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Out of this world (The Advertiser)

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The music of Doctor Who has some interesting connections to Australia and Adelaide, says Fifth Doctor Peter Davison, who is heading Down Under to host Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

Doctor Who has become very much a family affair for British actor Peter Davison, who starred as the fifth incarnation of the character in TV's longest-running science fiction series back in the early '80s.

His real-life daughter Georgia Moffett played The Doctor's Daughter in a 2008 episode of the revamped series, opposite the Tenth Doctor, actor David Tennant - who she later began dating and married.

"We're starting a dynasty, I think: the Tennant/Davison dynasty," says 63-year-old Davison, who will visit Adelaide later this month to host the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular.

"They didn't start going out for some months after they did Doctor Who - it was a kind of slow-burn on the relationship.

"They became friends on Doctor Who, and I seem to remember her bringing him along to see me in a show called Spamalot in London, but they weren't officially going out at that point. I remember her complaining that he kept dragging her off to theatre shows, and she couldn't figure out why." The connections don't end there. Tennant grew up watching Davison as Doctor Who and has expressed a particular affection for that version of the character.

Davison and Tennant's Doctors had met briefly on screen when they co-starred in the 2007 mini-episode Time Crash, in which they reflect on their common traits and the Tenth Doctor admits that the Fifth was his favourite past incarnation.

In 2013, Davison returned even more deeply to the Doctor Who fold as part the show's 50th anniversary, for which he wrote, directed and starred in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. The comedy documentary parodies past reunions of surviving Doctors from the original series, as they attempt to force their way into the official 50th anniversary special.

"It started off with just an idea," Davison says. "I didn't think that the classic Doctors were going to be involved in the 50th anniversary special, so I asked Colin (Baker), Sylvester (McCoy) and Paul (McGann) - funnily enough, when we were on a (convention) tour of Australia earlier that year - if they'd be interested in doing it. It just spiralled out of control, really." The send-up is packed with cameo appearances, including an apparently pregnant Georgia, as well as Davison's two younger sons from his current marriage and one of his granddaughters.

"I got absolutely everybody in there. It was a very typical scene in my house, which is that my sons are profoundly unimpressed with my achievements on television over the years," he laughs.

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot also features appearances by actors who played the Doctor's former companions, as well as current Doctor Who writer-producer Steven Moffatt.

"I'd spend the late evening writing a scene, then in the morning we'd phone up people to see if they'd do it, and then we'd organise filming it. It was all ad-hoc, but it just seemed to fall into place." When Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, said he had to return to New Zealand to continue filming on The Hobbit trilogy, Davison wrote a scene for its director Peter Jackson - and got a cameo from Sir Ian McKellen thrown into the deal.

"Everyone just said yes, so it boosted our confidence. Once we got past those wretched agents, everyone was really good," he says. Davison's resurgence in what fans call the "Whoniverse" began with the reason he is coming to Adelaide: the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. "They asked me to introduce a section of the BBC Doctor Who Prom, which was at the Albert Hall," he says. "They gave me this not-awfully good script - so I rewrote it, put in a couple of jokes, and it just went down very well at the concert. They came up to me afterwards, on that same evening, and said 'We're doing a tour of Australia - would you be interested in hosting the whole thing?' Obviously I wanted to be involved in the 50th anniversary, because I was the Fifth Doctor, so I suppose I've made myself slightly more available." The show played in the eastern states last year to huge response and is returning for two concerts in Adelaide, as well as dates in Perth, Sydney and Auckland.

English composer Murray Gold has written all of the music for Doctor Who since the show's revival in 2005.

"Murray has written these wonderful tunes and (conductor) Ben Foster has arranged them, and I think it holds up very well as an orchestral concert," Davison says.

Australia has deep connections to origins of Doctor Who, in particular its music. The very first Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child, was penned by Melbourne-born screenwriter Anthony Coburn. Perhaps even more importantly, however, the show's iconic theme song - heard in the opening moments of that very first episode which aired on November 23, 1963 - was written by Queensland-born composer Ron Grainger.

"He wrote the theme that never goes away, and has been rearranged so many times," Davison says.

Much of Grainger's contribution, however, was overshadowed by the groundbreaking arrangement of his theme by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, part of the broadcaster's sound effects unit which was set up in 1958 to produce effects and new music for radio.

"The Radiophonic Workshop did this amazing job with extraordinarily limited resources: a bunch of valves and transistors and capacitors," Davison says.

