The story may be simple, but the experience is sublime.
Hah! What a way to start a review. You can tell there's not going to be a massive amount of negativity here, can't you? Well, I will confess that I enjoyed Doctor Who Live in the way that only a massive fan with far too much gleeful enthusiasm and absolutely no shame could.
The plot (yes, there's a plot!) is very simple. The self-styled Magnificent Vorgenson, son of Vorg from the Third Doctor adventure "Carnival of Monsters" is up to his father's old tricks, but on a far grander scale. Inspired by dreams, and funded by the death of a mysterious Uncle Thay, he has invented the Minimiser, a gauntlet that can snatch living beings from time and space, store them, and rematerialise them in another place and time, and allows the wearer to control and subjugate them. With this minimiser, Vorgenson could be a mighty warlord, the despotic ruler of a hundred billion worlds. Instead, he has created what he calls "The Greatest Show In The Galaxy". (He should really have checked though. That title's taken.)
Why? The Doctor. Vorgenson is, understandably, an obsessive fan of the Last of the Time Lords.
As the show unfolds, Vorgenson uses Churchill (Nicholas Briggs), plucked out of time from D-Day, to lure the Doctor to the show, capturing him with the minimiser as soon as he steps out of the TARDIS. Oh dear. Eventually, the Daleks are revealed to be behind everything (wasn't Thay one of the Cult of Skaro?) and the Soldier, Strategist, Eternal and Scientist from the New Dalek Paradigm arrive to exterminate the Doctor. The Cybermen are released from the minimiser and, with the help of a technobabbly anti-Dalek gun, chase the genocidal tin cans into the device. The Doctor sends the monsters and Vorgenson home, and...the Supreme Dalek arrives, flying above the stage. With the audience's help, the Doctor summons the TARDIS and escapes.
Okay, if it was an episode, it would suck. But it's not. It's just a framework on which to hang the appearances of a number of Doctor Who monsters, and an excuse to have an orchestra play some of Murray Gold's wonderful themes from the last five years of the show.
The music is, of course, spectacular. I know that many viewers have issues with how Murray Gold's pieces are used in the show, but I haven't met anyone yet who can seriously criticise the music itself. If I ever do, I'll punch them, because they are quite simply, wrong. Gold's music has, in my humble opinion, been the most consistently brilliant thing in Doctor Who since 2005.
From the opening "Westminster Bridge" in "Rose" through to "Onwards!" in "The Big Bang", Gold has been instrumental (sorry) in creating and maintaining the tone of the show. And this show, with a sizeable orchestra and a small chorus, bring some of Gold's work to spine-tingling life. I haven't been able to attend any of the Doctor Who Proms, but I'll tell you now - if Murray Gold ever tours his Doctor Who music, I'm there for every night I can manage. I'll pawn all my possessions and sell a few internal organs to get tickets if necessary. I swear.
What was I talking about? Oh yes, Doctor Who Live. The music is accompanied by both montages from the show - an Eleventh Doctor montage, an Amy montage, "Victory of the Daleks", the good old Regenerations one*, and so on. Oh yeah, and there were monsters too.
The Ood, Saturnyne (the Vampire/Fish girls from Venice), Judoon, Silurians, Clockwork Robots, Cybermen, Scarecrows, Liz Ten and the Winders/Smilers all took to the stage and wandered amongst the audience, delighting and frightening children (and, yes, adults) in more or less equal measure.
(One particular scarecrow took a lot of flak during the interval, ending up with a sizeable crowd of cameraphone-toting children trying to provoke him into turning around. 'Twas amusing.)
Each group of monsters was accompanied by the appropriate piece of music, energetically conducted by Ben Foster. Several of them were also mini-narratives, such as the Judoon searching for the Doctor in the audience, or Liz Ten evading the Smilers.
Best of all though was the arrival of the Metropolitan Police, and the grisly deaths of five of them at the cold stone hands of the Weeping Angels. Having an Angel move in front of you as the light dims momentarily is a surprisingly terrifying experience. Seriously.
Actually, seeing the creatures of Doctor Who in the flesh (as it were) is surprisingly effective. When you watch the show, there is always, in the back of your mind, the sneaking suspicion that seeing them up close would be really disappointing. It's really not.
The Cybermen (huge, shiny, awesome) and the Daleks were obvious highlights - my doubts about the new Dalek design have been more or less dispelled by seeing them relatively up close. The Silurians were also a great personal pleasure, but only because they were all really hot girls and I'm very, very shallow. You'd have liked them too. Shut up. A Judoon trooper scanning a boy on the end of my row and declaring him "Species Unknown" was pretty cool too.
Oh and did I mention the flying supreme Dalek?
Matt Smith's contribution was fun too, taking the form of several nice wee pre-filmed sequences that worked perfectly alongside Nigel Planer and Nicholas Briggs' live performances. Smith gave his usual excellent performance, and the fact that he was mostly speaking direct to camera didn't seem to faze him in the least, which is nice.
So, since I've rambled on for about forever and made no sense, I'm going to stop. I said at the start that this would an unabahedly glowing review, so there. If you're looking for depth, subtext and themes, bugger off elsewhere. This was a glorious celebration of the wondeful, silly, stirring, fun world of modern Doctor Who. And I loved it.
And so did my fiancee. So there.
*A child in the row behind us took great delight in telling his father that Sylvester McCoy was the fourth Doctor, and Paul McGann the fifth, and that Christopher Ecclestone regenerated in 2001. Timey-wimey or what?