TME > Audio > Source Music

Classical Music

A comprehensive listing of the classical music used in Doctor Who, either as background music (part of the soundtrack, unheard by the characters) or as source music (an integral part of the action, of which the characters are aware).

The Enemy of the World (6 episodes, tx: 23/12/67 - 27/01/68)
and The Web of Fear: Episode 1 (tx: 03/02/68)

At a time when it was as usual for Doctor Who to use library (or 'stock') music to provide an atmosphere as it was to hire a composer to write an original score, two late 60s stories took the concept of borrowed music even further by cutting up and editing fifty-year-old classical music to fit their narratives. The music of Béla Bartók (1881 - 1945) was uniquely modern-sounding, with moods and tones particularly suited to use as background music in television or film; indeed one piece (Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta) was cited as being the musical inspiration for the tone of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) some hundred years after Bartók began composing.

According to his mother, Paula, Bartók could play over 40 folksongs at the piano from memory by the time he was four. Following his graduation from the Budapest Royal Academy in 1903, he became friendly with fellow-composer Zoltan Kodaly. Together they set about collecting native Hungarian and Transylvanian folksongs, noting them down and even recording them on a gramophone as they went along. They were to have a vital impact on Bartok's musical styles in pieces ranging from the ultra-percussive Allegro Barbaro for piano of 1911 to the ghostly atmospherics of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1937). Following a move to America in 1940, he died a broken man, isolated from the Hungarian homeland he loved so dearly and bringing full circle a prediction he once made to his mother: "Spiritual loneliness is to be my destiny".

The Miraculous Mandarin

Bartók composed but three works for the theatre, each of one-act length. The Miraculous Mandarin in 1919 followed the opera, Duke Bluebeard's Castle (1911) and another ballet, The Wooden Prince (1917). The Miraculous Mandarin has been heard most often as a vivid orchestral tone-poem, having met with difficulties from the outset from various forms of stage censorship and in the problems it posed for choreographers.

Bartók composed his 30-minute score to a scenario by the playwright Menyhert Lengyel (1880 - 1974), set in a nameless modern city where a prostitute is forced to act as a decoy for a group of vicious hoodlums, who mug and rob the men she attracts. Her first victim is a shabby, elderly rake, the second a shy youth, and both fall easy prey. The third arrival is a strange, impassive Mandarin, who not only terrifies the girl and compels her to dance for him, but miraculously survives the gang's attempts to murder him by suffocation, stabbing and hanging. Only when the girl shows compassion by taking his body in her arms do his wounds begin to bleed, and then he can die.

iv - Second Seduction Game

A fluid clarinet refrain (with rising tension from piano and orchestra) accompanies the prostitute's second dance of enticement, and is used to sinister effect throughout The Enemy of the World. It is first heard in Episode 2 (as dawn breaks over the Kanowa Research Centre, and later as Astrid and Denes evade the guards, pictured left), and also in Episode 3 (as Astrid, in messengers uniform, enters the Palace corridors) and at the Episode 5 cliffhanger (Astrid discovers the injured Swann at the tunnel entrance). Up to 50 seconds was heard in the latter, the longest of these scenes, playing from the beginning of this section.

vi - The Mandarin Enters

As the Mandarin enters the story (interrupting the prostitute's third dance) there is a dramatic, resonating 20-second fanfare - a full orchestra trill over slithering brass chords - that is heard throughout The Enemy of the World to punctuate fight scenes, cliffhangers and provide a musical break between short scenes. The longer appearances are in Episode 1 (the first musical cue, as Anton breaks off communication with Astrid, and later as Rod enters the house and Astrid fights her way free), Episode 2 (as Jamie arrives on the Palace terrace and diverts the explosion, pictured left) and Episode 3 (as Fedorin finds the poison crystals, and informs Salamander that he cannot murder his friend). A single, sustained note from the same section is also heard in Episode 2 (as Jamie and Victoria wait with their suitcases in the park, and later meet in secret with Astrid) and Episode 5 (as Astrid overpowers Donald Bruce).

