Since Doctor Who returned to television screens in 2005, its music – composed by Murray Gold – has been a vital component, elevating the programme’s stories and emotions. It’s a testament to how listenable and popular the music is that it has so far warranted three Proms, with the most recent one held last Saturday evening.
Unlike the rest of the Proms, the Doctor Who concerts are more than just musical performances. Every piece of music from the programme was accompanied with an on-screen montage, featuring clips from Doctor Who old and new. Monsters like the Cybermen and the Silence appeared among the audience and on stage, all with their signature ways of moving (although it might be time to retire the Vampires of Venice, who were obviously summoned again only because they have the simplest costumes). I’m sure a number of fans who were at the concert were there mostly for the theatrics, and for a glimpse of Matt Smith in person in all his nearly-bald glory. But the biggest cheers of the night were still reserved for the music.
The concert began with a generous helping of Series 5 music – for the uninitiated, the beginning of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. The Mad Man With a Box featured the graceful vocals of Elin Manahan Thomas, gently drawing the audience in just to make everyone sit up straight in their seats when I Am The Doctor, arguably Murray Gold’s best composition ever, took over. There’s always a magic to hearing your favourite music performed live, although I will admit that I wasn’t too keen on the version performed here; it works best in its entirety, whereas here it was mixed with other music from Series 5. But I concede the importance of keeping things fresh and dynamic.
Among the Doctor Who music were three classical pieces, which had all featured in the programme at one point but felt like little more than token gestures towards Prom purists. They were eclipsed by the music the fans had come to hear. The stand-out pieces were The Companions, a beautiful medley featuring the themes of four of the Doctor’s companions since 2005; The Final Chapter of Amelia Pond, featuring some truly glorious violin work; and All The Strange, Strange Creatures, a piece all the way back from Series 3 but still able to hold its own, as well as being hugely fun.
The concert took a turn towards Orbital-like territory with its ‘Classic’ Doctor Who Medley, which featured the all-important sound effect of the TARDIS as well as short sections from some of classic Doctor Who’s more infamous scenes, such as ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’. Some of the segues weren’t entirely fluid, but it was pleasantly nostalgic to wander briefly backwards in time.
The Prom ended with the world premiere of Murray Gold’s Song For Fifty, a sort of ‘happy birthday’ for the Doctor. Lyrics were provided in the concert programme, which was fortunate as they were somewhat difficult to discern when sung. It was the instrumental sections that truly shone, reminding the fans of Murray Gold’s complete dedication to Doctor Who (incidentally, the composer was seated in the row behind me, and when The Rings of Akhaten was performed he marked the beats with his hands and mouthed the words, as if he were conducting it himself – endearing to watch).
It’s sad to think that the theme from I Am The Doctor will have to be retired when Matt Smith goes. The 2013 Doctor Who Prom was, in a way, its swansong. But I’m certain that Murray Gold can come up with something equally inventive and iconic when the new guy (or girl?) takes the helm. And no doubt we’ll be treated to another brilliant Prom in two or three years’ time.