Exclusive – Doctor Who’s new immersive experience includes real pieces of dismantled David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi TARDIS sets
Ever wondered what happened to the TARDIS-es after the Doctors departed? It turns out their pieces have ended up in different places…
New Doctor Who immersive experience Time Fracture has quite a pedigree, featuring cameos from several Doctors (including Jodie Whittaker’s current incarnation and David Bradley as William Hartnell’s First Doctor) alongside themes, villains and settings familiar to fans of the BBC sci-fi series.
But what may surprise visitors is just how authentic much of the Doctor Who paraphernalia in Time Fracture really is. You see, many of the props aren’t just clever replicas – they’re actually the props and costumes used in the real series, lent to the production by the BBC from their stores to help create its atmosphere.
More surprising still? The production also uses pieces of the dismantled TARDIS sets from the modern era to populate some of their “worlds”, with genuine chairs and console parts from the Matt Smith, David Tennant and Peter Capaldi TARDIS-es scattered around the place for fans to touch, sit on or otherwise enjoy.
“I think there's nearly thousands of Easter eggs now because every prop, every costume, every location, bit of lore, the plotlines, they're all things that will be familiar to those who love Doctor Who,” Time Fracture writer Daniel Dingsdale told RadioTimes.com when we visited the set.
“It's also not just familiar, it's authentic,” added director Tom Maller. “They are the props from the episode: they are the costumes; that is the console; that is David Tennant's chair; that is Matt's TV.
“It was all stored in Cardiff and bought down in truckloads. Each week more stuff turns up, it's amazing. And we're also very aware that it's special. So a lot of it's glued down – don't try and steal it!”
Undoubtedly, it’s the TARDIS pieces that will be of greatest interest to fans, with items apparently taken from throughout the modern series including the Jodie Whittaker-era TARDIS (it seems that when it was altered for the 2020 series, the discarded pieces ended up here, mostly in the gift shop).
And fans can see most of these pieces in an alien market, where a wheeler-dealer Pig-Slave (remember those?) has them on his stall.
“One of my favourite worlds is Broles' junkyard, because it's a TARDIS junkyard,” production designer Rebecca Brower explained to us.
“There’s a console from The Doctor's Wife. And you've got pieces of Matt Smith’s TARDIS, you've got pieces of David Tennant's TARDIS, you've got pieces of Peter Capaldi's TARDIS. And we tried to make that entire junkyard a massive Easter egg in itself.”
Previously, some of these sets had been present in Cardiff’s Doctor Who Experience, where fans could visit the locations and enjoy the props before the museum and attraction closed its doors in 2017. Since then, the location and use of some of the materials has been a question often asked by fans, which now has an answer: they’ve been repurposed for Time Fracture.
“We've had to wait to open our doors to explain that we're not the Doctor Who Experience, and it's not that transferred to London,” Maller told us. “It's something different.
“There’s absolutely the same props, and more. Obviously, the show has been running for longer since then. And so I imagine there are some recognisable Easter eggs that were within the experience in Cardiff, but again, now we are staging it and framing it within a story with performance and live action.
“Although there is a huge amount of original props and costumes within Time Fracture, they're here to be interacted with to support the story rather than be here as an exhibition piece.”
Overall, it’s an enticing prospect for many a Doctor Who fan – who wouldn’t want to plant themselves on David Tennant’s discarded chair? – even if the sets are no longer in one piece. And if you’re not a fan? Well, at least you can have a nice sit down during your visit.
“We're very excited,” Maller said. “To not just frame a prop in a kind of museum experience but also put a story around it and acknowledge it and celebrate it.
“Time Fracture’s a celebration of the identity of Doctor Who but also it's absolutely a show where you can come cold off the streets and have an awesome night out. You don’t have to acknowledge that's David's chair and you can still enjoy the experience. Enjoy what's in front of you.”
And if what’s in front of you is an iconic prop once used by a beloved actor? All the better.