Releases (select releases): confusingly, the BBC paperwork for The Enemy of the World lists two different recordings of The Miraculous Mandarin: one performed by the Südwestfunk Orchestra (a 1961 recording conducted by Rolf Reinhardt in Baden-Baden, Germany, from a 33rpm LP: VOX PL 12.040, pictured left), the other performed by the Hungarian State Opera Chorus with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by János Ferencsik and recorded in Hungary in 1967 (DGG 138873). The music sounds identical in every episode; who knows which version was actually used, or whether they both were!

Availability: the Südwestfunk Orchestra recording does not appear to have been re-issued. The Budapest Philarmonic version, however, is available as part of a lavish 29 CD set ('The Complete Works', HCD 41002), a condensed 8 CD set (HCD 3188491) or a more affordable double-CD entitled 'The Complete Stage Works' (HCD 3218812, pictured right), all released on the Hungaroton label between 2003-2004.

Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

The 30-minute, 4-part Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta - a good example of Bartok's precisely structured composition, with intensely symmetrical form - was written in 1936, after his flight from Europe to New York with his second wife: the beginning of an unhappy end to his life. This piece in particular (which provides such a terrifying prologue to The Web of Fear) saw his experimentation with unusual sonorities and instrumental effects.

ii - Allegro

Approximately 25 seconds from this piece, taken from around 90 seconds into the Allegro section, is heard in The Enemy of the World Episodes 1 (as the helicopter explodes, pictured left) and 4 (as Astrid escapes from the Palace guards).

iii - Adagio

This distinctive third section is certainly the most recognisable of Bartók's music featured in Doctor Who; the ghostly atmosphere provided by the delicate melody, particularly as recorded by the RIAS Symphonic Orchestra, creates a haunting backdrop to the scenes in The Enemy of the World Episodes 4, 5 and 6 set within Salamander's underground shelter and its corridors to the surface. Up to 1 minute was used in these scenes, taken from the entry of the high strings (around 2'30" into the Adagio section).

Almost 3 and a half minutes of the same piece was used the following week in The Web of Fear Episode 1, playing during the entire prelude scene in Julius Silverstein's museum (pictured left); this time the track was edited and looped, repeating the same haunting-strings section four times and continuing (on the last of these repeats) into the rising dischordant section that provides such a dramatic underscore to the rebirth of the Yeti and Silverstein's death.

iv - Allegro Motto

Up to 40 seconds from this energetic section, taken from around 3 minutes into the piece, are repeated throughout Episode 1 as background music for the lengthy chase sequence (pictured left), as Anton, Curly and Rod fire at the Doctor on the Australian beach and Astrid rescues the travellers in a helicopter. Interestingly, as the helicopter arrives, the music is played at a lower speed, changing the pitch and rhythm - perhaps in an attempt to disguise the music's third repetition in as many minutes! The end of this piece - with its punchy piano chords - is also used as a short punctuation cue in Episode 1 (as Astrid notices the hole in the helicopter's fuel tank), Episode 3 (playing briefly as Denes is shot) and Episode 5 (as Benik prevents Jamie and Victoria's escape).

Releases (select releases): the Doctor Who production team used a recording by the RIAS (Radio In the American Sector) Symphonic Orchestra of Berlin, conducted by Ferenc Fricsay (DGG LPM 18493); the American sector was a part of West Berlin during the 1940s-60s.

Availability: this specific recording was most recently issued on CD during the late 1990s, coupled with Bartok's final work, 'Concerto for Orchestra' Polygram Records 47443 (USA) / Deutsche Grammophon E4474432 (Germany), pictured right. Many alternative recordings - vintage and modern - are readily available from any classical stockist.

The Mind Robber: Episode 5 (tx: 12/10/68)

In Fiction: as the Master of the mysterious Land of Fiction and the Doctor pit their wits against each other, Cyrano de Bergerac battles D'Artagnan and Blackbeard the fights Sir Lancelot...

