Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Experiencing the Doctor Who Experience

Not entirely sure if you’re going to get a note on Frankenstein tonight – I’ve got to pack and get ready to hit the road.

I do have about an hour now, though, so I should write up my early afternoon foray into the Doctor Who Experience. (Geeks only need read further.)

It is at the Olympia 2 arena. Which is located near the Olympia underground station. Which I could not get to. (You’re supposed to pick up a train for it at Earl’s Court. According to the timetable on the wall, the train for Olympia is to leave at 11:49. At 11:43, it wasn’t listed on the board of trains coming within the next 10 minutes. And my ticket was for noon. Heck with it – nothing left but to hoof it.) So, I follow some signs and make my way to the Doctor Who Exhibition. You can’t miss it – it’s in the building with about 100 schoolchildren gathered in front of it.

Poop. I specifically chose noon on a Tuesday thinking that might be adults only. The folks inside the exhibit agreed with me that this is usually the best time – but somehow they got several school groups in today. They let me right in, though, ahead of all the kids.

There are two parts to the exhibition – a “walk-through” (which has little video segments leading you along the way) and a standard exhibit (which you can take at your own pace).

There were about 3 other adults in the exhibit with me – and a school group ahead of us. One of the guys running the place came to the four of us and told us he’d put us through the walk-through with this school group, because it was kinda small and there were five school groups behind. He also told us not to be polite and let the kids go in front. “Get your money’s worth,” he said.

He also told us that the kids would be screaming a bit, but that it was better to have kids with you to get the full Experience experience. This was accurate.

So, it starts in a room with a film clip on a screen. Then the screen shows a crack in time splitting – and the screen itself splits along the crack (kids let off a collective, “ohhh!”) and we’re invited to pass through it. (“Is it okay?” a kid cautiously asks a teacher.)

In the next room, it’s a TARDIS control room, with two sets of railings around. On the first set of railings are a few joysticks for kids to operate the controls. (I’m at the second railing, with a perfect view above all the little heads.) The kids are TOTALLY into this. The Doctor (on video) asks which kid is at the “Navigation” controls, and a little kid in front of me eagerly raises his hand and follows the Doctor’s directions. The Doctor is also making jokes – one running joke has to do with bald people turning into chickens or something. Turns out one of the other three adults in our group is bald, so the kids keep turning to him whenever the Doctor mentions feathers appearing on the bald gentleman. (It’s like the Doctor actually sees us!)

Third room is a dalek attack. Daleks on tracks start appearing from all sides. Lasers get fired. Random dalek extermination conversation. It was at this point I decided I had to start taking notes on what the kids were saying. One of the daleks says something like, “We are the only true master race!” An indignant child stands up right in front of him and says, “No you’re not!” Yes, it IS more fun with kids.

After the last room (a 3D with monsters coming right at you – including a very nice bit where a weeping angel gets closer while you’re blinking – I don’t know if they force a blink with a light or if I just got lucky on that, but the timing was perfect and the effect nearly made me jump), you get out into the museum itself.

It begins with a costume display of all 11 Doctors. I check them all out, but I have particular affection for the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison), as he was my first Doctor, as it were. A group of school kids walks by – one little boy (who looked like he couldn’t have been more than 8), points to the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) and knowingly says to the kid next to him, that that one “was the Doctor when I was little.” I smiled at him. I guess everyone remembers their first – even if it was just two years ago.

Nice exhibit. Cybermen through the ages; daleks through the ages; monsters; companions – heavy on the 10th and 11th Doctor eras, but a bit from before as well. (Note to the curious: Astrid was displayed among the companions. So, that’s the official ruling on that particular question.) A lot of the displays indicate they were here on loan from private collections. This included the 5th Doctor’s TARDIS (on display at the opposite end of the room from the 10th Doctor’s TARDIS). And I thought, “Private collection? Someone has this in their LIVING ROOM?” And while the 10th Doctor’s TARDIS wasn’t doing anything in particular (having been exploded), the 5th Doctor’s TARDIS had the lights in the core going up and down, leading the child next to me to loudly proclaim (to everyone around him), “Ooo! Look! It’s liftin’ off!”

I got me some photos (the other adults offered) and, of course, stopped in the gift shop (mandatory at the end of every exhibit), managing to get one more gift from my list (only one left to go!) and something for me, too – a sonic screwdriver pen, amusingly labelled as an “executive” pen. (Yeah, these are used only for important signing occasions.) Goes on to say it is “essential kit for time travelling escapades or deskwork!” Man, this country just cracks me up.

I really, truly love the little kid standing up to the dalek, though. Gives me faith that television is raising the next generation right.

No comments: