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Revisiting the Doctor Who Experience

This Thursday, 23rd November, is the 54th anniversary of the longest running sci-fi programme on television; of course, it’s Doctor Who.

Nationally and globally renowned, Doctor Who has become a permanent, beloved fixture of British culture, particularly since its revival in 2005, where it gained a whole new generation of passionate fans.

In light of the show’s anniversary, I thought it would be nice to be able to relive and share my recent, awesome visit to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, which unfortunately closed down this September…!

This latest version of the Experience opened its doors in Cardiff Bay, back in 2012, and was located near the BBC Wales production studios and various Doctor Who/Torchwood filming locations.

For any Doctor Who fan, it was an ‘out of this world’ experience!

Inside the Experience

On entering the building, the lobby was a sight to see! With fitting Gallifreyan décor, costumes on display, as well as gigantic model Daleks (a life-size Lego one too!), and handprints of the cast, it was really great to get a feel before admittance into the interactive adventure and tour!

With interactive elements, the exhibition began with visitors being ‘recruited’ to assist in finding lost ‘Time Lord mail cubes’ via a short film/video. Guests were given their own ‘TARDIS crystals’ to wear around their necks which light up and vibrate when in the presence of the lost ‘mail cubes’.

Accompanied by a guide (a Time Lord/Lady!), visitors were then walked through the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor’s TARDIS interiors, where an urgent message by Peter Capaldi’s incarnation of the Doctor was shown, before beginning the quest in various locations. These included the wrecked home planet of the Daleks, Skaro, a dimly lit forest filled with deadly (and very frightening) Weeping Angels, and Magpie’s Electricals.

Though primarily aimed at younger fans, the interactive segment of the adventure was still pretty exciting for the ‘slightly older’ guest (like 20 year old me!), particularly with the detail and authenticity of the three locations to wander through. It was almost like traveling and being the Doctor’s companion yourself!

Once the quest ended, and all three ‘mail cubes’ were safely returned, guests were free to roam the exhibition floors where a collection of sets (TARDIS interiors), props (like sonic screwdrivers, over the years), costumes (belonging to the Doctors and companions), alien prosthetics/costumes (e.g. Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans) and memorabilia were displayed, both from the classic series and the revival, including the 12th Doctor’s most recent series (S10).

Also on show, were costumes/artifacts from Doctor Who’s 2006 spinoff, Torchwood.

While you travel through the halls of the exhibition, there are also several screens showing documentaries/behind the scenes footage of the making of Doctor Who etc., for a fully immersive experience!

Guests also had the opportunity to take photos in front a green screen, which had multiple backgrounds from the show, including Totter’s Lane, with various costume props like the Sonic and 11th Doctor’s famous fez.

Even the gift shop was super, with a life-size TARDIS on display, a screen continuously playing episodes (S3 when I visited), and so much cool merchandise!



Location Tour

Alongside the interactive adventure and exhibition, the Experience also had walking location tours available, where visitors would be escorted by a (completely clued up on Doctor Who) guide to several filming locations present within the centre of Cardiff itself. Luckily, when I participated, the weather was tolerable, with only spots of rain, pretty good for Cardiff!

We visited various locations, including the Wales Millennium Centre, used not only in Doctor Who, but Torchwood (and even a couple doubling up for BBC’s Sherlock!), eventually ending at the fan-made shrine for Torchwood fan favourite, ‘Ianto Jones’.

It was a really nice tour round Cardiff’s centre generally, even discounting the Doctor Who-ness!

The exhibition was a really great experience for any Doctor Who fan, even the occasional watcher! I, for one, was glad to have the chance to visit before it closed its doors for the last time; my family and I certainly had fun exploring the universe of Doctor Who!

During its time, the Experience has been very successful, so hopefully we’ll see it (or a version of it, at least) in the UK again soon!

Studying English Language and Literature at Lancaster University
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