Recently while in London I had the pleasure of attending the Doctor Who Experience, a limited run celebration of all things Doctor Who.
The show is set to the west of London off of Hammersmith Rd. To get there, you can take the Tube, taxi, or drive there in your car. It’s on the second floor of a giant exhibit space, and you know you are there when you see the crashed TARDIS on the roof.
If you want to be surprised about the experience, read no further, as the rest contains spoilers.
When you enter the building you take the lift to the second floor. You emerge in the lobby with the ticket booth in front of you, gift shop to the right, and entrance to the left. The gift shop does not require admission, so you can look around in there while you decide. The familiar sounds of the show fill the air.
Tickets are 20.00 GBP (around $30.00 USD) and it looks like the shows start every thirty minutes. The waiting area features real props from the show such as the Dalek Ironsides and some Suilurian warriors.
You are ushered in as a group to a small theater in which you can watch a little intro to Doctor Who.
Photography is not permitted in the interactive portion of the Experience
The movie is about a 10 minute compilation of clips focused on the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith. Once the movie ends, a crack appears on the screen and then the screen opens and you are ushered into another room made up to look like the Starship UK. There are props all around this room including the throne from Vampires of Venice, the telescope from "Tooth and Claw", and even a booth with a Smiler in it from "The Beast Below". One of the animated helpers called "Nodes" from the "Library of the Damned" acts as your guide in this room, that is until The Doctor bursts in on the communications. He’s trapped in yet another Pandorica (they made two!) and the TARDIS sent out a distress call and found you. The Doctor is a bit disappointed that the TARDIS selected “Shoppers” but he will make do.
*Note - the following video was not shot by me*
Just then, a wall that was thought to be solid lights up and you can hear the moan of the TARDIS materializing. The doors open, and you go inside.
This is where the Experience gets excellent. You fill into the room, and you are in the TARDIS control room. It’s big, and an exact replica of the one on TV. The same things move here that do on the original. The walls, the light, the space, everything feels right, save for the fact that you cannot go downstairs, but there is a reason for that. The Doctor comes on the display screen and asks you to spread out around the TARDIS to several control stations. He asks that children are given preference, as they are better at this sort of thing. Each station has a joystick at it with a transparent backing plate that lights up, and has a station labeled on it, such as “Navigation”.
The Doctor then begins to call out the stations to tell those manning each station what to do. The proper movement actually makes the floor move up and down, so it really feels like the TARDIS is moving.
Once your objective is complete, the door to the TARDIS opens again, and you enter to a dark hallway that leads you the control room on a Dalek ship. There’s a multi-segmented screen in here that looks like you are looking out into space from the bridge of a ship. One of the new, larger Daleks comes out from the other side and begins talking to you, and this is where the little kids freak out. On my tour, one mother and child had to leave because the Daleks scared them.
*Above image from the Doctor Who Experience Website
Two other Daleks come out on either side of the screen, all animatronics, and you quickly realize you are caught in the middle of a war between two factions of Daleks. The screen shows Dalek ships firing on your ship, and lights, sound, and smoke begin to replicate the feel of being attacked.
*Note - the following video was not shot by me*
The Doctor gets you out of here, and you are led through some caves with Weeping Angels in them.
Prior to arriving in your next room, you get some 3D glasses. This room is made to look like the room the Pandorica was stored in – ancient with moss and stone. You stand on a few tiers behind some railings in front of a wall with a crack in it. The Doctor comes on a screen and does some timey-wimey thing and the wall opens up to display a 3D movie of what looks like the Time Vortex with various Doctor Who enemies flying around in it, reaching out to you in cheesy 3D. I think the effect is supposed to make you feel like you are also flying in the vortex. Eventually, you help the Doctor win and then you are let out on the exhibition floor to see the rest of the exhibit. The whole experience takes about 20 minutes.
The experience dumps you directly out into the exhibit hall, which is vast and features a ton of original props from the television series.
The first thing you want to look at is the display of all the Doctor’s outfits. Each Doctor’s outfit is represented on a stand in two parts of a circle, surrounding the TARDIS in the middle.
According to the guide, the only props that are not original are the first and ninth doctors outfits. The ninth is a stunt jacket – while it was used in the series, it was not worn by Cristopher Eccelston.
In the center is the screen-used TARDIS, with a lifelike wax replica of Matt Smith.
Another exciting thing is the actual TARDIS console from the tenth Doctor, David Tennant. This is the actual, screen used TARDIS, and you get to walk around it, mere feet away. Playing in the background is a loop of the tenth Doctor regenerating into the eleventh.
From here I walked over to the section devoted to the Companions, and they have an assortment of outfits worn by the various companions from the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Doctors. They also include K-9, Sara Jane Smith (with a touching tribute letter), and Captain Jack, as well as Astrid (Kylie Minogue) and River Song.
After this section you begin to go over to the older Doctor Who section, which includes some unique items such as the original TARDIS console from the fifth Doctor, as well as an original old TARDIS used for exterior shots.
One of the most appealing aspects of Doctor Who are the Villains, and the exhibit has a whole section devoted to them. A whole array of original Daleks are on display from the classic to the modern, and even Davros is included. Also on display are Slitheen, Judon, Ood, and a great mix of other new and classic monsters.
There’s a replica of the staff office with blueprints and storyboards, and a small theatre which plays an exclusive making of the exhibit video (also – the Face of Boe is in there).
The Junk TARDIS makes an appearance.
In an attempt to maybe add some kind of educational aspect (you know, so it qualifies for school field trips), there are a few areas where you can find out how they made the sound effects, and another area where you can learn to walk like an alien.
There really is a lot to do and see in here, and for a fanboy like myself, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all. The exhibit does a great job of making you feel like you are actually IN the TARDIS. That experience alone is worth the admission.
Then there is the gift shop.
Never before have you seen so much Doctor Who merchandise in one place. Granted, it’s aimed squarely at the modern Doctor Who series, but there is so much of it. Some values were to be had, but considering the US – UK exchange rate it worked out to just a little below retail for most things. What was great, however, was that everything was NEW – as in everything had just came out.
The Doctor Who Experience runs until February 22nd, 2012, and is open Monday - Sunday (closed Wednesdays) 10:30am - 5:30pm (last entry at 4.00pm). It's located at:
Doctor Who Experience
Olympia Two (2nd floor)
This is an AMAZING experience for any Doctor Who fan - highly recommended!