Monday, 8 December 2014

Back to Cardiff: Regenerated Doctor Who Experience Review and TARDIS Set Tour

After the disappointment of last month’s last-minute cancellation, the TARDIS set tour went to plan this weekend, as well as the opportunity to visit the newly-regenerated Doctor Who Experience.

Immediately when entering the reception area of the Experience in Cardiff Bay, it’s apparent that things are a bit different. A selection of Daleks, a Weeping Angel, Ice Warrior and TARDIS all make for a more impactful first impression, as well as great photo opportunities and things to look at while waiting to go in.

Gallifrey Guard costumes also flank the box office desk and there are four Galiffreyan Robes on mannequins in the waiting area. Yes, Gallifrey is the theme here, which is apparent when you enter the Gallifreyan Museum as your first port of call on the interactive experience. A robed curator welcomes you and leads you into the adventure... which I won’t spoil for you here. Story details you can discover yourself...

Top 5 observations about the regenerated Doctor Who Experience

1.    It’s more interactive – From the moment the curator welcomes you to Gallifrey and you hear the voice-over from a familiar companion, it’s clear that this isn’t a passive event. Children are immediately led on a quest, on the lookout for glowing crystals. We even have our own crystals on lanyards round our necks, glowing different colours as we move between environments.

2.    It’s more exciting – The TARDIS flight section feels more kinetic. The sense of tumbling through space is more exhilarating, helped by rumbling audio.

3.    It’s more scary – I jumped noticeably (and said a bad word) in the Weeping Angels section, which always seemed like a wasted opportunity in the previous version. The Dalek section was also very tense, with the guide helping to ramp up the tension. Some of the very young children didn't like it – parents need to take a call as to whether their young Timelords can handle it.

4.    The exhibition area feels better designed – While a lot of the content is the same as before, it’s presented in more photo-friendly displays. There’s less a sense of  items just being lined-up in rows and more that they are clustered in relevant collections (see Davros flanked by his Daleks below and the shiny Cybermen section). The exhibition with props from An Adventure in Space and Time was great too - the Menoptera are a hoot! 

5.    There's no main Peter Capaldi TARDIS – I can perfectly understand why the impressive Matt Smith TARDIS was re-used – it’s a great set, but unless you went on the TARDIS set tour (read on for more) the current console is missing, which is a shame. No doubt when it’s eventually 'retired' it will find a home in these hallowed halls.

The TARDIS Set Tour

Only available at certain times of the year when there’s no filming taking place, fans can enhance their Doctor Who experience by going in to Studio 4 of the BBC Roath Lock studios and walking onto the actual, current, working set. For a fan, it doesn't get better than this.

After meeting up in the Experience reception and being given a temporary lanyard, it’s a five-minute walk across into Studio 4 where you are confronted by a huge wooden structure supported by scaffolding, with trails of cables and wires snaking around it. Groups are separated into 6 or 7 members and in turn visit the main console...

1.    The magic begins when you see the iconic blue doors – they are surrounded by a green screen frame. Get your first photo opportunity here – you can take pictures/video of anything in this studio.  

2.    When the doors open you’ll go ‘wow’ – It might look smaller than you expected and the set is running on lower lighting than normal to be eco-friendly, but ‘Wow’, this is the real deal. This is a 360-degree realistic set with no sense of artifice or the ‘fourth wall’. From the blackboards, to where Clara plunges her hands into the console, this is all recognisable.

3.    Be quick – With lots of groups to get through you regrettably only get about ten minutes on the set itself, so make sure your camera is charged up and you’re clear about what you want to photograph or film. Try photos with or without flash to get the best results.

4.    It’s different to before – Even if you went on the same set last year before Capaldi took over, it’s worth doing again. The lighting is different, the bookcases and blackboards add a new charm and there is always something new to look at.  

Monday, 1 December 2014

Meeting the Doctors (Now with added Jodie Whittaker!)

With today's announcement of  Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor, I thought it was time to update my encounters with the good Doctors over the years. 

William Hartnell - Sadly, I never met him or saw him before he died.

Patrick Troughton - My one occasion to see Patrick was on 4 April 1983 at the legendary Longleat Doctor Who 20th Anniversary convention. Luckily we had tickets, so weren't turned away at the gates as so many fans were. After hours of queuing outside the Orangery, I met Pat (and Sarah Sutton) and he signed a publicity photograph from The Five Doctors. Sadly, this postcard has been long lost.

