And my third tour of the TARDIS studio set in as many years as well. Have just got back from Cardiff, and a very enjoyable time spent back at the Doctor Who Experience. The trip included a visit to the nearby BBC studios to see the latest incarnation of the TARDIS control room.
The studio trip was organised first. It was quite a large party - 25 of us - and they only let half a dozen onto the actual set at a time, so there is a little waiting about - but the crew manage to get a discussion going and encourage folk to chat. The group today was predominantly from within the UK, but there was also someone from Virginia, and a family from Florida.
I saw the latter Matt Smith TARDIS on my previous visit, and the Capaldi version is the same one only lit in warmer hues and with additional blackboards and book cases - giving it a homelier feel. I always felt that it looked too cold and clinical before.
I bought a little video camera for my recent trip to Rome, so here's the TARDIS - in glorious Shak-i-Cam (TM)... There isn't a commentary as I was trying to listen to the guide as I filmed...
After looking around, we headed back to the Experience. Spotted this on the way out. Daleks, Cybermen, Master et al, please take note. A very quick way to defeat the Doctor...
A big red button. How can anyone resist...?
My main reason for wanting to go now was to see what they had accomplished during the recent refurb - bringing the attraction up to date with the arrival of the 12th Doctor. Quite a bit actually. First thing to note is that the main entry area has been given lots more items to look at. "Bessie" has been moved into the main exhibition space, and it has been replaced with a trio of Daleks.
One of the Hartnell / Troughton ones, a newer bronze one, and a grey Pertwee / Baker one. There are also a couple of Smilers in booths, an Information Node from Silence in the Library, a Classic Series Ice Warrior next to a TARDIS, a Weeping Angel, the Triceratops from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, plus a large number of Time Lord costumes - from both the new and Classic Series. These latter costumes hint at the change they have made to the main interactive "adventure". You now enter the "Museum of Gallifrey". (All this means that if you ever find yourself in Cardiff Bay, and don't have price of admission, there is a very nice little free tableau to be seen).
I shan't - again - go into too much detail about the interactive bit as I would not want to spoil things for anyone planning to go any time soon. Suffice to say that the opening video piece dwells on all the previous incarnations of the Doctor (whilst the previous version only covered Matt Smith's first series). Narration is by Lalla Ward - as President of the High Council prior to the Time War. There's Daleks, Weeping Angels, Totter's Lane, and a lot of stuff about crystals... The video pieces by Capaldi, as you proceed, are hilarious. He appears in the various TARDIS control rooms through the years - each to be seen shortly in the exhibition areas. It's all to do with Time Squids...
One thing which they haven't done is update the TARDIS control room section of the "adventure". It's still the original Matt Smith one.
Talking of TARDISes, on emerging from the "adventure" into the exhibition space you are greeted by the sight of the original control console, as recreated for An Adventure In Space And Time.
And yes, that is a Menoptra lurking in the background. There are a number of items relating to AAISAT. There is one of the Daleks in its little bit of city corridor, plus this;
There are a number of TARDISes on show on the ground floor area. "Bessie" now sits next to the console room seen from The Five Doctors onwards. There is a little Leisure Hive tableau featuring K9, TARDIS and a deck-chair. The Ninth / Tenth control room is still present - last seen in Day of the Doctor. This latter story also inspires another tableau (my mot du jour it seems) - the three Doctors' TARDISes lined up, with the Moment prop and Billie Piper's costume from the show. The new version of the Zygon is upstairs.
Time, then, to go upstairs to the main costume / prop collection and see it.
On my very first visit to the Experience, I was a little critical at the sparseness of this upper space. Each subsequent visit, though, they are cramming more and more in. Not quite up to the density that the old Blackpool Exhibition managed back in the 1970's, but slowly getting there.
Let's start with the most recent series. From Deep Breath we get Clara's Victorian costume, the Doctor's stolen tramp outfit, the Paternoster Gang's combat outfits, plus the seated Half-Face Man and the model of the flesh balloon escape capsule.
Then there is the damaged Dalek from the second story. From Robot of Sherwood we get a range of costumes including Clara's, Robin's, the Sheriff''s and a Knight (though without the face showing - shame). Listen is represented by the "Bedspread Monster".
It looked spookier before the flash went off... There's also little Rupert Pink's jim-jams. (Very scary). Time Heist lends us Psi and Saibra's outfits. Then for The Caretaker we get, beside a tableau of Coal Hill school uniforms and other costumes including Danny's suit and School Cadet outfit, the mightily impressive Skovox Blitzer.
Nothing on view from the latter part of the series, though the most recent version of the Cyberman has already been on show before and can now be seen alongside some RTD era ones, plus the wooden version from Time of the Doctor. One thing I would like to see are full recreations of the older Cybermen. There is only an Earthshock style one on view, plus the disembodied heads of its ancestors - now in a glass case instead of being tucked into wall alcoves.
Daleks, on the other hand - or should that be the other plunger - are well represented from all eras. They used to be stuck in a corner, but now they form a large circle alongside Davros, and their numbers have increased.
As well as this group, there was the Into The Dalek one, the chained Oswin Dalek, the Emperor Dalek model plus a couple of cobwebbed 60's ones from the Asylum.
Including the trio in the main reception, more Daleks than you could shake a perigosto stick at, in other words.
Lots more items to see from the 2005 series onwards. All the companion outfits present - and nice to see Sarah Jane Smith's Five Doctors fuchsia number as well. Capaldi's costume has joined the ranks of the Doctor outfits. (As well as his 1996 costume, you can see McGann's more recent suit of clothes - next to Maren of the Sisterhood's. It's not Ohila, as it has got the hat). The War Doctor is also now represented in the line-up of Doctor outfits.
My favourite items probably still remain those costumes from the Classic Series. The K1 Giant Robot is always to be marvelled at, and right next door to him is a Web of Fear Yeti.
Truly a thing of wonder for an old fan like me. Last thing I'll mention is the soundscape they have created. Throughout the exhibition, they played music and sound effects from across the entire half century of the programme. I played back some of the other videos I took just before compiling this post (oh, there are many. So many...), and the footage of the Melkur, Varga the Ice Warrior, that Yeti and the K1 robot is accompanied by the Mind Parasite music from Mind of Evil - building and building to a crescendo.
Oh, and at the end of it all there is a little shop...
If you haven't been to the Experience, I would heartily recommend making it a priority as part of a weekend break - if you reside in the UK. If you dwell further afield, we've got Royals and Shakespeare and Stonehenge and everything, so pay Britain a visit - and make sure that you add Cardiff to your itinerary while you are at it.