One of my favorite TV shows ever is Doctor Who. My local PBS station has been running the classic series at 12 midnight every Saturday for years now, and at 15 I discovered the show and have loved it ever since. Strangely, I find that I just can’t get into the new series – I seem to be stuck in the past, which is rather fitting for a show that involves time travel! ;)
The Doctor Who theme song is a classic TV tune and has been reinterpreted over the years, both on the show (the theme was reworked a few times throughout the 80s) and on record (one notably excellent version is by Orbital, simply titled “Doctor?”). The sci-fi spirit of the show itself has resulted in a number of songs that take their inspiration from the series. The compilation Who Is Doctor Who (charmingly subtitled “The Amazing Musical Adventures of Dr. Who And His Friends”) gathers together the best and the oddest of those tracks – a witty little collection!
In addition to including the original (and the best) Doctor Who theme by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Who Is Doctor Who features a bouncy 60s take on the tune by Eric Winstone And His Orchestra and a trippy electronic version by Don Harper’s Homo Electronicus. There are also a few instrumentals inspired by the series that are pleasant enough but largely forgettable.
What makes this album worth its weight in gold are the songs sung about the show or actually by Doctor Who regulars. “I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek” is a fabulously campy pop tune that gives us amazing mental images of kissing one of those menacing metal trash bins on “his chromium plated head”! “Who’s Who,” sung by Roberta Tovey (she played Susan in the Peter Cushing Doctor Who films) is a cute ditty about the good Doctor, but “Not So Old,” also sung by Tovey, isn’t related to the series at all but was included on the album as the song was “Who’s Who”‘s B-side.
If you haven’t found yourself rolling on the floor in laughter yet, listening to the next few songs will surely tickle your funny bone. Frazer Hines, who played Second Doctor companion Jamie McCrimmon, sets his sights on pop stardom with “Who’s Doctor Who?” – and it’s actually quite catchy! That song’s B-side, “Punch And Judy Man,” could ostensibly be about the Doctor and is a nice example of 60s pop. Frazer reprises his “pop star” role at the end of the album with “Time Traveler,” a truly craptastic tune that features some ultra-cheesy lyrics (“I’m a time traveler honey and I can’t get enough of your love” – poetic, innit?) and references to several of the stories Jamie appeared in. Fun stuff!
The highlight of the album, at least in my opinion, comes in the form of Third Doctor Jon Pertwee’s recitation of spacey lyrics over a groovy version of the Doctor Who theme. “Who Is The Doctor” was released as a single in 1972, and I can only assume that it went nowhere – which is a travesty! A song this odd deserved some chart success. The song’s non-Who-related B-side, also sung by Pertwee and called “Pure Mystery,” is actually a very depressing little tune about a magician or somesuch who is past his prime. Who expected that sort of depth on a Doctor Who album?!
Apparently there was supposed to be a “volume 2” of Who Is Doctor Who but it never materialized, which has caused me endless hours of sadness (or not). Until it sees the light of day, though, this compilation will do nicely.