Have you ever wanted to see if the Tardis really is bigger on the inside than on the outside? Well very recently I had the opportunity to do just that. No; unfortunately I don’t mean that Matt Smith landed in my garden in a royal blue police box and whisked me off to outer space. But the Doctor Who Experience at Kensington Olympia was a pretty good substitute for this.
Arriving at the Doctor Who Experience, myself and hoards of other Whovians were treated to a lesson in time and its slow progress as we queued the length of Hammersmith Road. The diverse mix of people in the queue really paid tribute to the broad appeal of Doctor Who. Once inside the venue, the queue wound itself alongside some of the Doctor’s most famous enemies . . .
The wax work model of a Smiler particularly gave me the creeps! We inched our way into the main event and approx. 50 of us were ushered into a pitch black room. Then, to our delight, the Doctor himself appeared on a screen of cinematic scale and promptly gave us all the collective name of ‘shoppers’. In a brief introduction, the Doctor explained that we all needed to ‘Pay attention because things are about to get a teensy bit complicated’ and then issued his recognisable phrase ‘Don’t panic’ …. And that’s when we all knew the Doctor Who Experience was really starting. Easing into the role of a participant in one of the Doctor’s adventures, we all listened attentively as the Doctor, in his rapid dialogue, informed us that saving the universe was mostly his job but sometimes he needed a bit of help … and today was going to be one of those days and this was where we ‘shoppers’ stepped in.
With that a crack in time appeared right through the middle of the screen and, for the first time, I stepped inside a television screen. The Doctor took us to the National Museum aboard the Starship UK, which contained lots of recognisable props from the TV show (and another Smiler lurking in a booth in the corner). The Doctor, now beamed in from above, carried on in his erratic style and urged us to help him fight his enemies. At this point he entrusted us to enter the Tardis. It was incredible to see an exact replica of the central control panel. I was mesmerised. As the familiar wheeze of the Tardis filled our ears the simulation ride took off and collectively us ‘shoppers’ suspended reality and were flying the Tardis for a few short minutes.
We ‘landed’ amongst an area populated by Daleks - surprisingly larger and sturdier than I had imagined them to be. We escaped, of course, due to the Doctor’s quick thinking but then found ourselves in a room where we faced, in my opinion, the scariest of the Doctor’s opponents. The Weeping Angels.
With the aid of 3D glasses we stared fixedly at the Angels looming on the opposite side of the room. In a short, sharp second the room darkened and in a flash the Angels had moved closer. This happened twice more in quick succession until the stony arm of a Weeping Angel was curled right before my eyes. I am of course aware that this was a 3D hologram, but nevertheless this still induced a horrified intake of breath from me, after all those Weeping Angels are frightening in any form!
The Doctor saved the day in the nick of time and us ‘shoppers’ were then let loose in the Doctor Who museum. It was fascinating to see the various versions of the Tardis control panel together in one room and to compare how much the concept had evolved since the first episode was aired. One retro central control panel used 1971-1972 bore an uncanny resemblance to the most ancient computers, complete with red and black buttons set into white plastic. It was also interesting to see the different outfits worn by each incarnation of the Doctor lined up next to each other, which had me guessing which period of dress the Doctor would go for next.
We then went through to a huge room filled with Doctor Who villains and monsters. Second to the Weeping Angels, I found the Peg Dolls almost as chilling up close. The experience wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to the gift shop, where you could purchase a Sonic screwdriver, amongst other things.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the Doctor Who Experience and I am glad I was able to go before its closure last week. For those of you who didn’t make it, judging by the crowds of fans who were there, I wouldn’t mind betting that the Doctor Who Experience will be back at some point soon. Until then, I am looking forward to the 50th Anniversary episode…