Daleks invade the Proms (while earthlings pay £250 for a ticket)

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The Independent Culture

It's not every day that Prom-goers start queuing for tickets at five in the morning, but then it's not often that the Tardis lands at the Royal Albert Hall.

Demand for yesterday's Doctor Who prom was so high that the waiting list for pre-booked tickets hit the 3,000 mark. Those unwilling to join the early-morning queues might have headed to eBay, where seats were selling for as much as £250 each by the end of last week. Only the tickets for the Last Night of the Proms were selling for more.

Margaret Lewis and her three children, Katie, Thomas and Oliver, had risen at four in the morning to drive to London from their home near Maidstone, Kent, in order to make sure they could get some of the 500 £5 tickets up for grabs on the day. They were rewarded by being the first in the queue.

"My favourite characters are the Daleks," said George, who passed the time by carefully constructing a Dalek mask out of a white paper bag and a straw. His elder sister, Katie, shyly confessed to being particularly enamoured of the Doctor himself, currently played by David Tennant. "Katie was up earlier than all of us straightening her hair," revealed her mother.

The concert, hosted by the actress Freema Agyeman, who plays one of the Doctor's sidekicks, Martha Jones, was part of the drive to make the annual Proms season more inclusive. Combining popular pieces including parts of Holst's Planets Suite and Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries with scores from the TV series, the 1,400-strong audience gasped when a host of aliens and horrifying creatures marched into the hall through the crowds. The announcement at the start of the concert forbidding photography was soon forgotten. Hosting a concert using the popular appeal of such a mainstream programme has left the BBC open to accusations of dumbing down, a charge vehemently denied by festival director and BBC Radio 3 controller Roger Wright.

Speaking shortly before yesterday's show he said: "I think once people saw what was in the programme, they backed down. It's hard to talk about dumbing down when we're hosting a concert for families that include pieces by Holst, Wagner and Prokofiev."

The charges held little sway with the crowd either. "I think it's an absurd notion," said Sarah Carley, a music teacher from Kent. "You've got to make classical music accessible, and it has to be interesting for children."

The Doctor himself missed the prom, so a specially filmed 10-minute video had to suffice. David Tennant was unable to attend in person because he is currently playing Hamlet for the RSC in Stratford. Speaking from a giant television screen to the crowds, the time-travelling Doctor boasted: "I was at the first Proms in 1895. Played the tuba, I was brilliant."