It was one of the first electronic theme tunes for TV, and remains one of the most easily recognised, having been reworked as everything from a 1978 disco version by the group Mankind, to the hit Doctorin' The Tardis - a mashup with Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll (Part Two) - by The Timelords (aka the KLF) a decade later.

"It's a fantastic science fiction theme tune, spooky - and it's extraordinarily adaptable," Davison says.

Another of Doctor Who's seminal composers was to have an enduring effect on music education and performance in Adelaide. Tristram Cary, who wrote the score for the second Doctor Who serial, The Daleks - which introduced the show's most enduring villains - and who continued to compose for the series over the next decade, brought his electronic music studio to Adelaide University when he emigrated to take up a position at the Elder Conservatorium of Music in 1974.

While working as a radar engineer for the Royal Navy during World War II, Oxford-born Cary had developed his own form of electronic and tape music, and is widely regarded as a pioneer of the form.

Cary later co-founded London's Electronic Music Studios, which created the first commercially available portable synthesiser, the EMS VCS 3, and he also wrote the score for the 1955 Ealing comedy film classic The Ladykillers.

In footage of the BBC Doctor Who Prom performance - which is available on DVD with The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as part of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition box set - Davison names Cary while introducing a segment of music from the classic series.

"They do like to pay homage to those great composers from the classic series," Davison says.

Cary stayed as senior lecturer and later Dean of Music at Adelaide University until 1986, after which he continued to compose, lecture and research computer music here right up to his death in 2008. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1991 in recognition of his service to music.

Davison says that while the original Doctor Who scores were often eerie or creepy and fairly minimalist, Murray Gold's soundtracks for the revived series are much more heroic, lush and romantic.

"They are more complete pieces of music," Davison says. "What was required in those (early) days was more incidental music, although they did have the occasional theme. Murray tends to write so that each character has a theme tune which they return to in various arrangements, because he's got an orchestra at his disposal to play with. I think the scope of the music is bigger now." For this return visit to Australia, the symphonic show will feature some new segments of music written for the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi.

"I love Peter's performance - I think it's got great gravitas and a little grumpiness," Davison says. "I love the idea that he's not quite sure if the human beings are worth bothering with." It is not just the orchestra and Davison bringing the show to life on stage. As well as specially edited video footage from the series on giant screens, costumed characters from the show - in particular the monsters, aliens and robots - emerge to engage with audience members throughout the auditorium.

"We have a dedicated Dalek operator, because that's rather a complex thing, but we cast and choreograph Cybermen and the Silence and various other friends of the Doctor when we arrive in each city." Davison, who more recently has starred in TV's At Home With the Braithwaites and Law & Order: UK, came to Doctor Who in 1981 straight from his phenomenal success as mischievous young vet Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small.

At 30, he was the youngest actor to play the Doctor until Matt Smith took over the role in 2009.

"My memory of it is just the excitement of being the Doctor - because I was the first one who had grown up watching it.

"It's a bit like one of those bad holidays you look back at with such great affection," he laughs. "You are working against really impossible conditions - you are never given enough time.

"We had quite complicated stuff to do, but you do get a thrill of just trying to make the thing work as best you can. You look back at those rather primitive special effects - I'm rather envious of the effects you can do now on your home laptop." Davison's rather controversial Doctor costume was that of an Edwardian cricketer, garnished with a stick of celery in the lapel.

As Tennant quips to Davison during their encounter in Time Crash: "Not a lot of men can carry off a decorative vegetable".

"I rather like the celery stick - except I don't like celery! That was my big problem with it," Davison laughs. "There was one scene, I think, in my very first story where I was required to look appetisingly at a vase of celery and take a bite of one of them, go 'Mmmm' and then stick it on my lapel. What you didn't see was me spitting it out after the take. But as a decorative vegetable, it's absolutely perfect." Davison says that, "in a way" he wishes he had been able to come to the role with its current level of scriptwriting, production values and special effects.

"Although I still have a great affection for the old, wobbly sets," he muses. "I'm not sure really - it's quite nice to be a classic Doctor." Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, Adelaide Entertainment Centre, January 24 at 2pm and 7.30pm. Book at Ticketek

"WE'RE ALL STORIES, IN THE END. JUST MAKE IT A GOOD ONE, EH? "The Doctor, Season 5, Episode 13


Spelling correction: Steven Moffat

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