21 Feb 2014

Dr Who woos Wellington

11:00 pm on 21 February 2014

The biennial New Zealand Festival opened in Wellington on Friday with daleks, cybermen, a tardis, an 80-piece orchestra and a choir staging the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular.

The festival includes 300 events, performed by 1100 artists from 19 different countries.

Its artistic director, Shelagh Magadza, said total ticket sales of 100,000 are expected.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is performed composer Murray Gold's music from the Dr Who TV series which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

Ben Foster conducts the Dr Who Symphonic Spectacular.

Ben Foster conducts the Dr Who Symphonic Spectacular. Photo: Supplied

The original percussion-heavy theme was written in 1963 by Australian composer Ron Grainer and, like the Doctor, it too has been regenerated many times.

Conductor Ben Foster has been working with Gold for the past eight years.

Friday's show included material from the modern Doctor Who featuring Matt Smith and David Tennant as the Doctor, but also travelled back in time and across the galaxy to classic Time Lord periods.

The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular kicks off the New Zealand Festival on Thursday.

The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular kicks off the New Zealand Festival on Thursday. Photo: Supplied

This included music from episodes such as Logopolis from 1981, when Tom Baker was farewelled as the Doctor and regenerated into the fifth Doctor.

Foster said that was the era he grew up with and to arrange and conduct this music 30 years later was a professional career highlight.

Peter Davison was Doctor Who number five on the BBC TV series from 1981 to 1984, and was the host of the show which featured specially-filmed links with Doctor Who number four, Tom Baker, who was known for his very long scarf.

The show is fresh from touring Australia with both the Melbourne and Queensland Symphony orchestras.

Davison said he is grateful that people know who he is, and the cheers make him feel like a rock star.

Doctor Who fanatics are often referred to as Whovians.

They study, decipher and know everything about the many faces of Doctor Who, the aliens he encounters, and any perils the Doctor must face while hurtling through the universe in the blue police telephone box, known as the tardis.

The BBC show's writer, producer and director, Paul Bullock completely understands this obsession, saying he has a dream job.

He said after loving the show as a child, his eight-year-old daughter also became hooked on the series.

Along with big screens playing various snippets of Doctor Who episodes while the orchestra performs the scores, there'll be daleks, cybermen and assorted other alien creatures on stage creating an intoxicating science fiction atmosphere.

Conductor Ben Foster said while he is leading the orchestra, one of his personal highlights is an attempt to save the audience from the daleks with his sonic conductor's baton.

He said as a child he regularly dressed up as a dalek and chased his brother around their family property.

Peter Dykes is the associate principal oboe player for the NZSO, and also a big Doctor Who fan.

He is expecting the audience to span several generations and said it will be a nostalgic moment playing the original theme.