What Kara Did on Vacation: “The Doctor Who Experience”

One of the things I love most about the renaissance of Doctor Who is that the people in charge now — writers and actors alike — were fans to begin with and know what fans want.  Up ’til now that’s manifested as letting viewers see Daleks vs. Cybermen, epic Time Lord battles, and two Amy Ponds (which quite nearly led to hospital visits for some of my friends).  The main thing, though, has always been wanting to actually “be there.”  And The Moff, somewhere between wanting to entertain his kids and being a long-time fan himself, twigged that and decided to do something about it.

From this comes The Doctor Who Experience, and you’d better believe I wasn’t going to leave London without seeing it for myself.

“BE PART OF THE ADVENTURE” said websites, fliers, and posters on the underground.  Beyond that vague but promising statement — and a friend being absolutely gleeful about spraining his ankle “jumping about in the TARDIS” two days prior — I really had no clue what to expect.  I’ve done a fair number of immersive theme park rides and I’ve come to recognize a lot of the usual elements thereof.  But, as cliche as this may sound, I was seriously not prepared for what was waiting for me.

Before going in, there’s a sort of exhibit-slash-waiting-room featuring props and set pieces from the most recent series, with TV screens showing a nice montage of relevant clips.  Groups are let through in waves, and there was something heartwarming about seeing a young gaggle of schoolkids counting down aloud to the start of their turn.  (Yes, there is a countdown outside the door.)

You’re taken in innocently enough, sat on some fairly mainstream benches, and shown another montage.  A very nice one, covering the series that ended this past year, though it was being shown not against a screen, but a bare wall.  And this would’ve been fine except for the fact that there was a huge crack in the wall-

… a … huge … crack in the … OH GOD.

Yeah, this is that kind of thing.  And from there you enter the experience itself, moving through what’s essentially a mini-episode as you help Matt Smith’s Doctor stop the universe from being destroyed.  Without spoiling the plot (because there is actually some degree of plot — the experience was designed and scripted by The Moff, and it shows), I can say that yes, you do save the universe, and you and your traveling companions come out unscathed.

The experience does have one major side effect: it will, in fact, turn you into a giggling twelve-year-old.  You go in expecting a bit of footage and some props and interactive stuff.  But then comes that moment when you hear that sound — you know the one I mean — and you’re looking and listening in every possible direction until holy crap there it is and you go inside.  And yeah.  You do fly the TARDIS.

On the off chance that you get to go, dear reader, I’m not going to tell you where the TARDIS drops you or what you’ll see, except to say this: you get to see what you’re hoping you’ll see.  Really.  The Moff seems to have figured out all the “Oh, I hope they’ll have”s and made sure not just to work them in, but work them in properly. Nor am I ashamed to admit that there were a few segments of the experience that did genuinely frighten the excrement out of me.  It’s funny how much scarier things are once you can see how much taller they are than you.

Now, as this is a live event and involves special effects, I do have to offer my personal seizure-smart provisos.  Yes, there are strobes in one room.  No, they don’t last too awfully long, certainly not so long that looking away and shielding your eyes will cause you to miss anything.  And there is a room with a big screen and 3D glasses, but the use of this is very short indeed.  In other words, things that might bother light-sensitive people do exist, but are used only briefly for effect.  I had no troubles with it.

The blogger gets reacquainted with the Face of Boe.

Once you exit the experience itself, you end up in a second, far larger exhibit where you can once again take out your cameras.  A lot of the things on display — the Face of Boe, some monster costumes, etc. — were present when I saw the traveling exhibit in 2007, but now there are more set pieces to show, and they bring in a goodly amount of things from classic series.  There’s a very lovely area right toward the front where all the Doctors’ costumes are on display, for example, and not far from the Ninth/Tenth Doctors’ TARDIS console is Sixthy’s.  Another bit of brilliance?  The exhibit is smartphone-friendly.  Log onto their Wi-Fi with the password up front, and as you move along you can get extra information and content about the items on display.

Oh, and you know, there’s the gift shop afterward to eat my- er, your money.

Should you have the chance to attend, book your tickets now. They’re currently booking until early September, but the high-end tickets (with collector-y stuff and gift shop discounts included) are going fast.  If you happen to be a few minutes late because of tube delays you likely won’t be affected, as groups are let in progressively starting at your scheduled time rather than at, say, 11:30 on the dot.

I have no idea how long this will be on (well, certainly at least ’til September) or if the montages/content will adapt over time to incorporate the new series starting next month, so if it’s within your ability, schedule, and budget, for the love of God find some way to go.  Because the only negative thing I have to say about the Experience is that I wish I could have brought every single one of my friends along.

Posted on March 19, 2011 at 23:31 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Events, Reviews, Television: British and Canadian · Tagged with: , , ,

3 Responses

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  1. Written by Klgunz
    on 2011-03-20 at 12:56

    Ah – I’m going back to London for The Wall shows. Maybe I can go then–you know — if I’m not too too busy partying like a rock star. Sounds really fun! I love stuff like this :3 Nice write-up!

  2. Written by Arkonbey
    on 2011-03-20 at 14:27

    Sorry, what did you just say? I was too busy seething with jealousy.

  3. […] friend Kara got to check out The Doctor Who Experience in London. Click here to read more about […]

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