“The moment has arrived. You have been assembled for operation Time Fracture. And it is not an overstatement to say that the fate of the universe lies in our hands.
“Our reality will be wiped from existence if we cannot complete this mission. You all arrived here as volunteers, recommended by the Doctor. And it is imperative that you complete your mission.
“Good luck my friends. We’re all counting on you.”
Moments later, I was brutally attacked and (presumably) murdered by Daleks – or at least I might have been, if new Doctor Who immersive experience Time Fracture was properly up and running.
However, I was there slightly before its official opening, viewing a few key scenes – which meant our Dalek assailants lay dark in the corners, their menace only slightly undermined by the cheerful workers trying to fix a door nearby, and the coat that someone had casually hung on one of their guns. Now that’s an interior design choice I can get behind.
Of course, when it properly opens the full Time Fracture experience looks set to be much more slick. Brought to life by veteran interactive theatre creators Immersive Everywhere (specifically the minds of director Tom Maller, writer Daniel Dingsdale and production designer Rebecca Brower, among countless others), Time Fracture is set to be a two hour 15-minute adventure in the vein of Secret Cinema, stuffed with Doctor Who Easter eggs, cameos and familiar foes.
“You can walk in off the street, having never seen an episode of Doctor Who or done any research and come in and have this adventure,” writer Dingsdale tells me when I join him in a cantina-style alien bar.
“But if you are a Whovian and if you are a Doctor Who fan, everything within the show will be familiar to you. Everything that is hidden somewhere is nodding to or paying homage to the last 60 years of Whovian canon. So if you are a Whovian, you’re going to have a wonderful night.”
While I was only granted access to a few key areas, the breadth of Who content crammed in was already clear, with one “world” alone boasting Cybermen, a fast-talking pig slave, rogue Time Lords, a robotic Kerblam! man and a TARDIS junkyard, with pieces taken from the genuine Doctor Who sets used by Matt Smith, Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi and David Tennant, among others (as opposed to replicas).
The Doctors themselves are also pretty heavily involved, with cameos from Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Jo Martin, and current Doctor Jodie Whittaker already announced, alongside David Bradley as William Hartnell’s First Doctor and Patrick Troughton’s son Michael subbing in for his late father (and other voice actors set to provide the vocals for the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor actors).
“The cameos are all different,” director Maller told me. “There’s more visuals, more recordings, we’re actually filming some other recordings next week with another character. And, sadly, some of the Doctors are no longer with us. So we have cameos from other voice artists.
“If anyone does have a Doctor that is their favourite Doctor, there is a moment within the show where that favourite is represented.”
In practice, we saw two of those performances delivered in a video message that cut between Bradley’s version of the First Doctor (last seen in 2017 special Twice Upon a Time) and Whittaker’s incumbent Time Lord, delivering a mission statement that intentionally spanned the full breadth of Doctor Who history.
“It was said from the very beginning that this show is a love letter to all of Doctor Who, not just the modern version,” Dingsdale told me. “The whole thing of all of the nearly 60 years, from Hartnell right through to Jodie, is acknowledged in some way.
“So having the first and current Doctor represented shows that everything in the middle is all to play for – it shows people that this is everything that we’re exploring.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Doctor Who has dabbled with immersive experiences, with recent Doctor Who escape rooms launching with their own Whittaker cameos, and an upcoming VR game (Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality) starring Whittaker and David Tennant.
And, of course, there’s the Doctor Who Experience, the beloved former museum and interactive exhibit that was closed down in Cardiff back in 2017, with many of its pieces now repurposed for Time Fracture. Like this new event, the Experience included a video mission starring the Doctors that propelled fans through various worlds stuffed with props. What makes this different?
Well, for one thing Time Fracture is bigger – much bigger. And although Dingsdale and Maller never visited the experience, they’re at pains to note that their story is significantly less linear and more interactive, aided by a large cast of improvisers (some of whom we saw in action) who can think on their feet.
“This is a theatrical show that you’re coming to. This stretches across two hours and 15 minutes, we have a cost of 42 performers, we’re over 21,000 square feet,” Dingsdale said.
“This intent is for the audience to step into a live action episode of Doctor Who where they’re playing the main part. And we’re trying to do that as much justice as we can.
“And although there is a huge amount of original props and costumes within it, they’re here to be interacted with to support the story rather than be here as an exhibition piece,” added Haller.
Overall, Time Fracture looks set to be a must-visit for Doctor Who fans, even if it is just to sit on an authentic David Tennant TARDIS chair (yes, really) while being lectured by a pig man. In our short visit we took in UNIT headquarters, the aforementioned alien market and outer-space bar, the court of Queen Elizabeth 1st, the Torchwood Hub, Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop and the rooms of William Shakespeare, with still more sets and locations kept a secret by the organisers.
“We’re keeping some of the secrets,” joked Maller. “Just so when you come there’s a special reward for coming to the show, you know?”
After plenty of delays and restrictions on live events over the last year, this is also an adventure that Doctor Who fans have waited a long time for – and frankly, I think at this stage we all deserve a bit of universe-saving fun.
Or, to hand it over to the Doctor herself during the show: “I brought you here, because you’re brilliant. You’ll be ace at this!
“You’ll meet friends and foes, see amazing things, and you’ll find the answer. You have to. I know you will.
“You and me, we’re gonna save the universe. Fun!”