Dudley Simpson

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Dudley Simpson
Birth nameDudley George Simpson
Born(1922-10-04)4 October 1922
Malvern East, Victoria, Australia
Died4 November 2017(2017-11-04) (aged 95)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation(s)Composer, conductor, musician

Dudley George Simpson (4 October 1922 – 4 November 2017) was an Australian composer and conductor. He was the Principal Conductor of the Royal Opera House orchestra for three years and worked as a composer on British television. He worked on the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who, for which he composed incidental music during the 1960s and 1970s. When Simpson died aged 95 in 2017, The Guardian wrote that he was "at his most prolific as the creator of incidental music for Doctor Who in the 1960s and 1970s, contributing to 62 stories over almost 300 episodes – more than any other composer."[1]

Among his television work was the music for Moonstrike (1963), theme music for The Last of the Mohicans (1971), theme music for The Brothers (1972), The Tomorrow People (1973), Moonbase 3 (1973), The Ascent of Man (1973) and Blake's 7 (1978). He also composed music for several plays from the BBC Television Shakespeare series.

Early life and career[edit]

Simpson was born in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern East.[2] He learned piano as a child, served in New Guinea during World War II and then studied orchestration and composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music[3] at the University of Melbourne. Simpson became assistant conductor, pianist and later musical director for the Borovansky Ballet Company,[4] forerunner to The Australian Ballet. He moved to the UK and after a season as guest conductor at Covent Garden, he became Principal Conductor of the Royal Opera House orchestra for three years.[5] He accompanied the touring section of the Royal Ballet with Margot Fonteyn as principal ballerina.[6]

Simpson started working for the BBC in 1961.[4]

Music for science fiction television[edit]

Doctor Who (1963)[edit]

Simpson's first work on Doctor Who was during William Hartnell's era as the First Doctor in Planet of Giants, in 1964,[7] but he is primarily associated with the programme in the 1970s. He also appeared on screen as a music hall conductor in the Fourth Doctor story The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977) at the invitation of Philip Hinchcliffe, who was the producer at the time.[8] Simpson had to be paid a special fee for this appearance, as he was a member of the Musicians' Union and not Equity.

When John Nathan-Turner became producer of Doctor Who in 1980, he decided that the music needed to be updated, and took Simpson out for a meal telling him how much he appreciated his work on Doctor Who but that it would no longer be required as he intended to have the BBC Radiophonic Workshop provide music from that point. While Simpson was contracted to score Shada, the unfinished nature of that production meant he never started work. As a result, his last broadcast work on Doctor Who was for The Horns of Nimon.[9]

In 1993 Simpson's music for five Doctor Who serials from the early Fourth Doctor era was released on an album called Pyramids of Mars.

In the 2017 restoration of Shada, a dedication to Simpson was shown in the end credits.

Blake's 7 (1978)[edit]

In 1978 the BBC launched a new science fiction series, Blake's 7, produced by former Doctor Who director David Maloney. It ran for 4 series and 52 episodes. Simpson provided the theme music for the series and was also responsible for the incidental music for 50 of the episodes that were broadcast from 2 January 1978 to 21 December 1981.[5] The two exceptions are the episode entitled "Duel" (the eighth episode of series one) for which director Douglas Camfield chose to use stock music,[10] and "Gambit" (the eleventh episode of series two), which was scored by Elizabeth Parker of the Radiophonic Workshop,[11] the special sound creator of series two to four.

The Tomorrow People (1973)[edit]

Simpson composed the theme tune to the ITV-based Thames Television science fiction series The Tomorrow People (1973–1979).[1]

Doctor Who credits[edit]

Between 1964 and 1980, Simpson composed the incidental music for the following Doctor Who serials:


  1. ^ a b "Dudley Simpson obituary" by Anthony Hayward, The Guardian, 15 November 2017
  2. ^ Gainsford, Jim (7 November 2017). "Shire resident who composed the music for Doctor Who, Dudley Simpson, dies aged 95". The Western Advocate. Bathurst, New South Wales. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Dudley Simpson obituary". TheGuardian.com. 14 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Dudley Simpson (1922 - 2017)". Bbc.co.uk. 6 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Dudley Simpson dead: Doctor Who composer dies, age 95" by Jack Shepherd, The Independent, 6 November 2017
  6. ^ "Dr Who music man here". The Canberra Times. 9 May 1968. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  7. ^ "BBC One - Doctor Who". Bbc.co.uk.
  8. ^ a b c d Dudley Simpson (1985), 29 September 2009, Drwhointerviews.wordpress.com
  9. ^ "The Horns of Nimon ★". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  10. ^ "Blake's 7 series 1 episode 8 - Duel". Denofgeek.com. 7 May 2009.
  11. ^ "BBC - History of the BBC, Elizabeth Parker interviewed for Blakes 7 DVD". Bbc.co.uk.
  12. ^ "Planet of Giants ★★". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  13. ^ "The Crusade ★★★★★". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  14. ^ "The Chase ★★". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 June 2023.

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