The Devil's Chord (TV story)

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The Devil's Chord was the second episode of Season 1 of Doctor Who, broadcast on 11 May 2024, and as a first for the franchise, back-to-back with the first episode, Space Babies [+]Loading...["Space Babies (TV story)"].[1]

The episode and the one it was paired with marked the beginning of a brand new release method for the series; from here on, before their traditional linear Saturday night broadcast on BBC One, new episodes would be uploaded to BBC iPlayer in the UK at 12 midnight, simultaneous with the episodes being added to Disney+ across the rest of the world, which in some countries would mean Friday at 4pm Pacific Time/7pm Eastern Time.

Plot-wise, the episode is the first to build upon the Pantheon, previously mentioned by the Toymaker in The Giggle [+]Loading...["The Giggle"], by introducing two more of its members; the Toymaker's child, Maestro, and Maestro's own son, Harbinger. Another ongoing plot point of the series is also established, "The One Who Waits".

Elsewhere, the Doctor tells Ruby about his granddaughter, Susan Foreman, marking the first time she has been mentioned by name in a post-2005 episode. Ruby's newfound knowledge of this would go on to become a vital plot point in the season's penultimate episode, The Legend of Ruby Sunday [+]Loading...["The Legend of Ruby Sunday (TV story)"].

Synopsis[[edit] | [edit source]]

The Doctor and Ruby travel to 1963 to watch The Beatles record their very first album, but find something is amiss. The music is dull, boring and soulless.

They come to discover that Maestro, the Toymaker's child, is to blame. The embodiment of the essence of music, they have stolen music from the heart of humanity, causing the world to go to war, without really knowing why.

The Doctor and Ruby must return music to the world, but how can they fight a god?

Plot[[edit] | [edit source]]

In 1925, Timothy Drake teaches piano to a young student, Henry. When Henry finds the music of Beethoven a tad dull, Timothy suggests that a tritone, the so-called "Devil's Chord", might be more exciting, explaining that it was once banned, because it might allow the devil to enter the room. As he plays the note a few times, the lid of the grand piano on which Drake plays collapses. A banging sound comes from inside the instrument. The lid lifts to reveal a strange figure, then collapses again as the newcomer is now seated upon the piano bench. Drake insists that Henry get away from the strange figure, but Henry doesn't mind, the entity is his father - Henry's name, after all, is "Henry Arbinger" - "Harbinger". The figure laughs, tells Timothy that Henry was their prelude, whose time is done, and makes Henry vanish. The figure introduces themself as "Maestro", claiming themselves to be music itself. Calling Timothy a genius, brilliant enough to find the Lost Chord, but he just never has the luck, his genius unnoticed. Maestro insists that there are songs wrapped deep within his heart that just wish to be released, and asks if he wishes them to be set free. Drake agrees to Maestro's offer and they pull the music out of his body, killing him, and eating the notes that have emerged. The figure turns to the camera and plays a few notes on the piano.

Ruby and the Doctor are in the TARDIS, discussing where to go next, and Ruby decides on Abbey Road, when The Beatles are recording their first album. The Doctor delights at the idea, and the two land, but before venturing out Ruby insists that if they're in the past they need to dress the part, donning clothes typical of 1963. They head to EMI Recording Studios and sneak into the recording by taking around the tea trolley. As they do, they hear a song that sounds rather unlike any Beatles song the two of them know, focused on very simple themes and a basic melody. Upon spying on two other recordings, one involving Cilla Black and another involving an orchestra, they see similar issues in each, and in the cafeteria the entire studio seems despondent, no humming, no rhythm, no desire to feel any music at all. Ruby, in disbelief, exclaims that even the wind makes music as it blows through trees, which the Doctor tells her are called aeolian tones. A newspaper the pair reads lists historical events that never happened - not only has music vanished, but the whole world is changing. Ruby and the Doctor split up, one to talk to Paul, the other to John.

Ruby talks to John Lennon, and he just wants to go home, to a happy home life in Liverpool, but questions why he'll often wake up crying. Paul says to the Doctor that he knows their songs aren't any good, but he sees this as a positive, the whole world has realized that music is a bad thing. His goal is to squeeze a few bits of money out of old rhymes and melodies so he can move on to his next stage in life. But he does admit that when he's alone, from time to time, he can think of a note, and then a second, a third, fourth and fifth, and together they sound special. But as he sings out words to these notes the entire mood in the cafeteria shifts. Everyone around becomes slightly more hostile, chuckling laughter emanates from seemingly nowhere, and Maestro's visage looks out from every reflective surface before screaming. John suddenly tells Ruby to not waste his time and walks away, Paul calls the Doctor disgusting and storms out.

"The chorus of ancient songs calls me... Maestro! And who... are you? Because... I heard music!".

