Saturday, 1 December 2012

My Doctor Who Experience

As I have already posted, on Thursday this week I went to Cardiff for a look around the Doctor Who Experience. After a spell in London, the Experience moved this summer to a new purpose-built setting at Porth Teigr in Cardiff Bay. Naturally, the building is TARDIS blue. For adults, there is a basic entry ticket (£13 on-line, £15 on the door) as well as a merchandise one (£31.50 on-line, £36.50 on the door, which includes the brochure, a T-Shirt, exclusive postcards and an "I Flew The TARDIS" certificate).
It is very easy to get to once you have reached the Bay - just walk down to the white Norwegian Church and cross the new bridge and you're there.
Tours take place 2 -3 times each hour, and there is late opening on Thursday evenings. I had about 10 minutes to wait for the next tour, so had a look around the entrance area. There is a nice little cafe - and a few exhibits. These include "Bessie", the Cyberman head from The Pandorica Opens, some River Song items (diary and gun), a yellow Paradigm Dalek, plus an impressive life-size red one made entirely from Lego.

Being a week day and not a school holiday, things were quiet, and my tour comprised only 4 people - all adults. This was a good thing in a way (having the exhibition section almost to yourself), though it would have been nice to have seen some kids' reactions to the interactive elements. You are not allowed to film or photograph the interactive section - which is a shame as the first room you enter contains a wealth of classic and new series props, such as a pyramid of Yeti spheres and the "Cloven Hoof" pub sign from The Daemons.
I am not actually going to say any more about the interactive adventure, as I would not want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't been yet and is planning to go. All I will say is that I was very impressed and would highly recommend it.
After the mini-adventure, you are into the lower exhibition space.

This ground floor area is mostly taken up by 3 TARDIS sets - the Ninth / Tenth one; the one introduced in The Five Doctors; and the makeshift one from The Doctor's Wife - including Idris' costume. Also here are the costumes for all eleven Doctors, two Police Box props and the Melkur from The Keeper of Traken.
There are two display cases - one containing Sonic Screwdrivers and the Sonic Cane; the other with the Doctor's video recorder (The Idiot's Lantern) and the species recognition device from Vincent and the Doctor.

You then go upstairs to where the monster costumes are on display. I will get the negatives out of the way first. It is a huge space, but only sparsely populated. You could fit so much more into it, and I hope that the exhibition will grow over time and they won't just rotate items. Other exhibits were conspicuous by their absence. The only full Cyberman costume was the Controller from The Age of Steel, there was no Zygon, and  - despite very recent publicity about Series 7 items being added - the Solomon robots were AWOL.
There was a video piece from DW Confidential playing - regarding the creation of the Slitheen - but no actual Slitheen costume on show.

What we did have included a large central display of two Silents with their Time Ship control console; a large Dalek section including Davros and a range of Daleks from their first appearance through Evil of the Daleks up to the current New Paradigm, via the Special Weapons Dalek. There are 3 Sontarans covering Linx and Styre as well as one of the new blue ones (helmeted). Whilst only the one Cyberman costume is present, you do get a Cybershade, the conversion unit and a sarcophagus from Closing Time, and the range of headpieces covering The Tenth Planet to Silver Nemesis. The heads are behind glass, making photography somewhat difficult. The sarcophagus is, of course, a reused prop from A Christmas Carol - so two exhibits in one at least.

From the classic era, we get the stunning Kettlewell's K1 Robot and an Ice Warrior. Newer items include Restac the Silurian, Smilers, a Scarecrow, the Abzorbaloff, Peg Dolls, the Wooden King and Queen and a Handbot. There is also an Ood, plus some various stages of the creation of the Ood mask. Alongside K9 were costumes for each of the companions since 2005 - including Sarah Jane's suit from School Reunion.
There were 3 Time Lord costumes present, including Rassilon's.
Interactive items included half a bronze Dalek that you could go behind and manipulate the gun etc, a sound section where you could sound like a Dalek, and a green-screen area where you could get your picture taken. Not sure what the background would have been, as I gave it a miss.

From Series 7 Part 1 we did get the damaged captive Angel, a trio of Cherubs, costumes for Oswin, Nefertiti and Solomon, and a Dalek with a big chain piled on top of it. This latter is probably the most disappointing exhibit present, being a bog standard Dalek - with a big chain piled on top...
There are a number of design exhibits present - such as paintings, design drawings and lots of intricate cardboard set models.

I stayed in the exhibition area for about 40 minutes, then it was exit through the gift shop time. The little shop is extremely well stocked - including all the latest items advertised by Forbidden Planet just this week. I bought the Experience souvenir booklet (good value at £10), and finally treated myself to a Rory action figure. As I left, there was a group of about 10 waiting to go in - including 4 children - so good to see that, off season, the venue is still attracting people. No doubt, the 50th Anniversary will lead to good crowds in the coming year.
So, all in all a very enjoyable experience - pun intended. The interactive section really must be seen. I will go back next year, when we should have the Series 7 Part 2 exhibits - including the new Cybermen - and hopefully better use will have been made of the exhibition spaces.
I have since read that there will be Christmas related items going on show this month, with costumes and props from The Snowmen being added as of Boxing Day.

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