After five years enchanting Doctor Who fans, the Doctor Who Experience is set to close this Saturday 9th September, with the collection of Whoniverse props, sets and costumes facing an uncertain future as the BBC sci-fi series begins a new era.
First cropping up in London and then moving to Cardiff in 2012, the fan-favourite exhibition (located close to Doctor Who’s filming studios in Cardiff Bay) has been a central point for Whovians for years, spanning the tenures of two Doctors (Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi) and an extensive 2014 refurbishment (to update the interactive adventure and props areas for the Capaldi era).
Sadly, though, good things don’t last forever, and after its lease on the land runs out this weekend the Experience will close its doors permanently, with all the fan petitions in the world unable to save it.
But is there a future for the Experience in another city? Will the props find a new home after the closure? And what will Doctor Who fans do to satisfy their behind-the-scenes cravings going forward?
To find out, we headed down to Cardiff to take in the Experience one last time – and try to answer a few burning questions.
When does the Doctor Who Experience close?
The Experience will officially closes today on Saturday 9th September. Sad times.
Why is the Doctor Who Experience closing?
The Doctor Who Experience building in Cardiff
The five-year sub-lease on the building (leased from Cardiff Council) has come to an end, with the land now reverting to the council.
“The Doctor Who Experience has enjoyed a fantastic five-year run in Cardiff Bay but, sadly, our five-year sub-lease from the City of Cardiff Council will come to an end in Summer 2017,” BBC Worldwide said in a statement last November.
“We’re tenants in this building, so it was a five-year lease,” added Andrew Walker, Retail and Merchandise manager of the Doctor Who Experience, when we spoke to him earlier this summer.
“That was signed, and we’re literally at the end of that lease now.”
Will the exhibition open anywhere else?
Rumours have circled for a while that a new version of the Doctor Who Experience could be opened in Manchester, though the BBC has yet to announce any such plans officially.
Such an idea isn’t completely out of the question – a different Doctor Who Experience previously existed in London before the move down to Cardiff – but given the silence around the project, any such move can only be in the very early stages of planning, if the rumours are true at all.
“Like Doctor Who at the moment, we’re all in a state of expectation to see what exciting new things are gonna happen,” Walker told us. “And it’s just being devised now what the live experience is for Doctor Who in the future. So watch this space.”
However, any such announcement may not appear for a while, as Walker went on to explain.
“I think we’re all focussed on our end-date, which is Saturday 9th September, so we’re hoping for a big party around that date,” he said. “And I think any sort of news will come after that date, really.”
What will happen to the props and costumes?
When the closure of the exhibition was first announced, BBC Worldwide suggested that there could be a future for the valuable Doctor Who props, sets and costumes on display, saying that while they were “not sure” what was coming they were “exploring ways in which we can use the artefacts in possible new events.”
They added: “BBC Worldwide is always looking at new and exciting ways to increase fans’ enjoyment of Doctor Who.”
However, as of yet there’s no word on what these events may be, with the BBC remaining tight-lipped about whether the props could be toured around the country or donated to other museums (assuming rumours of a new Doctor Who Experience elsewhere are false).
“Everything that is on display here is screen-used,” Walker told us. “So it’s either property of the BBC, BBC Worldwide or some private collectors.
“Obviously the BBC and the BBC Worldwide assets would be stored, and the aim would be to ultimately showcase them in some form, in the near future. But as of yet no-one has any details as to what that might be.”
Will there be any Doctor Who activities still available in Cardiff?
Well, we might actually have some good news on this front, as Walker told us that there were hopes that the Doctor Who Experience’s popular walking tours of Doctor Who locations would continue even after the closure.
“The filming location tour will hopefully continue in some form, because of Cardiff being the home of Who – that’s ultimately why we’re here and it’s something that will be able to potentially carry on,” he told us.
“I think it just remains to be seen how that will carry on post-September 9th, and this building ceases to be a visitor attraction.”
So while it looks like we’ll have to watch this space (and time) once again, some Welsh Whovians might not be be left completely bereft after all.