most cases, it’s just awkward and ultimately useless.
Microsoft, as a company, moves very slowly. Ballmer is trying to change this with the recent reorganization, but we won’t see the fruits of this for quite a while. Once Microsoft goes all in, it’s in for the long haul because it can’t correct its course fast enough. “Touch first” — which begat Windows 8 and the Surface — was the wrong move. That ship has sailed. The question now is how long it’ll take for Microsoft to get back on the right course.
I’m a little late on this, but I think this article is dead-on. “Touch first” is holding Microsoft back. Windows 8 moved in the wrong direction after what was arguably Microsoft’s best OS. Now they’re stuck and can’t change course fast enough.
I have some pretty strong opinions about the age of an actor who is to play the Doctor. Let’s take a quick look at the actors who have played him previously.
1 - William Hartnell (1963) - 55 years old
2 - Patrick Troughton (1966) - 46 years old
3 - Jon Pertwee (1970) - 50 years old
4 - Tom Baker (1974) - 40 years old
5 - Peter Davison (1981) - 29 years old
6 - Colin Baker (1984) - 40 years old
7 - Sylvester McCoy (1987) - 44 years old
8 - Paul McGann (1996 TV movie) - 36 years old
New Series Doctors
9 - Christopher Eccleston (2005) - 41 years old
10 - David Tennant (2005) - 34 years old
11 - Matt Smith (2010) - 27 years old
12 - Peter Capaldi (2013) - 55 years old
As you can see, the age precedent set by the classic series (which, as far as I am concerned, is the only authoritative source here) ranged from 55 (William Hartnell, who was a total badass) all the way down to 29 (Peter Davison). I am a pretty hardcore purist, and I maintain that the earliest Doctors are the best. Even Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor, who is arguably the most famous, is a little too mainstream for my tastes. He’s undeniably great, and he’ll always have his moments, but he definitely brought something new (and permanent) to the role from that point on. He was 40, so not super young, but he was more youthful than his predecessors. Less of a father figure and more of a mischievous older brother, perhaps. Despite the fact that the Tom Baker era was mostly still excellent, it’s hard to argue that the core of the show, and the role of the Doctor, didn’t change at this point.
When Tom Baker finally left after seven long and highly successful years (the longest tenure of any Doctor to date), John Nathan-Turner decided that he needed to cast someone radically different from Tom Baker in order for it to work (which I don’t necessarily disagree with). They cast Peter Davison, who was only 29 at the time—11 years younger than the youngest actor to play the Doctor before him, and 18 years younger than Tom Baker when he left. Peter Davison is a great Doctor, but he’s not one of my favorites.
The rest, as they say, is history, and this takes us up to the new series. The new series began (more or less correctly in my view) with Christopher Eccleston, an older (though not old) actor, in the part of the Doctor. He was honestly not bad in the role, but he only stayed for a single year. David Tennant, who took over from Eccleston, is where everything went horribly, horribly wrong. I have nothing against David Tennant as a person, or as an actor. He’s a fine gentleman and a lifelong fan of the show. But, through a combination of terrible writing of his Doctor’s character and, well, him just not being the right person to play the part (new series fans would stone me to death for saying that, but I honestly can’t imagine him playing a Doctor that was any good), he almost single-handedly destroyed the show outwardly. Thanks to him and his Doctor, the show started to be something that it never was before, and since he stayed in the part for just over four years, that’s what the show became. It fed into itself, getting worse and worse and drawing in legions of fans who were drawn to the horribleness that it became. And that’s the hole we’ve been trying to dig ourselves out of for years.
It’s not all David Tennant’s fault, but I think he’s the easiest thing to point to. Someone who was in no way the Doctor started to represent “the Doctor” as far as the viewing public was concerned. David Tennant became the reason people tuned in, and David Tennant’s Doctor became the character that writers wrote for. It crept up on us, but the damage has now been done, and “fixing” the show—trying to make it what it used to be again—is no easy task. (It’s also, arguably, an undesirable task as far as the BBC is concerned. The show is more successful with this shitty modern watered-down Doctor Who, so why go back to the way things were before?)
