Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular 2014 Review

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K-Ci Williams reviews the recent Doctor Who concert held in New Zealand.


In August 2013, announcements were made regarding the latest season of Doctor Who tours – to which our friends across the ditch in Australia were once again privy. The surprise that overcame the majority of New Zealanders at the time when Wellington was confirmed as the latest location for the concert season was, in its essence, indescribable. To ensure seating at the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, all measures were taken to prepare for online bookings. To my delight, I was placed in the second row right in front of the orchestra! With Wellington five hours away (by car) from my city, it has been a weekend trip – a trip that has reaffirmed why Doctor Who is the best television show in the universe. 

Doctor-Who-Symphonic-Spectacular-2014-cybermanThe Doctor Who team were kind enough to allow all matter of props and models to be placed on show in an exhibition. From murals featuring all eleven regenerated Doctors, to life size production models of a Cyberiad Cyberman and Classic Dalek, this was the first stop in the Doctor Who trip; quite honestly it felt like I was still in the fiftieth anniversary year. Thank goodness photography was allowed, as I snapped a few with David Tennant’s costume and the Raggedy Doctor too. As you would expect, anticipation was rising by this time. Whovians donned TARDIS scarves, Dalek scarves and the god-tier Tom Baker scarf which developed a unifying atmosphere: a sort of unspoken but strong bond between everyone who had ever loved the show.

Doctor-Who-Symphonic-Spectacular-2014-strangeFifth Doctor, Peter Davison was essentially the heart of the show. Presenting quips about New Zealand’s cricket team (along with referencing Brendan McCullum’s record breaking feat) and wider world links such as David Tennant calling him Dad, and a potential new piece of music which is split into three parts of three hours duration (where did he get that idea?). However, he proved to be particularly mad once he started speaking into a non-existent earpiece to conjure up comedy – comedy, which I might add, was entertaining. Eventually, he acknowledged that he was in fact speaking to himself. Davison also entered into some light hearted joking about Peter Jackson and Sylvester McCoy, all the while advertising the Five-ish Doctors Reboot. It was all good fun, something to be experienced – and something so very special my pen cannot possibly dig it out to share. 

Doctor-Who-Symphonic-Spectacular-2014-smithLet’s crack on with music. Introducing the concert, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra – conducted by Ben Foster – played The Madman With A Box, followed by I Am The Doctor, complete with the spine tingling Stonehenge speech. The orchestra sealed the deal by evoking emotion early on, with Murray Gold’s Companion Suite – which led to the audience awwing and ahhing right from the beginning with Rose’s Theme. I’d seen this piece performed at the Proms on telly, but never before had I seen it done right before my eyes. Pacing through the uplifting, mellow tones of Martha’s Theme to the zappy, uptempo theme for Donna, what has become the most inspiring piece for me concluded with the all too beautiful Amy’s Theme. Music has the power to connect us, to unite us, and this piece connected me with the stories of companions I’ve seen played out on screen. I could feel the adventure of Martha, the fastest-temp-in-Chiswick attitude of Donna and the fairy tale of Amelia Pond. With classic Proms music such as Cyber Shard continuing the performances to a high calibre, female soloist the mezzo soprano Anna Pierard took to the stage to perform Abigail’s Song in a chilling yet beautiful rendition of the Christmas composition. Finally, in celebration of the golden milestone, the Classic Doctor Who Medley served as a tribute to the last fifty years of a cultural phenomenon. Then came tears with The Final Chapter of Amelia Pond and The Long Song. It was like they were trying to make us cry in a neat little row. Other memorable performances include: All the Strange, Strange Creatures and The Impossible Girl. 

Symphonic-Spectacular-2014If Peter Davison was the heart of the event, then Conductor, Ben Foster was the mind. In every piece orchestrated his focus is solely on the instruments that he oversees from his platform. The energy he forces into his conducting is something rather special; another unforgettable experience. There was one part of the concert in which the Daleks took control of the stadium; forcing Foster to play “special Dalek music.” He was even accused of “over-acting” by the Supreme Dalek. Additionally, he used his sonic device to conduct for a little while, frequently punching his fist into the air as if to say Barrowman! And hence I gained a more mature appreciation for the passion and love he puts into his conducting (he also took a selfie with a Dalek!)

Doctor-Who-Symphonic-Spectacular-2014-50As with all the musical celebrations, nothing would be complete without the monsters. The voice of the Judoon boomed its way across the stadium, spoken by the magnificent Nicholas Briggs (in a prerecording). In no particular order: Cybermen; Weeping Angels; Silurians; the Vigil; the Mummy; the Whispermen; Wooden Cyberman; Ood and Daleks. I feel like I’ve forgotten one, but in it’s essence the sheer number and variety of monsters present made the atmosphere that bit more spectacular! These monsters appeared notably in First There Were Daleks and The Name of the Doctor. The sequence named Fifty included music from the fiftieth anniversary special, headlined with my favourite composition of the fiftieth year: Song for Fifty, delivered breathtakingly by Anna Pierard and Oliver Sewell. As a reminder of what we’ve lost, The Time of the Doctor sequence was played followed by Vale Decem. All in all, it was a very emotional evening – added to by two specially filmed sequences with Tom Baker, speaking of his anxiety leading up to his cameo and his time as the Doctor, and a filmed scene on the Wellington wharf featuring a Dalek! 

The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular was important to me not only for the music or the experience, but for the statement it made. People say that pictures can tell a thousand stories, but the music of the show transcends these far more – which is why I cannot do justice in my review of such a spectacular event. The stadium was full, but the audience was of mixed cultures and backgrounds. Everywhere, there were fans of all cultures: European, Chinese, Japanese and Māori to name a few. There, the stereotypical demographic for opera and musicianship was not strictly a certain age or certain ethnicity. There, we were all connected by one thing: our passion for Doctor Who. 

Here are my highlights of the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular: