Yesterday morning, I stood in the TARDIS control room. The genuine article. Throughout August (until Sunday 25th) visitors to the Doctor Who Experience can upgrade their ticket to include a brief visit to the nearby BBC studios and get a guided tour of the latest control room set.
Each party is split into smaller groups of 4 - 6 at a time to enter the set. Unlike the visit to Upper Boat to see the previous set during last year's Cardiff Convention, this time it is look but don't touch. This is a working set - whilst the old control room was about to be dismantled for removal. You're only inside the spaceship for a few minutes also. It is surprisingly small. The rest of the group, waiting to go in, are kept entertained by the enthusiastic - and knowledgeable - studio guide, in a bit of a Q&A session. I asked when the Christmas Special would start filming and it was confirmed to begin shooting in September. We were also informmed that we had been on the set before the new Doctor - Capaldi not having visited Roath Lock yet. Whilst waiting to head back to the Experience after the visit, I did see Marcus Wilson in the studio.
After the set tour, I made my second visit to the Experience. The last time was a weekday in early December, when I was in a party of around half a dozen, all adults. The holidays are in full swing and the place was heaving. It was great to see so many children and observe their reaction.
The adventure part of the Experience is, of course, the same as before. One does have to wonder when it will be upgraded. The TARDIS control room is already out of date and the Doctor mentions Amy rather than Clara. No doubt, it is not worth making any substantial changes until Peter Capaldi has taken over. I suspect he will film new links quite early into the role, otherwise it will be very confusing to the younger visitors.
I had two criticisms of the upper level section in December - no Zygon, and a lot of empty space. Mr Zygon is still AWOL - no doubt due to reappear after November alongside the new versions - but there is a lot more content now, I'm pleased to report. There is a large display of costumes and props from The Snowmen, and from Series 7b we have a new Cyberman, the new Ice Warrior and Diana Rigg's Mrs Gillyflower costume - with a little Mr Sweet poking out. Both Skaldak and the Cyberman are kept separate from their earlier versions, whereas Daleks and Sontarans of different eras are side by side for comparison. (Of the older Sontarans, only Linx now remains).
It's always a pleasure to see the impressive K1 robot again. It's a great shame that the BBC has chosen to sell off so many of the classic series props and costumes.
All in all, I enjoyed this visit far more than the previous one. This was in part due to the huge number of fellow fans present - especially the next generation. My whole trip to Cardiff was excellent (I didn't partake of the organised locations tour, as it is amazing how many familiar sites you can find just wandering around). I also took in the National Museum one afternoon - itself the location for London's International Museum in both Doctor Who and the Sarah Jane Adventures. One morning I breakfasted in the cafe where the Doctor first spots the newspaper featuring Margaret Slitheen in Boom Town, and had a coffee in the diner which is supposed to be near Lake Silencio in Utah. I, personally, find it impossible to stroll around Cardiff Bay without having Murray Gold's suite of music for Boom Town in my head.
It was also lovely to see that the shrine to the dear departed Ianto Jones is still going strong - most recent dated item from 23rd June this year.
If you've never been to Cardiff, I heartily recommend a visit sometime soon. I'm already looking forward to the next time...