In Fact: the jaunty, romantic classical music that plays during the fictional fight scenes is Austrian composer Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E flat major - specifically the third movement, Scherzo. Bruckner (1924-1896) was a deeply devout man, and it is not by chance that his symphonies have been compared to cathedrals for their scale, their grandeur and in their aspiration to the sublime. The principal influences behind them are Beethoven and Wagner: Beethoven's Ninth provides the basic model for their scale and shape, and also for their mysterious openings, fading in from silence. Wagner influenced their scale and certain aspects of their orchestration, such as the use of heavy brass (from no.7 Bruckner wrote for four Wagner-esque tubas) and the use of intense, sustained strings for depth of expression.

Cuts: 1'25" was heard, around 15 minutes into the episode. The production paperwork shows that this length of music was cleared for every episode of the serial, but it only appears in Episode 5!

Releases (select releases): the recording used was performed by the Berlin Philharmoniker conducted by Karajan, and the paperwork lists a record code of DGG APM 18113.

Availability: Re-issued June 2005 on CD (EMI 4768882).

The Daemons: Episode 2 (tx: 29/05/71)

In Fiction: the Doctor and Jo might be in mortal danger in a mysterious church, but it's just another day in front of the footie for the UNIT gang.

In Fact: the music that signals the end of a televised football match on BBC3's rival station (which probably had much higher ratings than the archeological dig - were BBC3 mad?) was in fact the fourth movement of Hector Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique, subtitled March to the Scaffold (Allegretto Non Troppo). Louis Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869) was a French Romantic composer best known for his Grande Messe des morts Requiem of 1837, with its tremendous resources that include four antiphonal brass choirs.

The Symphonie Fantastique was initially composed in 1830 and first performed in December of the same year, but was not published until 1845, and then revised again in 1855. Under the influence of opium (in the 1855 version), a young and sensitive artist (Berlioz himself) experiences a series of visions – the different movements of the symphony – in which his beloved appears. In the fourth movement (which originated as a march of the guards in Berlioz’s early opera Les Francs Juges) the artist, led to execution for murdering his beloved, remembers her on the scaffold, but the melody is abruptly cut off by the fall of the guillotine and the concluding uproar. Very sporty!

Cuts: 10 seconds is heard, 1 minute into the episode, emminating from the television set being watched by Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton and a couple of UNIT extras. "Thirteen : nil" says Mike triumphantly; "Lucky it wasn't a hundred and thirteen : nil," sighs a resigned Benton as he flips a coin to Yates. "The useless lot."

Releases (select releases): the recording used was performed by L’Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Francaise, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, from a record coded BMV ALP 1633 (pictured left).

Availability: recently released on CD by EMI in 2003, EMI Classics label (pictured right).

The Robots of Death: Part One (tx: 29/01/77)

In Fiction: On a mining vessel in the far future, beautiful (but secretly murderous) robots lull their human companions into a false sense of security by pumping electronic versions of classical music into their leisure quarters.

In fact: These pieces of classical music, both of which were originally written for piano, were arranged for a 16-piece orchestra and a selection of modern synthesisers by Brian Hodgson and Dudley Simpson (respectively Doctor Who’s sound-effects and incidental-music composers), and recorded for a light-hearted LP released at the height of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's experiments with electronic music.

Highly sensitive, and with a complex personal life, Russian Romantic composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) wrote some of music’s most memorable symphonies, concertos and, especially, ballets. None But the Weary Heart was one of his lesser-performed piano works. "La fille aux cheveux de lin" (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair), on the other hand, was was taken from French impressionist Claude Debussy's (1862-1918) first book of "Preludes" composed in 1909-10, and was one of his most famous works: a tender portrait of a young girl singing softly to the flowers and birds, inspired by a 19th Century poem of the same name.

Cuts: None But the Weary Heart 1'20" was cleared, played in the background of the first crew scene.
The Girl With the Flaxen Hair edits of 0'10" and 0'20" were cleared for use.

Releases: The Unexploded Myth: 'In A Covent Garden' LP, 1973 (Polydor Records 2383 210). The BBC’s production paperwork listed the record as “In A Covent Garden Electrophon”.

