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Doctor Who time-travels to the USA

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1986-05-27 USA Today.jpg


Guess who's coming to your town? If you guessed Who, you're on the right track.

Over the next two years, Doctor Who fans across the USA will get to gaze upon the gizmos, gadgets and goons that have endeared this quirky British science-fiction series to fans for 22 years.

A traveling exhibit housed in a 48-foot trailer, crammed with authentic props and rubberized monsters, is on the road. Currently making its way through Maryland, the "Dr. Who Experience Theatre on Wheels" has embarked on a quest that will reach 180 cities before it concludes in March 1988 in Bellingham, Wash.

Fans enter the van through what looks like a British phone booth — in Doctor Who terms, a TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space), the doctor's spaceship. Inside, they see a gallery of odd characters, from the Sea Devil and Marsh-man to K9, the mobile computer shaped like a dog.

The Who-mobile is meant to be "a family entertainment," says Brian Sloman, an Englishman who will travel the long road with the exhibit.

Doctor Who first aired in England on Nov. 23, 1963, with William Hartnell as the mysterious Timelord from planet Gallifrey who travels through time and space, conquering monsters and saving the day.

The daring doctor can regenerate his body, which has allowed five other actors to play him over the years.

The show premiered in the USA in 1977, and now boasts an international viewership of 110 million fans in 60 countries.

"It's like the British empire," says Michael Grade, controller of BBC-TV. "The sun never sets on it."

The children who first became hooked on Who are now grown, but haven't lessened in their fascination with the witty, low-budget show — the longest-running science-fiction series in TV history. At the exhibit's grand opening in Washington, D.C., few in the crowd were kids.

Washingtonian Meg Phillips embodies the Who-natics, having donned a black cape — Timelord chic — to witness the exhibit.

She got hooked on the show in 1966, when she went with her parents at age 11 to London and turned on the telly.

"He can travel anywhere, anytime — it's fantasy in the most perfect sense," Phillips says. "When he's killed, he doesn't die."

Who the show also seems undying. After a break in production, it's back filming, with Colin Baker as the sixth doctor.

"The whole genre of science fiction has moved on since we started," Grade adds. "The effect of people like Spielberg and Lucas have changed the face of things in ways we have to understand — for instance, the notion that not all aliens are hostile. We can't compete with movies on special effects, so we'll have to rely on character, story and suspense."

Thus, the BBC hopes the Who exhibit will serve as a public relations tool for its most valuable export. Peter Davison, who played the fifth doctor, came from London for the Washington opening, donning his Who coat for the first time in 21/2 years. "Once you play the doctor, you're always the doctor," he says, grinning as he signs autographs and accepts gifts.

The exhibit cost $250,000 to assemble and moving fees run about $3 a mile. Sloman says he hopes it will pay for itself by the sale of T-shirts, buttons and other merchandise on the premises. But even if it goes for broke, the fans will freak out.

"It's like a fun house," gushes Meg Phillips. "Absolutely thrilling. It shows all the sights and sounds you associate with the show. What fan could want for more?"

Caption: THE DOCTOR IS IN: The fifth Doctor Who — Peter Davison — was on hand for the sci-fi show's exhibit in Washington, D.C.

On tour

The traveling Doctor Who exhibit continues its trek up the East Coast during the summer. it will head to the Southeast in October and make its way west until its scheduled finish in March 1988 in, Washington state. Check your local affiliate that airs Doctor Who to find out when and where the exhibit is scheduled.

Frederick, Md. Wednesday-Thursday

Harrisburg, Pa. Saturday-Sunday

Camden, N.J. June 11-12

Trenton, N.J. June 14-15

New Brunswick, N. J. June 18-19

Bethlehem, Pa. June 21-22

Scranton, Pa. June 25-26

New York City June 28-29

Montclair, N.J. July 2-3

Plainview, N.Y. July 5-6

Fairfield, Conn July 9-10

New Haven, Conn. July 12-13

Hartford, Conn. July 19-20

Norwich, Conn. July 23-24

Providence, R.I. July 26-27

Springfield, Mass. July 30-31

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  • APA 6th ed.: Roush, Matt (1986-05-27). Doctor Who time-travels to the USA. USA Today p. 3D.
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  • Chicago 15th ed.: Roush, Matt. "Doctor Who time-travels to the USA." USA Today, edition, sec., 1986-05-27
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor Who time-travels to the USA | url= | work=USA Today | pages=3D | date=1986-05-27 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=1 December 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor Who time-travels to the USA | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=1 December 2023}}</ref>