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Just what the Doctor ordered: Destination England

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At a dynamic exhibition in London, Mark Juddery joins the Time Lord and his disciples in a fight to save the universe. The Doctor Who Experience, which opened in February, is drawing scores of fans to London's Olympia exhibition hall. It's about time. There are high-tech, interactive exhibits for Star Wars, Star Trek and other science-fiction franchises.

For devoted fans of the British series, first broadcast in 1963, such an attraction is long overdue. Though fans have been drawn to such sites as the BBC-leased quarry, just outside London, that doubled for every second alien planet, this is the first tailor-made attraction. Like other science-fiction devotees, Doctor Who fans have been stereotyped as obsessive nerds. Yet when I join the Doctor Who Experience on a busy school-holiday Monday, most of the crowd looks exceedingly normal: mostly enthusiastic children, delighted to have an adventure with the Doctor, and nostalgic parents, using their children as an excuse to visit. The experience is a dynamic sound-and-light show, thrilling for younger fans, perhaps less so for some of the older ones who wax lyrical about classic 1970s episodes. The exhibition focuses on the monsters and mythology of more recent stories, mostly from last year, as the Doctor (played by the current lead actor, Matt Smith, on a video screen) enlists our help to save the universe. While the clunky visual effects of the TV show have often been scorned, only a true show-off could disparage the effects in this walk-through, interactive show, which features the series' inventive alien and set designs. At one stage, we're surrounded by Daleks, which seems to leave the pre-teens strangely unmoved (when I was their age, I would have been in tears!). Only when the Dalek emperor orders our extermination do the kids look slightly nervous. Of course, we eventually help the Doctor to win the day (sorry if I've spoiled the ending) and safely enter another exhibition area, which provides enough attraction on its own for dedicated fans. Old sets and props from the 1970s have been dusted off for display. Five decades of monsters and aliens are on the wall, in the form of mannequins and costumes, from the long-running Cybermen to more recent baddies such as the Weeping Angels. The Doctor's more recent human companions line one display, each represented by one of their costumes. Though it's a shame that there's no space for his earlier companions and many of the early monsters, the display is a buzz for anyone who enjoys the series. When its London tenure finishes in September, the Doctor Who Experience will move permanently to Cardiff, where the TV series is now produced. The Welsh capital is enjoying its new fame as the Doctor Who capital. The four-star Park Plaza Cardiff hotel, for example, has a Doctor Who package in which rooms are guarded by a remote-control Dalek. While even casual viewers could enjoy the Doctor Who Experience, the true devotees could spend a day - or three - celebrating Doctor Who. Last year, the London-based Brit Movie Tours, which also runs tours ranging from Harry Potter to Bridget Jones's Diary, began day tours of Doctor Who filming locations in London and Cardiff. "People already go to Doctor Who conventions," the Brit Movie Tours director, Lewis Swan, says. "This is sort of a convention on the move." Keen travellers can join a three-day tour of filming locations throughout Britain, including London, Cardiff and a night in Sarah Jane's home village (in reality a small town near Cardiff). "We don't just cater for fans," says Swan, who notes that casual viewers and friends of fans often join his tours, though they're unlikely to grasp the significance of walls in suburban Cardiff with now-faded "Bad Wolf" graffiti - an ongoing theme of the 2005 season - or the site of an eerie murder scene from the popular 1977 adventure The Talons of Weng-Chiang. The Doctor Who tours feature British historical sites, including Stonehenge (the site of some of last year's more chilling screen moments) and London's Globe Theatre (the setting for the 2007 episode The Shakespeare Code). Brit Movie Tours is considering longer tours, as the television series continues to expand its following and stretch its budget. The latest season, which premiered on the ABC last month, was filmed partly in Utah and Arizona. We can safely assume that true Doctor fans will soon be booking tickets to the US, following in their hero's footsteps. The Doctor Who Experience, at Olympia Two, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, is open daily 10am-6pm, until September 4. Tickets can be booked online at doctorwhoexperience.com for a regular price of £20 ($30). Brit Movie Tours's Doctor Who tours cost from £21 (£19 for children) for a three-hour Cardiff tour to £520 (£510 for children) for a three-day epic; see britmovietours.com/bookings/doctor-who-tours.

GRAPHIC: TWO PHOTOS: Time lords ... at the Doctor Who Experience, fans encounter Daleks and their hero. Photos: Getty Images

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  • APA 6th ed.: Juddery, Mark (2011-05-28). Just what the Doctor ordered: Destination England. The Sydney Morning Herald p. 14.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Juddery, Mark. "Just what the Doctor ordered: Destination England." The Sydney Morning Herald [add city] 2011-05-28, 14. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Juddery, Mark. "Just what the Doctor ordered: Destination England." The Sydney Morning Herald, edition, sec., 2011-05-28
  • Turabian: Juddery, Mark. "Just what the Doctor ordered: Destination England." The Sydney Morning Herald, 2011-05-28, section, 14 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Just what the Doctor ordered: Destination England | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Just_what_the_Doctor_ordered:_Destination_England | work=The Sydney Morning Herald | pages=14 | date=2011-05-28 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=27 November 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Just what the Doctor ordered: Destination England | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Just_what_the_Doctor_ordered:_Destination_England | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=27 November 2021}}</ref>