The ABC Of Doctor Who (And Baker Too)

(I was going to entitle this post ‘A Doc-Who-Mentary’ before a sense of pun-related shame got the better of me.)

I’m sure it won’t have escaped your attention that there is currently an awful lot of excitement being generated about the imminent half-century of a well-known televisual doctor. Therefore it’s most right and fitting that ABC Radio in Australia should unveil a brand new  documentary on the work of the organisation that gave the programme it’s world famous theme tune. Which is just as well because that’s exactly what they’ve done:


Produced by Iain Wilson of FOTW Audio Productions and presented by Robbie Buck, That Dr Who Sound! is a brand new documentary produced for ABC Radio’s ‘Into The Music’ programme that explores the impact of the Workshop on modern electronic music, as well as mainstream pop and rock sounds.

Generations of kids – not only in the United Kingdom, but abroad – seated in front of that perennial babysitter, television, would hear these strange Radiophonic sounds, the impact of which would take years to unfold, and in the most interesting ways! That Dr Who Sound! explores these interesting relationships, as well as hearing stories of the legendary women of the Workshop; the mystery of Pink Floyd’s disappearing Doctor Who theme; the talking walls of Bush House; and how Genesis of the Daleks inadvertently helped with the birth of techno.

Featuring the music of Pink Floyd, Belbury Poly, Pet Shop Boys, Howlround, Other Places, Peter Howell, Dalek I, Ray Cathode, the Delia Darlings, and Model 500, as well as original interviews with workshop members, music writers, and the “descendants” themselves – musicians creating music in the spirit of the workshop.

As a “descendant” of sorts myself, or at least someone who works for the BBC while wearing his radiophonic colours with pride, I was interviewed for the programme via satellite and, thanks to the time difference, at some ungodly hour in  the morning. We talked rather sleepily about the genesis of the Ghosts Of Bush project and ruminated on the effect that hearing strange and futuristic sounds at tea-time on Saturdays had on generations of children the world over. (Then I bombarded him with youtube links of classic Public Information Films for two days solid, but that’s another matter).

‘I knew of the Radiophonic Workshop because I had loved Doctor Who as a kid’, writes Iain in the programme notes, ‘and had bought the Doctor Who theme on cassette when I was twelve. On the B-Side was an upbeat remix that a friend and I would do robot dances to!  I soon realised that this would make a great radio documentary, because of all of the music that was involved, and so I started contacting people for interviews – and then all of a sudden, earlier this year, the anniversary of Doctor Who rolled around, and that was it: I had a deadline!’

Created with all the enthusiasm that the above paragraph suggests, That Dr Who Sound! has been made to coincide with the Timelord’s 50th Anniversary and will be broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Into the Music program on Saturday the 9th November at 4pm and then repeated on Monday the 11th at 9pm Australian time. Iain has also very kindly worked out the local broadcast times for other parts of the world so that you and I don’t have to:

Australian times:
Saturday 9th November – 4 pm
repeating Monday night 11th November – 9 pm

United Kingdom times:
Saturday 9th November – 5 am (missed it already!)
repeating Monday 11th – 10 am

United States – West Coast:
Friday 8th November – 9 pm
repeating Monday 11th – 2 am

United States – East Coast
Friday 8th – 12 midnight
repeating Monday 11th – 2 am

Or failing that just cut straight to the chase and stream or download it here. There’s an events page on Facebook for those of you down with that sort of thing.

Congratulations and three cheers to Iain Wilson and Robbie Buck as well as Executive Producer Cathy Peters and Sound Engineer Mark Don for a most enjoyable hour. For more of Iain’s work visit his website here and follow him on Soundcloud. Apart from producing a fine body of material, he’s living proof as to just how far youthful robot dancing can take you!


On a similar note, Radiophonic aficionados are warmly invited to check out The Lighter Side Of Concrete, the new album by Bristolian producer Jez Butler.  Inspired by the distinctive work of Workshop legend John Baker, it’s an album of instrumentals composed entirely using domestic objects such as bottles, glasses, electrical appliances, the human body and a single guitar string.

While wearing its influences quite clearly, it’s a long way from mere pastiche, though it is quite remarkable how closely Jez has captured the Baker sound, particularly his patented ‘croaky frog’ bass notes. The album rounds off with three electronic demos which are so close to the sound of the BBC Schools Programming interlude music of the 1980s that I keep expecting  Sheelagh Gilbey to turn up and start lecturing me on the Bayeux Tapestry or something (this is a good thing – she was my first schoolboy crush). Why not visit Jez’s website and get yourself a copy? It will certainly appeal to fans of the likes of Ghost Box’s Belbury Poly, and indeed features on their latest Radio Belbury podcast. Surely no more convincing is necessary?

Oh, Doctor, Oh, Sheelagh, where did my childhood go?


Author: Robin The Fog

Sound Artist, Radio Producer, DJ, founder and chief strategist of tape-loop proejct Howlround. Devout Catalyst.

One thought on “The ABC Of Doctor Who (And Baker Too)”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: