Music by the inch

I suppose I’m also a Doctor Who heretic, in that I’ve watched only about three or four stories from the years of the first two Doctors (William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton) and regarded them as… well… pretty bad. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but to reiterate: There are those who would disagree vehemently, but I thought those early episodes were poorly done in almost every aspect: writing, acting, directing, editing, camera work, costumes, and of course special effects.

By the time Jon Pertwee came along as the third Doctor, they’d apparently either learned a lot or hired people who were better at it. The show was greatly improved in all those areas. Except maybe special effects.

(It also was in color, which even if all else had been the same made it much more watchable. Good rich, sharp monochrome is fine, but for 1960s-era blurry low-resolution video, color definitely made it easier to figure out what you were looking at.)

Now, was it really all bad? No, and I’ll tell you what I liked: The music. Most of the title and incidental music in those days was written by Ron Grainer and it was splendid. Or anyway it was a lot of pre-Moog electronic music, done by the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop, alternating with orchestral music making heavy use of bass and/or contra-alto clarinet, and it had me at “hello”. Now, the show’s use of that music was as bad as everything else, but the music itself, great stuff.

Which is why I enjoyed this short new video talking about how the theme music was first recorded: one note at a time, with oscillators and 1-track tape recorders and a whole lot of splicing tape.

Uphill both ways. Get off my lawn.

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