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.