It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
I made a final and unexpected visit to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff last week. I’ve been many times, twice already this year and hadn’t really planned on going again. But my brother mentioned wanting to see it before it closed and I reminded him that that would be the 9th September so he couldn’t dawdle!
So I checked availability, booked two tickets and just a few days after he suggested going, we were doing a 384 mile road trip in a day to see a room full of Doctor Who props!
The Doctor Who Experience is more than a display of screen used props and costumes. Cardiff has been the home to Doctor Who since it was brought back in 2005…feels like yesterday but it’s twelve years ago now since the Doctor returned to our screens. There have been a couple of Doctor Who exhibitions put on but the big blue building on the bay in Cardiff was a purpose-built exhibition space solely dedicated to the series and it was an amazing place to visit for any fan of the programme.
The exhibition has evolved over the years, and it was given a ‘Museum of Gallifrey’ theme around the time of the 50th anniversary. I always enjoyed the interactive element of the experience which you go through before seeing the props and costume sections. You queue up to enter surrounded by some gorgeous Time Lord related costumes – Eric Roberts’ Master costume from the 1996 McGann TV Movie is a particular favourite of mine. Then a group of you go in together (about 12/24 depending on how busy it got) and are welcomed into the ‘Museum of Gallifrey’ by an enthusiastic curator (a roleplaying member of staff in robes). You start watching a film celebrating the life and adventures of the Doctor narrated by the fabulous Lalla Ward as the President of Gallifrey, then something goes wrong….
What follows is an adventure through a series of rooms which you all pass through which include the 11th Doctor’s console room, Skaro, a cemetery full of Weeping Angels and a familiar looking junkyard. No photos are allowed in that section of the experience which is nice as you can fully involve yourself in it rather than focussing on the need to ‘point and click’. The Daleks on Skaro section was spine-tingling good and I’ll miss going through that. Once you’ve all been saved by the Doctor of course, you escape the interactive element and walk out into a thing of beauty – the 1st Doctor’s console room recreated for the 50th anniversary drama ‘Adventures in Time and Space’. It’s stunning, simply gorgeous.
The ground floor of the exhibition contains another console room that’s a favourite of mine – the 9th/10th Doctor’s that was used when the show came back. It’s slightly organic look was different to those of the past but has rather a sentimental feel to it now as an ‘old familiar’.
I could list everything there but I’ll summarise is by saying it covers the history of the show the best it can through the costumes it has. A lot of the original series costumes and props don’t survive but the pre-New Who is still represented by such creatures as a yeti, the Melkur and my all-time favourite – the Special Weapons Dalek. The new series dominates with costumes of the companions and monsters covering nearly all of the Eccleston to Capaldi era (and Torchwood!) on display. It was great to see the new ‘old style’ Cybermen on display from the last series, they look striking close up. It’s sad to think that in less than a week these will all be boxed up and stored away, and any items in private ownership returned.
There’s no news as yet as to what will happen and if there’ll be a new dedicated Doctor Who exhibition. Rumours of something in London persist and that would be terribly sad for Cardiff, the city has fully embraced Doctor Who as part of it now and it would be a great loss to not have the show celebrated there. Not to mention the income having the exhibition there must have generated for the city – the geek pound is strong!
So it was with a heavy, but happy heart that I took a final around and headed out the door, through the nearly empty shop and back into the sunny Cardiff Bay. One day we’ll return, yes one day…
N.B In future posts I will write about the many, many locations used in Cardiff for filming the show, and also that time I walked on the actual TARDIS…