Songs for Fifty – The Doctor Who Prom

On a blazingly hot day in London most people would have out in one of London’s many parks. But an army of tweed-wearing and Fez-sporting fans from all over the world were queuing for one of the summer’s hottest tickets: the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Prom.

Photo Credit: Matthew Charlton

Photo Credit: Matthew Charlton

This, the third BBC Prom devoted to Doctor Who, assured an evening packed with tunes from across the decades from the earliest days of the Radiophonic Workshop to Murray Gold’s themes. Gold dominated the night, but also shared the stage with music from Dudley Simpson, Peter Howell, Martin Slavin and some classical tunes featured in the show.

The air was crackling with the possibility of a 12th Doctor announcement that alas, was not to be that day, but there were several other surprises in store. Guest presenters included Peter Davison (“You can call me number 5”), who wryly commented on being father-in-law to the 10th Doctor and probable grandfather to the 15th Doctor and Carole Ann Ford who regaled the audience with tales of rehearsing with the Daleks.

Of course, all eyes were on departing Doctor Matt Smith and current companion Jenna Coleman. Both seemed at ease with presenting to the crowd, even if their participation felt limited. An amusingly brief sketch brought the Doctor and Clara to the Albert Hall (and even explained Matt’s lack of hair!). The bulk of presenting duties fell to Neve Macintosh and Dan Starkey – both in character as Madame Vastra and Strax, Strax particularly providing comedic moments throughout the event vainly trying to teach the orchestra Sontaran ‘battle music’.

The signature tunes hit the sweet spots – much of the audience could be seen tapping their feet to “I am The Doctor” whilst “Rose’s Theme” drew gasps from the audience as footage of Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor dominated the screen. The rousing “All the Strange, Strange Creatures” provided a platform for many of the series monsters to roam the arena including the mightly impressive Ice Warrior and the newly redesigned Cybermen.

Surprisingly moving was a suite from this series’  “The Rings of Akhaten” an episode with a less than stellar reputation amongst fans, but when performed live was an emotive and more much cathartic experience.

The montage of clips of various episodes drew wonder and even tears from the audience. From one little lad’s puzzlement at what the strange silver giants were from “Tomb of the Cybermen” through to a mother’s tears at the climatic scenes from “The Angels Take Manhattan” to the palpable emotion of Rose’s farewell from “Doomsday”, Murray Gold’s scores backed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the London Philharmonic Choir provided an unforgettable night.

For fans of old, a suite of music taking in ‘Space Adventure’ through to Tom Baker’s regeneration and scenes from “The Curse of Fenric” proved to be a highlight. Radiophonic Workshop veterans Peter Howell and Mark Ayres joined the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for this magical medley.

Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith at the 2013 Doctor Who Proms

Photo Credit: Matthew Charlton

Less successful was Murray Gold’s celebratory “Song for Fifty”. Not one of Gold’s more successful pieces, it saw over sentimental lyrics drowned in an orchestral mix that left the audience untouched.

The ending ended on a high with a reprise of “Vale Decem” celebrating all 11 incarnations of the Doctor, and of course, the latest reimaging of television’s most iconic theme tune. With standing ovations, parents and children galore left with the biggest possible smiles on their faces. With many of the children in attendance entranced and mobbing conductor Ben Foster afterward, eager to learn more about how the music is performed.

The Proms have made me forget any reservations I might have about the show and instead reinvigorated me with the sheer depth of enthusiasm from the show’s most importance audience – the children. For a fiftieth anniversary event, this is going to be pretty hard to beat.

Those not fortunate enough to attend will have a chance to see the Proms on BBC One later in the year or can listen again on BBC iPlayer.

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