Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular review: “a no-brainer if you’re a fan of Whovian music”

Huw Fullerton takes a musical journey through time and space at the Wembley Arena

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I’ve had some experience of Doctor Who’s music before – obviously I’ve noticed it in the series, I’ve interviewed the rebooted series’ composer Murray Gold and even once paid money for one of the songs (This is Gallifrey from 2007’s Last of the Timelords, if you’re interested) – but today I was jumping in the deep end.

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Namely, I was attending a concert based solely around Whovian music played live by an orchestra for over two hours at Wembley Arena – and I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. I missed the Doctor Who proms, alright? I’m sorry.

Sure, I knew some of the details around the Spectacular – it featured the talents of my countrymen the BBC National Orchestra of Wales performing live, would go on a musical journey through key moments of the series and would be hosted by Fifth Doctor Peter Davison accompanied by a few monsters from the series – but what would it actually be like?

Pretty fun, as it turns out.

From the first song played by the orchestra, lit up with flashing LED strips on their chairs and accompanied by scenes of Peter Capaldi strutting around the Tardis on huge screens, I knew this was my kind of orchestral concert – namely, the sort where Daleks might occasionally skulk around the audience, the Fifth Doctor would make dad jokes about being replaced by Colin Baker at any moment, and the conductor would use a sonic baton.

Clearly the concert’s organisers have made a big effort to make the musical experience more immersive and fun, and it really worked for me as the orchestra (conducted by Ben Foster) took us through renditions of everything from the Doctor’s theme in 2005 to the suite from the 2014 special Last Christmas, complete with Dream Crab-laden extras menacingly approaching the audience.

Personal highlights included the aforementioned Dalek invasion (resulting in a ‘shotgun’ performance of their theme held at whisk-point), Peter Davison’s quips about brushing up on his bomb-disposal skills (the concert having been affected this week by the same unexploded WWII device as Britain’s Got Talent next door) and the full Pandorica Suite from series five’s The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang including popular anthem I am the Doctor (see below – I’m a fan).

Not that the show was perfect, of course – while the Daleks were great, an awful lot of the monsters were quite superfluous, standing aimlessly during their songs, and the setlist massively favoured the most recent series of Doctor Who (at the expense of some older songs like fan-favourite Doomsday).

But it was hard not to get psyched up when they replayed David Tennant’s regeneration music with accompanying clips, or the songs associated with various companions since 2005 (which I was surprised to recognise so easily), or the triumphant curtain-call rendition of the classic series theme.

If you’re a fan of Doctor Who’s music, this show (touring the UK for the next week) is a no-brainer. If you’re less sure, then maybe give it the benefit of the doubt – you probably have more of an attachment to these songs than you realise.

As my plus one put it: “These songs are actually making me feel quite emotional about Doctor Who again,” – and if nothing else the Symphonic Spectacular deserves a visit for that.

You can see more images of the show below

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The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular tour takes place this week in six cities across the UK. For further information on tickets, please visit: www.doctorwhosymphonicspectacular.com.