Jon Pertwee - I also saw Jon Pertwee at the Longleat event on 4 April 1983. Jon was being interviewed by Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart on a safari boat, docked on the river. I ran down to the water's edge, called his name and took a photo when he turned round.
Tom Baker - Tom was/is MY Doctor. I first met him in August 1997 at a Longleat
Doctor Who event. I grabbed a couple of sound bites for a news piece I was
writing for magazine TV Zone, but this was just a precursor for the main event
- a full personal interview with him in September 1997 to promote the hardback
release of his autobiography - Who on Earth is Tom Baker? My good friend Andy
was there too, taking photos, and the piece was published in TV Zone. I've
subsequently seen Tom at a Barking convention in 2009 where Andy and I posed
with him for a photo/auto and again at at the Time Quest 2 convention in March

Peter Davison - I've met Peter on many occasions. First was a signing event at the Stamp Centre in central London, followed by autographs at The Doctors convention in Time Quest 2 and Projects MotorMouth 1 and 2 in 2013. I also saw him live on stage at the Doctor Who Prom 2013 and the Excel 50th Anniversary conference. He was also be host at the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular and I saw him at the launch of his autobiography in October 2016.

Colin Baker - I first met Colin on Bournemouth Pier after a performance of farce Run for your Wife in 1995. I then interviewed him for TV Zone at a Doctor Who Longleat event in August 1998. Further autos were picked up at Fleet Air Museum, Time Quest 2 and PMM1, though sadly he was too late to be in the group photo for the latter. I also saw him as Inspector Morse in the touring stage play in September 2010 and at the Excel November 2013. I finally got his photo in July 2017!

Sylvester McCoy - I first met Sylv at the RSC Stratford following his performance as a Fool in King Lear in September 2007. I then saw him as Mushnik in The Little Shop of Horrors musical in Brighton October 2009. He was at Time Quest 2 and PMM1 conventions, as well as Fleet Air Museum. I also him on stage at the Excel, November 2013.

Paul McGann - I met Paul at the bar in Shakespeare's Globe August 2009 following his performance in Helen. He was also at The Doctors and PMM1. I finally got this photo (on his own) at a performance of Gabriel in Greenwich in May 2017.

John Hurt - I met John Hurt at Brighton Film and Comic Con in November 2015. I had tickets to see him in  Kenneth Branagh's production of The Entertainer in summer 2016 but he had to pull out due to illness and sadly passed away soon after. 

Christopher Ecclestone - I met Chris at the Donmar Warehouse stage door following his performance with Gillian Anderson in A Doll's House June 2009. I also watched him on stage at National Theatre in June 2012 for Antigone (which also starred Jodie Whittaker in the lead role), but he didn't come out to sign that time. Finally got his photo at a fund-raising event in April 2016 in Newbury.

David Tennant - First saw David on stage at the RSC Stratford after Hamlet in October 2008, where I grabbed an autograph among the throng of admiring fans at the stage door. The same month and at the same venue venue I saw him in Love's Labours Lost? I also also saw him on stage with Catherine Tate in Much Ado About Nothing. It was PMM1 in Jan 2013 when I finally got a decent autograph from him and a group photo with the other Doctors present. I also saw him at Stratford RSC again as Richard II in October 2013 and in Don Juan in Soho in April 2017.

Matt Smith - I first saw Matt in person at a BAFTA event for the premiere of The Pandorica Opens June 2010 though I didn't get his autograph until the official BBC convention in Cardiff May 2012. I got a photo with him at the 50th Celebration on 22 November 2013. Elsewhere I saw him on stage at the July 2011 and 2013 Doctor Who Proms, the lead in American Psycho the Musical at the Almeida in December 2013 and Unreachable at the Royal Court in July 2016.

Peter Capaldi - I joined the scrambling masses at the barriers of the Deep Breath premiere in Cardiff and was lucky to get an autograph from him (and Sam Anderson) in August 2014. There's also a photo of the back of my head next to him - though that hardly counts. So it was great on November 30th 2015 to get a decent photo and less scribbly autograph. In May 2015 I watched Peter filming The Zygon Inversion in Cardiff. In November 2015 I was lucky enough to interview Peter at the BBC and have a photo with him at the Doctor Who Festival at the Excel.

Jodie Whittaker - And now Doctor 13. I was lucky enough to meet Jodie in March 2015 at a Broadchurch event in Bridport. Dorset, where she signed my BluRay sleeve. I also watched her filming in July 2017 and spoke to her while Olivia Colman was signing an autograph for me. Jodie is the first Doctor I've met prior to them being cast. She's also the first Doctor I've seen in a play (and with a former Doctor - Eccleston) prior to being cast. A photo with her is on my list!