When David Tennant finally left, Matt Smith took over as his successor. I was cautiously optimistic at first. My biggest concern was his age. At 27, he held the new record for youngest Doctor. But after watching just one episode with him, I was completely sold. I question anybody who pretends to be a proper Doctor Who fan and has bad things to say about Matt Smith. He captured the role of the Doctor in a way that I don’t think anybody has since Tom Baker. I adore him. His material hasn’t always been good, but he has been nothing but brilliant. His performance helps even the worst scripts. Matt Smith was the first Doctor the new series had who felt like the character always should. He seemed like an alien. He felt like an old soul in a young body. He was utterly compelling, and yet vulnerable.
I was very much saddened when I heard that Matt Smith would be leaving the show. The quality of the writing has continued its downward spiral with Steven Moffat at the helm, only getting worse year by year (with the occasional exception). I was terrified that Moffat had now completely lost his mind, and would cast someone terrible as the next Doctor. The only thing left holding the show together at all (a great Doctor) would be gone, possibly forever.
With the news of Peter Capaldi’s casting, my fears seem to have been premature. Not only is he a terrific actor (and a rare example of one I’ve seen prior to getting the part), but at 55 years old, he is now tied with William Hartnell for oldest Doctor, which is a move I would never in a million years have guessed they would make. A lot of this is still going to come down to the writing, which I am not optimistic about, but with Peter Capaldi, we are certainly no worse off than we were with Matt Smith—and in a few very important ways (namely sexualizing the Doctor and making it seem appropriate for there to be any kind of attraction or sexual tension with his companion), we are likely significantly better off.
David Tennant is also to blame the whole fangirl swooning over the young attractive Doctor with the dreamy eyes and facial expressions and catchphrases thing, much of which carried over into Matt Smith’s era. One of the most exciting things about Peter Capaldi taking over is that we are already seeing the worst of the worst of these “fans” dropping off, because the new Doctor is “an old guy” or “ugly.” We literally cannot lose these fans fast enough, and the more of them we lose, the more hope the show will have of righting its course. We need to hemorrhage the shitty fangirl fans and draw in (or back in) the more mature fans, and even now, you can see this happening based on internet reaction. Doing this was a bold move on the part of the BBC, and I had zero faith that they would actually make such a radical change in one fell swoop—but they have. Now they need to follow through with what they’ve started.
As for Steven Moffat, however, I sadly don’t think there’s any hope. He is a bad writer who occasionally has brilliant ideas (but is also something of a one-trick pony), and he simply managed to avoid outing himself until he was forced to take over as showrunner. He has a terrible attitude, constantly bitching about how Doctor Who is “ruining his life,” and yet he won’t just fuck off, probably for the same reasons as Murray Gold (somebody needs to fund his cocaine habit). I have no interest in giving him any additional chances to sabotage the show further.
We’ll have to wait and see, but thanks to Capaldi’s casting, I am no longer despairing over Matt Smith’s departure and instead, for the first time since 2010, I am hopeful. I’m excited to see which aspects of the show will improve because of this.
I wrote this back in June, but sat on it for a while. Now I’ve decided to post it as is. I’ve done a podcast; now here is my written review. Major spoilers ahead.
Speaking as a lifelong die-hard Star Trek fan, I really liked J.J. Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek reboot. I went into it cautiously optimistic, and came away not only satisfied, but excited for the future of this new take on the franchise. They made some decisions that I found questionable—things that I worried would have a significant impact on this version of the future, like the destruction of Vulcan. But I was okay with them taking chances like that. It gave them the opportunity to take the narrative in a new direction, and provided angles for stories they couldn’t have told in the old universe.
