One of the non-conference-related highlights of my recent visit to London was taking my son to the Doctor Who Experience. This post will contain some spoilers which, if you are planning on going, you might want to skip. Then again, I remember thinking as I was waiting in line to go in, and the guide offered a disclaimer warning about strobe lights, artificial smoke and moving floors that, even though I am sure they are required by law to provide that information before people go in, it would be much more fun to not know that moving floors and artificial smoke were coming! And I didn’t feel like knowing these things were coming detracted from our enjoyment of the experience in any way. So perhaps the minimal “spoilers” in what follows are in the same category.
The Doctor Who Experience starts with a display of familiar characters and objects that you can browse while you wait for your group’s turn to enter. Once you enter, you are brought into a room with benches to watch an introductory montage of scenes from Doctor Who. The intro movie was projected onto the wall in front of us, and as I watched, I noticed a crack in the wall. I quickly realized that this could either be a sign that I was in store for a cheap, cheesy experience, or a well-planned one if this was intentional and somehow related to the “crack in the fabric of the universe” from Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor.
At the end of the movie, the glowing crack from the season I just mentioned appears horizontally across the screen, then rotates to match up precisely with the crack you had noticed on the wall. The wall then opens, and you are ushered through, knowing that you are in store for the latter rather than the former.
What followed was brilliantly entertaining. You are essentially thrown into the midst of an interactive mini-episode of Doctor Who in which Matt Smith’s Doctor addresses you and your group, you help him escape from the Pandorica 2 (yes, he does admit that it was pretty foolish of him to get caught in another one, and suspects it may happen again!), fly the TARDIS, encounter Daleks and more.At the end, there is an exhibit featuring costumes, monsters, characters, as well as details about the writing, design, planning, sound effects, music and much else related to the history of the show. At the beginning and the end of the experience there are opportunities for photos. As you leave, there is a gift shop filled exclusively with Doctor Who merchandise, from LEGOs to sonic screwdriver pens, flashlights/torches and even…wait for it…a sonic screwdriver that is also…a screwdriver!
The reason I was in London was for the International Society of Biblical Literature conference, and several people I spoke to from the conference, including some whom I had interacted with on blogs but had met in person for the first time, also turned out to also be fans of the show. One even shared that he has seen ever episode that exists (and it is a very sad fact indeed that there are some episodes which no longer exist). Feel free to try to guess who that is, if you are so inclined.
I’m glad that my trip to London included a visit to The Doctor Who Experience with my son, since I understand it closes in November (it is a temporary exhibition at Kensington Olympia) and so we would not have had another opportunity. But I suspect that there may be other “Doctor Who experiences” in the near future, with the 50th anniversary coming up. And so there is surely more to look forward to if you are a fan.