Doctor Beat: Pop music and Doctor Who

02/12/2010 at 10:15 pm (Doctor Who, Music, TV)


With news that opera singer Katherine Jenkins will be appearing in the upcoming Doctor Who special, A Christmas Carol, it seemed appropriate to take a look at the Time Lord’s dabbles with music.

Even from the outset of the series beginnings, there was an idea to feature a character that would be “with it” as part of the crew of time travellers. The idea of having Cliff Richard, or someone very much like him, was thrown around back in 1963. Even early outlines of the show included a lead character called “Cliff”, which was to become schoolteacher companion Ian Chesterton. Of course, it wasn’t until 2005 that a pop star would finally become a TARDIS crew member…

Doctor Who’s first foray into the world of pop, and certainly not its last, was in the 1965 story The Chase. And if you’re going to get a performance of a band on your show in the mid sixties, who would you get? Yup, on the Doctor’s grandly titled Time Space Visualiser there appeared none other than The Beatles. I can only imagine how, in the days before leaks and spoilers, how that would have gone down among the nation’s teens.

That wasn’t the end of the show’s connection with the music industry in the 1960’s. Oh no. Although The Beatles were unknowingly spied upon in the TARDIS, it was felt that young and hip Frazer Hines – the Second Doctor’s companion, Jamie – should bring out a single. About Doctor Who. And call it Who’s Dr Who. It came as no surprise when I read about the single on Wikipedia that it “failed to chart”.

You think there’d be a lesson learned from that, wouldn’t you? Clearly, when you travel through space and time, chart failure isn’t much of a concern. That’s not a hint to get Nadine Coyle to hop aboard the TARDIS by the way. During Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor in the early 70’s, he too released a single. About being Doctor Who. And call it I Am The Doctor. Think of it as sci-fi’s answer to Anita Dobson’s Anyone Can Fall In Love.

As time went on, the idea that perhaps if you’re in Doctor Who, you shouldn’t attempt a recording career. This is probably a good rule of thumb. There’s nothing to stop those that have a musical career from coming to the show instead. In 1983, Peter Davison encountered one of the most effete pirates to ever appear on screen in the shape of Imagination’s Leee John (no, I’ve spelt it correctly). Lynda Baron, a spacefaring pirate captain, sure. Leee John, cut throat lackey? Erm, not so much.

In Colin Baker’s era, Doctor Who even managed to win itself its own appeal single! Doctor In Distress was written at a time when the show was taken off air to be re-evaluated. The result was a… well, embarrassing farrago, to be blunt. You click on the link at your own peril, but see if you recognise any of the faces. And feel bad for them.

In 1988, jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine appeared in Silver Nemesis.  In a very inconsequential scene, the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) takes his pyromaniac companion Ace to an outdoor performance.  Before the onslaught of cybermen, nazis and a Tudor witch, the Doctor confesses his favourite type of jazz: “straight blowing.”  Well, I giggled.

Let’s skip to the return of the show in 2005, and the controversial casting of Billie Piper. It seemed the press all had computer keyboards that featured a key that just said “revelation”. Yes, she was very good, but the phrase “Billie Piper is a revelation” was bandied about so much you’d think Wikileaks had nothing on her.

During David Tennant’s time, more pop stars appear. In a tiny cameo, McFly lend their support to the Master’s alter ego, Prime Minister Harold Saxon. Following that, the Christmas special Voyage of the Damned was given an extra burst of hype as it featured Kylie. That really was a big deal, and seemed more than a little surreal. Especially with her appearance on Doctor Who Magazine draped over a dalek, which tied in with the release of her single Two Hearts.  Coincidence? Hmm…

The Streets’ Mike Skinner also made a cameo in the prologue of 2010’s The Time Of Angels.  Having succumbed to the charms of Alex Kingston’s River Song, we find Skinner dazed and confused, a victim of hallucinagenic lipstick.  How very wily.

Which brings us back up to the present, with singing sensation Katherine Jenkins. I have to be honest, I hadn’t heard of her before the announcement she was going to be in the show. Therefore I’ve no preconceptions. The only thing I can say is, you never know how these things are going to work out, but there seems to be more success with pop music going to meet the Doctor, than the other way around.

I mean, how will we look back on Matt Smith’s Glastonbury perfomance with Orbital in 20 year’s time?

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