Doc of the Pops

One of the features of ‘new’ Doctor Who has been the use of pop music in the musical score.

It hasn’t been overly used to the point that we see the Doctor bopping around the TARDIS making his hands into the letters Y, M, C, and A. Nor have we seen him appear in a crisp white suit instead of his crumpled brown one, thrusting a pointing finger into the air and then down to the floor again. But, nevertheless, the pop music has always been there.

In the second episode, ‘End of the World’, we saw Cassandra play ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell and Britney’s ‘Toxic’ on her i-pod. Also, ‘In the Mood’ by Glenn Miller was featured in ‘The Empty Child’ (ok, the Doctor did actually dance to this with Rose, but that was only to issue a ‘hands off’ warning to Captain Jack).

The ‘Love and Monsters’ story was told from the perspective of an ELO fan, so we were treated to bursts of ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ and ‘Turn To Stone’.

Even the Master was in on the act, playing ‘Voodoo Child’ on his stereo as the Toclafane rained down causing havoc on Earth.

But what about the subtle ones not to the fore of the dialogue? During ‘School Reunion’, who noticed that ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division was playing in the café when the Doctor was being lectured by Sarah Jane? In ‘Father’s Day’, two songs were used from 1987, the year that story was set in. Well yes, that’s an obvious thing to do. But what were the songs? ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by Rick Astley and ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ by the Communards. Two songs with lyrics indicating having to say farewell to someone when you really don’t want to. These in an episode that saw Rose going back to the day her father was killed and knowing that she wouldn’t be allowed to save him.

The best use of pop music in Dr Who, though, just has to be the Master’s brilliantly over-the-top routine to ‘I Can’t Decide’ by the Scissor Sisters. The whole thing was to mock his captives and he could not have done it any better. Sliding onto the deck of the Valiant as the song played over the ship’s intercom, he twirls Lucy round, mouths the words ‘I can’t decide whether you should live or die’ to the Doctor and even has time to stop for, and spit out, a mouthful of tea made for him by Francine, timing it to perfection in order to mime to her the line ‘Please don’t hang your head and cry’. A truly great moment.

The success of the use of pop music in Dr Who has not been lost on executive producer Russell T Davies. Added to his penchant for little teasers, he is set to really go for it next season. In fact, we can now exclusively reveal the episode titles and brief synopses for season four…

Episode 1 – Ice Ice Baby

The Doctor encounters the Ice Warriors as they plot to take over the world by enforcing a second ice age.

Episode 2 – Revolution Baby

The TARDIS lands in France in 1789 and the Doctor gets involved in the storming of the Bastille.


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