Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular - The Review
Images taken from the first Wembley show on the 23rd May and the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on the 25th May...
Nothing quite elevates the emotion of a scene than the soundtrack and the music of Doctor Who has helped to amplify the drama, horror, comedy and tragedy of the show over the last decade. While there have been times when Murray Gold's score has drowned out the scene where subtlety was needed, more often than not the themes he has composed has raised the hairs on the back of our neck, made our heart swell and enhanced the dread and fear of the show's most memorable monsters to deliver some of the most passionate pieces of music on television.
The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular was a celebration of Gold's music, reminding us of all the wonderful pieces we have heard since the show returned in 2005. With Ben Foster and the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales - on the show since David Tennant's debut in the 2005's The Christmas Invasion - on stage to deliver the show, fans were treated to a two hour extravaganza of music, monsters and trips down memory lane, all hosted by the Fifth Doctor himself Peter Davison.
Davison was a treat in himself, having great rapport with Ben Foster and recreating some of his best gags for the 50th anniversary's hilarious The Five(ish) Doctors. Reading out a text from former Doctors - Sylvester McCoy asking Davison to remind the audience he was in The Hobbit - was still just as funny as it was then and John Barrowman asking him not to tell the audience about his wife and kids was still amusing, if not as effective as it was on the 50th celebration show. The best running gag had to be Colin Baker waiting at the end of the phone with a taxi ready to steal Davison's job the moment he slipped up. Fortunately for Davison, there was a lot of love for Fifth Doctor in the audience.
Anyone who has seen Doctor Who At The Proms will know what to expect and in truth The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular was much of the same thing just 'on the road'. Not that that is a bad thing at all. The show was thrilling, fun and filled with many memorable moments which I will come on to shortly. Cybermen, Daleks, Silurian, Whispermen, Judoon, vampires, The Teller, a Silent and The Vigil were all among the monsters stalking the stage and marching through the aisles; it was wonderful to see these close up, my only small gripe being that there was never more than six or eight monsters in the arena at any one time. More performers spread out may have been a bit more engaging, particularly for smaller audience members who were further away from the stage.
The show began with A Good Man, celebrating the theme of the current Doctor Peter Capaldi, while audiences were treated to a montage of moments from series eight. From there Wherever. Whenever took us back to the Ninth Doctor and all the adventures though to the present day. But it was the Doctor's Theme / Song Of Freedom that was the first major highlight of the The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, playing homage to David Tennant - who incidentally received the loudest cheers where Peter Davison mentioned him. The rousing score conjured up memories of the Doctor and his companions flying the TARDIS, towing the Earth back home at the end of Journey's End.
This was followed by The Companions, featuring the themes of Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy. Murray Gold has successfully been able to create unique themes for each of the central characters over the years and audiences were reminded just how different each piece was; Donna's jovial theme immediately brought a smile to my face as I was reminded of the comic banter between Catherine Tate and David Tennant.
For those who have watched the previous proms, we got much of the same again as the Daleks invaded the arena, forcing Ben Foster to play the 'music of the Daleks' and his unsuccessful attempts to ward the gold pepperpots off with his sonic batton. Despite knowing what was coming, it was incredibly fun and there was something thrilling about seeing a Dalek glide down the aisle just a few feet from your seat. Peter Davison had a great comic moment too, walking out with his cup and saucer to find out what all the raucous was about and coming face to face with his mortal enemy. Audiences were immediately swept up in the music of Into Darkness, relieving the epic Dalek invasions of The Parting Of The Ways and Journey's End before progressing to the more sinister themes of the recent series eight episode Into The Dalek.
The first act ended with a somewhat un-seasonal but still wonderful Last Christmas Suite, with the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales recapturing the moments from the recent Christmas special while the audience got to see clips from Last Christmas on the big screen above them.
Act two exploded with the moment all the kids - big and small - had been waiting for as various monsters filled the stage accompanied to All The Strange Creatures. Like the Daleks, it was a lot of fun to see Whisper Men and a Silent stalking the stage as menacing as ever while Silurians and a Judoon stalked the aisle. As I mentioned above, it would have been nice to have had a handful more performers to fill the arena but no magic was lost despite that.
This was followed by The Impossible Girl as the current companion Clara was in the spotlight before my personal highlight of the whole show; 66 Seconds. The Foretold from Mummy On The Orient Express invaded the arena, looking as terrifying as ever, particularly at the moment it lumbered down the aisle to creep up towards one woman in the audience just like the episode. The orchestra had great fun with this too, flitting between the light, jolly music of the Orient Express to something much more frenzied and sinister every time the mummy appeared on stage or in the aisle.
The momentum kept going as audiences were swept up in the epic, sweeping score of The Pandorica Suite, complete from clips from the best series finale of the revived series. My son, dressed up as Matt Smith's Doctor, jumped up and down with glee as the Eleventh Doctor's theme played out over the arena and I admit to finding myself swept up in the atmosphere too.
Singer Elin Manahan Thomas, who had already accompanied the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales with many of the choral parts of the themes played, took on Katherine Jenkin's part in the beautiful Abigail's Song from A Christmas Carol. Her voice was stunning and captured the raw emotion of the story, making it another highlight of the show for me.
From there, audiences ventured back into the fiftieth anniversary with the musical highlights of The Day Of The Doctor in This Is Gallifrey. Afterwards Peter Davison reminded audiences that the global cinematic showing of that special - something I was fortunate to attend myself in 2013 - was record breaking, demonstrating to the audience the passion and the impact the fans had on Doctor Who. The program of events finished with the Death In Heaven Suite as Cybermen marched across the stage and through the arena, recapturing the dramatic events of the series eight finale. Again, seeing the Cybermen so close was hugely thrilling.
Death In Heaven Suite was one of three endings. The show 'officially ended' with the music composed for the Tenth Doctor's regeneration episode The End Of Time, complete with a montage of some of the most memorable Doctor regeneration moments across the fifty years, while two Ood acted out their song on stage. It was a fitting end and an emotional one. But of course, like any great show, you always get an encore performance and Ben Foster returned to the stage to conduct a ballsy Murray Gold reinterpretation of the classic Doctor Who theme to finish the show. Making it even more special, Peter Davison gave the conductor a copy of his Fifth Doctor coat to wear and it made for a fantastic ending as audiences were given many variations of the theme while every monsters took to the stage for a final performance.
If you are a fan of Doctor Who, then this was an event especially for them, filling with arena with many fantastic and varied pieces of music from the show, and delivering atmosphere in spades. Peter Davison was a joy to watch - a fan of the show now as he was then. Was the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular Spectacular? Absolutely!