The Doctor Who ExperienceBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 8 June 2011 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

Many other photos from my visit can be found on Facebook.
Waking up on a dull-ish Wednesday morning meant two not-so-dull-ish things happening today: firstly, it's my birthday, hoorah; secondly, it's the day we go to the Doctor Who Experience!

Olympia 2 is a strange place; unlike it's massive main companion, the building is a case of "blink and you'd miss it" - only the signs give it away, and then you have security into a plain lift to the second floor ... and suddenly as the doors open you're in a different world!

The key selling attraction of the Doctor Who Experience is, of course, the Experience itself! This takes up the first part of the visit, and is based around a loose script of the Doctor requiring assistance from the audience in order to resolve the problems faced. I'm not going to spoil things here, but essentially you'll meet up with his greatest and his scariest foes, plus the chance to pilot the Eleventh Doctor's TARDIS yourself! (well actually the kids are expected to pilot, but in a small group like ours a big kid like me gets to have a go, too!). There is also a 3D segment that beats the pants off many of the recent films of that style - Pirates of the Caribbean eat your heart out!

The whole experience is perhaps a little disappointingly short in comparison to some attractions you might visit for a similar price range (the London Dungeon comes to mind here), but then of course it isn't the only part of the overall visit, there's the large exhibition to follow, too! Also, its length is comparable to episodes from the original series - your own "Mission to the Unknown", so to speak! However, it is fun and the 'passive' Doctor interaction (as portrayed by Matt Smith) was good, though mayhaps needed a bigger audience than our own group to really work effectively.

Unlike London's other recent exhibition at Earl's Court where you followed a route around the exhibits, here at Olympia 2 it is much more open-plan and you can wander around at your leisure in the order you like. As you exit the Experience you do initially encounter the first ten Doctors in their respective costumes though, surrounding the latest incarnation by the TARDIS. Here you can also get your chance to appear in a (paid) photo within the Pandorica yourself via green-screen.

Speaking of the TARDIS, having interacted with the Eleventh's within the Experience, here in the exhibition you'll find both the complete Ninth/Tenth's "coral theme" version and the Fifth/Sixth/Seventh's partial sets, though you can't wander around the consoles, unfortunately. Also lurking in the corner is another TARDIS prop, one of the originals that's almost like an old friend (having had the personal experience of it nearly collapsing on top of me at Panopticons past - eek!).

Also on show are a varied collection of companion and monster costumes, including a line-up of cyber-masks through the ages, and a parade of Dalek evolution from their earliest appearance through to the 'chunky' ones from the 2010 series. There isn't that many props from the 20th Century series present, really, but items like the K1 Robot from Robot that tower above you, plus the renovated Ice Warrior and Zygon look really good. Not much from the latest series is present though (or there might have been? I turned away ...)

Other interactive elements include an area where you can learn to walk like the scarecrows from Human Nature/The Family of Blood or stomp like a Cyberman, taught on video by series choreographer Ailsa Berk herself. An obligatory "be a Dalek" prop (which has been around since the MOMI exhibition at the BFI in the early 1990s!). There's also a mock-up of what the BBC Wales art department looks like in all its mayhem.

All in all, you can spend a pleasant hour to hour-and-a-half at the Experience, depending on how much you like to read the information presented with exhibits or watch the video presentations. It's difficult to judge if it is worth the £20 entrance fee with previous exhibitions being half the price, but then the interactive section is fun (and you can see the expense there in places), and there are discounts to be had from various sources - £15 is an average price you can find and that is reasonable in comparison with many of the other London attractions. There is plenty to interest kids and adults alike, though I feel perhaps the former will get more out of the interactive section, and the latter the main exhibition!

Oh, and there's a not-so-little shop!

One amusing incident on the day happened to be in the Experience, as we had a new member of staff accompanying the group to "learn the ropes". At one particularly scary (for the kids you know ...) stage, the long-term member was telling the other all about a certain scary monster and then as they went through a corridor another member of staff leapt out. I think those behind us who didn't see the event must have wondered what that blood curdling scream was all about!