As is pretty obvious from my social media activity recently a large part of my birthday celebrations this year involved subjecting the Lovely Wife to the Doctor Who Experience currently located in Cardiff Bay; I say currently as it is due to close this year as the lease on the land it is built on is up after five years, although I am sure that the BBC will have something else put together soon – Doctor Who is a considerable cash cow for them and this is probably part behind the move to create some noise, together with imminent change of showrunner and star.
So this is partly why I went; I had meant to go before but had not gotten around to it, and the closure forced my hand. The fact it turned out that my birthday was the most convenient day to go was largely coincidental. As readers of this blog will be aware I am a massive fan – my first memory is not of something happening to me but rather the dead Wirrn queen collapsing onto the hapless Harry Sullivan in the cliff hanger to episode 1 of the Ark in Space (January 25th 1975 to be precise). But I have found the massive amount of merchandise and ‘stuff’ generated since the show returned in 2005 a bit overwhelming. In the old days merchandise was largely limited to the odd dodgy jigsaw, the novelizations and the Annual. Now you can get pretty much anything with a Dalek or the Tardis on it. I have kind of given up on buying stuff and that kind of indifference sort of spread to the Experience.
But Sunday was a special couple of hours. I was surprised at how excited I could actually get even as an adult and thoroughly enjoyed both the interactive and exhibition parts and excitement shared by many of my fellow attendees, the teenagers in particular resplendent in Tardis hoodies and dresses (Cardiff is the only place I have been to that feels as though a Doctor Who convention has somehow taken over large parts of the city, based on the amount of Who based attire being worn).
Back to the experience, for those that do not know the first half is a kind of mini adventure that you participate in – nothing particularly taxing – it is largely aimed at the younger end of the fan base – but some nice touches for longer in the tooth fans if you knew where to look. I think what particularly delighted me though was the reaction of the kids that were in the same group as the Lovely Wife and I to the action. Unlike most of the adults, they are much happier to suspend disbelief and get fully involved and the squeals and gasps at appropriate moments I think helped even the most cynical of the adults to get a little more involved. At various points the young ones need to get involved and are given roles which they take entirely seriously. I was particularly amused by one girl, let’s call her Lucy (because that is her name). Lucy is about ten I would guess, possibly eleven. Lucy was entranced by the whole affair and when the Curator (don’t ask) asked for a volunteer for a particular task you could see just how much she wanted to step forward. Her mum encouraged her and so did I… Well, it was better that than shoving her out of the way and grabbing the [Redacted as a spoiler] myself. Lucy never stopped grinning even when we were trying to escape the [Redacted] and the [Redacted]. Lucy is exactly the kind of fellow fan I wish I had known when I was ten. Maybe they did exist in 1981 but not anywhere me. I bet she is boring/creating envy in her friends back at school as I write this. I hope so. She does not know it, but her delight and joy in something I love so much made the whole experience better for me. Thank you, Lucy for the birthday present.