‘Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular’ review (Cardiff)

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Showcasing the best of Murray Gold’s music from Season 8, plus a few well-known fan favourites, the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular has finally reached the UK.

The tour started in Wembley at the weekend before crossing the country to Cardiff, or as Peter Davison described it, ‘the beating heart of Doctor Who.’

Finally the orchestra and choir took their places on stage and after a short warning from a Cyberman about flash photography, the lights went down and the performance began. Conductor/orchestrator Ben Foster bounded onto the stage to a cacophony of cheering and clapping, which he enthusiastically encouraged before graciously transferring his welcome to the orchestra.

The spectacle began with ‘A Good Man’, the theme for the 12th Doctor. The mix between the electronic and orchestral elements of the music was handled brilliantly, as was the timing of the effects and video elements, all timed to perfection.

The climax of the piece saw the 12th Doctor’s emotion-charged speech from ‘Flatline’. As “I’m the man who stops the monsters’ thundered out across the arena, and the Doctor’s speech drew to a close, the piece also neared its end, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales joined by a small selection of singers from the BBC National Chorus of Wales, and soloist Elin Manahan Thomas, providing a dynamic, energy driven, and certainly spectacular start to the show.

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

More whooping and cheering accompanies 5th Doctor Peter Davison’s arrival on stage, where he welcomes everyone (even attempting a little Welsh, with mixed results) and begins to talk about the show.

Confident and comedic, his hosting is littered with jokes and quips, easily reducing the audience to laughter, but before long, we’re onto the second item of the evening and after a quick warning from Davison to the kids to hold their parents hands (because the older people get very scared, you know!) the orchestra launches into ‘Wherever. Whenever’, a medley of music from Season 8, with clips from each episode guiding those less familiar with the music through each section.

This piece also saw the first glimpse of monsters on stage, with the Teller appearing during the music from ‘Time Heist’ and the Sheriff of Nottingham’s Robots taking their place for ‘Robots of Sherwood’.

Once again, this piece came to an end with an emotional speech from the show, this time Clara’s words from ‘Listen’ to the young Doctor in the barn.

Leaving the most recent adventures behind, the music now turned to some fan favourites, with the Doctor’s Theme from Season 1 combined with the magnificent ‘Song of Freedom’. The orchestra and choir played both pieces superbly and full of emotion and I, along with the rest of the audience found myself catapulted from the sadness and yearning embodied within the Doctor’s Theme to laughing along with the crew of the TARDIS during the final scene of ‘Journey’s End’.

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

The audience was then catapulted head first into the worlds of the Doctor’s companions, starting with Rose and journeying all the way through the last 10 years to Amy, where we were treated to both ‘Little Amy’ and ‘Amy’s Theme’.

It was Donna Noble, however, who appeared to be a firm favourite with this audience as the beginning of her theme resulted in a series of cheers and claps from the audience, followed by laughter filling up the arena as the hilarity of her and the Doctor finally seeing each other again blazed across the screens.

Our emotional journey through the lives of the companions soon came to a close however with the interruption of the Daleks for an item entitled ‘To Darkness’. As the Daleks appeared on stage, Ben Foster rushed off, leaving the orchestra and audience to fend for themselves, before Peter Davison came to the rescue.

Ben was soon back to fight the Daleks with his sonic baton (first seen at the Doctor Who Proms) however, though not with a great deal of success, and was quickly back on the podium to conduct the medley of Dalek music, from 2005’s ‘Dalek’ all the way to the latest Dalek episode, ‘Into the Dalek’, though everyone became a little preoccupied when the Daleks descended down the aisles into the audience!

After more joking between Peter and Ben, the first half came to a close with the ‘Last Christmas Suite’, and though it was a little odd to be listening to Christmas music in May, the piece brought the first half to a momentous close.

After a brief interval, the opening of the second half was a scream, quite literally as we were launched into ‘All The Strange Strange Creatures’ with a clip of Missy’s Nethersphere. As the piece then got underway, we were treated to more monsters than you could imagine, from Cybermen to Ice Warriors, Whispermen to Robots, Silurians to the Silence and so many more. Once again, it was all accompanied on screen by clips from the show and I especially enjoyed the conductor cam, showing a unique view of Ben Foster’s conducting from his music stand!

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular Ben Foster

Following ‘All The Strange Strange Creatures’, many fans were excited to find out that the man himself, Mr Murray Gold, was in fact in the audience, though we were not allowed to know where. Peter Davison’s hosting was continually jokey, with many quips regarding former Doctor and Peter’s successor in the role, Colin Baker (with whom he starred in the 50th anniversary feature ‘The Five-ish Doctors’).

On then went the evening to current companion Clara, whose theme was accompanied by a montage of clips exploring her character, from her first steps into the TARDIS as a Victorian nanny, to her heart-breaking romance with Danny Pink. Staying with the most recent season of Doctor Who came ‘66 Seconds’, and the terrifying Foretold, who appeared on stage mirroring the movements of his on-screen counterpart

Back in time to the 11th Doctor, and the ‘Pandorica Suite’ saw some of Ben Foster’s most energetic conducting of the evening, as on-screen the Doctor faced an amalgamation of monsters and enemies along with a plastic centurion Rory Williams, two Amelia Ponds and River Song.

Following the emotional rollercoaster of the Season 5 finale, we were once again transported back to Christmas, this time as Elin Manahan Thomas provided the solo for ‘Abigail’s Song’, sung in 2010’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ by singer Katherine Jenkins. Thomas provided a different tone to that of Jenkins, but the performance was still very beautiful, with incredibly expressive facial expressions.

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

The penultimate item, ‘Fifty – This Is Gallifrey’ saw the track originally heard in Season 3’s ‘Gridlock’, combined with footage from the 50th anniversary episode ‘The Day of the Doctor’.

Finally, we reached the music of Season 8’s finale, the ‘Death in Heaven Suite’, featuring, once again, Elin Manahan Thomas as the soloist. Accompanying the mighty voice was a slowly building dissonance in the orchestra, which then suddenly dropped away to leave the soloist alone and vulnerable. The orchestra then came back in with a sad sounding oboe melody accompanied by the chorus and on-screen the audience were guided through the double episode, as the dynamic of the piece grew into an explosive end. The entire piece was simply entrancing.

Of course, whilst the programme ends here, it wouldn’t be a show without an encore, and we were treated to not just one, but two encore items, both of which received standing ovations from the audience. First came the Ood’s ‘Vale Decem’, which famously sent the 10th Doctor off into his regeneration. This time, the regenerations of every Doctor from William Hartnell through to Matt Smith was shown on-screen, whilst onto the stage came the Ood.

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

Last but not least came Murray’s latest arrangement of the Doctor Who theme, with Ben Foster now wearing Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor coat to conduct, and a return of all the monsters into the audience, as well as a montage of all the title sequences from the show, finishing up with the faces of each Doctor.


Performed on Monday 25 May 2015 at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena.

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