20 pop songs in Doctor Who

Where's the last place you expected to find pop music? In Doctor Who? Pah! Who said Daleks and disco don't mix?


  • 1. Ticket to Ride (The Beatles) – The Chase

Danced to by Ian Chesterton, like your dad. This appears thanks to the Doctor’s Space Time Telegraph or ‘Time Telly’ which he nicked from The Space Museum the previous week, and which is only ever used in this story. When the signal cuts out, the Doctor harumphs that it has ‘squashed my favourite Beatles!’ That same year, Goldfinger was released, in which James Bond makes a dismissive remark about wearing earplugs at a Beatles concert and thus proving that William Hartnell is just a little bit more with it and sexy than Sean Connery.

With a surreal series of set pieces in which Daleks clear the decks of the Marie Celeste, what must be a parallel world in which 1996’s Festival of Ghana features a house of horrors with killer androids, and a Dalek created double of Doctor Who “completely (in)distinguishable from the original” you’d be forgiven for thinking that Terry Nation and the Doctor Who production team started experimenting with mind-expanding herbs around the same time the Beatles did.

  • 2. Paperback Writer ( The Beatles) – The Evil of the Daleks

Appears in episode 1, which no longer exists on film. The Doctor’s TARDIS has been stolen, and a trail of clues take him to a coffee bar called the Tricolor. where Beatles music plays… The entire scene was completely cut from the 1992 audio cassette due to accompanying rights issues, and though reinstated for the CD release, the actual music was still replaced by Mark Ayres and his digital juju. So I haven’t actually heard this, and I really want to. Time to get hunting for those original audio bootlegs, methinks!

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  • 3. Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac) – Spearhead From Space

This little number can still be heard if you have one of the old VHS versions, over the early factory scenes as Ransome is shown around, but it was cut from the DVD and replaced with machine noise, causing bitter distress to some  who wage Internet campaigns against the Restoration Team to this day.

  • 4. I Am The Walrus (The Beatles) – The Three Doctors

Okay, you don’t actually hear a sample, but when guesting Doctor 2 (Patrick Troughton) tries to explain who he is in relation to incumbent Doctor 3 (Jon Pertwee) he states “I am he and he is me,” to which baffled yet fab’n’groovy Jo Grant replies “And we are all together, goo goo coo choo?” She explains it’s a song by the Beatles, and recorder-clutching Troughton is delighted – “Oh, how does it go?” putting it to his lips. Sadly the exciting drama of evil reality-eating antimatter, which looks a bit like Space Blancmange, cuts short the music lesson.

  • 5. Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix) and…
  • 6. A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procul Harem) – Revelation of the Daleks

Hang the DJ! Alexei Sayle’s retro DJ-to-the-dead plays various funky tunes in the luxury cryogenics-facility-come-morgue, the Tranquil Repose. Davros however, is not a fan. Music replacements on the DVD for copyright reasons again.

  • 7. A Taste of Honey (The Beatles) and
  • 8. Do You Want to Know a Secret (The Beatles) – Remembrance of the Daleks

What is it with Dalek stories and Beatles songs? Must be because they’re both British Icons… the music comes courtesy of a jukebox in the cafe scenes, in this 1963-set McCoy story, which far from the usual disparaging fan insults his era gathers, is actually one of the all time great Dalek stories. The first DVD release in 2001 (and 2007 repackage) had music replacements, but pick up the Davros Box Set from retailers such as Big Finish for £40.00 and you get the story as transmitted with proper music, as well as extra extras. And four other Dalek stories, and five Davros-centric audios. Bargain.

  • 9. Tainted Love (Soft Cell) and
  • 10. Toxic (Britney Spears) – The End of the World

Your taste for humour in Who is probably defined by whether you think Christopher Eccleston beaming and bopping to Tainted Love on Cassandra’s Jukebox is wonderfully Doctorish, or painfully wrong. I’d go for the former. In a lovely Douglas Adamsy touch, Cassandra says it’s “classical music, from humanity’s greatest composers.” In light of previous entries, it’s worth noting that Russell T Davies states on the commentary that broadcast Who is all that really matters and if music is unclearable for DVD so be it – fortunately on this occasion it’s there on your shiny disc too. Although he hasn’t yet used The Beatles!

  • 11. Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley)…
  • 12. Never Can Say Goodbye (The Communards) and 
  • 13. Don’t Mug Yourself (The Streets) – Father’s Day

Two 1987 classics and a very wrong snatch of sound from the future as time goes into meltdown following Rose saving her father from a car accident. None of them are really audible enough, which is a shame considering Murray Gold’s ‘cry now, you swines!’ score is loud and clear.

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  • 14. Song For Ten (Murray Gold/Neil Hannon) – The Christmas Invasion

Written for the show and first sung by Murray Gold himself over the new Doctor getting into his tenth incarnation’s favoured togs, this rather pleasant ditty set off a tradition of putting an original song into Christmas specials. When Silva Screen produced the soundtrack to Series 1 & 2, Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy re-recorded a longer version. Great little song in a great little episode – well, until they try and and make out that Harriet Jones is awful for doing something perfectly reasonable…

  • 15. The Lion Sleeps Tonite (Tight Fit) – Rise of the Cybermen

Hilarious and creepy moment in this otherwise risible action-adventure, used to drown out the screams of people being sliced, diced and turned into Cybermen. For a certain generation, Timon and Pumbaa are waddling past Battersea Power Station, providing the ‘Wimba Wehs’.

  • 16. Mr Blue Sky (ELO) – Love & Monsters

Elton (who’s namesake appears too, but it’s so short it’s not worth its own entry) loves ELO. And why not? If you’re concerned that I’m a miserable and grumpy bugger as far as the New Series goes based on the upcoming points 17, 18 and 19, let me assure you that I think Love & Monsters is a minor masterpiece. Although the little Blue Peter Design-a-Monster winner was right, the Absorbaloff should have been the size of a bus based on that picture…

  • 17. Love Don’t Roam (Murray Gold) – The Runaway Bride

The song’s quite groovy, but a fan campaign to get it to Number One on the back of iTunes downloads, based on the success of Song For Ten the year before, failed. Though a nice number for crooning, Love Don’t Roam is incredibly similar to Al Wilson’s Northern Soul classic The Snake, which can be heard on the fairly recent Lambrini advert. While I’m sure it was a coincidence rather than deliberate plagiarism (look at George Harrison and the My Sweet Lord case) a low placing probably saved a copyright lawsuit…

  • 18. Sound of Drums (Kula Shaker) – The Sound of Drums

Funky rave number as millions of Zeroids from Terrahawks Toclafane rain down past Cloudbase The Valiant in this utterly bonkers second half of the finale to Series Three. Or middle chunk of the three part finale, depending on how you count Utopia. I’d go for the former, as Utopia’s really good and deserves to stand alone from this…

  • 19. I Can’t Decide (Scissor Sisters) – The Last of the Time Lords

The Master pushing the aged Doctor round in a wheelchair (“Track Three!” he shouts, and it should be noted that his version of the album Ta-Dah misses out the verse with the line “F**k and kiss you both at the same time” for obvious reasons…) This is the bit where my girlfriend walked out, claiming it was too ridiculous. I quite liked it, and reckon it’s the one good thing about the worst episode of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen. Feel free to argue!

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  • 20. The Stowaway (Murray Gold) – Voyage of the Damned

The last of the three Murray Gold Christmas Special songs, and the last of my list (I’d have been stuffed for a top twenty without him!) this quaint dance number accompanies relaxed festivities on board the (Starship) Titanic before disaster ensues.