Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff
2 reviews from the community
Review of "Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff"
There's many things that I want to squeeze into my daily life, but somehow feel I don't get half of what I want to get done done. Is it lack of time? Partly. But more tiredness and poor time management. But there are a few things that I want that aren't part of the daily grind of life. And if you want them you just have to make it happen. One such thing was visiting this tourist attraction. Myself and my two children visited The Doctor Who Experience recently in Summer 2017 which is based in Cardiff, Wales.
Why did we go?Most people who read my reviews on CIAO will be aware of the fact myself and children are Doctor Who fans, and people who know us in the form of friends know this too and the fact my son is actually quite obsessed with the TV series. It was only a year or so ago a friend mentioned this place to me and it sounded like paradise. In the back of my mind I kept thinking it would be a great place to go especially if it tied in with my son's birthday. But new job, getting time off work and all the usual boring bits of life got in the way.But every year I kept thinking oh maybe next year. But a few months ago I read on their Facebook page that it was going to close down at the end of summer 2017. So for me it was a case of either go before this doomed date and or possibly never! So somehow I booked a week off work, then a train tickets and hotel booked and off we went!
What is this?
Opened for the first time in 2012, The Doctor Who Experience was created to showcase the much loved TV show Doctor Who. When this show was brought back onto the TV screens in 2005, the filming took place in various locations in Cardiff and continued doing so up till recent date. So with this meant two different things available. One being a physical tour available for people to visit locations where certain scenes from episodes were filmed, but the main aspect which I'm writing about today is what you get to experience within the building itself. The Doctor Who Experience is a 30 minute interactive segment which then leads to an exhibition showcasing items used, worn and
showcased in the series.
CostIf tickets are bought online through the website, these are the following prices ( these do not include booking fees ):
Child ( aged from 5-16 ) £9.75
Under 5's free.
On the ground floor is the entrance which faces the area you go to purchase tickets and if already purchased where you go in to visit the Experience. In between the door and this section are pieces from the show, and these items curved around this section somewhat to around the right of the ground floor. If you look close to the corner on the right hand side, you will see a set of stairs which leads straight up to the shop. If you head in the opposite direction on the ground floor to your left, there are a few toy dispenser machines where children ( or adults ) can get those £1.00 toys within an egg which of course are all Doctor Who related. Next to these is a machine where you can turn an ordinary penny into a Doctor Who imprinted flat version. Following around the building to your left there is a little cafe along with some toilets for public use.Behind the reception/ticket area, there is a door that you enter to visit the Experience. The whole interactive element happens all on the ground floor in various areas, and then opens up to a section where you see items from the show. More pieces can be seen by going up a flight of stairs in the top right corner where the whole floor is pretty much a Doctor Who museum.
What did we Experience?
As the tour started, we were led by our guide who took us through a darkened coridoor. When we stopped there was a large screen giving us the basic information on the planet which the Doctor is from which is called Gallefry. This screen then went from talking about this planet to us actually tapping into the Doctor's current location, where our guide talked to him. Cue our guide giving us special pendants to wear and us then going on our intergalactic journey thanks to our very own TARDIS appearing behind the screen which we all shuffled into. Once in the TARDIS we were still communicating with the Doctor, and we found ourselves actually IN the TARDIS where the younger people of our party were encouraged to get to the control panel and fly the TARDIS by moving various levers and pushing buttons. We found out that we were flying to planets that the Doctor had visited himself, which isn't always a good thing!Once the flying had stopped we landed on three different planets. One being Skaro, which is the home planet of the Dalek's. This planet made us come face to face with various Dalek's all hiding in darkened areas of the room. Another planet visited was full of Weeping Angels and the last was good old Earth. When we reached Earth, this is where our interactive journey ended and our tour of all Doctor Who related costumes, scenes and monsters really began.
What did we think?
The reason why I dragged the kids to Cardiff in the first place was purely to visit this place and no other reason. It made sense as this wasn't something around the corner from us, and a good number of hours on the train, to make the most of it and be Cardiff for few days. So you can understand quite a bit of money was spent on travel, hotel accommodation and various things while we were there. The tickets to this was the last thing I bought and the cost of them I didn't feel was expensive. Of course the bigger the party of people going the more it creeps up, but for the three of us I felt the amount was fair. It was one of those visits to a place which potentially could be a once in a lifetime trip, and a very unusual one at that, so would have been happier to pay more. But what I paid I felt was ok for such an attraction.Getting there was very simple indeed which shocked me somewhat. I did chose the the hotel we stayed at for it's overall rating but also how close it was to The Doctor Who Experience. But how easy to get to despite distance even I had no idea. A few hotel staff said it was very easy to get to and in walking distance. Once we left the hotel and made our way to the main road and walked straight ahead there was a fair on which was an added unexpected bonus for us. Stood at the end of this attraction, you could actually see the building in the distance. We didn't know it was the building when we first spotted it, and it was the slightly old fashioned but handy sign posts which clearly pointed us in the right direction. A simple walk to our left, possibly less than 20 minutes, took us there. The closer you got to it the clearer you could see the building and the sign. This has got to be the easiest place I have ever found, and my sense of direction is poor.
