Who’s at Earl’s Court?

Whether you’re four or forty-four, you’ll have encountered one regeneration or the other of Doctor Who during your life. The world’s longest-running science-fiction television show has become so familiar to us all—the newest adventures of the time traveller have been receiving astonishing ratings for the BBC in recent years (the new series is due to start in April).

I have to confess to being a fan for as long as I can remember (and believe me, that’s a pretty long time), with far too many stories watched from my father’s lap where it was safe. Bedtime was strangely comforting then too, as we were reassured that the Daleks couldn’t get up the stairs (I can’t describe how betrayed I felt when that little foible was ironed out. I know it’s logical but so very wrong to a child of the Seventies). Although many of the shows betray their age when watched again, I still feel the need to find a lap to hide on at monsters such as the Autons (shop dummies that move), the Sea Devils, the Cybermen and, of course, the Daleks.

And what a thrill to get it back in such rip-roaring form, too. What we wouldn’t have given for such well-written stories and clever special effects (it was a treat to see Matt Irvine at the exhibition’s launch – he entertained us so much at conventions by creating spaceships out of hairdryers as he had done for programmes such as Doctor Who and Blake’s 7).

Unfortunately, much as we’ve all wished, we can’t climb into the TARDIS and be whisked off to other times and planets, but we can now do the next best thing. From March 20 to September 18, the Museum Hall at Earl’s Court exhibition centre will be home to Daleks, Cybermen, Slitheen and many of the Doctor’s other enemies, as well as K9 and the trusty TARDIS. Once the new series begins, the new foes and costumes will be added, too.

dr whoHave the Cybermen taken over London?

So what’s it like getting close to the creatures that have made generations of children hide behind the sofa? Exhilarating and deliciously scary, even for the supposed grown-ups of the press corps who braved the exhibition with me yesterday. We all slowed our pace considerably once we’d breached the entrance and read the notice warning us that nothing was likely to be as it seemed. Especially as our first obstacle was a collection of Auton shop dummies—I won’t spoil what happens for you, but they’ve always given me the creeps and this didn’t help.

Small children may want to experience many of the exhibits from the safety of a parent’s neck (some adults will too!), but kids of all ages will enjoy feeling almost part of the action. In his opening remarks, the man from the BBC said that this would be the closest thing to being on the set, and there were definitely times when I half expected The Doctor to come tearing down the corridor (having Tom Baker open the event added an extra surreal note as did the two Cybermen who appeared and scared the wits out of the assembled press).

It’s a big exhibition, so if you’ve seen any of the others at Cardiff, Manchester or Blackpool, there’ll be plenty that’s new. It’s also very interactive, with lots of things to feel and press (especially buttons marked ‘Do not press’ – of course you should).

You don’t have to be a child or have a child to have fun there. I left the show with a big grin that just wouldn’t go away – so do your inner six year old a favour and go and see The Doctor today.

For more details, visit http://www.doctorwhoexhibition.com or http://www.eco.co.uk. You can buy timed-entrance tickets at http://www.seetickets.com/doctorwho or by calling 0871 230 1092 (it’s advisable to book in advance). They cost £9 for an adult and £7 for a child, with a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) costing £28. It’s open from 10am to 6pm with a last entrance at 5pm

Get a preview of the exhibition at http://www.eco.co.uk/doctor-who-exhibition-preview/

The Doctor Who Exhibition takes place in the Museum Hall, Earls Court. The nearest station is West Brompton Underground and overground station. To access the Museum Hall, enter via the West Brompton foyer, which is directly opposite the exit to West Brompton station. You can also get to there from Earls Court Underground station. Follow signs along the left-hand side of Earls Court One