Thursday, 20 February 2014

Who's Experience?

The sound of giant engines tearing apart the barriers of space and time filled the air. A wooden door opened and then slammed shut. The high pitched wine of a sonic screwdriver briefly followed before silence descended. The Doctor had landed.

Or rather a small rag tag band of people had arrived at the docks area in Cardiff Bay.

As part of my son's birthday present this year my sister had paid for him, my Dad and myself to go to the Doctor Who Experience at Porth Teigr. I suspect that my Dad and I were included as part of our Christmas and birthday presents.

Deep in the heart of the docks area of Cardiff Bay, and just around the corner from the Welsh National Assembly offices is a building that looks suspiciously like a warehouse. A big, blue warehouse. Across the front of the building are the words Doctor Who Experience and a familiar DW logo.

We'd arrived a bit early and after negotiating some rather interesting traffic bollards which lowered and raised themselves automatically we found a parking space. The Doctor Who site itself doesn't have visitors parking but there is sufficient parking in the area.

With about half an hour to wait we looked at a large board containing pictures showing the history of the site from its orgins as part of the docks all the way through to its opening. I also took a couple of snaps of my son and Dad in front of Bessie, the car used by Jon Pertwee's Doctor and also in Sylvester McCoy's Doctor in the story Battlefield. These were then followed up with some of my son standing in front of a large Dalek figure made out of Lego bricks.

At 11 o' clock we joined the queue waiting to go into the main part of the building.

As our guide explained about the half hour interactive tour we were about to embark on my son and I looked at each other. Strobe lighting, no problem. Smoke effects, again no problem. Moving floors, OK that might be an issue as my Dad uses a walking stick to get around so hopefully he'd be able to manage those or at least get around those sections without missing any of the tour.

Finally it was time to enter the world of Doctor Who. Cameras and phones were put away as there is not photography during the initial part of the visit.

The 30 minute interactive tour was great and involved helping Matt Smith's Doctor who had been captured by Daleks. Lots of lights, some smoke and even a moving floor, which Dad was able to cope with as all we had to do was stand still while the floor juddered beneath our feet.

Everything around us was superb. There were lots of things that you could recognize from the series. Finally we finished the tour and found ourselves in the main exhibition and what an exhibition.

There is so much to see, each exhibit has its own plaque telling you about it.

There are the costumes worn by each of the Doctors and a number of companions. Not so much the older ones, although there is a costume worn by Sarah Jane in the Sarah Jane Adventures. The rest of the costumes are those worn by Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Rory and River Song.

There are the consoles from 3 different Doctors, two from Classic Doctor Who and the one used by David Tennant's Doctor.
Waiting for the Doctor to whisk me away
Four different TARDIS can be found around the exhibition space. One on the ground floor and 3 side by side on the upper floor. Although I'm sure that having that many versions of the same TARDIS in close proximity must put a strain on the time and space everything did seem to be quite normal, well as normal as you can get when you have a building full of children, teenagers and Doctor Who fans together.
Time And Relative Dimensions In Space (times 3)
The rest of the exhibition contained costumes and models of chaaracers both old and new. Cybermen, Zygons, Giant Robot, The Silence, Handbots, Ood and Ice Warriors abounded.
Mum used to have a hairdryer with a hood that made you look like one of these
Then there were the Doctor's arch enemy. The Daleks. Davros, their creator was there along with 6 incarnations of the creatures that he developed. There was even my all time favorite, the Special Weapons Dalek.
Don't Mess with Me

Rounding off the exhibition were some displays where you could watch videos about the development of the theme tune and also the costumes that have been used.

After nearly an hour and a half, during which we'd not stopped to read every plaque or look closely at every exhibit, we made our way out via the obligatory shop with my son buying a couple of things. Including a rather nice 3D picture and a model of the 11th Doctor's sonic screwdriver.

We all enjoyed our visit. It was great being able to come that close to so many things that are part of a show that reached its 50th anniversary last year and is watched by millions of people around the world.

Its a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, especially if you have children. I'll probably go again in a couple of years, but next time on my own so I can take my time wandering around and actually stop to read the plaques and watch the videos.

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