The new Doctor Who theme tune includes recordings of the 1963 original

Composer Segun Akinola talks us through his process for remaking the legendary Doctor Who opening theme

Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, Jodie Whittaker and Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)

The Doctor Who theme is an iconic piece of music, known and loved by millions, so it’s no surprise that fans were intrigued by the news that Jodie Whittaker’s first series would feature a new arrangement of the classic tune.

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Arranged by incoming series composer Segun Akinola, the fresh theme arrangement will debut with Whittaker’s first episode – but while it’s attached to a series that’s all about the new, the theme will also connect directly to Doctor Who’s past, thanks to Akinola’s decision to sample the original 1963 version of the series theme in his new creation.

“It has been arranged this year by Segun Akinola, our new composer, taking the original recordings made by Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop in 1963, and refashioning them for today,” new showrunner Chris Chibnall wrote in the Radio Times in September – and speaking to RadioTimes.com, Akinola confirmed the use of the original recordings in his arrangement.

“Chris said that literally and he does mean that literally, but maybe [the recordings] appear as you think they will, maybe they don’t appear as you think they will,” Akinola teased at the world premiere of series 11’s first episode, The Woman Who Fell to Earth.

“I really just stuck to the original [theme], like the very very first one, and tried to glean as much from that as I could. And tried to honour it as much as I could as well.”

More generally, Akinola said he felt a certain pressure creating a new version of the theme tune due to its notoriety – a pressure that also extended to his new compositions for the series.

“It’s such an iconic theme, one that people walking down the street can whistle, and it’s one that people really care about as well,” he told us.

“So yes, there was definitely pressure. Not that anyone, Matt [Strevens, executive producer] or Chris or anyone, was putting that pressure on me. I was kind of putting it on myself!

“It’s Doctor Who! And it’s really great, but it’s also a really big deal.

“Trying to just get on with the job, and focus on the music, and trying to make it the best that it can be, that was sometimes a challenge. But it was always such an amazing challenge, and a wonderful challenge to have.”

“Our viewpoint across the whole thing was basically that it should be new – but new didn’t mean that it had to be the opposite of everything that has come before,” he concluded.

“It was really just a blank slate, an opportunity to look and start again at it. There wasn’t anything that I particularly tried to avoid in any grand way. I just tried to make it the best it could be.”

This article was originally published on 26 September 2018

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Doctor Who returns to BBC1 on Sunday 7 October