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The Doctor Who Experience

Not so long ago, and with some the Geek Clique in tow, I ventured to West London to see the Doctor Who Experience. It’s at the Kensington Olympia – a right pain in the arse to get to – for the next month or so. Is it worth catching? Well, that depends.

I’ve been to quite a few Doctor Who events over the last year or two. The frankly appalling stage show first. Then the excellent Crash of the Elysium. Since we were down in London anyway we decided we’d give the Experience a go. It was either that or go and see the warehouses at Shad Thames where Rodney Bewes was running away from Lytton.

The Experience is rather like Crash of the Elysium in that it’s slick, has a certain amount of audience interaction and feels ever-so-slightly overpriced.

Also like Crash of the Elysium there’s a sort of narrative that involves Matt Smith saying he needs some help into a camera while whirling around inside the TARDIS.

I can’t actually remember a lout about the actual experience, barring a bravura piece of 3D cinema that finally makes the medium feel worth bothering with.

There’s also an excellent bit at the end with monster suits and costumes and props. And, following that, an expansive gift shop that’s a monument to just what a money-spinner Doctor Who is for the BBC. Tacky shit.

But what made the Doctor Who Experience such a, well, experience was something that had never happened there before and never will again.

Shuffling past us as we entered and looking for all the world like Terrance Dicks was… Terrance Dicks. It took us a few minutes to work out whether it was indeed The Man Of A Hundred Targets, but the unmistakable voice confirmed it: we were traversing the universe with Terrance Dicks.

One of the sections involves piloting the TARDIS – pushing buttons on an instrument panel about a yard in front of what I assume is a replica of the TARDIS console prop. The Geek Clique were piloting the TARDIS with Terrance Bloody Dicks.

It was, genuinely, a wonderful moment. Later on a couple of the guys spoke to him and confirmed that he was very pleasant but not especially keen to speak to a number of star-struck Doctor Who fans in their mid-30s. Keen though I was to say hello to Terrance and how much I liked his work (including his New and Missing Adventures – and even his non-Who work, including Cry, Vampire) I thought he’d appreciate being allowed to look at an old TARDIS console (the one that debuted in the Five Doctors, looking weirdly small) unmolested.

All in all it was an experience that made the twenty quid entry fee a lot less galling. I’ll never forget it.

Classic Series

Andrew Cartmel on Newsnight

The Cartmel-on-Newsnight piece can be found on Blogtor Who), where the former script editor discusses Margaret Thatcher and the Happiness Patrol with Gavin Esler and Tim Collins.

The report that preceded it is below, which is a fairly by-the-numbers piece obviously cobbled together fairly hastily (though it does provide an answer to the question ‘what does Jonathan Powell look like these days?).

The appearance follows the ‘revelation’ that the seventh Doctor era had included some elements of left-wing satire in its stories.

As it goes, Cartmel took the ‘I’ve been misquoted’ line throughout, pointed out the absurdity of some of the reporting and had the good grace to look faintly embarrassed by it all.

Not so ex-Tory MP Tim Collins, who took the opportunity to point out that Doctor Who has always been political and made the somewhat dubious point that Doctor Who has often been presented as a right-wing satire, referencing The Sun Makers.

In fact, Robert Holmes script was tilting at the bureaucracy of the Inland Revenue, rather than Labour’s taxation policies of the late 70s – but why let that get in the way of a daft anecdote?

Collins does, however, show that he has a decent knowledge of Who’s history – pointing out that Uncle Terrace Dicks’ assertion that Who can never be political is rather odd given stories like Colony In Space, The Mutants and The Green Death that aired while Dicks was script editor.

Anyway, it’s all rather anti-climactic in the end, though it’s nice to see that BBC news reports are still adhering to their age-old routine of materialising interviewees into the screen in a way that’s wholly unlike the TARDIS materialising.

• See also: The Register’s copied-and-pasted-from-the-Sunday-Times article here, which has the temerity to boast a copyright symbol and by-line after it.