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Report: Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular – SSE Arena, Wembley

IMG0245ALaunched in Melbourne, Australia in 2012, the ‘Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular’ finally arrived in London on 23rd May 2015, to rapturous applause from a sell-out audience at Wembley’s SSE Arena.

Preparations for Saturday’s two shows had been delayed on Friday by the discovery of an unexploded World War II bomb on a building site close to the Arena. The area had been evacuated, streets cordoned off, the army called in. Fortunately, the army beat Hitler (again), and the concerts went ahead without a hitch – though the incident supplied the show’s host, Peter Davison, with a good deal of, er, ammunition for his dryly humorous links between the orchestral pieces.

The show itself was a spectacular celebration not only of Doctor Who, but of the music of Murray Gold. Ben Foster conducted the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC National Chorus of Wales, and they were joined on stage by the wonderful soloist Elin Manahan Thomas (who had previously sung with the orchestra at the 2013 ‘Doctor Who’ Promenade concert).

The music was accompanied by video clips on the big screens that hung behind the orchestra, resulting in terrific ‘music videos’ for episodes such as ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’, and ‘The Pandorica Opens’. All the companions featured in the series since 2005 were seen on screen as the orchestra played ‘The Companions’; while Twelfth Doctor montages featured with ‘A Good Man?’ and ‘The Doctor’s Theme’.

Clever use of lighting around the arena and next to the orchestra’s chairs matched the action on screen; and ‘live’ monsters appeared on stage and among the audience. Use of the cybermen to warn about switching off mobile phones (“or you will be deleted”), and the daleks to advise the audience not be late back after the 20 minutes interval (“or you will be exterminated”) seemed to be extremely effective!

IMG0240AThough the music was all ‘NuWho’, the second half of the concert brought audio and visual tributes to the classic series. The audience roared appreciation as the lights dimmed and Patrick Troughton’s voice intoned: There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought.” Cue ‘All the Strange, Strange Creatures’, with more monsters appearing on stage, and other, earlier monsters being shown on screen together with the Doctors who fought them. No surprise that the two biggest cheers of the afternoon were for David Tennant and Tom Baker, but every single Doctor (and the classic companions when they too were briefly glimpsed) drew appreciative applause.

The last piece listed on the official programme was  the ‘Death in Heaven Suite’, which was accompanied by clips from both ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Death in Heaven’. But it was too poignant to end on that salute, and a last shot of the Doctor watching the cyber-Brigadier taking off into the sky. Besides, they still hadn’t played the most well-known tune of all.

Sure enough, there was more to come. Encouraged by Peter Davison, who pulled the Fifth Doctor’s coat from the on-stage TARDIS to loan to the conductor, the orchestra were ‘persuaded’ to play the piece that Davison introduced as “the most iconic theme tune ever”. With accompanying video sequences again covering every era of the programme, it was, quite simply, “fantastic!”

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