Dudley Simpson was born in Australia in 1922 and was a musical prodigy, winning a piano competition playing works by Beethoven. He was in the Australian forces during WWII and suffered an injury to his hand which meant that he could not continue in active duty. However there was no permanent damage, and he was able to resume playing the piano and he performed in various troop shows entertaining the forces in Australia. After the war he was able to resume his music studies and he graduated from Melbourne University. He joined the Borovansky Ballet Company (before it became the Australian Ballet), initially as a pianist but then as their conductor. In that role he met the English ballerina Margot Fonteyn who persuaded him to move to Britain where he conducted at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. He acted as conductor and musical director for a number of ballet productions, in London and on tour, conducting Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. In London he met a BBC Producer who asked Simpson to compose some music for a TV series, and so began his new career as a television composer.
Simpson worked on a number of series, mostly for the BBC, including some early Doctor Who stories starting in 1964. Over time his work on the programme increased in frequency until 1970 when he effectively became the resident composer for Doctor Who providing the incidental music for most stories until 1980. In total Simpson provided the incidental music for 60 Doctor Who stories. He frequently scored his Doctor Who music for a small group of musicians, typically 2 Horns, Clarinet (doubling Saxophone, Bass or Contrabass Clarinet), piano (doubling electric organ) and Timpani/Percussion. He then worked with members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to layer and augment the acoustic recording with synthesisers and electronic effects. His music for the show was generally dramatic in nature with lighter moments from time to time. He introduced a theme for the Master and for the Doctor, but a change in the programme's production management moved the incidental music wholly to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1980.
You would think that this one series would keep Simpson busy, but he found time to work in parallel on many other series, plays and TV movies. He provided music for various thrillers and police series such as "Detective", "Z Cars", "Target" and "Paul Temple". He composed the incidental music for several mini-series of classic adaptations including "Lorna Doone", "Kidnapped", "Sense and Sensibility", "The Last of the Mohicans" and its sequel "Hawkeye the Pathfinder". Simpson was also involved in some landmark television productions. In 1973 he scored the documentary series "The Ascent of Man" written and presented by Jacob Bronowski, and in 1977 he acted as Music Supervisor for the historic Richard Nixon Interviews by David Frost. In the 1980s he scored a number of Shakespeare plays for television including "Hamlet Prince of Denmark", "The Winter's Tale", the 3-part "Henry the Sixt", "Richard III" and "Titus Andronicus". He also continued his association with science fiction series - he provided all the music (theme and incidental) for the cult Terry Nation series "Blakes 7" and the short-lived series "Moonbase 3", as well as the theme for "The Tomorrow People".
In the late 1980s Dudley Simpson and his family moved back to Australia where he continued his career as a composer and conductor. There are some parallels between the careers of Dudley Simpson and fellow Australian Ron Grainer who composed the Doctor Who title theme.
Despite being such a prolific composer, Dudley Simpson's music is sparsely represented in audio recordings and many items would be considered as collectables. His themes for "Blake's 7", "Moonbase 3" and "The Tomorrow People" are sometimes included on albums e.g. "BBC Space Themes" on vinyl which has both "Blake's 7" and "Moonbase 3". In contrast to this, the BBC have released many series from the 1970s on DVD, and Dudley Simpson's music can be heard on "The Ascent of Man", "Paul Temple", "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Blake's 7" so we include links for these items below. Simpson also contributed library music released under the Boosey and Hawkes label, intended for use by Film, Radio and Television. Some of these vinyl library albums with Simpson's music can be found from time to time, e.g. "Situation Drama" and "Pastoral".
One of the few albums of his Doctor Who music is in fact a recreation since the original tapes no longer exist. With the help of the original manuscripts and video tapes of the stories, Heathcliff Blair has recreated music from several stories in an album called "Doctor Who 30th Anniversary: Classic Music from the Tom Baker era" which includes music from "The Ark in Space", "Genesis of the Daleks", "Pyramids of Mars", "Planet of Evil" and "The Brain of Morbius" plus the "Doctor's Theme". However, most of Dudley Simpson's Doctor Who stories (particularly those from 1970 onwards) are available on DVD. Two such DVDs include special features about his contribution to the programme including some interview material with the composer - "The War Games" has "The Doctor's Composer: Dudley Simpson" about his 1960s work on the programme, and "The Sun Makers" has "The Doctor's Composer - Part 2" covering his 1970s work. In the story "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" Simpson has a rare on-screen part as the music hall conductor.