Continuing still further on from our recent examination of Doctor Who extras, I have to take us through David Tennant and Matt Smith’s eras to some very special events: Doctor Who at the Proms. There were three times the Doctor invaded the Proms and each included a special mini-episode meshed into the very fabric of the event. Once again, we’re reminded of a magical time after the return of the Doctor when the series creators knew how to generate interest in the series.
The first event in 2008 had Freema Agyeman present the Proms during which were were given a mini-episode called The Music of the Spheres where returning villain The Graske turns up as the 10th Doctor is composing some music. It allows him to get out and run around the audience for a bit but is ultimately a silly episode and it was disappointing that Tennant isn’t actually at the Proms. The episode runs roughly 7 minutes and really is about David Tennant being awesome, even if he is remote. It features a heavy fourth wall break which I usually dislike, but it’s just too much fun not to enjoy. The music is just a reminder of a time when Doctor Who music could send chills up one side of the spine and down the other.
In 2010, Karen Gillen hosted as Matt Smith has a specially recorded message about a bomb that will go off at the Royal Albert Hall but the TARDIS has prevented him from being there. This changes when he actually emerges from a trap door some 20+ minutes into the event. If the fourth wall break isn’t your thing, it doesn’t matter because Smith’s immense energy carries it as he works with the audience, having a small boy help him with an imaginary wire to diffuse the bomb. We get a variety of musical pieces from his 5th season while monsters roam the Hall. Again, the energy is electric!
Lastly in 2013, before the 50th Anniversary of the series, Smith and Coleman presented. This time, the Doctor and Clara are forced to use a magic ticket to arrive at the Proms. Smith surprises us more than anything with some very short hair! Coleman looks as stunning as ever. There are a number of behind the scenes clips talking to the cast. This installment features some tremendous moments including The Rings of Akhaten and The Name of the Doctor. Most notable perhaps is a lengthy piece called Song for Fifty, celebrating the shows 50th anniversary coming a few months later (this was in July). Susan Foreman herself, Carol Ann Ford, appears on stage complaining that Matt Smith won’t tell her what’s coming after the announcement of John Hurt as the Doctor.
Overall these are little more than cute skits that focus on the music of the era, but what a time period that was! The music of Doctor Who was a life form onto itself. There are so many amazing pieces of music in the series, and I can’t help but wonder why we don’t have that for the modern era. I had the (initial) fortune of having a Doctor Who concert coming to Brooklyn New York and I paid top dollar for front orchestra seats. While visiting family in Ireland, the day we were leaving – a depressing event on its own – I received the email saying the concert was canceled. Never have I wanted to be out money more! I would have paid double if that’s what it took, but alas, it was not to be. That was the last time I remember being inspired by so much Doctor Who music. Oh, there’ve been a number of great pieces since, but not to the extent we had heard before. (I’m looking at you, Shepard Boy!)
But more than the music, it was still about roping in the audience. The Royal Albert Hall is no small venue, and it was full! The excitement that must have coursed through the audience as Silurians and Cybermen, Daleks and Silence, Vampires and Ice Warriors walked up and down the paths is palpable whether you’re lucky enough to have a copy of the recording or watching on YouTube. How come we can’t have this again?? Good Time Lord, even the Whisper Men make an appearance!
Who knows if this will ever come back; if Doctor Who can again capture the imagination of a nation and fill the rows upon rows of seats at a venue such as the Royal Albert Hall. But as I’ve said now for 3 weeks, I don’t believe we are creating tomorrows fans with the current run. I think the first misstep was making Capaldi’s Doctor disagreeable for his first 2 seasons. I don’t think we recovered no matter how utterly amazing I think his 3rd season was. And that concerns me, because I think there’s a lot of life left in the Doctor, but if the writers don’t capture that soon, we may lose our chance of ever seeing the audience line up outside for hours just to see that wonderful blue box and hear the magical sounds of our favorite Time Lord.
There are more extras but next week, we will be returning to Big Finish. Stay turned, but in the meantime, take a look at the 2013 Proms, available on YouTube. ML
The Proms certainly symbolized the very special uniqueness of Doctor Who.
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I am now coming to terms with how many things in our TV and film entertainment are losing their magic. I have been re-watching so many favorite celebration events, that are all thankfully easy to find on YouTube, just to remind myself of all the things that I enjoyed about the best of the best. In all the ensuing controversies over how Woke Culture is affecting Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars and the superhero universe, the recognition of the changes that our entertainment truly needs to make is consequently much more abundant.
The most obvious points about success being earned, either through solidly good stories and viably appealing characters, depends on the courage of the powers that be to take (and like) risks. Indeed when it comes to how the best in sci-fi has depended more on brave departures, as it originally had for Dr. Who in the beginnings and middles of the classic and modern series, an attractive event like Dr. Who at the Proms was proof enough that fans were enjoying Dr. Who for the right reasons. We may not see such a grand event again for a while. But already the question of who cares about our sci-fi mainstream continuations feels very sad.
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