Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular Live

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular - Header

Talk to anybody about the type of music they like and I’m sure you’ll get the same answer again and again. That they like a bit of this and a bit of that. Not tying themselves specifically to one genre but rather, cherry picking what they like from where ever they find it. And I am essentially the same. But the reason for this constant non-committed answer s is simple. Music isn’t about the notes that are played or the tune that enters our ears but rather the emotion it evokes within us.

Music can match our mood, feeling sad when we do, happy when we are. Or, it can dictate our mood, unlocking memories and providing a backdrop of clarity to a situation. This power is why we all like such a wild and varied selection. Why from time to time we need a soppy love song, or a cheesy one hit wonder. And why in my record collection, urban hip hop by NWA sits next to the orchestral scorings of Hans Zimmer.

Murray Gold - Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

As you will have probably noticed from this blog I am a bit of a film fan, and so it won’t take a grand leap of faith to realise that Hollywood’s greatest composers play a larger role in my life than the musing of Dr Dre and associates, but my love of film scores is actually extended into orchestral music as a whole. While I may love the works of Zimmer, Danny Elfman and John Williams for example, I’m also in love with the works of Murray Gold, Ludovico Einaudi and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I am also a bit of a “social” geek. At least that’s what I call it, a bit like social drinkers. I’m not a full time geek, I don’t have Spiderman posters on wall, I can’t reference the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe against the comic books that inspired it and I’m never sure whether they are trekkers, trekkies and whether people really can speak Klingon? or if they’re simply making sounds knowingly in on the joke. But I like a bit of science fiction and I have a soft spot for Doctor Who. I know what T.A.R.D.I.S. stands for, I’ve seen William Hartnell’s first episodes and along with Jeff Wayne’s music version of War Of The World’s, I even designed hot air balloons listening to the music of Murray Gold since the BBC brought it back in 2005.

Ever since I discovered they occasionally collected Gold’s music up and performed it the BBC Proms I have dreamed of going, only to discover they’re doing it again a few minutes after the tickets have sold out. And so, when I found they were putting on a nationwide tour, I was the first (or more likely four-thousand-and-first) in the queue to buy tickets. Wembley Arena was the venue of choice, and on a wet and windy bank holiday weekend (is there any other kind) I headed up to London and into the shadow of ‘The Arch’ for a afternoon not of sport, but of wonderful and anticipatory music.

Wembley Stadium - Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

I knew there was more than just a little chance of some fancy dress, of seeing kids wearing bow ties, Turkish fez’s and waving plastic replica sonic screw drivers. What I hadn’t appreciated was that it wouldn’t just be the kids, in fact, the majority of those in replica, where in fact, of legal drinking age or above. Even stranger was that the age range of the people in attendance was very much a “us and them”. Those over 18, and those under 8. There really wasn’t anything in between. But obviously, I went for the music and not to procrastinate about the sight of a lot of 18 year olds in Police Call Box hoodies, and so having found my seat, after a brief amount of misdirection by the usher, it was time to allow the event to soak into me and to let the audible emotions flow.

The music was played by The Nation Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, conducted by Ben Foster and compèred by the 5th incarnation of The Doctor, Peter Davison. The idea is simple, Foster and the orchestra play the music we all know and love while Davison acts as the link from one song to the next. The problem was though Davison was hamming things up so much that it actually became annoying. He’s obviously decided to play it light hearted and comedic to keep it entertaining, but filled it with in jokes and over the top slapstick that left it feeling cheap and out of place with the tone of rest of the event.

Peter Davison - Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

When Davison had exited stage left, the actually music was stunning though. Hearing a full orchestra play such evocative tunes was a joy to behold, the music getting under your skin, tingling your nerves, making you feel, making your heart race and pulse beat to the tune it dictates. Unless you have experienced the power and richness of a live orchestra and it’s ability to manipulate your senses it is hard to explain, just how each part works together to overwhelm you. Part of that power is down to the skill of conductor Ben Foster. Watching him expertly setting up the sections of orchestra, working everything together, commanding the individual parts to create such a perfect end product was almost more interesting and engrossing than the accompanying video clips used to present a narrative context to the music.

And while audibly there was so many plus points, I did have one problem with the music. They brought it up to date, primarily basing it around the latest series (with Peter Capaldi as The Doctor), the 50th Anniversay episode and the Christmas Specials, and while the truly standout hits from Matt Smith’s and David Tennant’s respective tenures as a Time Lord were included they were just fleeting tracks and it left me longing for more, it reminded me a lot of a live band playing their latest album at a music festival, when the crowd really just wanted “the best of…” instead.

I had gone along with my Parents, who like me, both take enjoyment from orchestral music, and while both came away saying how they didn’t know what to expect, and that it had been completely different to any potential guess, still thoroughly enjoyed it, even if the accompanying video clips had proved hard to follow as they didn’t know the overall story from which they’d been taken. The Symphonic Spectacular is designed to be more immersive and entertaining rather than just a simple musical promenade and so they have tried to expand it, firstly with the disappointing continuity of Peter Davison as previously mentioned, but also by invading the audience with the alien creatures that litter the life of the Doctor: Cyberman, Dalek, Silurians and even the Ood all arrive around you, but sadly, I felt they fell flat as well. The auditorium is in a darkened state during the performance and while you can see them on stage in spotlighted withdrawn glory, up close as they passed around you, it was all just too dark to really make out the costumes. To see the finer details. It just left the bits outside the music feeling sensibly designed but poorly executed.

Cyberman - Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

My strangest complaint, if that’s even the right word, of the whole event though is the speed of it all. It lasted for two-and-a-half-hours including the twenty minute interval. It’s not a short production and yet it flew by. Especially the second half that felt as though it ended only a few minutes after it began. Just as it felt like it was finding it’s feet, settling in, it was over. The songs somehow seem to belittle the actual passing of time and for some reason, I came away feeling almost cheated. I wanted more songs. It wasn’t helped by the faux-encore that was obviously predictable. I’ve never liked it when somebody walks off stage claiming it to the end, before returning to carry on, seemingly at the crowds baying, only to pull out a full audio-visual accomplishment to these “extra” songs and this applies that trick. It’s obviously not going to be “the end” when they haven’t even played the theme tune!

I really enjoyed the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, as I said I adore the music that accompanies the TV series, and there were honestly times where just the entire spectacle, and the sound, were sending goose bumps down my neck, my heart skipping beats, and forcing that involuntary gulp of emotional awe you get when your senses are just totally overwhelmed. But they were more fleeting moments hidden within a story of musical padding. It just fell slightly flat against the music in my mind, it’s far, far better than any CD could ever be, but it just felt unpolished, a safe 8-out-of-10 when my heart desperately wanted a 10.

Posted on by 5WC in Stage First Edition

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