Doctor Who: the nation's favourite sci-fi theme tune

The cult British series celebrates its 60th anniversary this month

Doctor Who
Delia Derbyshire who pioneered and produced the sound of Doctor Who. ©BBCArchives

To mark the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who, music royalty organisation PRS for Music has revealed a chart of the UK’s top 20 Most Played Sci-Fi TV Theme Tunes. With its distinctive electronic composition, exploring sound art, the iconic Doctor Who theme tune tops the chart.
Based on data provided by PRS for Music, the organisation which represents the rights of over 165,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, the chart showcases the most popular sci-fi theme tunes that have been streamed, broadcast and publicly performed.
First broadcast on 23 November 1963, the Doctor Who theme has become one of the world’s most recognisable and enduring TV theme tunes. Originally composed by Ron Grainer and arranged by Delia Derbyshire (both PRS members) at the world-famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the work is characterised by its eerie and otherworldly sound. Created using cutting-edge electronic music techniques, the composition and final recording was groundbreaking for its time.
The Doctor Who theme has been rearranged and reinterpreted numerous times over the years. Notable composers who have put their own spin on the theme include Dominic Glynn, Peter Howell and Keff McCulloch. 
In 2005, award-winning composer Murray Gold captivated audiences with his interpretation by reimagining both the theme and TV series score. Gold became the show’s resident composer for over 12 years, and even filmed a cameo in the 2007 Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned, as a guitarist aboard the Max Capricorn Cruiseliners spaceship, the Titanic.
In 2018, Segun Akinola’s work brought a fresh and modern approach to the show's musical landscape. Three special anniversary episodes, that are set to be broadcast from Saturday 25 November, see Gold return to score the show alongside the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
PRS for Music’s Most Played Sci-Fi TV Theme Tunes chart includes 20 of the most recognisable and spine-tingling scores on our screens today, from modern cult classics like The Last of Us to animated favourites Rick and Morty, as well as the vintage sounds of Red Dwarf and Star Trek.
PRS for Music: Most Played Sci-Fi TV Theme Tunes

  1. Doctor Who
  2. Red Dwarf
  3. Star Trek
  4. Stargate Atlantis
  5. Rick And Morty
  6. The 100
  7. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  8. Heroes
  9. Last Of Us
  10. Fringe
  11. Battlestar Galactica
  12. The Expanse
  13. Smallville
  14. Torchwood
  15. Better Off Ted
  16. Star Wars Rebels
  17. Manifest
  18. Person Of Interest
  19. Killjoys
  20. The Twilight Zone

NB: Chart rank based on UK streams, broadcasts and public performance data provided by PRS for Music for the period 1 January 2023 – 14 November 2023.

About PRS for Music

Here for music since 1914, PRS for Music is a world-leading music collective management organisation representing the rights of more than 175,000 talented songwriters, composers and music publishers. Redefining the global standard for music royalties, PRS for Music ensures songwriters and composers are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. 

For 110 years it has grown and protected the rights of the music creator community, paying out royalties with more accuracy, transparency and speed. In 2023, PRS for Music paid out £943.6m in royalties and collected a record £1.08 billion in revenues.

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