Doctor Who Proms 2013

A Lynne Adventure
The Royal Albert Hall
13th July 2013

And as we stumble down our slow road I can’t but wonder what would it be like. To run away with you through time, where would we go, who might we find. But on we go, cutting our paths, only one way, one day at a time, while you embrace the universe, spinning your way on the fast road, limitless endless.”
Song for Fifty
by Murray Gold

One day while I was looking through YouTube for some music to listen to while I worked, I started listening to some music from the TV series, Doctor Who. I ran across some music that sounded like live recorded versions, with something in the title about “The Proms.” It took a quick internet search to figure out what it all meant. Every year in the summer there is a “Proms” or promenade season at the Royal Albert Hall, where there are some amazing live performances of orchestral and classical music. One of the special shows, one that doesn’t happen every year, is a special one for Doctor Who. During this performance, music from the show is played as well as clips from the show, guest appearances, and even some monsters from the show wander around. I knew I wanted to attend one before I left the country.

There was an announcement that there would be one this year, and I was super excited as this year is the 50th anniversary of the show, so I knew it would be a great show. However, when the tickets for seats went on sale, I was home in the USA, and forgot to order tickets before they sold out. Luckily, one of the traditions of the proms is something called “promming.” This is where you queue up on the day for standing room tickets for just £5, and the standing room is actually one of the best places in the theatre. With this in mind I booked tickets to London to try promming and attending the Doctor Who Proms.

I will be the first to admit that I slightly underestimated the dedication of the Doctor Who fans. I thought that I might be a little excessive arriving to queue over 5 hours early, however, I was mistaken. I was easily about 300 people back in the line (and usually there are about 500 tickets for promming). Also this just happened to be one of the hottest days in London and there was little shade. However, I had a fun time in line. There were many fans dressed as their favorite characters wandering around. People were nice and held places in line in case you needed a toilet or to buy water. The staff for the Royal Albert Hall stopped by within 30 minutes of my arrival to hand out tickets to the queue (not actual tickets for the show), these were to make sure people didn’t just join their friends at the last minute, and allowed people to easily leave for small trips.

By the time the queue started moving it was less than 30 minutes to the start of the show. We were tired and sweaty, but in good spirits. I had made friends with the people in front of me, and we were all going to stand together at the concert. It was a little tense waiting to see if there were still tickets when we made it to the front. There really weren’t that many people after us who were admitted, so many people must have been turned away. We were able to take a spot about 20 yards (just less than 20 meters) from the front of the stage, and were right next to a fenced off area with a prop staircase from one of the episodes. While waiting for the concert to start, projection screens were showing people from around the crowd. There were lots of fezzes, bowties, and extra long scarves. It was great. I started working on a pair of socks I was knitting and met more of the fans around us.

Then the lights dimmed and the orchestra filed in.  What followed was an amazing experience. There was a clip of the Doctor and his current companion, Clara, trying to get in, and then the two actors where on stage (hidden among the orchestra members). The conductor, Ben Foster, had a modified baton that looked like a sonic screwdriver (it lit up, for those unfamiliar with Doctor Who). There was a Tardis (the Doctor’s transport that looks like a big blue Police box) on stage, although no one went inside it.

The music was absolutely breathtaking. As a former band, orchestra, and marching band member, I can be a bit critical of live music, but this was amazing. There was also a full choir and several solo singers that were very good. On top of music composed for the show, there were a couple of classical songs that were also featured in the TV series. There was also the premier of a new song by the current show composer, Murray Gold, in honor of the 50th anniversary. You can listen to the song below.

All the while the music was playing, there were clips being played on the projector screens. As fan favorites appeared, the crowd would cheer. It was really amazing. The live monsters were even better than the clips. The monsters were from many of the different episodes from the show’s history. Some would come down the aisles. I was lucky because the staircase that I had been standing near was replaced with different props, and monsters would come out from there. The monsters would then wander amongst us in the standing room space. There were Cybermen, Silurians, Ice Warriors, vampires, the Silence, Sontarans, the Whispermen, and of course Daleks. It was great to see these fearsome monsters so close, even if it was a bit unsettling at times. However, I can now say I have touched a Silurian and a Cyberman. My favorite moment though was when one of the vampire women was really getting into character, and turned quickly, only to have her dentures pop out, luckily she caught them, but it had me laughing hard!

Besides the Doctor and Clara, there were a couple other special guests. The most prominent were Madam Vastra and Strax (a Silurian and a Sontaran), who were clearly fan favorites (although I missed Madam Vastra’s wife, Jenny, who is usually with the other two). There was also the very first companion, the actress Carole Ann Ford, who played the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, and even Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor. There were also several of the older composers, whom I can’t remember the names of.

It really was an amazing experience and a wonderful day out. I was super excited to hear Vale Decem in person, as it is my favorite song from the series (and was the goodbye song for David Tennant’s version of the Doctor). I made several new friends, and talked with so many interesting people. It was great for children of all ages, even those with grey hair. A great way to modernize orchestral performances.

Final Verdict: A wonderful experience for any fan, and a truly amazing concert.

Full Playlist of the Prom:
The Mad Man with a Box – Murray Gold
I Am The Doctor – Murray Gold
Carmen Suite No. 2 – Georges Bizet
The Companions – Murray Gold
Cyber Shard – Murray Gold
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 – Johann Sebastian Bach
The Final Chapter of Amelia Pond – Murray Gold
The Rings of Akhaten – Murray Gold
All the Strange, Strange Creatures – Murray Gold
The Impossible Girl – Murray Gold
La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) – Claude Debussy
“Classic” Doctor Who Medley – Tristram Cary, Malcolm Clarke, Dudley Simpson, Paddy Kingsland, Peter Howell, Jonathan Gibbs, Mark Ayres
Doctor Who Create a Soundtrack Winners – William Davenport, Jordan Picken, Gabe Stone, Matthew Owen
First There Were Daleks – Murray Gold
The Name of the Doctor – Murray Gold
Song for Fifty – Murray Gold
Vale Decem – Murray Gold
Doctor Who Theme – Ron Grainer

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