Bookmark and Share Doctor Who Experience opens

2/21/2011 06:14:00 pm - Reported by Chuck Foster

After several test days and special preview visits, the Doctor Who Experience finally opened to the general public on Sunday morning.

Current Doctor Matt Smith was on hand at the Experience, during which he was to meet 'himself' in the form of a life-sized model: "I think he's sort of a bit musclier than I am! It's a surreal experience to have an image of yourself in 3D. So weird but one of the wonderful privileges of this particular job - you get rather mad experiences." The encounter didn't faze him, however, as he then straightened up his alter-ego's tie!

Executive Producer and lead writer Steven Moffat said about the project: "We're not setting out to frighten anyone, but kids will come here expecting it to be a bit scary, and I don't think we will be letting them down. But with the Doctor on screen following you around, hopefully you will know that you are in safe hands. After all, the Doctor always wins."

A video is available via the Experience home page, plus coverage of the launch via Sky News and Digital Spy. BBC Radio 1's Jo Whiley also visited the launch, which can be heard on her latest show from her website, which includes photos from the Experience.

Over the course of the week leading up to the grand opening, a number of articles/reviews featured in the press regarding the Experience, some of which are highlighted below:

SFX Magazine reported:
The big crowdpleaser, and reason to part with your money, will clearly be the walkthrough, a kind of mini-Doctor Who adventure with filmed snippets of Matt Smith ingeniously inserted along the way. From beginning to end it takes about 20 minutes, including a visit to a space museum, a daring step through the Crack (which opens up in front of you) a Dalek war, a flight in the TARDIS (with a moving floor bouncing you up and down – though not quite as violently as in the show), the previously mentioned 3D flight through the vortex and a few Stone Angels lurking in the shadows.

It’s unashamedly aimed at the kids (the Eleventh Doctor urges grown ups to let the kids take the controls of the TARDIS) but if you can go with the flow it’s a good laugh. And because it uses props from the actual series, even the most “grown-up” fans can treat it like an animated museum if pretending to fight Daleks is all a little too silly.
The Sun's TV Biz editor Colin Robertson enjoyed his visit:
By the end, it was clear why it's dubbed "Experience", because it's far from being a boring exhibition of Doctor Who throughout the ages. Money and creative energy has been lavished on a labyrinth of themed rooms where all manner of Who-ness is within touching distance. Your guide here, and throughout this whistle-stop tour around the galaxy, is current Timelord Matt Smith, whose video image flashes up on screens in each room.

But arguably the biggest treat is the exhibition at the end, where the entire prop department seems to have decamped. The Face of Boe, the Timelord's arch-enemy Davros, several Cybermen, Zygons, Melkurs, Doctor Who's many outfits through the years - even his doggy sidekick K9. All Who life is here. I got to grips with the old Tardis control console from the 1980s used by the sixth doctor Colin Baker and his immediate successor Sylvester McCoy.
The Daily Mail's Michael Hellicar summed up:
The whole Experience is, well, an experience. Children at the preview with me loved it — although one or two had to be persuaded by their parents to watch the scariest bits, and one six-year-old, dressed as Matt Smith’s Doctor, refused point-blank to go in once the familiar theme tune had struck up.
Nigel Whitfield of Reg Hardware, concluded:
Certainly the kids there seemed to be enjoying themselves, but there's perhaps less in it for the more mature fan. And if you've visited one of the other recent exhibitions, you may well feel, as did my companion, that – aside from the walkthrough experience – you’ve not seen anything really new.
Daisy Bowie-Sell of the Telegraph said:
I’m not the biggest Doctor Who fan. I love the series, I’ve watched a lot of the recent episodes and I’ll certainly watch it if I’m in that night, but I don’t study the Time Lord’s every movement. My knowledge of the pre 2005 Whos is patchy - I just about know who they are and what they look like.

But even for me, the experience of standing next to a large, shouting Dalek threatening to exterminate all humans was thrilling. In this first section of the exhibition the current doctor Matt Smith appears via a screen: he needs you (me!) to help him out. You control of the TARDIS, irritate the Daleks, run past weeping angels (actually terrifying), and into a room where you watch a 3D film of all the nasty monsters Doctor Who has recently fought. Their arms/plungers reach out of the screen at you, as if they might drag you into a black hole.
The Independent took a more personal look, with father and son Andy and Joshua McSmith visiting during one of the previews. Andy, being more of a casual watcher in comparison to his teenaged son, was to feel a little bemused by the proceedings, though overall enjoyed the experience:
It was a bit like one of those school trips when I was taken around a museum to have my head filled with knowledge about Egyptian civilisation or the combustion engine, under the threat of being tested later. Except in those days, the experts were old. The sad thing is that, judging by the company at Olympia yesterday, they mostly still are. Groups who booked their tickets early were being admitted for a preview, and though there were a few children taking pleasure in the nonsense on display, most of the visitors were adult, solemn and knowledgeable.

Myself, I could soak up the occasion with that bemused pleasure that comes from near total ignorance, but I don't envy the organisers their task, for I fear that if they have one fact wrong, they would face an irate horde of anorak-clothed Doctor Who wonks. For that very reason, I am sure they researched and assembled their exhibits with the same reverential care as a team of paleontologists assembling dinosaur bones.