We knew The Doctor could change, and that Tardis-es could get a new look – but now it turns out his exhibitions can regenerate too. Well, a bit.
This is the Doctor Who Experience – a kind of interactive episode-meets museum tour based in a 4,181 square metres exhibition space next to the programme’s studios in Cardiff. It was opened in 2012 but it’s been closed for a few months while they updated it for the Twelfth Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) era, including an all-new story (written by Joseph Lidster) for museum-goers to take part in and lots of new outfits and props.
Now it’s back open, and I went along today to check it out (strictly in the interests of journalism and pretending I was flying the Tardis). You can take a look at some pictures below.
If you’ve been to the exhibition before, the nuts and bolts are the same – but if you haven’t, the Doctor Who Exhibition basically consists of a scripted walk through some sets based on the series (including the Tardis) with some interjections from a prerecorded Doctor on wall screens and some natty special effects, followed by an exhibition of props and costumes from the series.
There are a few changes to the format, however – unlike the previous incarnation, participants in the interactive segment now get a kind of glowing crystal lanyard which flashes and vibrates at various points in the story, and it actually works pretty well at immersing the audience.
Also, sections devoted to the Weeping Angels and the Daleks have definitely been amped up, and there’s more of a sense of continuity with the whole series since 1963. This includes hanging out in the scrapyard from the series’ first episode and a neat voiceover from Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) companion Romana (Lalla Ward), as hinted at in a preview video prior to the exhibition.
The adventure is fun – Peter Capaldi has some good lines and teases his assumed audience, there’s a bit where Daleks try to kill you, you sort of get to fly a Tardis and all in all it’s a good time. As a bonus, the new Weeping Angels section is actually pretty scary with a good use of sound effects. During our tour one girl was literally terrified to tears, and if that’s not the sign of a successful museum I don’t know what is.
Once you’re through the interactive story part, you’re in a more traditional kind of exhibition. There’s a lot to see here, and plenty has been added for the reopening including a few props from The Day of The Doctor, a few more Tardis-es and – most important of all – MATT SMITH’S CREEPY OLD MAN FACE.
But seriously, it’s a pretty exhaustive collection of old outfits (sometimes to a fault – I’m not sure how desperate fans are to see River Song’s [Alex Kingston] old dresses) and props, including sets and creatures from the latest series.
It’s an impressive collection (the largest ever assembled, apparently) but after the fun of the interactive adventure this part of the museum always seems a bit flat, and that hasn’t changed. Still, there’s certainly a lot more stuff to interest the casual fan (and scripts/set photos for the enthusiast), and the exhibition fills more full than when I last visited.
At the end of the day, the adventure is better and there are more exhibits, so there’s plenty to enjoy here. If you love the series and willing to head down to Cardiff Bay I’d say the Doctor Who Experience is more worth visiting than ever – even if just to discover this monstrosity in the gift shop…