The Proms for those of you who may not be aware is a yearly music festival organised by the BBC “present the widest possible range of music, performed to the highest standards, to large audiences.” In the 119 years since its original conception the Proms has grown greatly now consisting of over 70 main concerts every year. In 2008 the BBC held the first Doctor Who Prom in the hopes of introducing children to concert-going, showcasing the amazing work of Murray Gold (who has composed the incidental music for Doctor Who since its return in 2005). It returned again in 2010 and is back for a third time this year to which I was lucky enough to secure tickets.
Despite being held in the Royal Albert Hall which houses over 5000 seats and standing room for around a thousand others tickets to the Doctor Who Proms sold out in spectacular time and as such I didn’t hold out too much hope for us having great seats, we were in the East Choir and thus would be facing the stage from behind but actually this was a pretty awesome place to be! The people directly opposite the stage may have had a front on view but we were close up to the action. My only complaint was the heat. London, if you don’t know, is in the middle of (in UK terms) an incredible heat wave with temperatures averaging late 20’s right into the evening and it was 30 degrees on Saturday as we got ready to go to the Proms!
The rules around photography were unclear, their website and signs outside the venue stated absolutely no photography whereas the Judoon announcer (yes, you actually read that right) stated no flash photography so I decided to take a sneaky few snaps on my iPhone anyway. Before the show even started there were many cheers from the crowd as the cameras zoomed in on those plucky enough to brave dressing up in the heat. There were many 11’s, a couple of Rivers and dozens upon dozens of fezes in the crowd it totally channelled the fandoms love for the show, set the tone and put everyone in the right frame of mind for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
The conductor Ben Foster started off the show with a fabulous rendition of The Mad Man with a Box followed by I am the Doctor before a pre-recorded minisode was shown of the Doctor and Clara discussing how they could get in to the sold out Proms with the Doctor then producing a Hyperspace Body Swap ticket allowing himself and Clara to swap places with two members of the audience – or rather two members of the orchestra as it turned out. I have no idea if they were on stage the entire time or if they somehow managed to sneak on stage but it seems no-one noticed as they were too entranced by the footage being shown. It was particularly amusing to have Matt Smith’s new haircut explained away by the body swap ticket itself. Matt couldn’t resist having a go at conducting but as they say the show must go on and soon we were listening to Carmen Suite No. 2. It was really nice that they interspersed the Doctor Who specific music with other classical songs. Ben has to be the most expressive conductor I have ever seen in my life and you could really tell that he (and everyone involved) were really giving this performance their all.
Throughout the whole concert various villains prowled through the crowds from the Cybermen to the Ood, Silurians and of course the Daleks. The magnificent duo that are Madame Vastra and Strax introduced many of the musical segments and my hat goes off to everyone involved who was wearing costumes and prosthetics meant for far cooler temperatures than we endured.
There were cheers from the crowd for all companions during The Companions a suite of music featured the themes of former companions Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble and Amy Pond with accompanying clips from the show with Rose and Donna most notably getting loud cheers but none as much as Peter Davidson did when he stepped on stage during the second half – in fact the man could barely be heard due to the rapturous applause as he tried not once but twice to introduce himself as the fifth doctor – to introduce the classic medley.
There were tears from many as The Final Chapter of Amelia Pond was played and the fandom was made to relive the sad goodbye to yet another companion as well as during the goosebump-inducing rendition of The Rings of Akhaten which had a far greater impact live than it did as part of the episode. It’s also worth mentioning the stunning work of the two Doctor Who Create a Soundtrack Winners. I was completely astounded by how brilliant both of the compositions were and even more so given that the age range of the competition was from 11 to 16. All of the boys involved should be proud and I’m certain they have great futures ahead of them.
The worldwide premiere of A Song for Fifty, Murray Gold’s “love song to Doctor Who” was billed to close out the show and it was totally different to anything else we had heard during the course of the evening. Hungry for more the crowd perhaps got more than they bargained for when Vale Decem – which fans associate with the end of the tenth (and possibly most popular) doctors tenure on the show – was played to clips of all the various doctors regenerations.
There were rumours that the next doctor was to be announced live on stage but while this was proven to be unfounded it did not detract from the fantastical evening one bit which of course ended on a high with the infamous Doctor Who theme tune! It was such an amazing thing to experience first hand and I’m very much looking forward to returning to the Royal Albert Hall next year to see Star Trek movie with a full orchestra.