In 1956, following National Service in the Royal Air Force as a Ground Wireless Mechanic, Dick joined the BBC as a Technical Assistant (recording, editing and transmitting programs) until 1958 before moving to the Radiophonic Workshop where he stayed until 1993.
During this time he was involved in some memorable productions, notably Major Bloodknok’s Stomach for The Goon Show and the making of the signature tune (with Delia Derbyshire) for Doctor Who. In 1971 he became responsible for creating special sounds for Doctor Who – did you know that he is the most credited person on the program?
Creating special sounds led Dick into many strange fictional areas, both on this planet and beyond, but he has had several special commitments on the present time span too.
He had the honour to staff the Radiophonic Workshop’s Display Stand at Mullard House (during the 50th anniversary celebrations of BBC engineering) where the task of explaining the Workshop role in broadcasting to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh was a personal highlight; playing solo tape machine with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for a live performance of Roberto Gerhard’s Collages was another fantastic experience.
Following the first demise of Doctor Who, Dick moved into almost reverse gear as a new job (using special computer software) involved removing noise – as opposed to being asked to make it – from old recordings and film sound tracks. This developed into a full-scale re-mastering service for BBC archive materials on to the then new CD format. It was at this point that Dick received ‘the offer that no one can refuse’ and reluctantly took early retirement from a unique career in 1993.
2008 saw the 50th anniversary of the forming of the Radiophonic Workshop and, as the ‘oldest living survivor’ of the department, Dick attended several celebratory events at venues ranging from Bradford’s National Museum of Photography, Gateshead’s The Sage to London’s Roundhouse (where he actually walked down the same staircase and at the same time as Robin Gibb!) plus several interviews on national TV and radio.
In 2009, Dick’s work in broadcasting was formally recognized when he received an Honourary Doctorate of Science at Bradford University in December.
2013 sees the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who’s first broadcast and it was in February that Dick finally cracked the American convention scene when he appeared at Gallifrey 24 in Los Angeles. This will hopefully lead to future transatlantic engagements, although the really big one will be the BBC’s own celebrations at the Excel Centre in London at the end of November.
On the leisure side of his life, Dick has a completely different interest – aquarium fishes and over the years has become a successful author with many books to his credit.
For extra relaxation, apart from watching fish, Dick prefers cruising vacations (where different scenery gets delivered each day) and has visited many parts of the world – making sure he visits any public aquaria on the way.
Watch a 1979 interview of Dick Mills and Brain Hodgson…