Availability: currently unavailable. These scenes were released in their entirety on all VHS and DVD versions (BBCV4108 in 1988, ‘complete & unedited’ BBCV5521 in 1995 and BBCDVD1012 in 2000). Simpson, Debussy and Tchaikovsky were all credited on the BBC video and DVD packaging.

Logopolis: Part 4 (tx: 21/03/84)

Symphony No.8 "Unfinished" (Schubert)

Karl Munchinger conducting Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Releases: Ace of Diamond SDD 130

6 minutes into the episode, heard coming from the headphones worn by the apparent monitor of the Pharos Project, who storms angrily out of the room in search of another cup of tea just before the Master's TARDIS lands in the corner.

The Five Doctors (tx: 25/11/83)

In Fiction: idly punting down the Cam, the fourth Doctor and Romana are calmly listening to a gramophone record and discussing famous historical inhabitants of Cambridge... unaware that the time scoop is just over their shoulders...

In Fact: the music in the background of this scene was, allegedly, a piece by German composer Paul Lincke (1866-1946) entitled 'Whirl of the Waltz'. Lincke was most recognised for the march 'Berliner Luft' from his 1899 operetta 'Frau Luna', and as the originator of the Berlin School of operetta.

When the story was re-edited and re-mixed into 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound in 1995, some dedicated research went into retrieving the original record. "Only one document in the production file indicated what it was," producer Paul Vanezis told Doctor Who Magazine. "When I tried to order the disc from the music library I was told it was an archive recording on a 78 and I could only use it if it were transferred to audio tape."

Releases (speculative!): there seems to be very, very few commercial releases of this piece of music; indeed, the only release we at TME have been able to find is an American 78 released before 1921 (which sounds like it could well be the one used by the original production team but, in the absence of the actual BBC paperwork, we are unfortunately only guessing). This 78rpm, 11.5" vertical record (Pathe 40071), with 'On the Bosphorus: Turkish Intermezzo', also composed by Lincke, on the reverse, was released sometime between 1915-21 (when the 40000 series of Pathe 78s were produced). Both sides were performed by the Imperial Symphony Orchestra.

Availability: forget it! We can't even be entirely certain that this was a commerically-available record in the first place - it could well have been a music library stock release.

Replacements: the song was not replaced, but was substantially mis-timed, on the 1995 Special Edition of the story, released on VHS (BBCV5734) and on DVD in 1999 (BBCDVD1006). The music starts at a different point, and, owing to an edit on the originally-transmitted version that is not repeated in the Special Edition, ends substantially later - continuing right up until the time scoop takes the Doctor and Romana, and then falling silent on the shot of the empty boat... making it seem as though the scoop also took the gramophone! Approximately 1'09" was heard in the original version; approximately 1'37" is heard in the special edition.

Silver Nemesis: Part One (tx: 23/11/88)

In Fiction: Herr de Flores, a nasty-piece-of-work who plans to resurrect the Third Reich, begins this story at home in South America, listening to German composer Richard Wagner on his vintage gramophone.

In Fact: Hitler was a huge admirer of Richard Wagner’s (1813 - 1883) music and literature, drawing inspiration from the composer’s anti-Semitism and interest in the occult; he even collected the composer’s original manuscripts, many of which perished with him in his Berlin bunker in the final days of World War II, so Herr de Flores is definately getting in the right mood.

The famous Ride of the Valkyries hails from the opera Die Walkure, the second in a trilogy of compositions called The Ring that was based upon a conflation of Teutonic and Scandinavian legends concerning the conflict and struggle for power between the Nibelung dwarfs, the giants and the gods. With the help of his young patron King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Wagner was able to establish his own operatic kingdom, realising his revolutionary ideas of music-drama. The Valkyries were nine warrior maidens, who bore the bodies of fallen heroes back to their castle, to live again and aid in its defence...

Cuts: 0’30” is heard in the story, playing immediately after the opening titles.

