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The Doctor Who Experience

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The latest in a long line of Doctor Who exhibitions, The Doctor Who Experience, opens its doors on Sunday 20 February at London's Olympia. It’s been fairly heavily trailed, especially in the last few weeks, but is it really ‘a bigger on the inside’ experience or just another collection of old props in glass cabinets? Sci-fi-online got a sneak preview...

Feature imageYou’ll be shown around the exhibition in groups - an essential part of making the interactive section of the event work. In truth, there’s precious little interaction but each step of the staged tour is fun and often very funny thanks to Matt Smith’s specially recorded video links. And there’s also enough to make you jump once or twice, too, if you’re in the mood.

You enter through a couple of darkened rooms, dressed with props and scenery from the show, including some Silurian pot plants and an ‘ironside’ Dalek. It’s at this point that you get the first of the special Matt Smith video links in which he explains he’s trapped and needs your help. The Tardis materialises, you enter and before you know it you’re at the controls of the time machine as it shakes and rocks its way to its next destination...

Feature imageWhich just happens to be a Dalek city, complete with animated evil inhabitants. Sadly, these Daleks are the new version - part Volvo, part multi-coloured buoyancy aid - and if anything look even more rubbish up close. An attack by some old school Daleks - Hurrah! Go boys, wipe out the new ones for all time - lets you escape but whatever you do next don’t blink. Oh dear, you’re in a forest inhabited by Weeping Angels.

The doctor then explain you need to put on some anti-radiation glasses, which are in truth 3D specs that really make the monsters leap out at you, often in some pretty convincing ways. Small children down the front will be delighted and just a little afraid - a perfect mix for Doctor Who.

Feature imageAnd then you’re ushered out into the exhibition - a collection of monsters, props and costumes: the ‘experience’ part is over. If you’ve wandered through the rooms, swept along by the fun of it all you’ll have thoroughly enjoyed yourself. If, however, you’ve been paying real attention to what’s been around you you’ll have enjoyed yourself even more.

The observant amongst you will spot some Yeti control spheres, a pool cleaner from Paradise Towers, bits of Cybermen, a Sontaran helmet and some other ‘odds and ends’. The best stuff is saved for the exhibition but stay alert and cast your eyes around in each new room.

Feature imageThe exhibition proper features a couple of Tardis interiors, a restored Ice Warrior, the Giant Robot, a costume for each Doctor, a triumvirate of Sontarans, half a dozen different Cyberman helmets, Davros, and a line of different Daleks, amongst other things. Everything is well presented, well ordered and largely quite impressive.

But once again, the inclusion of a New Look Dalek, sat next to some of its previous incarnations, really demonstrates what a crap bit of design it is. Yes, its build quality is good but budgets have improved somewhat since the 1960s so that’s to be expected. It’s just that it looks like a giant novelty sex toy, complete with added ridges for greater sensation.

Aside from this, the whole presentation - experience and exhibition - is handled very well, although a little bit more about the show’s early days wouldn’t go amiss. Perhaps include something to show what an Ice Warrior did for those visitors that can’t remember their first appearance in 1967.

Feature imageAnd then you exit through the gift shop, which was still being finished when I visited.

So it’s full marks for fun, good marks for the exhibition with the proviso that there’s room for small improvements, and for younger visitors there’ll also be the odd shock or two… enough to make them jump while also smiling.

If only someone had thought to mislay the new Telletubby-coloured Daleks the Doctor Who Experience would have been near perfect. As it is, it’s just very good.

Anthony Clark


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For more information click here to visit the The Doctor Who Experience website

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