Sounds of Doctor Who

BBC News: Lost tapes of the Dr Who composer.

A hidden hoard of recordings made by the electronic music pioneer behind the Doctor Who theme has been revealed – including a dance track 20 years ahead of its time. Delia Derbyshire was working in the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in 1963 when she was given the score for a theme tune to a new science fiction series. She turned those dots on a page into the swirling, shimmering Doctor Who title music – although it is the score’s author, Ron Grainer, who is credited as the composer. Now David Butler, of Manchester University’s School of Arts, Histories and Cultures has revealed for the first time the existence of 267 tapes found in Ms Derbyshire’s attic when she died in 2001. They were, until last March, in the safekeeping of Mark Ayres, archivist for the Radiophonic Workshop – and have lain unheard for more than 30 years.

There are five sound samples to hear on the article, including the original Doctor Who theme. Fascinating!


  1. Ooh! This post (and a few others) only just appeared via the RSS feed on LJ.

    Yeah, that “dance” track is… Weirdly prescient of this decade’s stuff, isn’t it? And yet so very definitely Delia, in every little element. Amazing.

    I wonder what the project was she was working on at the time….? Clearly this wasn’t intended to be part of it; just ended up going onto the same tape, “for interest” as she says.

    Purist nitpick, though: That sound sample they give there isn’t the *original* Doctor Who theme (except in the same sense that it’s the *current* one – i.e. same tune, and with some of the same sound components incorporated). It’s actually the (IMHO) rather hollow and lifeless sounding 1973 single version, using the simpler version of the “hiss” track and added stereo echoes, plus “TARDIS” (by Brian Hodgson) . =:o} (Details of where it fits into the horribly complex family tree of versions can be found on Mark Ayres’ website.)

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