22 February, 2012

The Doctor Who Experience: London Olympia

Originally posted on Hypable.com

 Doctor Who Experience

Since I first saw David Tennant in those Chuck Taylors jump through a mirror and mock the King of France about being the Lord of Time, (swoon), I was hooked. This clever, funny, poignant, deep, fun-loving Doctor was to be My Doctor. Of course then I had to go back to the beginning and work my way through all of the re-boot episodes starting with Christopher Eccleston and there have been many, many viewings of all of them since. Doctor Who is now a happy party of my life.

So imagine my excitement when I heard that The Doctor Who Experience was in London, and that my flat mate had given me a ticket to see it for my birthday! BLISS!

I had absolutely no preconceptions, and that was probably a good thing. Moments of the Doctor Who experience were filled with giggles, sqeals, and yes, there was skipping… but sadly there were also a few mentions of “is that it?”

Report and Rundown: As soon as the lift doors open you could hear the iconic “Ooooeeeeooooo” music of the Doctor being pumped into the lobby of the Experience. My flat mate Megan, friend Anna, and I (all Whovians) picked up our tickets—and they were boring, white, paper tickets…they do know that their fans are collector geeks, right? Why not print on a glossy blue ticket in the shape of a TARDIS? Rotating between Daleks and Cybermen? Or one of the eleven Doctors? We’re paying 18 quid, surely the ticket can be pretty, right?

Anywho, we were then led into a waiting room. There were Daleks from Victory of the Daleks, the Silurians from The Hungry Earth and one of those horrific heads from The Beast Below.  There was a big screen in there playing scenes from the Matt Smith era of Doctor who, and we had a good time reliving favorite moments on the screen (Fezzes are cool, Stetsons are cool, bowties are cool… yeah they are!).

Then the doors opened, and the experience began.

Right, so the exhibition is broken up into two halves: The Experience, and the exhibition.

Thus begins The Experience: I don’t want to give much away here, but basically, it’s like a Disney/Themed ride. There’s a loose narrative involving the main player and the audience (like the Hogwart’s Castle ride at Universal Studios—the main character guides you on a story adventure). Instead of riding, however, you walk from room to room.

It sounds a bit dull, doesn’t it? Walking from room to room? But honestly, that was my favorite part. I’m a bit of a snob with narrative, and expect all Doctor Who stories to be as complex as The Family of Blood and as suspenseful as Blink. It wasn’t, however; it was very straightforward and simple in terms of story. But walking from place to place was an adventure—what would I see next? Daleks? The Host? The Weeping Angels (shudder)? There was skipping.

During the experience you get to “fly” the TARDIS (push some buttons when the Doctor tells you to), board the Dalek spaceship, and you walk through the crack in the wall and through the doors of the TARDIS… definitely exciting. The narrative I could live without, it was rather “meh”, but discovering each spot and reveling in the memories of the episode attached to that moment was lovely.  Like in the first main room, there were Van Gogh paintings stacked against the wall, there was bunting from The Beast Below strung around the room, and the TARDIS magically appeared after The Doctor (who was stuck in Pandorica2, and therefore speaking to us onscreen from inside the Pandorica2) summoned it.

When The Experience is over, and it’s over rather quickly, you’re released into the exhibition area. Break out your cameras at this point, and practice your poses with inanimate objects prior to getting there. I wish I had rehearsed how to pose with a wall, because this is the photo I got of me: and this is the kickin’ one of my flat mate: she clearly practiced posing prior to our arrival.

and this is the kickin’ one of my flat mate: she clearly practiced posing prior to our arrival.

It was a neat exhibition, and a fun way for the fan to get involved in the story. Not only do you physcially walk through the crack in the wall and into the TARDIS, but you actually get a chance to FLY the Tardis, talk to the Doctor, and interact with props from the series. Then, afterwards, it's less interaction, but more stimulation. You can physically see SO many elements from the Doctor Who Universe, all within touching distance, making the fantasy seem a bit more real. 

I loved the costume display of the 11 doctors all lined up showing the Doctor through the ages, The Silence hanging from the ceiling scared the bejesus out of me, the Face of Bo made me coo, and I really enjoyed the little details: Signs informing us of the location of the toilets (“Behind the Pandorica”), and “Don’t blink! You’re on CCTV” notifications. Very clever. If you’re going to have to have health and safety signs, you might as well tie them into the glorious geekery around you! There were lots of exhibits on the history of Doctor Who, like the below photo of Daleks through the ages. They also did this with the Cyber Men and the Doctor's consoles. Very cool.

Daleks through the Ages

1.     Definitely copious opportunities to get a new Facebook profile picture. Lots of posing, they encouraged you to take photos in the exhibition space (but they were prohibited in The Experience).
2.     The music: who doesn’t do a happy dance when the Oooooeeeooooo starts?
3.     The sets: I honestly got a bit teary when I walked into David Tennant’s TARDIS. It didn’t help that they had his final scene playing on a loop… “I don’t want to go” aaaand the tears started.
4.     The history: there were lots of displays from past Doctors, and things like costume progressions of the Cybermen, various TARDIS consoles, and K-9 was there too!

1.     Cost. It was £18 (about $28), took us about an hour to go through, and we were going through VERY thoroughly, and there was nothing permanent to take home from that. No program, no souvenir ticket… which leads me to the second negative—
2.     The shop! “No shop, I like the little shop…” (Doctor Who, New Earth).  It was a bit rubbish! There were 4 poster options, none of which really tapped into the geek-factors deeply enough; there were only two action figures to choose from: Idris, and the raggedy put-together dude from The Doctor’s Wife episode (you could get the 11-pack of all of the doctors, but it was £70. Yeah…not gonna happen). No sonic screwdrivers, no clever t-shits (just basic ones: I Flew The TARDIS, and The Doctor Who Experience…), no fish fingers and custard... I left there empty handed, and I was well prepared to drop some cash on a fun souvenir. Alas, I shall have to stick to Etsy.

Would I do it again? Not for a second time, but I’m glad I did it once. It’s not a “MUST SEE!” thing, but it’s certainly good to check off of my list, share pictures with fellow fans, have an hour of geek-tastic fun, and maybe gloat just a little bit that yes, I flew the TARDIS J

A mock up of the BBC Doctor Who Creative Offices

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