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Popular Music in Doctor Who

'The Executioners' (tx: 22/05/65)

TELEVISION ANNOUNCER: This is BBC1… due to start in just under one minute…
BARBARA: Vicki? What year have you got there?
VICKI: 1965!
DOCTOR: Come on, come on…
IAN: You’ve got a television show!
VICKI: Sssh! Got to watch it…
TELEVISION ANNOUNCER: … here singing their latest number one hit – it’s the fabulous – wait for it – it’s the fabulous – Beatles!

They all scream, and Ian does a wobbly little dance.
Barbara fiddles with the controls, and the screen goes blank.

VICKI: Oh!
IAN: Oh, Barbara!
DOCTOR: Now you’ve squashed my favourite Beatle!
IAN: Vicki, I had no idea you knew about The Beatles!
VICKI: Well of course I know about them. I’ve been to their memorial theatre in Liverpool!

There is a stunned silence.

BARBARA: Well, what do you think of them, Vicki?
VICKI: Well they’re marvellous… but I didn’t know they played classical music.
BARBARA: 'Classical music'?!
IAN: Get with it, Barbara, get with it; times change, times change…


In Fiction: The Doctor is fiddling with the TARDIS’ Space/Time Visualiser, which, as Vicki explains, works because “… anything that ever happens, anywhere in the universe, is recorded in light neutrons.” Ian tunes in to Abraham Lincoln, Barbara watches Shakespeare in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and Vicki watches The Beatles singing Ticket to Ride on Top of the Pops.

Interestingly, the Doctor complains that Babs has turned off his “favourite” Beatle – and from who’s on screen at the time, he seems to prefer John Lennon!

In Fact: the original ruse, allegedly initiated by The Beatles’ own desire to appear in Doctor Who, had been to dress the band (or 4 similarly-styled actors) as old men, performing 50 years into the future at a Beatles reunion concert. Their manager vetoed this idea, so an arrangement was made to include footage of their performance of Ticket to Ride at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith on 10/04/65 – just 20 days before the Doctor Who episode was recorded.

”They were so hot at the time, you couldn’t avoid The Beatles," writer Terry Nation later told Doctor Who Magazine. "I remember with great pride that the commercial channel was running The Beatles when they were at their peak, at the same time as that Doctor Who episode with the Daleks – and Doctor Who got the ratings! I was pretty pleased with that.” (DWM 145)

This is now the only surviving footage of this performance; the Top of the Pops episode it was originally shot for (tx: 15/04/65), and all later editions which appear to have repeated the footage (tx’s: 29/04/65, 06/05/65 and 25/12/65), were later destroyed and are no longer in the BBC archives.

The 1989 Target novelisation of the episode may have offered the original reunion-concert version of the scene, if not for a boulder-sized problem. “In my novelisation, I generally retain Terry's version of events,” writer John Peel told DWM in January 1989, “but here I was forced to use the televised version - not because of the costs, but because, sadly, Beatle John Lennon is no longer alive to perform at the hypothetical concert.” (DWM 144)

By featuring music from the biggest pop group in the charts, this episode of Doctor Who became the first to forge a link with genuine popular culture. The very first episode – An Unearthly Child (tx: 23/11/63) – saw Susan dancing to “John Smith and the Common Men”, but the music played was merely a non-commercial, copyright-free ‘stock’ track. Terry Nation’s script for The Executioners began a series of attempts to place the characters of Doctor Who firmly in the real world.

Cuts: approximately 0’38” of the song is shown, 10 minutes into the episode, with one edit – a cut from the end of the first verse to the final repeat of “my baby don’t care”, and the audience’s applause. Richard Coe (credited on-screen as Television Announcer) provided a fake introduction to the footage.

Releases (prior to broadcast): the original studio recording was released as a 7” single on 9th April 1965 (Parlophone R 5265), making number one in the charts for three weeks from 24th April – 8th May. It was number two when The Executioners was broadcast.

Availability (select releases): The Chase VHS featuring this scene (BBCV5006, available exclusively in The Daleks boxed set (BBCV5005) with Remembrance of the Daleks) has long-since been deleted; this particular performance has never been available on any other format and is not believed to exist. A different live recording – at the Piccadilly Theatre, 26/05/65 – was released on The Beatles: ‘Live at the BBC’ (2CD, Apple PCSP 726) in June 1991. The studio recording is currently available on The Beatles: ‘1’ (CD, Apple UK 29325), released in November 2000.

Replacements: The scene was included in full on the 1993 VHS release of The Chase; however copyright issues may cause future releases of the story to be edited or re-dubbed.

