Meet the doctor
Date Posted: 03/03/2011
Carrie Martindale was whisked off for an afternoon of adventure through time and space, at the new Doctor Who Experience.
Like Alice, Doctor Who (in all his incarnations) likes to believe in three impossible things before breakfast. He is a man – well, a time lord in the guise of a man – for whom space and time travel is an everyday occurrence; and battling monsters and saving the Universe are almost incidental events in his existence.
I was over the moon when my editor asked me to go to a special press viewing of the brand-new Doctor Who Experience at London’s Olympia Two in Kensington. Believe it or not, Whovians (the collective term for a Dr Who fan – am I showing that I know too much about this yet?), are currently celebrating the 11th incarnation of the Doctor – in the rather more youthful form of Matt Smith. The show has been running (albeit on and off) since 1963, a total of 48 years – something of a stalwart, showing its ongoing appeal to all age groups.
The experience promises an all-round cavalcade of fun for Who fans, both young and old. One might argue that the interactive part of the exhibition is suitable for enjoyment by non-fans, although I do think that a certain amount of knowledge about the programme is required.
After walking through a mysterious looking tunnel (vortex), the group was taken into a small exhibition area, before being whisked through a crack in time into a series of fabulously recreated sets from the BBC show. The special effects throughout the adventure are impressive, and combine animatronics with stunning 3-D visual effects. Become the 11th Doctor’s companion, as actor Matt Smith is with you all the way through in some new scenes filmed especially for the experience.
At moments during the walk-through, some smaller children (and one adult) were obviously unnerved – it’s not without its jumpy moments; and the combination of noises, visual effects, and the threat of monsters makes the Doctor Who Experience unsuitable for very small children or those of a nervous disposition. I think, however, that if you are a Doctor Who fan then you should know what you are letting yourself in for; although the show can have very light hearted and comic moments, it can also be pretty scary. I’m referring particularly to the appearance of one of the oldest of the Doctor’s adversaries, the Daleks; whose manifestation was much more frightening in the ‘flesh’, than I would ever had supposed from just watching the TV programme.
There were certainly a few shrieks, gasps, and groans of both fear and excitement from the small group that I was in. Entering the famous police box exterior of the TARDIS was a fabulous occurrence – as, just like on the show, you enter a deceptively small exterior to reveal a much larger interior. The younger members of the group are invited to control the TARDIS once inside; something that was unanimously enjoyed by the young fans (and provoked green-eyed monsters in us older ones). Unfortunately, I was unable to take any pictures during the whole experience, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone visiting anyway.
If I had one criticism of the interactive side of the Doctor Who Experience, it would be that it was too short – by far. As a fan, I wanted it to go on for twice as long at least, and to have been twice as scary. Also, it focuses very much on the current Doctor Who series, something which may be a disappointment to the older Whovian. However, school groups and young or new fans of the show aren’t going to have the preconceptions of a longer term fan, and won’t suffer from these kinds of complaints
After your group has starred in its very own episode of Doctor Who, then it’s on to the exhibition side of the experience. This area fulfilled my geek quota for displaying all of the previous Doctor’s original costumes, and a large selection of monsters from throughout the ages of the shows, including a collection of several generations of Cybermen and Daleks.
There is also the chance to stand in two different recreations of the TARDIS console rooms – one modern, and one from years gone by, in addition to getting up close and personal with sets from recent series, including the Pandorica Box. Additionally, there are a variety of gadgets and gizmos that visitors can get involved in; for example, hear the sounds of Doctor Who, or get your picture taken in front of the green screen in various scenes and situations from the show. There’s definitely something fun for fans of all ages to participate in.
The Doctor Who Experience is open seven days a week and is currently booking groups until the 20th November, although it will be moving to a more permanent home in Cardiff next year. Groups of 12 plus are entitled to a ten per cent discount from Monday to Friday.