Releases (select releases): written in 1856, this piece was recorded many hundreds of times before 1988. The version heard on screen was taken from the album ‘Classics for Pleasure – Wagner’ an LP released in the summer of 1987 on the EMI Classics for Pleasure label (allegedly coded 4144121, though this does not match any releases we have been able to find), conducted by Karl Anton Rickenbacher.

Availability (select releases): The entire ‘Classics for Pleasure – Wagner’ album was reissued on CD (EMI Classics for Pleasure CDCFP 9008) in July 1993, and the track also appeared on the compilation ‘Unforgettable Classics’ (EMI Classics for Pleasure 73421), June 1999. The scene appeared uncut on VHS in 1993 (BBCV4888).

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy: Part Four (tx: 04/01/89)

In Fiction: as the Doctor struggles to entertain the Gods in their desert-like domain, fumbling with a piece of trick rope and quoting some bad puns, he dances to a little circus tune that plays in the background. Perhaps his previous trick had been to conjure up a small string quartet in the corner?

In Fact: it is Ethelbert Nevin's Narcissus No. 4 from Water Scenes, Op. 13, performed here by Alfredo Campoli and his Salon Orchestra.

Cuts: 0'51" is heard, 16 minutes into the episode.

Releases: Decca F 6464, according to the BBC production paperwork; although a lot of searching has failed to reveal what this record might be.

The Curse of Fenric: Part Two (tx: 01/11/89)

In Fiction: puritan Miss Hardaker has severely reprimanded teenagers Jean and Phyllis for going to Maidens’ Point. They ignore her, turn into vampires, and murder her just as she’s put a record on.

In Fact: the record – rather prophetically, for Miss Hardaker – was a requiem by Gabriel Faure (1745-1924). This opus, composed in 1887 and '88, was written shortly after the deaths of his father and mother in rapid succession. Miss Hardaker is smiling as she puts the record on the turntable, which is a bit grim, considering.

Cuts: 0’20” is heard from the first movement of the requiem, Introit & Kyrie (referred to as Introitus on the BBC’s paperwork).

Releases: This particular recording was taken from the LP ‘Requiem’ (Philips 412 743) released in 1985, with Lucia Popp (soprano), Simon Estes (bass), the Leipzig Radio Chorus and the Dresden State Orchestra, conducted by Colin Davis.

Availability: the Dresden recording has never been reissued, but other versions are available: for example the Cambridge Singers’ rendition on the CD ‘Faure: Sacred Choral Works’ (COLCD109), released February 1997.

Doctor Who (tx: 27/05/96)

In Fiction: super surgeon Grace Holloway is watching a production of Madame Butterfly whilst on-call; summoned to the hospital to operate on the brutally shot seventh Doctor, she insists on operating with the CD playing in the background... and the poor Doctor regenerates with 'Un Bel Di' stuck in his head.

In Fact: Puccini witnessed David Belasco's theatrical production of John Luther Long's Madame Butterfly in London in 1900, and turned it into an opera that opened in 1904 and took the world by storm. The intimate production, with no subplots and unusually deep characterisations, makes this tragedy one of the most frequently produced and rapturously receieved operas in the entire repertory.

Giacomo Antonia Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (1858 - 1924) was arguably the last great Italian opera composer, heralded in his own day as the successor to the great Giuseppe Verdi. Yet he was not a talented student, and staged several flops before honing his craft and realising (through failure and disappointment) the importance of a good story, its appropriateness to the stage, and the quality of the musicians, singers and libretto. He became a hands-on composer, involved in every aspect of his productions, and went on to create many perennial favorites of the opera world, including 'La Boheme', 'Tosca' and 'Madama Butterfly'.


The Impossible Planet (tx: 03/06/2006)

In Fiction: chosen as the night-shift music (apparently a regular jukebox thrill enjoyed by the Sanctuary Base crew) for a drill towards the Devil…

In Fact: composed in 1928, Maurice Ravel's Bolero - a magnificently bombastic piece of Twentieth Century classical music - has been used time and time again as soundtrack music in films, television and commercials. No credits for the orchestral version used in Doctor Who have ever been revealed, and it is possible that is was recorded specially by the BBC Wales Orchestra.