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Be transported into the wonderful world of Gallifrey

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What better way to celebrate the Doctor's 50th than to enter the TARDIS, writes John Lee

MY REPLICA Sonic Screwdriver doesn't necessarily make me a nerd when it comes to Doctor Who, the world's longest-running TV sci-fi show.

But my TARDIS-patterned bathrobe and remote controlled Dalek are conclusive evidence of a slavish love for all things Gallifrey.

And if you understood any of those references, you're likely just as excited as me about the BBC's 50th anniversary Doctor Who special, screening around the world this weekend (see below for details).

Gearing up to toast the Doctor - for the uninitiated, a human-like alien travelling in space and time and battling baddies - the UK is stuffed with opportunities for diving into the family-friendly Whoniverse.

On my recent visit, I started in Wales. Two hours by train from London, Cardiff's bay area is home to the studios where Doctor Who(and spin-off Torchwood) is filmed.

Secrecy shrouds its operations especially with the recent announcement of a new actor in the lead role; but you don't have to sneak past security to satisfy your curiosity.

A great place to start is at Britain's top Whovian pilgrimage spot - the Doctor Who Experience (doctor who experience.com). Part interactive adventure and part museum, on my visit there were many young families plus the kind of middle-aged men who own every episode on DVD.

Wearing my bathrobe and wielding my Sonic Screwdriver (just kidding), I entered a walk through adventure that started in the TARDIS- the Doctor's preferred mode of transport that looks like an old blue painted telephone box and encountered a phalanx of Daleks, those pepper-pot shaped robots hell-bent on extermination.

A supporting cast of other baddies including the statue-like Weeping Angels added to the sense of jeopardy as I followed flickering TV screens through darkened corridors.

Next up was the extensive exhibit area. The show has changed radically over the years and it's fun to spot the clunky sets and quirky costumes of old: the early seasons were filmed in black and white and had a reputation for cheap and shaky sets.

There were also mannequins displaying the costumes of the 11 actors who have so far played the character, including the stripy-scarfed Tom Baker from the 1970s and the leather jacketed Christopher Eccleston, who ushered in a successful new era in 2005.

I spotted evil Dalek creator Davros looking typically grumpy. There were also the white-fanged snowmen from a recent Christmas episode. And then there were the Sontarans.

Formidable in newer shows, earlier versions looked like leather-faced simpletons with ear hair issues.

Back on the London-bound train, I plotted the rest of my adventure. The city is synonymous with Doctor Who: spaceships have hit Buckingham Palace, the Daleks invaded in a 1960s movie version with Peter Cushing playing our hero and the Doctor hung out with Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre in a time travelling yarn.

But while guided location treks are available via Brit Movie Tours (britmovietours.com), launching your own self propelled expedition is also easy.

I began at Earls Court underground station where a TARDIS sits incongruously outside, luring giddy-eyed fans.

I discovered another with dual Dalek accompaniment inside the South Bank's London Film Museum(www.londonfilmmuseum.com).

But there's an even better "secret" museum. Hopping on the Underground - not quite as fast as the TARDIS - I headed to East London's Upton Park area to the Who Shop (thewhoshop.com). Its comprehensive merchandise selection includes Cybermen teapots,K-9 T-shirts, Slitheen action figures and Sonic Screwdriver TV remotes.

But the chance to mix with diehard Whovians is the main attraction.

And the biggest fan around is Kevan Looseley, who runs the shop with wife Alexandra.

He has appeared as an extra in Doctor Who stage and screen productions.

Almost every Doctor Who lead actor has appeared in the shop for autograph signings over the years. And many likely spent some time reminiscing in the amazing backroom museum. Accessed via a pair of TARDIS-like doors, it's a jaw dropping treasure trove of costumes, props and photos.

I was soon drooling over original Daleks and Cybermen outfits plus reminders of the last birthday special: 1983's 20th anniversary show where five Doctors appeared together.

Looseley has high hopes for the upcoming birthday special, in which at least three Doctors will appear. "I'm looking for a celebration of everything that's great about the show," he said, pointing out a TARDIS cookie jar I might like to buy. "For me, Doctor Who is almost perfect escapism."

The Day of the Doctor screens on ABC1 today at 6.50am and 7.30pm.

The 75-minute special features at least three Doctors (Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt) along with the Daleks and the Zygons.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Lee, John (2013-11-24). Be transported into the wonderful world of Gallifrey. Sunday Tasmanian p. 28.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Lee, John. "Be transported into the wonderful world of Gallifrey." Sunday Tasmanian [add city] 2013-11-24, 28. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Lee, John. "Be transported into the wonderful world of Gallifrey." Sunday Tasmanian, edition, sec., 2013-11-24
  • Turabian: Lee, John. "Be transported into the wonderful world of Gallifrey." Sunday Tasmanian, 2013-11-24, section, 28 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Be transported into the wonderful world of Gallifrey | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Be_transported_into_the_wonderful_world_of_Gallifrey | work=Sunday Tasmanian | pages=28 | date=2013-11-24 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=3 December 2022 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Be transported into the wonderful world of Gallifrey | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Be_transported_into_the_wonderful_world_of_Gallifrey | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=3 December 2022}}</ref>