Live classical preview: Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, touring the UK

Live classical preview: Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, touring the UK

credit: Lucas Dawson

Daleks and Cybermen take to the stage for the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. As the tour begins, fifth Doctor Peter Davison introduces the live show

He’s been the Doctor himself, as the fifth incarnation between 1981 and 1984, and in real-life he’s the Doctor’s father-in-law (his daughter Georgia Moffett is married to Tenth Doctor David Tennant). Now Peter Davison returns to the franchise that made his name as the host of touring live show the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular.

How did you get involved with the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular?

I came on board with this about this time last year. What happened was I’d done a segment at the Doctor Who proms and they asked if I’d take on the full Australian tour of this. I‘m the host of the show, I introduce the various bits of music, I get involved in some action with the aliens and monsters, and I have a bit of what my son would call banter. I’m appearing as myself, not the Doctor.

Tell us more about the action.

There’s a thread about an alien trying to take over the show, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say there’s a narrative there. These are little interludes, bits of fun to brighten up proceedings, but at its heart it’s essentially a symphonic concert showcasing Murray Gold’s excellent music from the series. There’ll be a symphony orchestra onstage playing this music, and big screens behind which play specially edited clips of the scenes which it came from.

So what is doing the show like for you? You’re playing to some huge audiences.

I know people might think it’s just like any other acting thing, but it couldn’t be any more different. Generally speaking, actors hide behind their characters, but when you have to come out and be yourself it’s not easy, not so instinctive. I just have a bit of fun and try to play to the audience. Some you can get away with the Who in-jokes, others maybe not, you get used to how you can play it.

What are the crowds like?

They’re a very mixed audience. One of the great things, when I first heard about these concerts, was that I thought it would be a great way of introducing your children to orchestral music, it’s not something they might usually respond to but when it’s connected to Doctor Who they certainly do. It’s wonderful to see. It’s not the same as listening to the radio or hearing background music on television, you’re actually watching them play the music in front of you.

How does Murray Gold’s score hold up next to the old version of the theme?

It’s certainly different from the old music, but it’s great that the show has accommodated two such different styles. The old Radiophonic Workshop music was brilliant, you just had to hear a couple of notes and you knew it was Doctor Who, but Murray’s is right through the show, he writes pieces for each companion and every monster. That’s very powerful, very beautiful. Of course, it’s a major outlet for composers now – film and television music plays much the same role as having a patron in Mozart or Bach’s time.

Do you listen to classical music?

Ever since I was a child. Part of the reason I loved the thought of doing this show was remembering my own days at school, our music teacher would drag us along to the Royal Festival Hall to hear concertos and symphonies being played. I always thought I would hate it but in fact I loved hearing this music.

What else are you working on at the moment?

I’m in Gypsy, the West End musical, so I’ve taken a week’s holiday to do this. It’s a very successful show, very full-on, Imelda Staunton is a star in it and I’m her boyfriend, so that’s quite a central role. I’m keeping very busy, which is always welcome.

You still enjoy getting involved with the fans on projects like this, don’t you?

I’ve never really felt the need to distance myself from the programme, I did it for three years and I was fortunate to move on without any problems [Davison later starred in All Creatures Great and Small and At Home with the Braithwaites]. I’ve always been happy to be involved, whether it be recording audio CDs (for Big Finish) or things like ‘Time Crash’. I was a fan of the programme, I grew up watching it, I enjoy being involved with it.

You were in the ‘Time Crash’ Children in Need special with David Tennant in 2007, might you want to return again?

I’d love it if they could find a way of doing it, but before it was so much easier to get all the Doctors together looking slightly older, and no-one really noticed. Now, of course, more time has passed and none of us looks anything like we did – even when Tom appeared, it was as this mysterious figure who could have been the Doctor. If Steven Moffat came up with a lovely idea why I could be in it I’d never turn it down, but I’m not counting on it (laughs).

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

  • Directed by: Ben Foster (cond)

Symphonic celebration of everyone's favourite quirky, time-travelling, sidekick-addicted defender of humankind.

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