Open until 1st September 2013.
Reviewed on Saturday 15th June 2013.
On entering the museum, I skipped the rest of the Space part of the museum, because, as interesting as it was, I had seen it before and headed straight for the Doctor Who part of it. So after navigating my way through the labyrinth, I climbed the stairs to the sound of K9. The first things I saw as I entered were the 5th Doctor’s costume, a Sontaran from 1985’s The 2 Doctors, and K9 himself. ‘This looks promising’ I thought. It was a spurious start.
The exhibition boasted replicas of aliens and costumes and on this it delivered, only the choice of aliens was not this fan’s favourites. The likes of the Scarecrow (2007’s Human Nature/The Family of Blood), the Host (2007’s Voyage of the Damned) and pig slaves (2007’s Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks) seemed like odd choices that came from the advantage of having a vast supply of spare costumes due to the fact there were large numbers of these characters in their respective episodes. However, I was pleased to see some classic aliens such as the Draconians (1973’s Frontier in Space), and the Sea Devils (1972’s The Sea Devils). An odd pairing at the end of the exhibition saw an Earthshock Cyberman next to an Ood that, according to my Grandad, looked like he had a cold. Other aliens were displayed on large posters but had no costumes to accompany them. You’d have thought they would have found a spare Judoon or Hath outfit somewhere.
The costumes were perhaps the best part of the exhibition, but unfortunately the 5th Doctor’s outfit was the only Doctor’s costume on display. The rest of the Doctors and a variety of monsters and companions were made up for with life size cut outs. This felt like a big cheat, mainly due to the fact that half of the cut outs were available in the gift shop on the way in.
Continuing with the shop-bought exhibits, one display case boasted replicas of various generations of Sonic Screwdrivers. But again, the 4 sonics on display were available in the aforementioned gift shop. It seemed to me that you could recreate the majority of the exhibition, for a small cost, in your living room. Anyway, other display cabinets had more impressive articles, including a Davros mask from 1984’s Resurrection of the Daleks, an Auton mask from 1970’s Spearhead From Space and a Tertrap mask from 1987’s Time And The Rani.
Upon venturing into a well hidden room, I was pleased to find a cinema – as they so ambitiously called it – playing a documentary on Doctor Who’s fundraising history. This consisted of a projector playing some clips and interviews with various actors and contributors. The clips I saw were talking about a theatre production called The Trial of Davros that was put on to mark the 20th Anniversary of Hyde Fundraisers. So I did learn something. The appearance of Nicholas Courtney making a few jokes on screen in particular made this fan smile.
More attempts at interactivity lay ahead in the form of a ‘monster making station’, where visitors were invited to create their own monster using green plasticine. It was nice to see the imagination of children and childish adults on display, even if the majority of their creations looked identical to Daleks. During my visit, there was no plasticine left, so that must be it until September.
The main disappointment with this exhibition I found was that it didn’t feel exciting. Apart from the incessantly looped voice of K9, there was no real innovative features that really grabbed me. I did overhear a child asking his father if one of the Dalek props was going to move, and after a while the man sighed and admitted it wasn’t. This is where I start to compare with other exhibitions. I have previously visited Doctor Who exhibitions in Cardiff and Blackpool, and the main feature that they got right was the atmosphere. I’m talking sound, movement, animatronics. In particular the Daleks were especially kinetic, with eyestalks, guns and suckers all moving to frighten passers by. The nearest this exhibition got to that was a badly modelled/lit/animated Cinema 4D Dalek on a small screen. No offence to whoever created them, but I have modelled, lit and animated a much better model.
The Doctor Who range in the gift shop was less than remarkable. Like a Sunday morning carboot sale, the shop offered three series 1 figures – Laslo, Gelth or Dr Constantine, all of which are available on Ebay for mere pennies – a few items of stationary, some Sonic Screwdrivers and a limited selection of ‘standees’, most of which were featured as star exhibits in the exhibition itself.
Overall this exhibition was rather a disappointment. It may be my excessively high expectations as a fan, but this just simply did not deliver. Aside from a few good costumes and props, the majority of this exhibition felt cheap and like it had been curated by someone who didn’t really have a passion for the show. I guess for the casual viewer, or for somebody who has gone mainly for the space part, the exhibition might whet their appetite for Doctor Who, with aliens they may not have previously heard of or little facts that they did not know about.
So now I must score the exhibition. I’m going to try and think about this from the point of view of a casual viewer, whom I assume it is aimed at. So in that respect, I will rate it 4 out of 10.
But I’m not one to complain without constructive criticism, so here’s my points for improvement in case the curator is reading. Firstly, allow your budget to explore other media like touch screens and animatronics. Secondly, get some assistants in there that know their stuff and love the show so they can interact with the visitors. Thirdly, do try and get some more impressive costumes/props. And lastly, play the theme tune upon entry! I didn’t hear it and it didn’t create the right ambiance.