The exterior of the building was different which I liked. To have something like this housed in a standard concrete or brick square/rectangular building would have been disappointing. So with its unusual slightly domed yet slanted top made it stand out and again easy to spot. And the fact it's a shade of blue was also very handy!The entrance was a pleasant surprise for us. Seeing life sized Dalek's, a life sized Matt Smith and Hollywood style handprints of stars from the show was very interesting. I assumed the rest of the tour would be just as good as this, and yes...it does sound quite sad to say this, but this really got me excited! To see this before you even go onto the tour was a nice appetiser, and it made our wait to go in very enjoyable.
When you book your tickets, you allocate yourself a certain time slot. Normally within half an hour so as an example ours was 11.00_11.30. You can't go in before this time but you can after it. We got there early as I wasn't too sure how easy the building was to find, so having the pieces at reception was handy and helpful for us to pass a few minutes of our time. There was no issues with queues. I did think it potentially could be very busy as this was coming to the end of the Experience in regards to it closing down, but although there were quite a few people there weren't too many. I think this is down to your allocated time and I would assume only a set number of people can have that time slot too. I wouldn't want to compare this to a factory, but with these timeslots there would be some form of order of who comes in at what time and who goes out. So although there was a queue it was a small one, and we entered quickly.Our tour guide was dressed up as a Gallifreyan Time Lord Council member which I liked and felt was a good touch considering where we were and what we were doing. I wasn't too sure what to expect next, but he did warn of small darkened spaces which if I'm honest got my interest peaked more. A large screen explaining about the Doctor's home planet was very much a professional looking screening and 'lifelike', but all the way through this short film, I did wonder why the screen was cracked. Surely they could afford to have fixed it? Well...after watching the film the guide thought it would be a nice idea to somehow tap into the Doctor's timeline and see what he was doing. Cue the brilliant if not undervalued Peter Capaldi pop up on our screen and have a two way conversation with our guide. Crystal pendants given to each of us, we then got dragged into a journey as the crack on the TV screen revealed itself as actually being a door and it opened up. On the other side we found the TARDIS which we all stepped into and put ourselves at the control panel. Conversations between the guide and The Doctor continued, and the younger members of our team were encouraged to stand at the front where all the buttons and levers were to fly the TARDIS. The cheesy but absolutely brilliant moving up and down side to side 1960's Star Trek side kicked in and then we landed. This section for me made me feel as if we were in our own episode. It was fun, dark, lots of light effects and noises, and to me was a great experience which didn't last too long but long enough to get a good feel of it. I can guess that most fans of the show have dreamt about traveling in the TARDIS, even flying it, and we did! It's quite magical. And seeing the look on my son's face is something I will always remember. It's identical to what you would see on screen lookwise, and if you could imagine what it feels like to be in this area I would say it's pretty much what I felt.
Although visiting different planets was merely going through one darkened corridor and walking into a room and then another, simple idea but the atmosphere and appearance was brilliant. Both quite dark and mysterious which gave you that slight scary, unknown factor to it. When the guide mentioned landing on Skaro I knew that meant Dalek's. Quote a few were squeezed into the room we were in and dotted around. Lifeless, almost statue like but massive! Massive to me anyway as let's face it, on screen things never quite appear to be true in size. But in person they were just as tall as me and very menacing. Even more so when you realise they aren't asleep and you see them move, their one eye lights up and you hear the infamous one word they tend to utter which is ' EXTERMINATE! '. Dalek's never have scared me to watch, but this was as close to being scared as I could ever be. The Weeping Angels on the other hand were something else! Again life like and life sized, they towered over the tallest of our group. Identical to what you would see on screen and I have to say totally freaked me out. These on screen I've always found to be the most intimadating. In real life they make you pee your pants alittle. No doubt if these characters were placed in a well lit room that was bright and airy, they wouldn't appear so freaky, but they weren't. Dark,damp like, small, enclosed, each area having a slight derelict feel to it. All of these elements provided a true inetractive experience which I think we all enjoyed.The way this section of the tour ended I thought was quite funny. This all started as we had tapped into the Doctor's current adventure, and we both needed help navigating back to where we needed to be. Unfortunately we got dumped in the 1960's...a room full of retro looking items and it was at this point The Doctor left us to it and wished us well in his own sarcastic way. And through these final doors is what I would describe as the start of the proper part of the tour and much more traditional. As you worked your way through the corridor you saw different things from the show. Certain desktops from various series ( desktops being the interior of the TARDIS where the Doctor would fly it. Most desktops changed when the Doctor changed and regenerated ). A Dalek or two and a few other things. Camera phone at the ready myself and the kids loved looking at these, took loads of pictures and assumed this would be it...or was it? It was my son who suggested to have a look upstairs. Upstairs? There's an upstairs? Didn't spot that. So as we got to the top we literally gasped as there was so much visually to see we nearly passed out. From the costumes all the actors who played The Doctor wore, costumes from all the companions from 2005. Dalek's, Cybermen, the Silence, emoji robots, various TARDIS'S, the list of things to see went on forever. What I loved about this was firstly for each thing you saw was a little plaque explaining what you were looking at and from where. Many pieces we recognised by us as a family whose watched every episode multiple times since it's relaunch in 2005 means we are quite familiar with certain aliens and characters. A great mix of our favourites, along with those that made massive impacts in episodes. What was a great surprise was there were even pieces that dated prior to 2005, so we were looking at new and fresh things and learning at the same time. All of these pieces were either used or worn in the series, in some cases rebuilt or reconditioned exact replicas. But the majority had been used in the TV show. Costumes, statues, set scenes...so much! All of which were life like with fantastic detailing.
