It was a big week for sci-fi geeks – well, Doctor Who fans anyway. And yes, that includes me. Last Saturday, Melbourne was privileged to host the MSO’s Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, and last Wednesday saw a new local comedy about a gay sci-fi group, Outland, make its debut.
But first, the Symphonic Spectacular. This was based on the very successful Doctor Who at the Proms concerts that have been performed at Albert Hall in London, and it’s the first time such a production has been seen outside the UK. And judging from its success, it won’t be the last.
Conducted by Ben Foster, who also conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales when recording music for Doctor Who, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Concordis Chamber Choir perform music from the last two seasons of Doctor Who – which, of course, covers Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor. There’s something quite thrilling about hearing composer Murray Gold’s music live, and seeing video montages on a screen above the orchestra as they perform makes you realise how important and integral the score is to the programme. Whether it’s the stirring ‘Madman with a Box’ theme for the Eleventh Doctor, or the beautiful and moving theme for Amy Pond, the music is evocative, and had me getting a little damp around the eyes more than once.
Add to that the apperance of monsters and aliens live on stage and through the auditorium, including Daleks, Cybermen, the Silence, Silurians, the Ood, Vampire Girls and the Judoon, and you’ve got an Australian fan’s ultimate dream come true. Hosted by Mark Sheppard, who played Canton Delaware III in last year’s season opener (original choices of hosts included Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston and even Kylie Minogue), this was a true celebration of the music and the programme itself.
And the audience absolutely loved it – of course! To have the monsters roaming the Plenary Hall at the Melbourne Convention Centre, and see the delighted responses of children and scary adult geeks alike was a treat in itself.
You can just imagine the foyer afterwards, as zealous enthusiasts queued in lines to buy all sorts of merchandise as Cybermen and Silurians and a Dalek roamed the foyer. it was a frenzy of photos and excited chatter, and I just had to join in, naturally!
It’s the sort of event that the characters from ABC1’s new comedy Outland, which premiered this week, would have squealed about. It’s a gleeful and cheeky look at a gay science-fiction group that includes average guy Max (Toby Truslove), over-the-top Fab (Adam Richard), leather lover Andy (Paul Ireland), fashion twink Toby (Ben Gerrard) and wheelchair-bound Rae (Christina Anu).
As Max brings hot date Dylan home, the rest of the group turn up for an impromptu meeting, which throws Max into a spin as he tries to keep his geek self in the closet.
What’s great about this series is that it makes no concessions for those not familiar with sci-fi, and doesn’t tiptoe around the sexualities of the group. Both are on display in their unashamed glory, and rather than being niche or exclusive, I think this gives the show a universality that makes the characters and their lives immediately recognisable and easy to relate to.
With lots of in-your-face jokes and sly asides (Rae is referred to as Davros, creator of the Daleks, and appears at the door of Max’s first floor apartment with no explanation of how she got up the stairs), Outland is an incredibly confident and good-looking show – and great fun to watch. I recommend repeat viewings; some one-liners will be missed first time around.
Creators John Richards and Adam Richard have a lot to be proud of here – and if it ‘normalises’ both being gay and a lover of sci-fi for a wider audience, then they’ll have done their job admirably.
It makes me want to go and join our own queer sci-fi group, Spaced Out… almost.