The Doctor and Ruby crane a piano up to the rooftop, where they see far more smog than they'd expect, as if the whole world has begun to go dark. As they look out over London, he points out Shoreditch to her, where he's currently living in a junkyard with his granddaughter Susan. Ruby is shocked by the revelation that he has a granddaughter and asks about her, though he insists he doesn't know - he says the genocide of the Time Lords rolled across Time and Space and may have killed her too. He plops Ruby in front of the piano and insists she play, he knows she can - he saw her band. She's the only human left with music in her heart, so she has to try. As Ruby plays a song she wrote for her friend Trudy's heartbreak, the notes echo out over the surrounding area, reaching a few people nearby, connecting with them emotionally. Ruby continues to play, until the piano jerks away from her in a dissonant note, the nearby people dismayed to hear the music stop. Maestro slowly crawls out of the interior of the piano, cackling in tune with the Giggle as the Doctor and Ruby run and hide, terrified of the creature they've stumbled across, the Doctor insisting that he can't fight it.

Maestro chases after them, using a tuning fork to try and dowse their location, insisting that music is theirs and theirs alone. The Doctor uses a function on his sonic screwdriver to cancel out the noise in the surrounding area, negating the tuning fork. Maestro is stumped at first, but takes the tuning fork to a nearby puddle, stirring up enough water droplets and vibrations to overload the sonic. As they turn to try to find the Doctor once more, one of Ruby's audience, an old woman, decides to open up her old piano and play Clair de Lune. Maestro emerges in the old woman's flat, and with a wink at the camera closes the curtains as the old lady screams.

"This is your time. This is your home if Maestro isn't stopped".

Ruby asks the Doctor what's going on and who Maestro is. He speculates that they must be part of the Pantheon, vast powers like the Toymaker who he barely beat, ripping his soul in half to do so. The Toymaker said his legions were coming, and Maestro must be part of that, the whole world could be destroyed so easily. Ruby can't believe it - her entire life is living proof of the opposite, that her world has music. They return back to June 2024 and find London in ash, a world utterly destroyed. Ruby shakenly suggests it must be a parallel universe, but the Doctor grimly confirms that this is her home if Maestro isn't stopped.

In the ruin of the city they find a ruin of a god, Maestro is here as well. They identify him as the Lord Temporal who trapped their father, the Toymaker, in salt. And now that he's imprisoned they are free to wreak havoc. The purest music of all is in the aeolian tones of the nuclear winter, and as humans die off Maestro becomes stronger and stronger, as the aeolian tones replace the music that they steal. Maestro will spread this across the whole of creation, stealing the music of the spheres itself, ending all life.

The Doctor asks Maestro how they entered this world, and while Maestro is resistant at first, he insists that because their father, the Toymaker, established the rules of fair play, they have to give him this information. And so, the Doctor learns that a genius rediscovered the Lost Chord, summoning Maestro back into this world. He reasons that a different series of notes will banish them right back out of it. They accept this conclusion but insist that the Doctor is far from capable of doing it. Laughing, they play a melody causing the TARDIS to resonate. The Doctor and Ruby rush inside where the TARDIS's roundels flash erratically in time with Maestro's piano performance and the console sparks and smokes. The controls fight against them, but the Doctor manages to land back in 1963, with some difficulty.

"There's a hidden song deep inside her soul! What is it?".

The duo enter a recording studio where the Doctor starts fiddling with a guitar, determined to find the right sequence of notes to banish Maestro - sometimes genius is just hard work, he insists. But while he does so, Ruby asks him if he hears music, and living musical notes wrap around her and carry her off, binding the door handles to the studio as they leave. The Doctor is surprised, commenting that he thought the music was non-diegetic. But after smashing the window to escape, he follows her into a large studio, where she's hoisted into the air by Maestro's power, the only human left with music in her heart. Maestro commands Ruby to sing, and so Ruby begins to sing. But a hidden song within her filters through, overwhelming everything else, Carol of the Bells, and snow begins to fall around them. Maestro insists that the song can't have this much power, power like the Oldest One, and says he can't have been present at Ruby's birth. But no, Maestro releases her, saying that she's very wrong.

But the Doctor moves on, skips over to the Mrs Mills piano, which the Beatles used to play their greatest hits, with all the potential to send Maestro back to hell. So the two begin a music battle, with the Doctor playing the piano and Maestro playing a violin they have summoned. It continues for some time, notes flying on and on until Maestro's violin breaks. And so, testing the piano, the Doctor begins to find the right notes, music having come from living, loving, and having lost. The Doctor plays six notes, inching toward finding the Lost Chord to banish Maestro, failing to find the seventh and final note. Maestro knocks the piano out of the room and wraps the Doctor and Ruby in musical notes, pulling them each into a drum and a double bass respectively, imprisoning them before celebrating. Out in the corridor, John and Paul find the piano, the notes already played floating above it, and it speaks to them, as they recall their conversations with the Doctor and Ruby. Together they complete the chord, which causes the Mrs Mills Piano to roll back into the studio as Maestro shouts in horror. Maestro tries to run but the piano opens and sends out musical notation which wraps around their legs, pulling them into the piano as they claw at the ground in an attempt to escape. The Doctor and Ruby are released from their instruments and just before the piano closes and Maestro vanishes for good, they shout to the Doctor and portend doom - "The One Who Waits is almost here".

There's always a twist. There's always a twist. There's always a twist at the end.