After circling all the amazing sights upstairs we got distracted with downstairs again. We did notice at the time they had a green screen up, where you could take a picture of yourself and have it imposed against various backdrops and either have it printed off or it would be emailed to you. Ours was emailed and consisted of me, children and sonic screwdrivers stood in the middle of the TARDIS. Great idea and a lovely reminder. Was a alittle busy as people were waiting to have their chance for photo gold and that's why we left it to go upstairs and then came back down. Quick, fun and easy to donand cost us zero pounds!We did go back upstairs and have another wonder round. The amount of space is alot bigger than what you would initially think with alot more things and pieces to see, so very easy to find yourself wondering around noticing things you missed the first time round. A nice idea was plenty of seating in various a areas when as you can get alittle tired. Plus there was some seats in front of a TV screen which was playing something that had actually been recorded in Cardiff ( as the majority of the show is anyway ), where music was performed related to the show and had various guests on it. Not one my son enjoyed, my daughter somewhat but would say more suitable viewing for adults. Either way a pleasant place to sit and relax.
I have no idea whether there was a set amount of time each group/visitor had when they reached this part of The Experience. No guides but staff members were floating around. Literally left to our own devises which I loved and probably spent close to 2 hours looking at everything.After we'd taken thousands of pictures, it was my daughter who quipped she wanted to visit the shop. I expected this would happen and was prepared financially. So we headed into a bright, modern and we'll lit shop which sold all manner of things Doctor Who related. £70.00 down we came out with sonic screwdrivers, posters, key rings and all types of things. Prices could have been alittle more expensive than what they were but weren't. With a few items twe managed to get at a sale price.
Just because booking fees on tickets seem to be an everyday occurance these days doesn't mean I like it! A booking fee is applicable on every ticket purchased through the website. £1.60 per adult ticket and £1.25 per child ticket. So this was just over £4.00 added to my ticket cost. Doesn't seem too much but still an extra cost. And the more people in your party the more you pay. To be fair this still works out cheaper to buy this way compared to on the door with the guarantee your place is booked, but really wish these fees were much lower or capped.Not a negative but a warning. I assumed both my children would love this from start to finish. I wasn't too sure what to expect during the interactive section, but should have prepared myself when the guide said some rooms would be small and dark which they were. This freaked my daughter out to the point she got upset and cried. Loud noises, lights, moving Dalek's, most of this she was hysterically crying at which I didn't see coming. Only close to the end when I explained to her it wasn't real she calmed down,but at this point my son got spooked by the Dalek's and I ended up comforting him. Just proves they got the atmosphere and performance down to perfection! So not ideal for the very sensitive or possibly the younger child.
This is me being super picky. There was lots to see in regards to aliens/characters etc, but I felt a few people were left out. I don't recall seeing anything connected with the character and companion Mickey ( Rose's one time boyfriend ), and I may have seen one thing of Rory's ( companion and husband of fellow companion Amy ). It's always hard to cover everything and everyone. It's like asking how long is a piece of string so I do get it. But for me these two characters were very important in their own right, and would've liked to see at least one or two good things representing them.Although we liked visiting the shop, I did get the feeling that at one point this area would've been glorious! I imagined lots of unusual pieces that you just couldn't order from Amazon and there were a few things I had never seen before, but about half I had. Now this is down to the fact the Experience is closing down, and no doubt not restocking and getting rid of their last bits. Needless to say it was all neat and tidy, didn't look like it was closing down but would've loved to have visited this say 6 months ago in its hey day.
The cafe was an area I was tempted to go into as it was simplee and cute, and not very busy. The poor kids were starving after the tour and needed to refuel. But what put me off was no obvious prices despite there being a menu on the board. This is a massive annoyance for me so bypassed it. Where The Experience is as already mentioned its in an excellent area with plenty of places nearby for food and drinks so not an issue.An area I really didn't like was the toilets. I felt they should've been cleaner and kept on top of much more. Not dirty but not kept an eye on as much as it could've been. And was abit of a let down.
Would I go again?
In a heartbeat! It's rare for both parents and children to equally enjoy an experience but we did on this occasion. It allowed us to immerse ourselves in a show that we all love, and it's one of those visits I doubt any of us will forget. Probably the perfect place for us to visit. Easy to get to, lots to see, good layout, placed in a well equipped area of Cardiff for any tourist need. Overall an absolute dream! I suspect if my kids went back again tomorrow, there would be less crying during the interactive section and more enjoyment, but even that part didn't spoil this trip. A fantastic place to visit for any fan of the show!
Product Information : Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff
Manufacturer's product descriptionAttraction
Listed on Ciao since: 21/01/2015