Sunday, 24 May 2015
Wembley Arena - Symphonic Spectacular
On Saturday (23rd May 2015) I attended the first London performance of the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. Here's what I thought about it.
First of all, a word about the audience. Being a matinee a large proportion of the audience was children - always a good thing to see kids are still loving the show. Quite a few fezes in evidence. Also saw a First, Second and Fifth Doctor, plus lots of people wearing long scarves. Most people just opted for a Who themed T-shirt. Whilst very busy, there were quite a few empty seats, so far from being a sell out.
Peter Davison makes a congenial host. Quite a few jokes about the unexploded bomb alert which had seen the crew lose half a day's set up. Lots more jokes at Colin Baker's expense. Some verbal sparring with conductor Ben Foster as well. Foster wore a Fifth Doctor coat for the final piece of music.
Wembley Arena isn't laid out like the Albert Hall where the DW Proms take place. As such, the monsters which appeared throughout the show only turned up on stage or on the main floor. Those of us seated up on the sides needed binoculars to see them. Half the time, they did get shown up on the big screens - but only half the time. I only noticed the robot knights from Robot of Sherwood when they were leaving, as I was watching the screens at the time.
There were cameras around, which didn't match up with what was shown on the screens, so I assume that the performances are being filmed for either a TV screening later in the year, or perhaps for inclusion on Series 9's DVD release.
Onto the music itself. Much of it came from Series 8. The show opened with A Good Man? - the Twelfth Doctor's theme. This includes Capaldi's rousing speech against the Boneless from Flatline. Next up was Wherever / Whenever - a medley of music from four Series 8 episodes (Listen, The Caretaker, In the Forest of the Night, Robot of Sherwood).
The third selection took us back in time to the Ninth Doctor - his theme - coupled with Song of Freedom (the towing the Earth back home piece from Journey's End). Some Ood appeared on stage to accompany this bit. This went down very well with the audience - particularly as it featured Lis Sladen on screen.
The Companions was a medley comprising the themes for Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy. Then we had To Darkness. This was a suite of Dalek music. The earlier pieces which it included, from earlier Dalek stories, were great, but then it switched to music from Inside the Dalek which was unremarkable. I have never understood why the Cybermen have maintained a consistent theme since 2006, whilst the Daleks get new music which is never as good as that heard nearly 10 years ago. Naturally, there were Daleks patrolling the stage and the floor of the arena whilst this was going on.
The final piece of music before the interval was a suite from the last Christmas special, which I could have done without. Just didn't stir me at all. Quite a few people who opted to hit the loos and the snack bars before the interval crush seemed to be of the same opinion as myself. Despite gasping for a smoke, I persevered with it.
20 minutes (and two fags) later, the second half began.
First up was the excellent All The Strange, Strange Creatures. Lots of monsters prowling for this, naturally. Included were the Teller, Cybermen, Vampires (of the Venetian variety), Skaldak the Ice Warrior. The screens included a clip of Patrick Troughton giving his "There are some corners of the universe..." speech from The Moonbase - which got a big cheer.
Then we had Clara's theme - The Impossible Girl. Davison joked that if he had known that Clara was around during his tenure in the TARDIS, Adric would have kicked the bucket sooner.
Next up was one of the better pieces of music from Series 8 - the pounding 66 Seconds. This comes from Mummy on the Orient Express.
Back to the Matt Smith era with The Pandorica Suite. This included the Eleventh Doctor's theme - I am the Doctor.
The vocalist Elin Manahan Thomas then really got to shine with the beautiful Abigails' Song, from A Christmas Carol.
The penultimate piece of music as listed in the programme was Fifty / This is Gallifrey, accompanied by clips from The Day of the Doctor.
Then we had a suite of music from Dark Water / Death in Heaven. (Called the Death In Heaven Suite).
The first of the two encores was Vale Decem. Whilst written to see out the Tenth Doctor's tenure, the screens showed all of the Doctor's regenerations. Each Doctor actor got a cheer but if these could be translated into votes, David Tennant remains the peoples' favourite. The reaction to Colin Baker was priceless - almost a groan. Naturally, because he was present, Davison's appearance got a good reception.
The final piece of music was - of course - the greatest theme tune in the world. And not the tinny zither one either.
Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable show. Seat wasn't the best in the house, and I could have done with some more earlier material, but very glad I went.