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The BBC Dr Who Prom

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Our special reviewers Natasha McGain and Saffron aged 3 3/4 check out the ...

The BBC Dr Who Prom

Ask any Dr Who fan to describe their favourite character or scene from the current series and no doubt the task will be easy. But ask them to describe their favourite piece of music from the show? I would guess that most would be unable.

When offered the chance to review the BBC Dr Who Prom on Sunday 27 July, and as a Dr Who fan, I was dubious as to what I would recognise musically, let alone enjoy on it's own merit. However, the BBC Prom opened a whole new world for me and a new appreciation for the dedication, hard work and pure talent of the composers and musicians who are behind the atmosphere and dramatic tension in each Dr Who episode.

To add to my own dramatic tension, I decided to bring my young daughter Saffron to the Prom. A dedicated Dr Who fan herself at the tender age of 3 3/4, she was an unknown quantity at an event such as this – hence the possibility of some drama of our own!

The Royal Albert Hall was dressed and suitably atmospheric for the occasion, sporting searchlights, copious amounts of smoke and, of course, the Tardis in attendance. Before it had commenced we had already encountered the first of the many Dr Who creatures that we would meet during the Prom. The strange creature, humanesque with tentacles in place of a mouth and sporting a white globe light, the 'Ood', slave to future mankind, made it's way around the auditorium, much to the delight of my young companion, who at first squeaking with fear, then announced loudly that "it's ok Mummy – it's only a man in a suit!" Relieved that we had passed the first hurdle of any potential problems combining such an event with a three-year old I was able to relax.

The show began and much use was made of the staircases and "pit" to allow for the various Dr Who creatures to enter, perform and exit, adding always to the tension or drama created by the music.

Freema Agyeman, who plays the character Martha Jones, one of the Doctor's lovely companions, made an enthusiastic and warm host, providing information about the various works as they were introduced. Other presenters included characters from the series, Noel Clarke, Camille Coduri and a surprise visit by Catherine Tate, comedienne and as Donna Noble the Doctors most recent lady friend.

The wonderful BBC Philharmonic Orchestra played music predominantly written by Murray Gold – thirteen out of a total of 18 works. Gold has composed music for Dr Who since March 2005, bringing themes and motifs to many of the characters. Much of his music for the Prom elaborated these themes, such as The Daleks and Davros, Rose, Martha and the Master and All the strange, strange creatures with their associated characters often accompanying them. A particular personal favourite and real show stopper being the Daleks and Davros music which heralded the arrival of a 'real' Dalek onto the stage and the fearsome Davros, leader of the Daleks, who rose from the floor at the centre of the Hall. Davros announced the piece as being 'Dalek music', designed to bring death and destruction and the audience were informed that the conductor had been 'persuaded' to con - duct only Dalek music from now on.

Such set pieces, with the full participation and acting skills of orchestra, choir and conductor demonstrated the fun approach to the event: every piece of music played being a spectacle of theatre as well as a sound sensation. As well as the many, truly accomplished, works by Murray Gold there were also better-known works such as Holst's Jupiter from the Planets Suite, Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre and Prokofiev's Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet. The beauty of interspersing such major, classical masterpieces into the mix was that the very young audience members, of whom there were many, were introduced to some classics in a fun and interactive way. I was thrilled when my daughter bopped about in her seat to Jupiter. The first hearing for her and truly memorable for both of us, with her pro - claiming it as "beautiful, happy music!"

Russell T Davies, the writer of Dr Who, provided additional treats for the fans with a specially written scene called Music of the Spheres, incorporating new music by Murray Gold and starring the Doctor himself, David Tennant. Much to the delight of the many children there this was a very 'interactive' film with an alien escaping from the screen directly onto the stage and sheet music, written by the Doctor being thrown 'through' the screen onto the orchestra below, with much comedic scrabbling around to catch the falling leaves.

The Torino Scale, the first movement of Three Asteroids, by Mark-Anthony Turnage received its world premiere. A modern piece of music, allied with the music of Murray Gold, its background story was designed to tell of the possibility of an asteroid hitting earth, with the ensuing chaos and destruction that would follow. The music was powerful and loud, discordant and uncomfortable to listen to at times. In keeping with its theme; unusual noises were employed towards the end, including a large wooden rattle, which launched my 3 year-old companion from her seat in fear!

Instrumental works were not the only music offered; many of the performances included sung sections by the London Philharmonic Choir and by Dr Who's regular singer soloist Melanie Pappenheim and by Tim Phillips. Melanie's haunting accompaniment to Murray Gold's Doomsday demonstrated the sheer individuality of the Dr Who themes.

Conductors Stephen Bell and Ben Foster and Chorus Master Matthew Rowe all entered into the spirit of this first (I hope of many) Dr Who proms and helped cast the spell of the Time Lord over generations to come.

Left to Saffron to describe the event at the end she said: "I loved it, can we see it again now?"


A Sontaran stalks the Royal Albert Hall's corridors

The Tardis shared the stage with Sir Henry Wood

The excellent programme was shaped like the Tardis

A Dalek, centre stage, conducts the audience

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  • APA 6th ed.: McGain, Natasha (September 2008). The BBC Dr Who Prom. Musical Opinion p. 32.
  • MLA 7th ed.: McGain, Natasha. "The BBC Dr Who Prom." Musical Opinion [add city] September 2008, 32. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: McGain, Natasha. "The BBC Dr Who Prom." Musical Opinion, edition, sec., September 2008
  • Turabian: McGain, Natasha. "The BBC Dr Who Prom." Musical Opinion, September 2008, section, 32 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The BBC Dr Who Prom | url= | work=Musical Opinion | pages=32 | date=September 2008 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The BBC Dr Who Prom | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 April 2024}}</ref>