The writers of the 2009 Star Trek film also showed deference for the original Star Trek universe by doing something that even I wouldn’t have done: they tied this new universe back into the original “prime” universe within the narrative of the story, taking time to explain and even show (using time travel) why things were now different from how they were. While it was cool to bring it all together like this, I’m still not sold on whether it was actually necessary. It explains why events played out differently, sure, but it doesn’t explain why Kirk now looks like Chris Pine or why the bridge of the Enterprise is now white and shiny (and engineering looks like a brewery). I honestly don’t have a problem with them making these changes (and recasting is an obvious necessity), but if you’re going to ask the audience to jump into a new universe anyway, I think the braver choice would have been to sell the new universe on its own merits, proving that it was worthy of the Star Trek name by showing rather than telling, instead of leaning on the original universe as a crutch. After all, Star Trek at its core is more about an idea than a version of the universe.
I thought that after the first movie had established itself, the second movie would double down on this new universe the writers had built and use it in the way I was so looking forward to—as a platform to tell bold, new stories using the characters and setting we knew and loved. But after seeing Into Darkness, I think their reliance on the “crutch” of the original universe may have been more of a red flag than I realized.
Rumors have been circulating for well over a year that Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain was going to be Khan. I’ll be honest—I didn’t believe them. And I’ll tell you why.
First, J.J. Abrams has something of a reputation for being sneaky about this kind of thing. It’s far from unheard of for him to be deliberately misleading or spread misinformation about things he’s working on. This was, frankly, such an obvious rumor (rehashing arguably the most famous and iconic villain in Star Trek history) that it struck me as exactly the kind of fun rumor that it would make sense to spread when building anticipation for a new movie. Positive or negative, it’s certainly something that would get people talking. It felt like a fun fabrication to me, and that’s exactly how I interpreted it.
Additionally, J.J. Abrams was asked point blank whether the villain was going to be Khan. He said “no.” He stated, categorically, that these reports were “not true.” The fact that the rumors kept circulating after this point further cemented in my mind that this was all basically just a game they were playing with both the die-hard fans (who would debate it endlessly) and those with just a passing Trek familiarity (because it’s a juicy rumor).
Beyond that, putting all rumors and other considerations aside, I believed in these writers. I had faith in them. The very idea of doing Khan again felt like it would be a rookie mistake to me—an obvious misstep for people seriously trying to build a new yet faithful Star Trek universe. You aren’t faithful to something by recycling its ideas and stories. You’re faithful to it by bringing something new to the table that is wholly true to what the original tried to be. And I deeply believed that that’s what these writers would do with this movie. It didn’t even occur to me that they might fail at that.
When Benedict Cumberbatch made his big reveal—”My name is Khan”—it was like being punched in the gut. I couldn’t even process the next few lines of dialogue. I felt wholly, utterly betrayed, and I honestly didn’t recover for the rest of the movie. Here I was so excited, so looking forward to this movie for so long, thinking it was going to tell this bold new story that was captivating and dark, and a third of the way into the movie (which had gotten off to such a good start), they threw it away and decided that they would rather just do Wrath of Khan again. I was gutted. I know it’s my own fault, but that doesn’t make it any easier. The movie—which objectively was a very good, very enjoyable movie—let me down in the most fundamental way it could have.
It was a good movie. I think that’s why I’m still so disappointed. It wasn’t like they just didn’t have any ideas, so they fell back on doing Khan. The first third of the movie wasn’t just good—it was brilliant. I adored it. There were some plot holes, sure. It makes no sense to keep the Enterprise underwater. The whole thing with the torpedoes was a little weird. But all of it still worked for me. I asked no questions because what was going on on the screen was so good. The acting, the chemistry, the dialogue, the overall tone of the story. I loved it, and I just accepted all of it without issue. I would tear the new series of Doctor Who to shreds for stuff like this, but that’s because the show isn’t working for me anyway, so all I have left is nitpicking. But this worked for me on almost every level. I loved the ideas they established here. They played on themes that are some of my very favorite themes ever to be dealt with by Star Trek—intrigue among humans, corruption within Starfleet, the idea that Earth has become so peaceful that it has lost its teeth and wouldn’t know what to do if it found itself up against a savage opponent or a costly war. This is the kind of thing that Deep Space Nine, my favorite of the Star Trek series, explored on a regular basis. In fact, they even referenced DS9’s Section 31 as the covert organization within the Federation that was responsible for advancing Admiral Marcus’s plans.