The Evil of the Daleks: Episode 1 (tx: 20/05/67)

In Fiction: in contemporary London, the Doctor and Jamie search for clues to the stolen TARDIS in the Tricolour nightclub, where they experience authentic sounds of the 60s.

In Fact: to place the opening episode of The Evil of the Daleks firmly in the present-day, recognisable modern music was integrated into the background of these two nightclub scenes. Believed to be set around 20th July 1966, the radio playlist for this day is spot-on: Paperback Writer was number 2 that week.
Nobody Knows the Troubles I've Seen - The Seekers

Cuts: 0’53” is played in the first Tricolour scene (although 1’00” was cleared for use), 17 minutes into the episode.

Releases (prior to broadcast): Nobody Knows… was a traditional song arranged by The Seekers as the B-side to their 7” single ‘Someday, One Day’, released 18th March 1966 (Columbia DB7867). This Australian harmony band had a great year in 1965 with two Number Ones: "The Carnival is Over" (a million seller) and "I'll Never Find Another You". They remained high in the UK charts until 1967, when lead singer Judith Durham went solo and guitarist Keith Polger went on to form the equally successful New Seekers. This single reached Number 11 in the UK charts.

Availability (select releases): currently available on The Seekers compilation CDs ‘A’s, B’s & EP’s’ (EMI Gold 5968182) and the Australian-only ‘The Ultimate Collection’ (EMI 5944912).

Replacements: completely removed for the cassette release; see below.



Paperback Writer - The Beatles

Cuts: 1’44” (though only 1’05” was cleared) is heard in the second Tricolour scene, 19 minutes into the episode, as Hall passes-on Kennedy’s message to the Doctor and Jamie.

Releases (prior to broadcast): Paperback Writer was a UK 7” single on 10th June 1966 (Parlophone R 5452), making number one for two weeks from 23rd June; it also featured on the album ‘A Collection of Beatles Oldies (But Goldies!)’ released 10th December 1966 (Parlophone PMC 7016 (Mono) / PCS 7016 (Stereo)).

Availability (select releases): currently available on The Beatles: ‘1’ (CD, Apple UK 29325).

Replacements: all known film reels for this story have been lost or destroyed, and only fan-recorded cassettes of the soundtrack survive. The 1990s double-cassette release (BBC ZBBC 1303) simply removed the two offending scenes in their entirety. The 2003 triple-CD release (in the Daleks tin, ISBN 0563 49476X, reissued singly as ISBN 0563 525975 in 2004) offered a version of the story with Nobody Knows… left untouched but with Paperback Writer digitally removed and replaced with generic music – reportedly by the Dave Clark Five.

The Invasion: Episode Two (tx: 09/11/68)

Isobel is showing off an old-fashioned gramophone and a record of "The Teddy Bears' Picnic":

ISOBEL: Great, isn't it. I got it off a barrow in the Portobello Road.
ZOE: (preoccupied) Oh, yes.
ISOBEL: What's the matter? Don't... don't you like it?
ZOE: Oh yes, it's fine. ISOBEL: You're still worried about your two friends aren't you?

In Fiction: keen to impress her new friend, appear cool and up-to-date, and clear her mind of the worries and stress of losing touch with her companions, the lovely Isobel presents Zoe with a choice: cheer up, or listen to the entire A-side of The Teddy Bears' Picnic.

In Fact: this charming children's song originated with an instrumental written in 1907 by the American composer John Walter Bratton (1867 - 1947). Bratton wrote over 250 songs in his 50 year career, mainly for Broadway musicals around the turn of the century. The tune regained prominence in 1932 when the Irish lyricist Jimmy Kennedy (1902 - 1984) added words and it was recorded by the popular Henry Hall and his BBC Dance Orchestra, with the soft tones of Val Rosing (aka Gilbert Russell) as lead vocalist.

Recorded on 11th December 1932, this track went on to sell over a million copies, and was used extensively by the BBC; not only as the theme song for the Big Jon and Sparkie radio programme, a children's radio show presented on weekdays and Saturday mornings, but also for broadcast engineers, who allegedly broadcast the track whilst calibrating & adjusting equipment throughout the 1930s - due to the recording's large dynamic range!

Cuts: 0'07" were cleared for use in the opening 5 minutes of the episode.

Releases (select releases): according to the surviving PasB paperwork, the Invasion's production team sourced the track from its original vinyl release (Columbia FB 2816) - now extremely difficult to come across, and 35 years old even then.

Availability (select releases): the original recording is still readily available on nostalgic compilations, such as the triple-CD Hello Children Everywhere (EMI VTDCD763), released in November 2005.