Music of the Spheres was a short episode of Doctor Who which first broadcast in audio form on 27 July 2008 as part of the BBC Proms season, during an event known as Doctor Who at the Proms. The Proms concert was initially broadcast on radio, and so the mini-episode was initially only seen by the audience at the Royal Albert Hall. Although it was possible to view the episode online following the radio broadcast, Spheres was the only Doctor Who episode eventually broadcast on BBC One to have actually had its BBC network debut on Radio 3. The Proms concert, and Music of the Spheres, was broadcast on television for the first time on 1 January 2009, some six months after its radio debut.
The short flirted with the notion of breaking the fourth wall in a way never seen before in Doctor Who. In the version available online, the viewer got to see none of the action from the Royal Albert Hall. Thus, David Tennant appeared to be spending great lengths of time looking directly into the camera — normally a sure sign that an actor is breaking the fourth wall. Indeed, he did break the fourth wall — but only the one separating Tennant from the Royal Albert Hall audience. Other versions of the short, such as the one broadcast by BBC One, captured audience reaction. These shots made it clearer that the Doctor was only interacting with the Albert Hall audience. From the perspective of the home audience, the Albert Hall audience was a part of the narrative, and the fourth wall remained intact — if a little battered.
Alone in the TARDIS, the Tenth Doctor is busy composing his own piece of music. He is quickly jotting down his musical score with an ink pen and fingertips covered in inkblots when an alert sounds. Investigating, he realises that there is a teleport breach due to the TARDIS's shields being down for just a few minutes. At that moment, a Graske suddenly appears, much to the Doctor's annoyance. Before the Doctor can do anything, the Graske inquires to what the harmonious sound echoing through the TARDIS is. The Doctor claims that this is the Music of the Spheres, which is the sound of planets orbiting stars and stars orbiting the galaxy and galaxies orbiting each other making up the universe, the gravity patterns of which are fed through the TARDIS' harmonic filter. The Graske claims that he is here to warn the Doctor of a hole in space, which manifests itself near the entrance of the TARDIS. Looking through the hole, the Doctor realises the hole has appeared in the Royal Albert Hall in London, during the Proms.
Seizing his chance, the Doctor passes his sheets of music through the hole to the Albert Hall, and asks if the orchestra would play it. He also asks the conductor to step down, as he will conduct the orchestra himself using his Sonic Screwdriver, which he does, rather flamboyantly. He calls the piece "Ode to the Universe", and thanks the orchestra for playing it, where he realises that the Graske has travelled through the hole, arriving in London. Coming to the conclusion that the Graske was lying to him in order to reach Earth, he stops him from creating any more trouble by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, which sends the Graske back to the TARDIS. The Doctor then sends him to the end of the galaxy using his screwdriver. He then says farewell to the audience, but not before informing them that everyone is a musician, and that they can hear the Music of the Spheres by closing their eyes, and listening to the universe.
- The Doctor says he's met Ludwig van Beethoven; he also claims to have learned how to play the organ from him.
- The Doctor claims to have played tuba in the first Proms concert in 1895.
- Prior to broadcast it was variously known as Proms Special and Proms Cutaway, with episode writer Russell T Davies using this as the title when promoting the episode in Doctor Who Magazine.
- The story's ultimate title, as well as the concept of music generated by the universe itself, are based on Pythagoras' ancient philosophical concept of musica universalis. It is also named after a Delia Derbyshire piece of the same name, probably to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
- According to Doctor Who Magazine, production of this mini-episode officially concluded production of Series 4 on 3 May 2008. Davies told DWM that he had to write the episode in a special way as it is scheduled to be broadcast both on television and on radio. This makes this special the first such hybrid episode ever produced for the series.
- This special aired on Sunday 27 July between 11 A.M. and 1 P.M. on BBC Radio 3. The video version of Music of the Spheres was available on the Doctor Who website at 11:40 A.M.; however the clip was only be made available for a short period of time.
- For the first time since 1966 the original closing theme arrangement by Delia Derbyshire, as introduced in 1963's An Unearthly Child, is used in lieu of Murray Gold's work. The specific reason for including this version of the theme was not readily apparent to those who watched the mini-episode in isolation from the Proms event. As explained to the audience in the Royal Albert Hall by Proms host Freema Agyeman, it was employed as a way to feature a piece of music which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Some have erroneously identified the version played as the arrangement featured up until the late 1970s, but the lack of echo identifies it as the original version; this is the first time the original rendition has been used on a Doctor Who episode since 1967.
- This is an unusual example of the BBC Wales version of Doctor Who crediting only one actor above the titles. It had only previously happened with Attack of the Graske. Both times this occurred the lone actor credited was the same: David Tennant.
- This is the second Doctor Who story in a row where a Graske has appeared in an adventure that breaks the fourth wall.
Ratings for just this episode were never calculated. It was only aired as a part of Doctor Who at the Proms.
Myths and Rumours
- Russell T Davies, in promoting the mini-episode, indicated it would feature a returning guest star. Fan speculation included virtually every major companion or guest star since the series returned, and also extended to include classic series companions and Doctors. This turned out to be a reference to Jimmy Vee returning as a Graske.
to be added
- A Graske appears. One Graske, Krislok, worked for the Trickster. (TV: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?, The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith)
- The Doctor says (upon looking at the screen) "What? What? What?!" in quick succession; he has previously intoned these lines. (TV: The Runaway Bride, Last of the Time Lords, Voyage of the Damned, Time Crash) He also says "What?" when he finds the Graske has escaped through the time portal.
- The Doctor says the TARDIS defences were down, as they were when it crashed with the Fifth Doctor's. (TV: Time Crash) They were down so the TARDIS could hear the universe.
- The Doctor comments off-hand "And he's stolen my water pistol." He used his water pistol when visiting Pompeii on Volcano Day. (TV: The Fires of Pompeii)
- The Doctor uses the full phrase "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow", commonly associated with the Third Doctor. He had previously commented that it had taken him an unexpectedly long time to "reverse the polarity" of Richard Lazarus' genetic manipulator, (TV: The Lazarus Experiment) but this is the first time he has used the full phrase on television since the Fifth Doctor met with his previous incarnations. (TV: The Five Doctors)
- The Doctor says that he has met Ludwig van Beethoven. (TV: Before the Flood)
Home video releases
Music of the Spheres was released on DVD in the UK on 19 January 2009 as a bonus feature with The Next Doctor. Also included was the rest of the BBC Proms Doctor Who concert. North American release occurred on 15th September 2009, marking the first availability of the mini-episode in North America.
The DVD version of Music of the Spheres appears to differ somewhat from the version originally played at the Albert Hall in that the opening and closing credits -- including the latter's use of the original Derbyshire theme arrangement -- are omitted.
Doctor Who at the Proms, including Music of the Spheres was released to both DVD and Blu-Ray in January 2010 (UK) and February 2010 (North America) as part of the Complete 2009 Specials box set. The special is presented in standard definition in the set.
Two different versions of Music of the Spheres have circulated on the Internet. One version intercuts the mini-episode with audience reaction shots, as well as showing reaction from Ben Foster and the orchestra, and the Graske running around the stage. A second version is the mini-episode by itself, with no cutaways to the audience (versions with and without audience sounds have been circulated). Both the Proms version and the standalone version include opening and closing credits, and the Derbyshire closing theme. The DVD release utilises an "audience reaction" version, but using different edits than circulated online and, as noted above, omitting the opening and closing credits.