So I guess my real problem is this: all the elements were there for a brilliant story without Khan. They were already well on their way to a brilliant movie. So then the sudden bait-and-switch to Khan felt like even more of a disappointment and a copout. If the story wasn’t there to begin with, that would have been one thing. But it was.
Alex Kurtzman, one of the writers and producers of the film, said in an interview regarding bringing back Khan, “you really have to have a reason to do it.” Ironically, he seemed to be trying to use that statement to justify the fact that they did include Khan, but I would argue the opposite. There was absolutely no such reason for this villain to be Khan, and so many reasons why another villain would have been so much more compelling.
Here are two ways they could have done this movie without using Khan. I think that both of these would have been significantly better than what they ultimately went for.
One: Khan was the product of a genetic engineering program on Earth in the 1990s that ultimately led to the Eugenics Wars and the banishment and exile of those involved. Khan was not the only product of this. There were many others. While Khan grew to become a great tyrant, Benedict Cumberbatch could have played one of Khan’s contemporaries—another survivor of the same program. Possibly even one of Khan’s lieutenants, or one of his rivals. The movie could have carried on in exactly the same way, but with a different character having been found and awoken in Khan’s place. The Khan we see in this movie was very different from Ricardo Montalban’s Khan anyway, so it would have been considerably less of a stretch to believe that this was a person who had come from the same background, but with a different backstory. This would have been by far the easiest change to make, as a simple find-and-replace within the script changing “Khan” to “George” or something would have entirely fixed my issue with the movie. (Oh, and the Leonard Nimoy scene would have had to have been dropped.)
Two: This is my preferred idea, and basically what I hoped the movie would be. Khan’s cover story shouldn’t have been a cover story. It should have been the real story. Benedict Cumberbatch should have been playing a rogue Starfleet officer named Commander John Harrison. He should have been part of a secret and entirely unsanctioned operation, initiated by Admiral Marcus, to create a situation that would have achieved his goals, forcing Starfleet and the Federation to prepare itself for war and for violence in a way that it had largely forgotten. This would have checked all the right boxes for me, and would have been a natural extension of the first third of the movie, which, as I keep saying, I loved the crap out of. It could have been dark, compelling, and morally ambiguous, creating real conflict for these characters because it’s humans against humans. (My favorite.)
The other thing that really bothered me in the movie was the scene-for-scene (and even line-for-line) recreation of Spock’s death—now Kirk’s death—originally from Wrath of Khan. I’ve heard people defend this scene. Some say it was a moving, emotional scene that helped to establish the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Some say it was an homage. But I don’t buy it, at all. It was a sad attempt at fan-service, and not even good fan-service. I actually found the scene insulting, and I continued to find it just as insulting on the second viewing. And to add insult on top of insult on top of injury, they somehow managed to convince themselves that it would be a good idea to have Spock do the infamous “KHAAAAAAN!” shout. Really, guys? Zachary Quinto is not William Shatner—nor is Spock Kirk. It is both surprising and embarrassing that they thought it would be “clever” to recreate that scene, but of all the characters they could have given it to, they give it to Spock? I cringed. And I still cringed the second time even though I knew it was coming. I get what they were trying to go for. But it didn’t work. It was a bad idea, it wasn’t executed well, and somebody should have caught it before it made it into the final movie and just pulled the plug.
Before I wrap up, I wanted to make sure I sung the praises of all the things that were great in this movie. The first third was brilliant. I loved Admiral Marcus’s character, and in fact he may have been my favorite. He was a believable threat to Starfleet and the Federation in the 23rd century. I love stories that deal with humanity losing its edge and becoming at risk against enemy aggressors in the galaxy. Speaking of enemy aggressors, I also loved the Klingons and the entire sequence on Kronos. (Although being able to beam directly from Earth to Kronos—despite being established in the first movie—still doesn’t sit well with me.) The acting was superb. I buy everyone in their roles even more so than I did in the first movie. Uhura was better in this movie than she was in the first. Karl Urban finally got to be an awesome McCoy, which I was dying to see since the first movie. So much good stuff, and that’s what makes the big disappointment hurt all the more.