With the possible exceptions of Frank Muir or Malcolm X, not many grown men can get away with wearing a bow tie. Unfortunately lots of young twerps in the audience are giving it a go, at a show that's more like a Doctor Who fan convention than a normal Prom. There are Matt Smith-style dicky bows aplenty, along with tweed jackets, fezzes, sonic screwdrivers, Cyberman masks, Tom Baker scarves, even Tardis dresses.

This is the third Doctor Who Prom since 2008, at which the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (and a goosebump-raising 120-piece choir) perform incidental music from the series, each piece accompanied by a montage of Doctor Who clips that have been edited into pop promos.

This audio-visual feast is linked by actors and punctuated by monsters wandering around the audience. Matt Smith is, of course, guest of honour. The departing Doctor has shaved off his hair for a starring role in Ryan Gosling's upcoming film, which means his ears look huge and he doesn't fit in with any of the specially filmed footage.

Us middle-aged Whovians – and our geeky children – lap it up. We gasp at the Tardis. We cheer each time a Cyberman, Judoon or Whisperman marches down an aisle. We give Jenna Coleman, the fifth Doc Peter Davison and the first assistant Carol Ann Ford rapturous receptions. We applaud each vintage clip. We laugh at Commander Strax, the over-zealous Sontaran who is the evening's comedy klutz. We guffaw when the conductor Ben Foster spars with a Dalek, who threatens to exterminate him for overacting. Frankly, we're in the kind of mood where we'll enjoy anything.

It covers up some pretty bland music. As usual, they've crowbarred in a few popular classics (some Bizet, Debussy and Bach), but it's Murray Gold's compositions for the Russell T Davies/Steven Moffat era that dominate the Prom. Gold's cinematic schmaltz is grimly effective as underscore, but it doesn't stand up in isolation. Compare it with the medley of classic 60s and 70s themes by the likes of Tristram Cary: a riot of jerky abstraction, Stravinsky-ish dissonance and spine-tingling musique concrete. That eerie otherness has been traded in for Hollywood bombast, which is possibly why the latterday Who is never quite as hide-behind-sofa terrifying as its impoverished ancestor.

Still, it seems a little churlish to point out such failings at this joyous celebration of a British institution in its 50th year. Look, there's a Weeping Angel!


John Lewis

The GuardianTramp

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