Doctor Who Experience – Photoblog and Review

On Saturday (19th Feb 2011), I had the opportunity to go along to one of the first days of the Doctor Who Experience at London’s Olympia venue for a good look around and, well, the experience. To get you in the mood of the event, I will shortly start with a little photoblog but not before apologising for the quality (or lack, thereof) of said photographs. My camera seems to handle outside shots with great aplomb but when inside and especially in gloomily lit environs, the lack of talent of the photographer kind of lets it down. Anyway, here is a brief bit of flavour for you.

The unassuming entrance…

The taking of photographs in the walkthrough sequence is strictly verbotten, so you didn’t get this from me, okay?….

Once the walkthrough was complete, we found ourselves in an area dedicated to the Doctor’s costumes….

There was also a chance to get a bit of green-screen action by being superimposed into a Doctor Who scene or to be sat within the Pandorica….

Then, in one of the highlights of the Experience (for the older fan, at any rate) was the beautifully recreated 5th/6th/7th Doctor’s TARDIS control room….

Then it was time for the monsters to take centre stage….

So, there you have it. That’s the look of the place, but what about the feel. (And yes, SPOILERS are included)

There are posters on the Underground and on the side of buses, reviews in the newspapers (including one that I read, which was a little less than complimentary in the Independent), and there are billboards on the side of the Olympia venue leaving visitors to the nation’s capital in no doubt that there is a new Doctor Who Exhibition in town. Following, Doctor Who Live and Doctor Who Prom in 2010, there seems to have been a more co-ordintaed and higher class feel about official DW events since the Moffat era began. I am unsure whether this a pure coincidence or not but fan activities, albeit a little too child friendly for my 40-year-old tastes, are definitely a cut above the average and those that describe the last six years of DW fandom as being “The Golden Age” are not far off the mark. On entry to the Olympia venue, ticket holders are directed down a small corridor to a lift where an attendant takes you down. Now, I’m not sure where I got this expectation from but I was expecting to enter a Doctor Who world from the moment the lift doors opened. Perhaps it was tales of my brother’s visit to the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas many moons ago, when the cafe area of the experience was decked out like Quark’s Bar and the “experience” was all consuming. However, in Olympia, there was a cafe with a standard cafe menu and a few Dalek stickers sprinkled liberally round the walls, a cloakroom area and a desk, where beleaguered looking attendants answered questions and dished out goody bags to the assembled masses. It was not the most awe-inspiring start.

However, once the “experience” bit began things picked up pretty quickly. Or should I say slowly, despite having a 3pm ticket and getting there well in advance, we still found ourselves queuing for another ten or fifteen minutes once inside. But then the doors opened and the two of us and all the other shoppers filed in to a small cinema style area where a “Best Bits” montage began to play. Murray Gold’s music along with plenty of Series Five action drew us in to the Doctor’s world and the crack in time and space that was a feature of the last series became very real as the genuine crack in the wall of the cinema split apart and allowed us into a small section of Starship UK’s museum. Some cleaver effects and scene setting followed before the TARDIS materialised and, via one of many specially shot Matt Smith sequences, the Doctor instructed us to enter and we found ourselves face-to-face with the new TARDIS console. In quick succession we found ourselves in a Dalek encounter, a forest of Weeping Angels and a genuinely impressive 3D movie for the conclusion that made me think that it might not be the last occurrence of this fashionable new medium we see in the world of Who.

The Exhibition was a delight. Having been to Brighton Pier, Earl’s Court and Land’s End versions in recent years, I was expecting much the same as before. And, truth be told, that is exactly what we got, although this time it was bigger and better. All eleven Doctor’s outfits were there along with a whole selection of modern companions. There was not just one but two TARDIS interiors (the 9th/10th Docs plus the lovingly recreated 5th/6th/7th as well). And then there were the monsters. Large sections with an array of Daleks, glass cabinets with a series of five cyber heads (reminding me of van Statten’s museum), Slitheen, Ood, gas-mask zombies, New Earth cat-people, as well as the classic series’ K1 robot, Ice Warrior, Zygon and all sorts. Just to add the final touches there were a few interactive areas showcasing the sounds of the series, the choreography, and the aforementioned photo opportunity. All in all, worth the price of entry alone.

The final part of the trip was the shop. I love a little shop (although I don’t think I’m the first person to say that). This one was a little disappointing as it didn’t have any exclusive stuff for sale, although I understand that is being rectified. The shelves were somewhat sparse, which makes me think that they had either been selling stuff in fairly high volumes or they had got their stock a bit wrong. As expected, there was not much in terms of bargains. As our visit was part of the opening weekend, we treated ourselves to a Premium ticket that entitled us to a goody bag each. Contained within were some nice mementos of a limited edition Cyberman print, a glossy brochure and an “I was one of the first to enter the Doctor Who Experience” lanyard and badge combination. All nice enough. In summary. Experience 10/10, Exhibition 9/10, Shop 3/10, Facilities 4/10. And given it’s the first two categories that matter, then it was a fantastic way for a Doctor Who fan to spend twenty quid and a couple of hours.

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    • tardisgrl
    • February 26th, 2011

    When I was in London in 2008, my Whovian daughter and I made a point of visiting the exhibition at Earl's Court (husband good-naturedly came along and carried our coats.) As you probably know, it was dedicated exclusively to the Davies-era Doctors. We loved it and were overwhelmed by the amount of costumes and sets made available (I still can't watch the space ship crashing into Big Ben in "Aliens of London" without saying, "I've seen that model!") I agree with you about the shop, though–could have been much better! I'm hoping this experience hangs around for awhile as we are planning another trip to England in December 2011!

  1. January 7th, 2013

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