In 1963, producer Verity Lamb approached BBC Australian composer Ron Grainer to score a theme tune for the series.
The arranging of this new piece fell on progressive musical maverick – Delia Derbyshire, who arranged this score as a synthesised electronic score.
What was most remarkable about this arrangement was that synthesiser technology did not exist in a usable form at this point. So Derbyshire and her team recorded the score on tape and then cut the recording reel up into segments, pasting it back together to create different sounds and clipped tones.
It was then re-recorded in this new format and remained largely unchanged until the Pertwee era when a re-arrangement was required due to Pertwee’s Doctor’s titles being of a different length. The dramatic swooshing outro sound effect was also added at this point.
Grainer was amazed at the resulting piece of music and when he heard it, famously asked :
[Upon bearing the composition for the first time] “Did I write that?” Ron Grainer
“Most of it” Delia Derbyshire
However the BBC, wanted to keep members of the Workshop anonymous and prevented Grainer from getting Derbyshire a co-composer credit – and a share of the royalties.
A new synthesised version of the theme tune in 1971 by Derbyshire on a Delaware synthesiser was rejected by BBC top brass as too spare and modern. Therefore, the original Derbyshire theme (bar some rearrangement) remained largely unchanged until synthesised rescores in 1980 by Peter Howell and in 1986 by Keff McCulloch, at the insistence of then producer JNT.
The BBC Workshop also provided a vast range of unusual sound-scapes, including the now famous TARDIS de-materialisation SFX; which was created by running a doorkey ran up and down a taut piano string.
The theme tune has endured to this day and has since become one of television’s most recognisable theme tunes.