Frequency Rotation

Frequency Rotation: Orbital with Matt Smith, “Doctor Who”

Each week, Frequency Rotation spotlights a song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

It’s no secret that the Doctor Who theme song has had a massive influence on electronic music over the past five decades. Not only has Ron Grainer’s and Delia Derbyshire’s original 1963 version been reinterpreted numerous times for the show itself, various electronic acts have have sampled, remixed, or otherwise paid homage to one of the most epic and recognizable pieces of science-fiction-related music of all time.

This summer, Doctor Who paid it back. Matt Smith, the Eleventh and current Doctor, appeared onstage with legendary electronica duo Orbital at England’s Glastonbury Festival in June to perform a triumphant version of “Doctor Who” (first covered on their 2001 album, The Altogether). Orbital’s Phil and Paul Hartnoll are no strangers to SF; everything from Star Trek: The Next Generation to Beneath the Planet of the Apes to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds has popped up in their work, and they provided the soundtrack to the film Event Horizon. (Even more interesting: Orbital’s 2004 song “You Lot” samples Christopher Eccleston’s dialogue from Russell T. Davies’ The Second Coming, before Eccleston and Davies worked together on the 2005 Doctor Who revival.) Regardless of how you feel about electronic music—or Matt Smith—it’s hard not to feel pumped watching a few thousand festivalgoers lose their collective shit over Doctor Who.

Jason Heller writes for The A.V. Club, plays in some bands, and wants “Doctorin’ the TARDIS” played at his funeral.


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