THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE Regenerates! [Event Review]

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount

THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE and exhibition in Cardiff Bay, which closed its doors for refurbishment and updating in August, has reopened for business and STARBURST was amongst the first few pudding-brains through the TARDIS doors to sample the delights and dangers of an all-new adventure in Space and Time with a brand new Time Lord…


Thousands of visitors from all over the world have flocked to the BBC’s Doctor Who Experience, housed in a purpose-built structure in the heart of Cardiff Bay, right next to the studios where the series itself is filmed, since it relocated from its original temporary home in London in 2012. Visitors will remember how Matt Smith’s Doctor, in specially-filmed sequences, led them through the corridors of the TARDIS itself, into the middle of a Dalek battle fleet, and through the creepy forest of the Weeping Angels before finally donning clunky 3D glasses to witness the vanquishing all the Doctor’s deadliest foes, and helping the Time Lord escape from the confines of the Pandorica 2. But the arrival of a new Doctor - Peter Capaldi’s no-nonsense, sharp-talking Twelfth Doctor - means a new look for the Experience and the Exhibition displays and new perils and interactive challenges for those brave enough to explore the Museum of Gallifrey and beyond.


During its summer recess, the whole look of the Experience centre has been spruced up. In the foyer fans can have their photograph taken with the TARDIS, a classic series Ice Warrior, and a weeping Angel, while lurking nearby are a couple of stray Daleks and a pair of ‘Winders’ from the early Matt Smith episode The Beast Below. In the Experience itself, a familiar voice from the original Doctor Who series (no, we’re not saying) chronicles the history of the Time Lords and their most famous renegade son in a snappily-edited montage of clips from both the classic and the new series, all underscored by Murray Gold’s familiar strident, evocative musical cues. But, as an Exhibition Guide togged-up as a Time Lord Museum curator locates the Doctor’s TARDIS in deep space, we see that the ship is under attack from limpet-like space squid creatures which wrap themselves around the Police Box and start to drain its power.


Capaldi’s Doctor appears on a screen - initially he’s in the control room set built for last year’s An Adventure in Space and Time origins drama - and with the curtness and brusqueness typical of his latest incarnation, he explains that the only way to defeat the creature which is draining the TARDIS and disrupting Space and Time is to collect three crystals secreted in three different locations. It’s a simple narrative ploy but it offers the opportunity for visitors to actually become a bit more involved in the action; visitors are encouraged to try to spot the hidden glowing crystals and a member of the crowd (usually one of the youngsters) is invited to step forward and extract the crystal from its hiding place. Inevitably, this causes disruption as the inactive Daleks in the devastated Skaro tableau start to awaken and the Weeping Angels in their atmospheric graveyard setting (complete with Amy and Rory’s headstone) loom out of every shadow. This is not for those of a delicate or a nervous disposition - several youngsters during our visit shrieked and screamed as the Weeping Angels were suddenly illuminated or appeared from nowhere! The 3D glasses (now renamed Atmospheric Density Spectacles by the Doctor - classic series fans will nod sagely at the reference) are back in action as visitors pass through the doors of IM Foreman’s Junk Yard and the crystals are united; their power sending the squids, Daleks, Weeping Angels, and a fearsome-looking CGI snake-creature plunging back into the Vortex.


Out in the displays areas, many of the familiar costumes previously exhibited have been rearranged and relocated; the whole area and the mezzanine above feel refreshed and revitalised. TARDIS props seem to be everywhere, alongside Davros and his Daleks-through-the-ages, a range of Cybermen, Ice Warriors, the original K1 robot from Tom Baker’s debut serial and a rather sorry-looking Zygon which looks a little forlorn without the human features of an actor under the impressive prosthetics. During our visit The Teller from this years’ Time Heist episode was on the prowl, kept under control by two of the story’s gold-costumed guards. The recreated original TARDIS console from An Adventure in Space and Time is on display (itself looking a little the worse for wear) alongside the redesigned console which first appeared in 1983 and David Tennant’s coral-inspired control room, press-ganged back into action for the filming of last year’s anniversary episode.


Props and costumes from the current series are out in force too. The Skovox Blitzer from The Caretaker lurks against a wall alongside costumes from Deep Breath (including the ‘skin balloon’ model) and Robot of Sherwood. You may not choose to linger too long at the display from Listen, however - basically a small bed with an upraised bed sheet, with a faceless child dummy in pyjamas standing in front of it. It looked better on screen, of course…

Visitors can, naturally, wander around the displays for as long as they choose (look but don’t touch!) before moving on to the reorganised gift shop which boasts the usual assortment of T-shirts, DVDs, books, toys, stickers, framed posters, and action figures. Prepare to give your credit card a pasting - even the hardest heart will want to buy something.

It’s a bright and breezy new look for The Doctor Who Experience. The adventure itself is faster and more interactive than before, the scenarios beautifully and faithfully-realised and once a few pacing issues are sorted out visitors will be thrilled and delighted by their voyage into the dark and exhilarating world of TV’s most durable science fiction superhero. With its heady mix of new series spectacle and a reverential appreciation for the classic series, there really is something for everyone at The Doctor Who Experience and this Twelfth Doctor-era relaunch gives the Exhibition the same sort of new energy and dynamic as the TV series itself this year. Fire up your sonic, release your gravitic anomalisers and set your co-ordinates for Cardiff Bay. Fun and adventure for pudding-brains of all ages…

THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE is open now. to book tickets and find out more, head over to their website and follow on Twitter.

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