Samuel Beckett & Dr. Who

From our little-known facts department.

Couple of days ago I picked up my old copy of Martin Esslin’s “Mediations”, a collection of dense, fascinating essays on Brecht, Beckett, and the media, which my brother Gerard gave me as a birthday gift more than 20 years ago.

In his essay “Samuel Beckett and the Art of Broadcasting”, he describes how Beckett’s collaborations with the BBC’s Third Programme came about. In a section describing the complex production work that went into Beckett’s first BBC radio play, “All That Fall” (first aired in 1957), I came across this passage:

“The experiments with sound effects had been going on for some time ... The sound technician principally involved was Desmond Briscoe, a radio enthusiast of immense inventiveness and imagination. Beckett’s script demanded a degree of stylized realism hitherto unheard on in radio drama, and new methods had to be found to extract the various sounds needed (both animal and mechanical – footsteps, cars, bicycle wheel, the train, the cart) from the simple naturalism of the hundreds of records in the BBC’s effects library. Briscoe (and his Gramaphone operator, Norman Baines) had to invent ways and means to remove these sounds from the purely realistic sphere. They did so by treating them electronically: slowing down, speeding up, adding echo, fragmenting them by cutting them into segments, and putting them together in new ways. These experiments, and the discoveries made as they evolved, led directly to the establishment of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop. Beckett and All That Fall thus directly contributed to one of the most important technical advances in the art of radio (and the technique, and indeed technology, of radio in Britain).”

So next time you're watching the new Doctor, or just playing with your Radiophonatron, remember to thank old Sam Beckett for all that lovely bingy-bong oo-ee-oo stuff.

All together now: Waaah-oooooo (wibbly-wum diddly-dum wibbly-wum) Ooooh Aaah Woooooooo (wibbly-wum diddly-dum wibbly-wum) Godot-ooo WaaahhooooAhooo...

(repeat to fade)