Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, SSE Hydro, Glasgow | reviews, news & interviews
Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, SSE Hydro, Glasgow
An auditory treat for fans of the long-running sci-fi series
It seems a peculiar conceit to pack up a full symphony orchestra and choir and take them the length of the UK solely to perform suites of music from a popular television show – and I say this as a fan of the show in question. Yet I left the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular with a newfound appreciation for both the soundtrack as an art form in general, and for the work of Murray Gold – the composer responsible for the show’s music since its return in 2005 – in particular.
The aptly-named “spectacular” mixed live-action appearances from some of the show’s most iconic nasties, clips from the series to match each piece of music and awkward turns from fifth Doctor Peter Davison as a stand-up comic in between to create almost as much of a visual treat as an auditory one. The theatrics helped to create an orchestral performance for people who wouldn’t usually listen to classical music – including many young audience members – while the undoubted skill of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and members of the BBC National Chorus of Wales would easily have kept the attention of a crowd with little interest in the show. Although, given the number of fezzes in the audience – and at least two cosplay Tom Bakers and one David Tennant – nobody’s commitment was in question.
Davison probably shouldn’t chuck in acting for stand-up comedy just yetIt’s easy to forget, watching at home, how much of Doctor Who’s soundtrack is performed by what Davison affectionately referred to as the show’s “house band”, which has been led by conductor Ben Foster (below right) since Christmas 2005. What the Symphonic Spectacular pulled off was an interesting perspective-flip, putting the music front and centre and – with a few exceptions – relegating the scenes that they accompanied to the background. Themes that moved, thrilled and signalled the appearance of certain characters were so much more powerful for being heard in their entirety, and doubtless won’t be heard in quite the same way when the show returns in the summer.
The night started with “A Good Man” – the grand, sweeping theme of Peter Capaldi’s current take on the doctor, and one which stirringly captured his journey from fairytale to hero – then a piece dubbed “Wherever, Whenever”, which recapped much of his first series at the controls of the TARDIS. This suite went from dramatic opening to jovial interlude, reflecting the madcap side of the character, to space-age James Bond theme and Robin Hood adventure. The set showed both how perfectly a scene can be recreated using only music; and how much of what happened during the previous, lacklustre series I had missed.
Music from the Capaldi era, and from the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, understandably dominated much of the evening, but was performed so exquisitely as to encourage some of the emotional attachment I hadn’t felt from recent episodes of the show. Still, the stirring “Pandorica Suite”, from the 2010 series finale, and the emotive “Abigail’s Song”, with soloist Elin Manahan Thomas taking the part performed by Katherine Jenkins in that year’s Christmas special, were the highlights of the night – as the length of the applause clearly showed.
Davison probably shouldn’t chuck in acting for stand-up comedy just yet, although his hammy performance based around the threat of being replaced by Colin Baker (which, as fans will know, happened on the show in 1984) and digs at real-life son-in-law David Tennant got plenty of laughs. His attempts to endear himself to a Glaswegian crowd by rattling off the long list of Who alumni from the city were almost derailed by those of us quick to point out that both Tennant and current show runner Steven Moffat are in fact from Paisley, but we were happy to concede to the dubious maths suggesting that there were in fact 87 Doctors amongst us.
The combination of orchestra and video clips, when combined with the size of the hall, meant the regular appearances on stage and in the crowd of a cast of Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians and Silence were almost lost on the audience – plus, it’s hard to feign terror at the sight of the Doctor’s most dreaded foe when the kid in front of you has his mobile phone out to take a picture. That the Cybermen didn’t fly into the air like their onscreen compatriots behind them seemed like a missed opportunity too – after all, Take That had managed it a couple of weeks previously.
That the performance would end with the show’s iconic theme, reimagined by Gold from the original by Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire, was never in any doubt – after all, it’s a bit difficult to involve a whole orchestra in a fake-out. Immersive, enthralling and concluding with a brief appearance from the composer himself, it let the night finish on a suitable high.
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