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Fine Tuning

In 2018 the sound of Doctor Who was transformed with a rich incidental score and a brooding new arrangement of the theme tune. The man behind the musical revolution explains how he did it.

Nothing prepares you for the reality of what working on Doctor Who is like,” says Segun Akinola, thinking back to June 2018 and the announcement that he was joining the show as resident composer. “I was under no illusions. I knew it would be big, but experiencing it, it’s so much bigger than I ever thought.”

It’s now 2019 and, on a cold grey day in London, we’re sitting down for coff ee with Segun at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). This building holds special significance for the British-Nigerian composer, who was named one of the organisation’s Breakthrough Brits of 2017.

But we’ll come back to that. Right now we’re curious about Segun’s experience of Doctor Who prior to the announcement. Had he watched it?

“Not prior to working on it,” he admits. “I’ve always been aware of Doctor Who, especially from a musical standpoint. I’ve always known about the Radiophonic Workshop, the revival and Murray Gold’s fantastic work.” After 12 years as Doctor Who’s composer, Gold stepped down in 2017. “It just didn’t happen for me with Doctor Who. I didn’t know anybody who watched it. I didn’t steer clear of it, I just didn’t know much about it. I had some catching up to do!”

Is it possible that made it easier to take on something with so much expectation attached to it? Segun agrees, recalling his first conversation with incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall. “I was very honest and said, ‘Look, I haven’t really watched it.’ Chris said that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

That first conversation between showrunner and prospective series composer was a pivotal moment. “We clicked very naturally,” recalls Segun. “There was no guarantee at all that I was going to get the job; it just felt like we could talk for ages. We talked about diff erent things to do with the show and Jodie’s Doctor. Chris described the Doctor and I wrote some key words. I said, ‘Give me a few days and I’ll send you something.’ I went away and started working on what I thought the Doctor’s theme would be. Something to encompass this new Doctor, that sense of warmth and hope and heroism. And I really worked away on it, tinkering, and sent it off Then I waited…”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

This issue includes: • An exclusive interview with new composer Segun Akinola • A candid interview with Eric Saward, Doctor Who’s longest-serving script editor. • Former showrunner Steven Moffat discusses Eric’s legacy. • Robert Allsopp describes his unusual contributions to Doctor Who’s prop and costume departments – from the Sylvester McCoy episodes to the present day. • Alex Mercer describes what it’s like to be one of the current producers of Doctor Who. • Storyboard artist James Iles talks us through some of his stunning illustrations. • Jacqueline King – aka Sylvia Noble – answers questions from the TARDIS tin. • A tribute to Shane Rimmer, who guest starred in The Gunfighters in 1966. • Part Four of Herald of Madness, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends. • How one cosplayer became the War Doctor’s companion. • The Fact of Fiction explores the 1979 story Nightmare of Eden. • The Blogs of Doom, audio reviews, previews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!