Monday, April 11, 2011

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

My birthday treat this year was a trip to see the Doctor Who Exhibition at Olympia.

It is the first ever interactive Doctor Who exhibition. Divided into two sections, the initial part verges on a theme park ride whilst the second section is more of a traditional display of monsters, costumes and props.

I think they have achieved a good balance between providing thrills and spills for the children and interesting objects for adults to pore over.

Having worked on audio visuals for museums and exhibitions I know that this is not always the case.

Often museums are so desperate to 'get down with the kids' and introduce new technologies that they end up dumbing down - they forget that the objects within them are, in themselves, exciting and that there is no substitute for the real thing.

The first section is particularly fun to go around when there are plenty of children in the group.

As a somewhat jaded 'professional' I could see how the tricks worked, but could also see how my ten year old self would have been absolutely blown away by it all.

The reveal of the Tardis is one of the oldest tricks in the book (the old ones are still the best ones!) but it was great to see the astounded look on the kids faces as the Tardis 'materialised'.

You do get to actually go through the TARDIS doors and into the console room. It’s not a faithful recreation of the TV console room (that would have required a lot more space) but it is bigger on the inside and it’s great to get up close to the console.

The children in the group had a great time here, as there as some controls for them to get to grips with and Matt Smith (who appears via a screen: he needs you to help him out) actually tells the adults to let the kids work the controls! (The Tardis is, apparently, nore sensitive to child humans)

The interactive section is quite short but you do get to become entangled in a war between the new Daleks and the old ones and experience a 3D section. This is very effective - it feels like the Cybermen are shooting directly at you and the Dalek eye stalk is right in your face!

Older fans are likely to be just as excited about the final section - a more traditional display of props, monsters and costumes.

This is very well laid out with two console rooms - the Ninths and Tenths and  the 1980's one (complete with moving time rotor), and lots of aliens. All the costumes of the various Doctors are there (although some are clearly not the originals). There are two full size Tardis's - the Matt Smith one, and also the 70's one.

I particularly liked the set of Cybermen heads through the ages, and the Robot from Tom Baker's first story. This used to be displayed at the entrance to MOMI back in the Eighties - I remember seeing it with my brother David. MOMI is still sorely missed among cinema afcionados and film students.

Ignore the shop at the end, if you can (not easy, I admit if you bring the kids) - the items are over priced and can generally be bought much cheaper online.
It is quite an expensive day out (I think the cottage is much better value, although more of a sedate experience!) but I guarantee that you will leave with a smile on your face. It is great to see so many ecstatic childrens faces!

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