Dud­ley Simp­son


Com­poser and con­duc­tor

the reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances of Roger Del­gado’s vil­lain­ous Time Lord, the Master.

For many of these third Doc­tor sto­ries Simp­son played all the mu­sic him­self on the BBC Ra­dio­phonic Work­shop’s new syn­the­siser.

Simp­son also pro­vided the ma­jor­ity of scores dur­ing Tom Baker’s pe­riod as the Doc­tor. He even ap­peared on screen in The Talons of Weng Chi­ang (1977), play­ing the con­duc­tor of the orches­tra of a Vic­to­rian the­atre.

He had been sched­uled to work on Dou­glas Adams’ story Shada in the se­ries’ 17th sea­son, but in­dus­trial ac­tion meant that it was never com­pleted. For the fol­low­ing year new pro­ducer John Nathan-Turner de­cided to use the cheaper op­tion of elec­tronic scores pro­vided by the BBC Ra­dio­phonic Work­shop and Simp­son never worked on the show again.

Dud­ley Ge­orge Simp­son was born in Mel­bourne in 1922. He learnt to play the piano whilst at­tend­ing Mel­bourne Boys High School – at 13 he won an in­ter­state ra­dio piano com­pe­ti­tion. Dur­ing army ser­vice in New Guinea he was in­jured when the explosives truck he was driv­ing was hit dur­ing a Ja­panese bomb­ing raid: prac­tis­ing the piano helped his in­jured hand to heal. Af­ter the war he at­tended the Mel­bourne Con­ser­va­to­rium of Mu­sic to study or­ches­tra­tion, com­po­si­tion and pi­anoforte.

He joined the Borovan­sky bal­let as con­duc­tor and pian­ist, even­tu­ally be­com­ing its mu­si­cal di­rec­tor – his fu­ture wife, the bal­le­rina Jill Bathurst, was also in the com­pany. In 1957, Dame Mar­got Fonteyn (for whom he was even­tu­ally mu­si­cal di­rec­tor on two world tours) vis­ited Aus­tralia and it was she who ad­vised him that mov­ing to Eng­land might im­prove his pro­fes­sional pos­si­bil­i­ties. He did so and af­ter 12 months be­came guest con­duc­tor at Covent Gar­den be­fore be­com­ing Prin­ci­pal Con­duc­tor at the Royal Opera House.

He met TV pro­ducer Ger­ald Glais­ter at a party in 1961 and so got the job of pro­vid­ing mu­sic for Glais­ter’s next pro­duc­tion, Jack’s Hor­ri­ble Luck. 1963 proved to be his break­out year – Glais­ter used him again, on Moon­strike, and Simp­son fol­lowed this with, in quick suc­ces­sion, Epi­taph for a Spy, Lorna Doone and Kid­napped.

Con­cur­rent with his work on Doc­tor Who he scored such di­verse fare as Mary Bar­ton (1964), Thirty Minute The­atre (var­i­ous episodes be­tween 1965-69), The Last of the Mo­hi­cans (1971), Madame Bo­vary (1975), Dombey and Son (1983), The Diary of Anne Frank (1987), Su­per Gran (1987) and Tales of the Un­ex­pected (1988).

He pro­vided Blake’s 7 (1978-81) with its bom­bas­tic theme tune and woozy and mys­te­ri­ous ti­tle mu­sic for the child friendly sci­ence fic­tion The To­mor­row Peo­ple (1973-79). Among his last work for the BBC was on their epic Shake­speare project of the 1980s – all three parts of Henry VI, plus Richard III and Ti­tus An­dron­i­cus were given the Simp­son treat­ment.

Out­side of tele­vi­sion he com­posed two bal­lets – A Win­ter Play for Sadler’s Wells Royal Bal­let and Bal­let/ Class for the Royal Bal­let School. He re­turned to Aus­tralia in 1987 and set­tled in New South Wales where he con­tin­ued to write mu­sic.

When Doc­tor Who cel­e­brated 50 years of mu­sic at the Royal Al­bert Hall some of his com­po­si­tions were played and Simp­son, who was flown over to at­tend, was de­lighted to be greeted with warmth and af­fec­tion by the au­di­ence: he had af­ter all pro­vided many of them with the sound­track to their youth. He is sur­vived by Jill and by their three chil­dren Karen, Ali­son and Matthew.

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