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Biography

  • Born

    4 October 1922

  • Born In

    Malvern East, City of Stonnington, Victoria, Australia

  • Died

    4 November 2017 (aged 95)

Dudley 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, although he is best known for his work as a composer on British television, especially his long association with the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who, for which he composed incidental music during the 1960s and 1970s.

Among his early television work was the music for Moonstrike (1963). Simpson was also responsible for the 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.

Simpson was born in Melbourne. 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. Simpson became assistant conductor, pianist and later musical director for the Borovansky Ballet Company, 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. He accompanied the touring section of the Royal Ballet with Margot Fonteyn as principal ballerina.

Simpson's first work on Doctor Who was during William Hartnell's era as the First Doctor in Planet of Giants, in 1964, 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 series producer at the time. 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. Simpson's last broadcast work on Doctor Who was for The Horns of Nimon.

Blake's 7 ran for 4 series totalling 52 episodes in all. Simpson provided the incidental music for 50 of the 52 episodes that were broadcast from 1978 to 1981. The two exceptions are the episode entitled Duel (the eighth episode of Series 1) for which the director Douglas Camfield chose to use stock music and Gambit (the eleventh episode of the second series) which was scored by the special sound creator of Series 2-4, Elizabeth Parker.

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