Doctor Who - Documentary s01e04 Episode Script

Masters of Sound

LAMBERT: I wanted some music that was very different for Doctor Who.
And we all rushed down to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
MILLS: She said something along the lines of, "Of course, what this programme really needs "is a good signature tune to get them in from the kitchen or wherever.
" DERBYSHIRE: It was before the days of synthesizers.
LAMBERT: It was very much, I think, a combined effort.
They all came up with this absolutely wonderful very different sounding music, which I still think is terrific.
(DOCTOR WHO THEME) Barbara! Doctor! Over here! What is it, Chesterton? We really must get back.
Most fascinating! A city.
A huge city.
Well, Doctor, can you see anything? Any sign of life? No, no, no.
No sign of life.
No, just buildings.
- Magnificent buildings.
I - SUSAN: Oh, let me have a look.
It's fabulous.
I think it was listed in the A-Z as.
at one point an ice rink, and at another point a film studio.
HODGSON: It was built as the Majestic Roller Rink.
The rink is actually the floor of the building and the studios were actually built on the floor of the old roller rink.
I always describe it to people as a mildewed wedding cake, the building.
I first came across the Radiophonic Workshop, or emanations from it, while I was still at Broadcasting House.
DERBYSHIRE: Once I read in the Radio Times that the Radiophonic Workshop existed, I was thrilled to bits.
TV NARRATOR: The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was set up in 1958 to produce electronically special sound effects and music for productions on radio and television.
They make science and invention their profession.
I shall know more about it when I've been down there.
BARBARA: Down there? Oh, no.
We're going back to the ship.
DOCTOR: Now, don't be ridiculous.
That city down there is a magnificent subject for study and I don't intend to leave here until I've thoroughly investigated it.
HODGSON: There was a theory that being exposed to all these strange sounds and vibrations would actually affect people mentally.
No, I'm not in the 21 st century.
No, certainly not.
I'm in the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, where they make all those strange sounds that you've just been hearing.
Brian over there is an expert at making these strange sounds.
Well, Brian, how do you start? This very much depends on the sort of job we've been asked to do.
The first stage in the realisation of a piece of music is to construct the individual sounds that we're going to use.
When Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein came they sat in what, presumably, must have been either the offices or the changing rooms, which was our office, and literally flakes of plaster were falling on their shoulders, and they were so elegantly dressed.
Brian remembers that.
I remember that Verity's dress She had the most beautiful purple hessian dress.
It was stunning.
But they were both stunning.
They were like two sort of gods came from television.
And all the scruffs at Maida Vale went, "Ah!" What do you want? - Don't be afraid.
- What do you want? After Verity Lambert had come to the Radiophonic Workshop Desmond Briscoe, the organiser, suggested Ron Grainer as a composer.
Well, we'd just finished working with Ron Grainer on a totally different production called Giants of Steam.
And we did long lengths of different rhythms which he then incorporated into his music.
So we knew Ron could write a tune, which had already been proved with Maigret, Comedy Playhouse, Steptoe and Son.
So he was the signature tune flavour of the month.
So we said, "Well, we know a guy, "a very, very nice guy, who would be able to help us out.
" I spoke to Ron Grainer, who'd written all these wonderful signature tunes like Steptoe and Son, and I thought it would be interesting to try to get a melody out of radiophonic music, which nobody had really tried to do at that point.
And Ron absolutely sort of fell on this and thought it was wonderful.
Was terribly enthusiastic about it.
He was the quiet Australian.
And he had beautiful ears, brilliant ears.
I mean, the way his his ear-brain function worked.
Very good, very good.
He was very creative.
He loved new sounds.
He loved all sorts of new sounds.
LAMBERT: And Ron spent masses and masses of time.
I used to go from time to time and they would play me things called white noise and things and I would say, "Well, I think I want a bit more tune in it.
" I saw the graphics at the same time that Ron Grainer did.
And then I was given his score.
MILLS: So Ron actually wrote the tune on a piece of paper, on a single piece of paper, and then left us to it.
When I saw Ron Grainer's score, there were some swoops indicated and I assumed those were sine waves.
The bass line that everybody thinks they know are actually made in two tracks within themselves.
