Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular
Brisbane Entertainment Centre
I have long been a Whovian. As well as the show, I’ve seen Doctor Who at the Proms, been to the Doctor Who Experience in London and Cardiff, and I’ve met David Tennant. I can tell a Silence from a Slitheen, know to always take a banana to a party and to fear shadows, statues and cracks in the wall. I know that while the show is called Doctor Who, the character is simply The Doctor and that the title should never be abbreviated to Dr Who. So I was certainly amongst 8000 of my people when the Brisbane Entertainment Centre hosted the largest Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular ever held in the world.
The show is presented by self-proclaimed Doctor 005, Peter Davison, whose vulnerable, indecisive 1980s incarnation saw him dressed as a boyish Edwardian cricketer, a premise that played through his ‘don’t mention the ashes’ themed dialogue with the audience. While the focus of the night is on Matt’s Smith’s tenure as the Eleventh Doctor, (the show opens with his theme, ‘The Madman With a Box’) there are also some sentimental nods to the classic series, with the nostalgic ‘Classic Doctor Who Medley’. The video participation of Fourth Doctor Tom Baker is another highlight, as he humbly shares stories of his clandestine participation in last year’s fiftieth anniversary special, so secret that by the time of its worldwide release six months later, he had almost forgotten he was in it.
Although the arena is dominated by big screen sequences from the show, The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, as the name suggests, is really all about the music. Inspired by the Doctor Who Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, the Spectacular celebrates this element of the show that has been crucial since its inception. And it is the music of composer Murray Gold (who has worked on the series since it was re-invented in 2005) that is given centre stage. The world class Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Brisbane Chorale, and solo singers give nuanced, heartfelt performances, led by conductor (BBCs own) Ben Foster, complete with sonic baton. In particular, principal soloist, Australian Opera favourite Antoinette Halloran gives assured performances of many of the show’s tender and touching tunes.
With soulful strings, laced with lashings of bold brass, the presentation of songs such as the ‘Companions Suite’ (a medley of the companion themes for Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy) and the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration theme ‘Vale Decem’ are both powerful and poignant. However, there is no more soul stirring moment than the final, rich and rousing rendition of the grand Doctor Who theme (of Australian born Dudley Simpson).
This is what so many of the younger fans in the audience had come for… well, that and the darleks. And when the darleks high-jack the stage, in protest of a celebration offensive to the might of the darlek empire, there are many joyful cries of exterminate from the younger members of the audience. Older fans are amused too, with the Dalek interaction and their claims that ‘the conductor is over-acting’.
Indeed, there is much to keep audience members of all ages entertained, Silurians, Cybermen, the Silence, the Ood, Vampire Girls, Judoon all roam the aisles in full monster regalia. The lighting effects too, coming even from within the orchestra, add to the atmosphere of the experience. And The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular is an experience as much as a show, with fans coming out in full costume force. And why wouldn’t you? After all, bow ties are cool. Fezes are fun and the Doctor is just a mad man with a box…. Just don’t call him Doctor Who, because that is not a name, but, rather the oldest question in the universe of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.