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Harper’s Bizarre

The score for 1968 epic The Invasion is being made available for the first time. Who was the remarkable musician behind this haunting soundtrack? And what else did he compose?
The cover for Silva Screen’s forthcoming release of Don Harper’s score for The Invasion (1968) includes the Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Brigadier Lethbridge- Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and Tobias Vaughn (Kevin Stoney). Art by Clayton Hickman.

The Australian who must surely rank among the best cabaret-violinists in the game today.” This was how Tommy Kane described the Australian jazz swing violinist Don Harper, reviewing a visit to Hackney’s New Lansdowne working men’s club in The Stage on 12 March 1970. And there was more. “His look at Waltzing Matilda as it may be played in various countries and circumstances was a pure classic; his treatment of more serious works on his 1703 David Tecchler violin, superb. A remarkable musician indeed.” Kane also posed a question: “How many know that he composed the theme music for TV’s Champion House, Sexton Blake, World of Sport [and] Dr Who and the Invasion of the Cybermen (to name only a few!).”

The Don Harper-Doctor Who Venn diagram boasts only a minimal intersection, but packed within it are some 13 minutes of unforgettable soundtrack cues, plus a bizarre cover of Ron Grainer’s famous theme tune.

The Invasion revamped Doctor Who’s format, introducing UNIT, pitting its soldiers against the Cybermen, and underscoring everything with the eclectic contributions of the Don Harper Ensemble, contributions that were recorded at Riverside Studios on Monday 16 September 1968.

As well as employing a Hammond M100 organ, clarinets, bass guitar and percussion ranging from temple blocks to timpani, the score’s crowning glory was the cimbalom, a hammered Hungarian stringed instrument made famous by the 1965 espionage thriller The Ipcress File; the instrument was played by John Leach, whom Don worked with on his TV ventures.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

SERIES 11 COMPANIONS MANDIP GILL AND TOSIN COLE WRITE FOR DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE! READ THEIR DOCTOR WHO DIARY IN THE LATEST ISSUE. Doctor Who Magazine 529 also includes: • Meet the writers and directors of Series 11 • An interview with Roy Scammell, who was part of Doctor Who's stunt team in the 1970s • The life and work of Don Harper, the composer responsible for the soundtrack to 1968 epic The Invasion • Big Finish's Lisa Bowerman answers questions from the TARDIS tin • Games company Gale Force 9 reveal the background to Time of the Daleks • A tribute to Alan Bennion, who played three Ice Warriors in the 1960s and 70s • Part Six of The Clockwise War, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • The Time Team watches three pseudo-historical Doctor Who stories • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2013 Eleventh Doctor story Hide • Third Doctor cosplay with Rob Lloyd • Previews, audio, DVD and game reviews, news, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!