Ever since I saw my first episode of Doctor Who when I was in 4th or 5th grade — courtesy of reruns on PBS — the theme song has been stuck in my head. Composed by Rob Grainer and produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s Delia Derbyshire (who created it by manually manipulating, cutting up, and splicing together segments of analog tape), it was one of the first pieces of electronic music created for television.
Thanks to its synth melodies, pulses, and swooshes, it remains one of the most recognizable TV themes. More importantly, though, it’s a perfect accompaniment to show: spooky and wholly otherworldly, yet incredibly catchy and even fun in places.
Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can find countless versions of the opening theme from throughout the show’s run, as well as plenty of alternate versions. Here’s a small sampling.
The original theme, from 1963.
The theme from 1973 to 1974 (aka, the Jon Pertwee years). This is the version that I always think of, since the Pertwee episodes were the first Doctor Who episodes I ever saw.
The 2008 theme.
Orbital performing the theme at the 2004 Glastonbury festival. Watch out for the crowd surfing Dalek.
An a capella rendition by John Barrowman (who plays Captain Jack Harkness on the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood) from an episode of The Weakest Link, with some accompaniment from David Tennant (the current Doctor).
This final video is of Delia Derbyshire discussing how the Doctor Who theme was created.