Friday, 17 October 2014

Into the Vortex: Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff, Wales

As I've mentioned in this blog before, I'm a longtime fan of the BBC TV series Doctor Who.

A lifetime fan, in fact, since my mother tells me I started watching the show when it was first broacast in Australia in 1965 (though my earliest memories of it are from about 1968).

So when I headed to Cardiff on my latest visit to the UK, it was unlikely I'd give the Doctor Who Experience a miss.

This permanent exhibition contains two components: a display of props and costumes, and an interactive segment which involves visitors entering the TARDIS and helping the Doctor in an adventure.

It's great fun, and I'd actually experienced it before, when it was housed in Kensington, London. Now it was in a permanent home in Cardiff, it was time to check it out again.

As it turned out, we were lucky enough to catch the exhibition before it closed down for several weeks, to be re-engineered for the entry of the new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi.

The purpose-built structure holding the Experience is around the curve of Cardiff Bay from the Millennium Centre (often spotted in Doctor Who and Torchwood). Its shape suggests a spaceship from the series, or even a vast organic entity:


There are plenty of hints you've arrived at the right place as you approach:




Inside the foyer, near the ticket desk, there are a few initial exhibits. Most notable of these is Bessie, the Doctor's car from the 1970s. And it's not a replica - this is the actual Bessie:




After a short wait, we joined a group of 50 fans to enter the interactive section of the Experience.

Recruited by the Doctor (played by actor Matt Smith via video clips) to rescue him, we moved through the TARDIS onto a Dalek ship, then through a forest haunted by Weeping Angels and past a collection of his worst enemies in hologram form.

Unfortunately I couldn't take photos at this point, so here's a pic of the TARDIS interior kindly provided by BBC Worldwide after my previous visit:


Even though I'd been through this before, it was still a lot of fun. And I have to admit, there was still a frisson of excitement upon entering the TARDIS.

I was also amused to see that Narrelle jumped, as I had before, when the Daleks suddenly lurched forward and trapped us within their ship.

Adventure concluded, we moved into a vast two-storey area of props and other exhibits. There was a lot to see here, including elements from different generations of the TARDIS...




... the costumes of classic Doctors and villains...





... and costumes from Matt Smith's final series as the Doctor:


It was all great fun. If you'd told me as an avid six-year-old fan of Patrick Troughton's Doctor that my favourite TV show would be this big decades in the future, I would have been amazed. But I'm glad it is.

Disclosure time: I visited Cardiff and the Doctor Who Experience courtesy of Visit Britain, Visit Wales and the BBC. For updated information about the Doctor Who Experience, click here.