Monday, 10 October 2011

The Doctor Who Experience: A Review

I was lucky enough to visit the UK's latest Doctor Who exhibition recently. Situated at Olympia Two in Kensington, I had quite a trek from Earl's Court station, but did get to see a real Police Box which is stationed just outside. A more direct route is offered from Hammersmith tube station.

Visitors first walk into the 'vortex' and enter a waiting area, which holds some Series 5 props: a Smiler, a Winder, Silurians, and an Ironclad Dalek. You are then ushered into the first viewing room (basically benches facing a wall-screen). In specially shot footage, the Doctor (Matt Smith) here delivers a lengthy "mad man in a box" commentary to what is effectively an extended trailer to his first season. As the music fades, a huge crack-in-time becomes vertical, flares white, and slowly opens to form a darkened doorway, through which you are guided. You now find yourself in the National Museum aboard Starship UK, and monitors flicker on to reveal the Doctor, again trapped inside the Pandorica! Using his sonic screwdriver, he summons the TARDIS, which actually seems to materialise in front of the visiting 'shoppers'. Passing through those famous double doors into the impressive console room, the Doctor now appears on the scanner, and instructs his new companions to pilot his ship. Leaving by the 'back door' takes you into a control room where three paradigm Daleks threaten you with extermination, until the Doctor intervenes and you move on again.

From a dark and dry-iced corridor, the Weeping Angels menace your passage to the next level of the interactive Experience. Now provided with 3D glasses, 'shoppers' stand in a mock Underhenge chamber (complete with stone Dalek), and watch a brilliantly effective short film that features more monsters, like the Cybermen. The Doctor is then freed from his prison and banishes his enemies back into the swirling vortex.

The second stage of the Experience is more akin to the traditional Doctor Who exhibitions, such as Blackpool, which I last visited shortly before it closed it's doors permanently in 2009. On exiting the 3D show, visitors are now permitted to use their cameras as you start to view props, costumes, monsters, sets, and even workshops, from the 'revived' then 'classic' eras.

All eleven of the Doctor's costumes are displayed near the current TARDIS prop, and a (rather poor) Matt Smith waxwork. The outfits are complete originals, except those of the First and Second Doctors, which no longer survive (McCoy's jacket and later, Captain Jack's coat, are quite tatty). The Tenth Doctor's regeneration scene is played on a loop on a large, reconstructed and very impressive 'old' TARDIS set (last seen in The Doctor's Wife). Another console room (introduced in The Five Doctors) is presented nearby, with recent companion and TimeLord costumes, K9, the Melkur, and the Tom Baker era TARDIS prop. Another extensive hall displays a collection of Cyber-heads, and Davros here presides over the 'evolution' of his creations, from a 1963 Dalek to a paradigm Eternal.

Also present are the Abzorbaloff, a Slitheen, an Ice Warrior, a Zygon, a trio of Sontarans, Cat nuns, the Empty Child, Robot K1, the Silents, the Hath, Judoon, the Face of Boe, a Ganger, a Sycorax, an Ood, and even Idris' costume with the 'junk' TARDIS. One of the best concepts here is a documentary that examines Delia Derbyshire's legacy, and other workshops include choreography in NuWho.

The Experience has just extended it's residence in London to next February, then it moves to Cardiff as planned. For visiting times and ticket prices see here.

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