The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff is a massive improvement on the first incarnation and the exhibition alone is worth the entry fee. Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor has brought a breath of fresh air not only to the series, but to this interactive adventure, too.
A few years ago I had the chance to go to The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff during the Matt Smith incarnation, not long after it opened. This past weekend I went back to Cardiff to see the newly Capaldi-fied version of the experience and I have to say it is a vast improvement!
Groups are led along an interactive adventure through time and space, visiting the Museum of Gallifrey only to bump into the Doctor himself. His TARDIS is experiencing an attack that sends him back through previous incarnations of the ship, and it is up to the audience themselves to help save the Doctor, and the universe itself.
Peter Capaldi appears on screens throughout the adventure, giving directions (and the occasional insult to the museum curator) in his usual grumpy fashion. The kids in the audience relished it, some even excitedly jumping when he appeared. The in-person actor playing the museum curator was a delight, flowing through his script but always able to ad lib at a moment’s notice – presumably an essential skill given the presence of small children and the unruly general public.
The sections of the adventure are not that much changed from the Matt Smith version of a few years ago, but the thing seems a lot smoother, a lot more well polished and thought out than it did before. Daleks, Weeping Angels, and even I.M. Foreman’s junkyard all come into play in the adventure and it does not feel quite so thrown together. There’s a much more natural flow and the sheer presence that Peter Capaldi commands whenever he appears just draws you onwards and inwards.
Once the universe is saved and the Doctor is convinced you’re not so useless after all, you are guided into the exhibit centre, where you can see props, sets, and costumes from the 50 year history of the show. This is an absolute delight and I for one can never get enough of this sort of thing. I’ve been to several Doctor Who museums and exhibits over the years and this was one of the best.
The TARDIS consoles are a favourite of mine and it was hard to hold back the giddy excitement that bubbles to the surface upon seeing not only the original set (or, at least, a recreation made for An Adventure in Time and Space), but also the 1980s console – arguably the best one. Even Capaldi agreed with me on that point. Moreover, you can stand on the 9th and 10th Doctor’s set, get up close to the coral themed TARDIS and feel as if you’ve been dropped right into an episode.
Upstairs we found a wondrous collection of monsters, robots and costumes. Some were from the very latest series and you could get right up close to them (but no touching). Seeing not only classic villains – such as the Yeti and the K1 Robot – but newer faces too – such as the Ood and Madam Vastra – was one of those experiences that really brings home to you that this has all been one show spread over fifty years.
I loved getting the chance to see the old Doctors costumes again, but also the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration outfit – a new one for me. I have a bit of a soft spot for Paul ‘the fluffiest Doctor’ McGann, so getting to see the revamp of his costume was a delight.
All of the Daleks are out on display, too. And by Rassilon there are a lot of Daleks! From the first ever models of 1963, to the latest ‘good’ Dalek of the Capaldi era, all of them get a look in. The Imperial Daleks, the Renegade Daleks, and the full colour chubby Daleks (which have mysteriously been relegated in recent times), and even the Special Weapons Dalek are all there.
There is just too much to talk about from the exhibition. Seeing the pictures really does not do it justice. Getting to see the props, sets and costumes from all angles really makes them come alive. It’s all more than worth the admission price on its own, but the adventure is a great experience.
Where your money will eventually end up disappearing to is the gift show. Oh my word, the gift shop. I found some bits and pieces I really couldn’t stop myself from buying (but managed to force myself NOT to buy yet another mug). Music, t-shirts, action figures, every piece of stationary you could ask for, and more merchandise than you could ever think possible for one franchise to have. If you can walk out without buying something, you should be given a prize.
The Doctor Who Experience is open in Cardiff all year round. When they are not filming, they offer tours of the actual current TARDIS set, too. So watch out for that on their website. In addition, they also run the Official Doctor Who Filming Location Tours – a walking tour around Cardiff Bay visiting over 40 locations that were used for filming Doctor Who. They have more tickets being released on Wednesday 8th July and the walking tours start Saturday 18th July until August 30th running Wednesday – Sunday. Perfect for those wishing to get even closer to the iconic TV show.
If you are a Doctor Who fan, do take the time to visit. You will not regret it. However, if you can’t make it, we have a whole album of photos from the exhibition over HERE.