I think he may have described as guitar plus a I don't know, something like a bass bassoon or something.
We did a whole string of (MAKING BEEPING NOISE) which when we played with the (HUMMING BASS LINE OF DOCTOR WHO THEME) I can't sing it.
But they went together as a pair.
But then, apart from that, to fit in with the graphics, he used words like "clouds" and "wind-bubble".
Well, it's that sort of detail that people who created Doctor Who's signature tune by ear don't know that that's how it was done or how Ron actually scored it.
Because the score has never left the building, as far as I know.
Don't ask me where it is.
It's somewhere.
Clouds, obviously, one thinks of as filtered white noise and "wind-bubble" I think we used a Wobulator.
Delia and I got to work using sound-generating equipment.
There are no musicians, there are no synthesizers, and in those days we didn't even have a two-track or a stereo tape machine.
It was always mono.
It was constructed on, literally, on quarter-inch mono tape, inch by inch by inch.
And, literally, we built up the orchestra with individual notes and Delia would say, "I think we need about 64 B flats and 25 Es and Bs," and things like that, and we cut them all out physically.
What I'd like to say is that hardly anything of it was done in real time.
It was done either at half-speed or chopped together in little bits of tape.
For example, the swoops at the beginning.
They were done on the old valve oscillators.
Now, most tunes have got a three-part structure.
You've got a rhythm, you've got a melody and you've got the sort of twiddly bits on top.
So we created three separate tapes put them onto three machines and stood next to them and said, "Ready, steady, go," and pushed all the start buttons at once.
(DOCTOR WHO THEME) It seemed to work.
In those days, it was obvious if there was a wrong note.
How to find out? You simply unrolled all the tape down the floor, walked along the sticky-tape joins, and where two sticky-tape joins weren't next to each other, that was the wrong note.
So that was that.
And we played it to Ron.
"Yes, lovely.
" And it became the theme that we grew to love.
But Ron was so thrilled with the sound of the Doctor Who first mix that he said, "Give Delia half the royalties.
I'm so pleased with it.
"Because I was going to book a band.
" Literally, he didn't think that what he'd written on his score could be so well done with the equipment we had.
And he was a very generous person.
But, of course, that wasn't allowed, as I was only a studio manager.
- Dick.
- Yeah? Would you care to stop what you're doing and attack the piano for me please? Yeah, sure, I'm on it.
This is the original reel of sound effects for Doctor Who.
It's got the Tardis on it.
(WHOOSHING) HODGSON: And so I had a front door key and I scraped it up the bass strings of the piano.
DERBYSHIRE: Very impressive, Dick.
What else have you got in there? Nowadays, I suppose what you call a sound design of Doctor Who was set on these originals.
Then I worked on it until '71.
And I come up to here.
This is just sound effects.
There's no music here at all.
I got to reel 75.
And at reel 75, that's when Dick took over and all of the rest of the rubbish is his.
I'm responsible for the state of the room, basically.
One of the most important milestones, if you like, in this whole row of tapes is this one.
Because that contains the Tardis take-off, landing, inside door, screens, all the push-buttons and things so that we don't have to keep going back to the last episode when we used them and dubbing them off.
This is Brian's bible.
In there there are lists and cues of all the adventures he ever did.
HODGSON: If Delia or Dick or I had walked into this room 30 years ago, we'd have probably thought we were on the flight-deck of a spaceship.
But this is no spaceship.
This is what the Radiophonic Workshop looks like today.
And it's in this studio that Peter Howell did the music for the latest radio version of Doctor Who.
The technology has moved on beyond all recognition.
Nowadays, the big problem is the musical problem, you fight with the musical ideas.
In the old days, you fought with the equipment.
DOCTOR: Look at our planet.
This was once a great world full of ideas and art and invention.
I would like to say that when new producers came along, they always wanted to change the graphics a bit and have it a bit more sparkly.
So we'd put on a bit of feedback and a bit of some high frequencies.
And it used to distress me.
And they wanted another bar here and another two bars there, just to fit their new graphics.
Whereas to me, the music itself was sacred and beautiful as it was.
And it was, I thought it was, very disrespectful to tart it up like that.