Doctor Who again: what's it with the church music?

I know there are a couple of Doctor Who viewers here at least; in the United States, the new episodes are running a scant few months after their original BBC run, so this open thought goes out to my UK readers, too. But there might be a mild spoiler for some of you, so be warned.

First, there were the two hymns featured in Gridlock which I mentioned a few week back.

Then there was the organ-as-weapon in Southwark Cathedral in The Lazarus Experiment.

Now, tonight in Human Nature, we hear one of my favorite hymns, John Bunyan’s “He Who Would Valiant Be” which you may find in another version at #106 in the Singing the Living Tradition hymnal. There is a terrible, foreshadowing pun in it, missing in the Unitarian Universalist version should you be inclined to look.

The First World War subtext makes me quite sad, as the last remembering traces of that generation passes away. Such horrible loss, such a horrible waste that war.

Incidentally, another hymn, also from the period, used for the start of term in English boarding schools, might have been appropriate for the episode. As far as I know, only the Unitarian Universalists have kept it in current use. Which one? “Rank by Rank,” of course.

6 Replies to “Doctor Who again: what's it with the church music?”

  1. Hymns for “Human Nature” only seem appropriate to the setting. As to the rest of the season? I can only guess that when you’ve got the same composer scoring the whole series (Murray Gold), you live with whatever his current source of inspiration might be.

    Is it just me, or has the show taken a bump or two up in quality from “Lazarus” on?

  2. Just as a point of clarification–the Sci Fi channel is running slightly ahead of the BBC UK run. BBC America, however, is (I believe) a season behind.

  3. Though only caught the second half of the the episode last night and missed the hymn-sing, I am fascinated by the first world war. It was truly the end of an era and the horrible birth of another. This week I am reading “The Kaiser and His Court” by John C. Rohl. It is something like the thirtieth book about Kaiser Wilhelm II that I have read since high school. He is interesting because he consistently made faulty decisions and, to his dying day in Doorn, never admitted for a brief moment that he was ever at fault for anything–the destruction of empires, the deaths of millions, the hardships and collapse of society in Germany–everything was because of someone else. Yet, he personally made every decision that led his nation to disaster. The failure was not Wilhelm’s alone but he certainly made the situation worse.

    I have a nostalgia for the era before WWI. The people of that time had the belief that human nature and the human condition were improving (“Onward and Upward” as our Unitarian forebearers put it.) It was not uncommon to believe in those days that the new weapons being developed were too terrible ever to be used. Such an attitude must seem naive but I still prefer it to the nihilism of the rest of the twentieth century.

    Oh, and my favorite line from “He Who Would Valiant Be” is “I’ll with a giant fight.” Always brings a smile.

  4. I thought ‘Lazarus’ was a bit rubbish, as well as the New York/Darlek episode, but it gets better. The episode with the angels is classic Doctor Who in creating something very powerful without amazing special effects.

  5. Darlek? — you’d fit in well with some of the older families here in “Warshington, D.C.” who have the same non-rhotic, intrusive-R construction in their accents. Enough with the linguistics.

    I agree about Lazarus and even the one after it set on the space station — haven’t we had two episodes that look like that already? Wasn’t there a Russian film that did it better? — but no spoilers about the angels: that’s this Friday!

  6. I thought the first part of Human Nature was a big leap forward; I have liked the previous seasons very much, but I can’t wait for part two and for this season to unfold, and hope it continues to live up overall to the way it has started. And, should I admit this, but has anyone else for other BBC work acquired a zone-free DVD player and amazon in the uk? I just had to for the second season of Green Wing which I’m not sure ever did get to BBC America, yet.

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