As Ruby and the Doctor relax from their harrowing adventure, they decide to celebrate with a song and dance number with the whole of EMI studios, "There's Always a Twist at the End", as Henry Arbinger looks on from a side room.

Cast[[edit] | [edit source]]

Post-Cast[[edit] | [edit source]]

Crew[[edit] | [edit source]]

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics

Movement

Casting

General post-production staff

Special and visual effects

Sound



Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.
          

This episode was produced with the support of incentives for the Irish film industry provided by the Government of Ireland.


Worldbuilding[[edit] | [edit source]]

Alternate timeline[[edit] | [edit source]]

Individuals[[edit] | [edit source]]

Ruby's native time[[edit] | [edit source]]

Notes[[edit] | [edit source]]

  • The title of the episode was revealed in Russell T Davies's column A Letter from the Showrunner in Doctor Who Magazine #598, which was styled as an affectionate parody of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas".[2] The episode's title was also the answer to one of the questions in that issue's crossword puzzle.
  • Parts of the script of this episode were used in auditions for Ruby Sunday. The script for self-tapes from potential actors were truncated from the scripts of this episode and the previous episode, Space Babies; however, the longer script for in-person auditions[4] in London[5] was adapted solely from the previous episode.[4]
  • Davies delivered the first draft of the episode on 3 October 2022.[6]
  • In an interview with Empire Magazine, released on 11 April 2024, Davies revealed that the plot was inspired by copyright law, as he was led to think about how to do a Beatles episode without using any of the band's music due to the sheer expense of the music rights, which posed an obstacle to making such a story. He was inspired to make the episode by a conversation he had with Sam Arbor, a director he was mentoring, which proved that the band still had meaning for younger generations.[7]
  • The fourth wall-breaking winks evoke the Beatles film Help!, which had similar winking at the audience from a villainous woman, played by Eleanor Bron.
  • This is the first episode of the revived series to refer to Susan Foreman by name. She was previously referenced as the Doctor's granddaughter in TV: The Rings of Akhaten [+]Loading...["The Rings of Akhaten (TV story)"] and pictured in TV: The Pilot [+]Loading...["The Pilot (TV story)"].
  • The music heard when the Doctor and Ruby wander through 1963 is called "California Soul" by Ashford and Simpson.
  • The Beatles first entered the recording studio in real life on Monday February 11, 1963. They appear to be recording the album "Please Please Me" and Abbey Studios indeed was not yet named as the Doctor states.
  • Cilla Black was an actual real-life British singer who was a friend of the Beatles and sometimes sang together. The Beatles wrote the song "Love of the Loved" for Cilla.
  • The song that the Doctor and Ruby play on the piano is called "The Life of Sunday - Ruby's Theme". It was written by Murray Gold.
  • The "Mrs Mills piano" also exists in real-life. It was used by pianist Gladys Mills. The Beatles used the piano for their songs "Penny Lane" and "With a Little Help From my Friends".
  • The Doctor and Ruby briefly splash their feet during the musical finale. This plays homage to the real-life movie "Singing in the Rain".
  • This episode continues a running theme of characters breaking the fourth wall that started in The Church on Ruby Road with Mrs. Flood turning to the camera.
    • Maestro repeatedly winks to the audience.
    • The Doctor believes the music pursuing Ruby is "non-diegetic." Non-diegetic music is the music that the audience can hear but the characters cannot. This would imply the Doctor is aware of the episode's score as it plays for the audience.

Myths[[edit] | [edit source]]

  • Maestro would turn out to be the Master, based on the fact that "maestro" is the Italian word for "master". This was proven false as Maestro is a new character, though they are said to be a child of the Toymaker.

Filming locations[[edit] | [edit source]]

Ratings[[edit] | [edit source]]

3.91 million viewers[8]

Production errors[[edit] | [edit source]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

to be added

Continuity[[edit] | [edit source]]

Home media releases[[edit] | [edit source]]

to be added

Gallery[[edit] | [edit source]]

Main article: The Devil's Chord (TV story)/Gallery

External links[[edit] | [edit source]]

Footnotes[[edit] | [edit source]]

  1. Doctor Who Season One Premieres 11th May 2024. Doctor Who (2024-03-15). Archived from the original on 2024-04-11.
  2. DWM 598 - A Letter from the Showrunner, Page 10
  3. @bbcdoctorwho (2024-03-31). THE DEVIL'S CHORD
    Writer: Russell T Davies
    Director: Ben Chessell
    #DoctorWho
    . Archived from the original on 2024-03-31.
  4. 4.0 4.1 DWM 586 - A Brand New Face, Page 21
  5. DWM 586 - Hello, Ruby Sunday, Pages 16-20
  6. DWM 590 - Letter from the Showrunner
  7. Ben Travis (2024-04-08). Doctor Who's Beatles Episode Sprang From An Age-Old Problem With Trying To Do A Beatles Episode. Empire. Archived from the original on 2024-04-08. Retrieved on 2024-04-08.
  8. Doctor Who Ratings. Retrieved on 08/06/2024.