As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, part of my job is to organise the Cardiff Breakfast Club, a monthly business networking meeting with some pretty cool guest speakers (and even better bacon sarnies). Traditionally there isn’t a Breakfast Club meeting in July or August as Cardiff’s movers and shakers head off on their summer hols, but to end the summer season we had a rather special event up our sleeves! Yesterday morning I got to go along to a preview of the brand new Doctor Who Experience in Porth Teigr, Cardiff Bay…
Doctor Who first time-travelled his way on to our Earth televisions in 1963, and was revived to huge popular acclaim by BBC Wales in 2005. The series is one of BBC Wales’ most-watched productions, and its relocation to the new state-of-the-art Roath Lock studios in March this year has firmly fixed its much-loved association with the city of Cardiff.
Who fans old and new have long enjoyed spotting locations around the city that they’ve seen on screen, and I even remember welcoming my parents to my old university lecture building with the words, “They filmed Doctor Who here!”. The opening of the new Doctor Who Experience in Porth Tiegr, Cardiff Bay therefore feels like the final piece of the puzzle. As Kylie Lindsay of BBC Worldwide told me this morning, it has been a long time in the making, but the Doctor has finally “come home to Cardiff”.
The Experience originally opened in London in February 2011, and was incredibly popular, welcoming 230,000 visitors through its doors before it closed in February 2012. I was lucky enough to join members of the Cardiff Breakfast Club on a sneak preview of the Experience this morning ahead of its official opening tomorrow, on Friday the 20thof July.
While I wouldn’t have previously considered myself an avid Whofan (though I will confess to owning a long stripey scarf not entirely uninspired by the kooky Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker!), walking through the darkened corridor to where the interactive part of the Experience would begin was really exciting. Especially when our guide warned us to expect smoke effects, flashing lights and uneven floors on the half-hour journey! The specially-filmed adventure features brand new sequences with current Doctor Matt Smith and some pretty impressive sets and props. I had a dispute with a Dalek and got to fly the TARDIS! But I don’t want to give too much away… you’ll have to visit for yourself!
Kylie had told me that the amount of time it takes to go round it all entirely depends on “how big a fan you are”. The exhibition section of the Experience houses an incredible amount of original artefacts, sets and costumes over two floors, and could definitely keep even the most die-hard of fans happy for hours. Every exhibit is accompanied by nuggets of behind-the-scenes information. For example, did you know that there are two TARDISes? One for studio filming, and one built to be taken apart for filming on location.
As some of the Breakfast Club members that I spoke to afterwards agreed, the creativity and attention to detail that has gone into making not only the Experience but the entire Doctor Who world is truly impressive. The thing that came across most was the passion that the creators, designers, writers and producers pour into making it – and in return, how much it is adored by its legion of loving fans. The new exhibition is not just a brilliant day out, but a thrilling reward to fans for their dedication to the series. It is sure to cement Cardiff’s association with quality creativity for light-years to come!