❉ Myth-busting the ‘feud’ between the recently departed composer and the legendary TV director.
It is 1970 and Douglas Camfield has directed his seventh Doctor Who story, Inferno, and once again, he did not employ regular musician and composer Dudley Simpson to write the music. The budget was a problem on this story, but could this have been a deliberate snub owing to a disagreement at a dinner party over how much he was earning in order to afford his house in 1965? (See Part 1) Or was it an artistic choice by the freelance director who preferred a different style of music to Simpson’s?
The fan myth states that Camfield did not work with Simpson again until he was forced to in 1977 for Philip Hinchliffe’s crime series Target after which he realised he had misjudged him. This overlooks the fact that his next production immediately after Inferno was an episode of Paul Temple. And the incidental music composer was… Dudley Simpson.
Paul Temple ran between 1969 and 1971 for fifty-two episodes. An expensive series, it used library music until new producers Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin brought in Simpson. They had recently employed him on twenty-six consecutive Doctor Who episodes, and S.P. Air. Out of the thirty-nine Paul Temple episodes Simpson composed music for, four were directed by Camfield. Six years before Target.
Dudley Simpson remembered in an interview in 1988 for DWB that when he invited the new producers to his new house in Summerleigh, off the Gower Road in Weybridge, Surrey, history repeated itself. :
“I asked [Bryant and Sherwin] both to my house… I’d bought an even bigger house by this time and they walked in and said ‘Bloody hell!!’ and I never worked for those two again.”
Actually, Peter Bryant had left the BBC during Paul Temple and Sherwin would commission Simpson to compose the theme tune for his 1972 project The Man Outside.
The only Camfield episode of Paul Temple that survives in English (all episodes were dubbed into German) is The Guilty Must Die. Listening to Simpson’s music, he has been directed to try a contemporary thriller style which Don Harper was very good at. Simpson’s style in other episodes is instantly recognisably Simpson. In fact, The Quick and the Dead has scenes set underneath a church which is hosting a cursed archaeological dig, and you would swear you’re listening to the music from a 1977 Doctor Who story called The Image of the Fendahl six years early. The director of both productions was George Spenton-Foster.
After Paul Temple, there were few occasions when Camfield actually worked with a composer. His next chance was when he returned to Doctor Who in 1975. Simpson was now the main house composer. Camfield watched Doctor Who with his son and felt – as Simpson once said on a interview available on The War Games DVD – that he composed too much music. Under Hinchcliffe, Simpson’s excesses were pulled back, and he produced some of his finest ever music. But not for Camfield who lobbied for a different composer for Terror of the Zygons.
Hinchcliffe was reluctant to employ anyone else having recently been disappointed with Carey Blyton’s music for Revenge of the Cybermen. But Camfield’s choice, Geoffrey Burgeon, did not let them down and his haunting chamber music style was re-employed on The Seeds of Doom. Had Douglas directed any more Doctor Who, you can guarantee Burgeon would not have been employed again. He had done his bit. Camfield did not approve of house styles.
Hinchcliffe and Camfield worked together again on Target in 1977, and Simpson was to be the composer of the theme and the music. By now he was living in Merrilyn Close, Claygate, in Esher. Simpson remembered Camfield being on the defensive:
“Some time later I was doing some episodes of Target which he was directing and he said ‘Well, are you doing the music?’ so I said, ‘Yes, I am, the producer has asked me to do these’ (that was Philip Hinchcliffe, one of my greatest fans). Dougie then said ‘I’ll tell you what I want…’ and I set about writing exactly what he wanted and at the end of it he said ‘FANTASTIC! that’s the best you’ve ever done for me’, so I said, ‘It’s the only one I’ve done for you in a long time!’”
Again, for the two episodes Camfield directed, Big Elephant and Blow Out, Simpson produced two different musical styles for the episodes. One modern and upbeat, the other more melodramatic.
This was the last time they worked together. There was a near miss in January 1978. This was on a Blake’s 7 episode titled Duel. Simpson was contracted to provide the music. The episode was not completed in the studio and the next available slot to remount the necessary scenes was two weeks later. This too was delayed by another fortnight. Simpson would not have time to write the music let alone have it recorded and dubbed and the episode could not be pushed back later in transmission schedules, which was only weeks away. It was a very busy time for Simpson. Every two weeks he was recording music for either Doctor Who or Blake’s 7.
Simpson’s contract was paid off and once again Camfield turned to library LPs. This was not a deliberate snub although Simpson remembered it was in a Doctor Who Magazine interview in 1994 (issue 204):
“When David Maloney became producer of Blake’s 7, he engaged me to write the music for that plus all the incidental music; except for one director who wouldn’t use me – he always used records.”
Towards the end of his career, Camfield did get to work with composers on The Nightmare Man and Beau Geste, and once again with Don Harper in a Play For Today thriller called Number on End. You can hear the minimalistic and non-intrusive approach Camfield favoured, music as an under-current, which is why Inferno was so effective. His last production, Missing From Home, used library music, but when Camfield and his producer decided they needed some extra cues, they approached the library composer himself, Dick Walter, to maintain continuity.
It was rumoured Simpson and Camfield were going to work together again but the director died in 1984, the weekend before he was due to work on The Prisoner of Zenda, a swash-buckling serial that would have demanded Simpson’s talents. By this time, work for Simpson was drying up and he was no longer employed regularly on Doctor Who and his champions were leaving the BBC. Camfield would have experienced a similar problem had he lived.
Douglas Camfield often helped out people in the business who were having hard times, and always without telling them. If the rumour is true, getting him for Zenda could have been an example of one such thoughtfulness.
❉ Michael Seely’s biography of director Douglas Camfield was published by Miwk Publishing in May 2017. Click here to order.