In the vast expanse of science fiction television, few sounds resonate as profoundly as the hauntingly melodic theme of Doctor Who.
This iconic tune has now been declared the UK’s most-played sci-fi TV theme, a prestigious title bestowed by UK music rights management organization, PRS for Music.
As Doctor Who gears up to celebrate its 60th anniversary, this accolade is not just a nod to its musical genius but also a testament to its enduring legacy in the hearts and minds of viewers in the UK and around the world.
The chart isn’t solely about the Time Lord’s adventures: it’s a melodic journey through the best of sci-fi television.
In a close second place is the whimsical tune of Red Dwarf, another British gem that has etched its quirky beats into the sci-fi hall of fame.
The list also features American classics like Star Trek and Stargate Atlantis, as well as the animated chaos of Rick and Morty (see the full list below).
But Doctor Who’s chart-topping position is a testament to the theme’s unique allure, a blend of electronic innovation and timeless appeal.
A Sonic Odyssey Through Time
The iconic Doctor Who theme, first heard on airwaves in 1963, is a masterpiece of electronic music, originally composed by Ron Grainer and innovatively arranged by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
This eerie and otherworldly tune was not just a background score – it was a pioneering leap in the realm of sound art, employing cutting-edge techniques that were revolutionary for its era.
The theme’s evocative tones have since captivated generations, symbolizing the show’s time-travelling adventures.
The theme’s journey mirrors the show’s evolution, having been reinterpreted by various composers over the decades.
Notably, Dominic Glynn, Peter Howell, and Keff McCulloch have all left their mark on this iconic melody.
In 2005, Murray Gold’s reimagining brought a fresh vibrancy, aligning with the series’ revival.
Gold became the show’s resident composer for over 12 years, and even filmed a cameo in the 2007 Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned, as a guitarist aboard the Max Capricorn Cruiseliners spaceship, the Titanic.
In 2018, Segun Akinola’s work brought a fresh and modern approach to the show’s musical landscape.
And for the 60th anniversary and the 2023 reboot (or shall we say regeneration) – Murray Gold is back, along with returning showrunner Russell T. Davies.
UK’s Most Played Sci-Fi TV Theme Tunes
Doctor Who reigns supreme in PRS for Music’s UK’s Most Played Sci-Fi TV Theme Tunes chart – with the tune from another iconic British series, Red Dwarf, taking the second place.
PRS for Music compiled the chart based on data reflecting the UK streams, broadcasts, and public performances of sci-fi TV theme tunes between January 1, 2023, and November 14, 2023.
In addition to Doctor Who, the Top 5 list includes:
Red Dwarf: Landing in second place, Red Dwarf is a British sci-fi comedy that follows the misadventures of Dave Lister, the last human alive, and his odd companions aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf.
Set three million years in the future, the series combines humour and science fiction, with its theme reflecting the show’s quirky and adventurous spirit
Star Trek: An American classic, Star Trek takes the third spot. The series, which started in the 1960s, follows the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise as they explore new worlds and seek new civilizations in the 23rd century.
Its orchestral theme is as iconic as the show itself, evoking a sense of wonder and exploration
Stargate Atlantis: This spin-off from the Stargate franchise, ranking fourth, follows Major John Sheppard and his team as they explore distant planets in the Pegasus Galaxy, using the Stargate, an alien device built by the Ancients.
The theme blends orchestral and electronic elements, echoing the show’s themes of adventure and discovery
Rick and Morty: In fifth place, Rick and Morty, an American animated series, is known for its chaotic and comedic tone. The show chronicles the bizarre adventures of Rick, an alcoholic scientist, and his grandson Morty across infinite universes.
Its electronic theme complements the show’s wild and unpredictable nature
The rest of the list is as follows:
- The 100
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- Last Of Us
- Battlestar Galactica
- The Expanse
- Better Off Ted
- Star Wars Rebels
- Person Of Interest
- The Twilight Zone
Notably, in the top ten of the chart, the first two places are occupied by UK shows (Doctor Who and Red Dwarf), while the rest are predominantly US productions.
As Doctor Who continues to captivate audiences with its timeless adventures, its theme’s chart-topping position is a fitting tribute to the show’s enduring impact on science fiction and popular culture.
Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary Celebration
Doctor Who commemorates its 60th anniversary with a trio of special episodes, airing weekly from November 25 to December 9, 2023.
These specials, featuring David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, also mark the return of Russell T Davies as showrunner.
The new series, which celebrates its rich history, is available on BBC One in the UK and Ireland (in 4K/UHD – as we were first to report) and on Disney+ internationally.
The 60th-anniversary celebration culminates with the introduction of Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor in the Christmas special, The Church on Ruby Road set to air on December 25, 2023.
This episode ushers in a new era for Doctor Who, promising fresh adventures and narratives, with Gatwa’s debut anticipated to bring a new dynamic to the legendary Time Lord
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