Doctor Who Showrunner Explains Why He Gives Villains Pop Song Musical Moments


  • Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies enjoys using pop music in villains’ scenes – he finds it savage and dark, adding a ruthless and relentless element.
  • Pop music creates impactful moments – the use of unexpected songs in villainous deeds leaves a lasting impression on viewers.
  • Davies’ musical choices extend beyond Doctor Who, as his use of upbeat tracks in other series, like Years and Years, emphasizes insanity or highlights uncontrollable developments.

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies breaks down why he enjoys staging pop musical numbers for his villains. The showrunner who helped relaunch Doctor Who for the 21st century has returned after fourteen years to helm the series amid large production changes and milestone celebrations. With David Tennant’s 60th anniversary return complete, Davies will steer the show into a new era as Ncuti Gatwa steps into the role of the Fifteenth Doctor in 2023’s seasonal special, “The Church on Ruby Road.”

With the final Doctor Who 60th anniversary story “The Giggle” now revealed to the world, Davies reflected on why pop songs have been used in his villains’ most dastardly moments when viewing the Toymaker’s choreographed rampage to “Spice Up Your Life” during the episode’s official commentary on the BBC iPlayer. The showrunner explained to Tennant that he found pop music has a “savagery” to it, as seen in both “The Giggle” and season 3’s “The Sound of Drums.” Check out Davies’ full explanation below:

Russell Davies: In all great pop music, there’s a savagery to it… It’s like in the middle of a song, people are being slaughtered. It’s pure Doctor Who, isn’t it? Well, actually it’s.. Even Doctor Who doesn’t often do this. It’s just nuts. See, it’s a mad episode…. I’m always using pop music like that. I just think there’s a savagery to it, a darkness in there somewhere. The relentlessness, that’s the word. There’s a ruthlessness to pop music.

David Tennant: The Sound of Drums, there was.

Davies: Yeah, yeah, yeah! It’s bang, bang, bang. Good pop is, like, hard.

Russell T Davies’ Musical Villain Moments Leave An Impact On Viewers

Emma Thompson Neil Patrick Harris and John Simm as Vivienne Rook the Toymaker and the Master musical villain moments

Davies’ use of unexpected needle drops for dastardly deeds has been a recurring element ever since he first brought Doctor Who back. “The End of the World” saw the surgically augmented human Cassandra plot to incinerate a party of alien ambassadors to Britney Spears’s “Toxic.” Meanwhile, season 3’s two-part finale “The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords” saw the Master decimate humanity to Rogue Trader’s “Voodoo Child,” and torment the Tenth Doctor and other captives to Scissor Sisters’ “I Can’t Decide.”

This isn’t limited to Davies’ Doctor Who work either. His 2019 sci-fi series Years and Years set a general election that led to the rise of a far-right political party to Steps’ “Tragedy,” with Emma Thompson’s party leader Viviene Rook even learning to dance to it. Like the Doctor Who example, the doomed general election paired with the upbeat track leaves a mark, as the central Lyons family is divided politically and the world is gradually spiraling further into chaos. These sequences have become some of Davies’ most fondly remembered moments, for either showing the sheer carefree insanity of a villain or emphasizing bleak, uncontrollable developments.

The Toymaker’s brutal “Spice Up Your Life” routine is a standout set-piece within Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary specials. The moment comes as a surprise and leads into a terrifying display of the villain’s powers, as the Fourteenth Doctor can only plead as highly-trained soldiers are turned into balls and his companions are swept up in the chaos. Doctor Who fans are sure to be unable to dissociate “Spice Up Your Life” from the Toymaker’s unsettling antics.

Doctor Who: The Giggle is available on Disney+ for international audiences and BBC iPlayer for UK viewers. Davies’ past seasons can be watched on Max, while Years and Years is available on Britbox and Hulu.

Source: BBC iPlayer

  • Doctor Who Poster

    Doctor Who

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    As the last of the alien species known as the Time Lords, the Doctor travels through time and space in his TARDIS, a time machine thats bigger on the inside than the outside, seeking out adventures in the ancient past and unimagined future while also serving as the protector of Earth and mankind. With a human companion by his side, the Doctor meets extraordinary – and sometimes deadly – characters and creatures from across the universe.

    Doctor Who

    Story By:
    Sydney Newman C. E. Webber Donald Wilson



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