What tune was Missy playing on the piano in this week’s Doctor Who?

A melancholy piece and a rather more upbeat number featured as the Time Lady expressed her changing moods

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Missy was back at the piano again in this week’s Doctor Who, The Lie of the Land, playing snatches of a melancholy tune that seemed to reflect her mood, not to mention the dystopian theme of the episode, about a drab, funless future under the rule of the alien Monks.

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You may well have recognised the popular piece of music – it has featured on TV ads among other things – but not know what it’s called or who it’s by.

The piece is the first in the series known as the Gnossiennes, by French composer Erik Satie (so this is Gnossienne No 1).

Here’s the full piece.

The Gnossienes are very experimental in terms of their structure and rhythm – anarchic, you might even say – so you can see the appeal they might have to Missy.

Satie coined the term Gnossiennes himself and it may derive from the Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge.

However, it’s also possible that it comes more specifically from the Cretan word gnossus, perhaps supporting the theory that it is linked to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and the creature’s imprisonment in a diabolical labyrinth. Missy may well have seen a parallel between that and her own experience of being trapped in the vault.

Missy is playing that piece when the Doctor and Bill first enter the vault, before she realises she has company.

Later on, as the Doctor is seeking her help to find a way to save the Earth without sacrificing Bill to the Monks, Missy plays a few notes of a much more upbeat melody, ragtime classic The Entertainer by Scott Joplin.

Finding entertainment in the potential death of a human? Sounds like Missy hasn’t changed that much…

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Doctor Who continues next Saturday at 7:15pm on BBC1