For a while I’d wanted to visit Cardiff and especially visit the Dr Who experience.
I got an email 6 weeks ago explaining the Dr Who experience was closing for good.
With that piece of information, I got organised and booked my tickets.
After a 3 and a half hour train journey, I arrived in Cardiff. I hadn’t realised, that Cardiff Bay is actually about 30 minutes walk from the centre of Cardiff.
In no time at all, I was standing in front of the iconic Cardiff Bay heritage centre. I’d see more of it later.
As I wandered towards “The Experience”, I passed this expanse of water.
In the background is BBC Roath Lock, where Dr Who is made. Half of the building you can see is taken up by the “new” Tardis interior.
As I arrive, I’m surprised at just how big this place is.
Its the size of several large warehouses.
The Experience is split into 2 parts. An interactive session and then a museum of artefacts from the series.
We were asked not to take pictures of the interactive part, so that new people could enjoy it.
What I can say, is that it ended in the entrance to the museum, with a re-creation of scrapyard at 76 Totters lane where the very first episode “an unearthly child” started in 1963.
And inside the museum.
This was incredible. I’d expected to see a lot of things considering the time and energy put into it, but this was much more than that, it must have taken years of planning to put all of this together.
It featured 4 different Tardis interiors including a massive re-creation of 9th Dr’s Tardis which was destroyed at the end of his tenure.
It was put back together by the museum. Interestingly, in a later series when they wanted to bring back David Tenant and his Tardis, they had to film at the Dr Who experience with the re-created one.
The Dr Who theme is considered by many to be the first piece of electronic music.
They had all the original instruments from the sound department where it was created by Ron Grainer. They also had some of the tools used to create noises like the Tardis.
A green screen arrangement allowed people to be photographed with Daleks and stuff like that.
It looked like fun, but there was a large queue and I was keen to get on.
And there was so much to see.
The costumes of the Paternoster gang.
The Dr’s outfits.
I couldn’t photograph everything, so I got this shot of Christopher Ecllestons leather jacket and jumper (the first Mancunian Dr, a matter of personal pride).
And old favourites, like 3 generations of Daleks.
The information next to each artefact was really good as it could be read by laymen who knew nothing of the series, whilst having interesting insights for people who know the series well.
And a 4th generation of Daleks in nice colours.
A picture of the Brigadier from UNIT.
Some of monsters costumes from the original series.
The Ice warrior’s, The Sontaran’s, K1 robot and the Zygon’s.
And some more contemporary monsters and a better manufactured Zygon suit.
On the left, the gown of the Gallifrayan time-lords (who I’ve always found quite dull if I’m honest)
Next to it a picture of Clara Oswald, the Dr’s previous assistant and above the Raven that’s significant in her story line.
Although everyone raves about the Daleks, the Cybermen are my favourite’s.
On the left, the “newly designed” ones that remained the same for the 80’s.
In the middle, Cybershades made from stray dogs and cats and on the right, Human 2.0 from the new series.
Even newer developments, on the left the latest modern version, and on the right one made of wood.
In season 10 of Dr Who, the Dr is stationed at a University to act as a lecturer.
While there he meets his new assistant, Bill Potts (her costume is on the left of the picture).
In the background is a re-creation of the Dr’s study.
And the latest version of the Cybermen, is actually the original.
The Mondasian Cybermen were made with bits of tin and latex rubber, but they were really scary.
In the final episodes of season 10 they are brought back to life, in a heartbreaking finale.
With my visit to the museum over, I had 40 minutes before the filming locations walking tour started, so I went to get a drink at this nice pub.
I’d find out later that like just about everything in the local area, it had been used as a filming location.
The tour begins.
At the back of the museum, we see this view across Cardiff Bay.
Our guide explained that much of the work in Dr Who, is done post production.
In the first episode of season 10 – Pilot, the Dr takes Bill to Sydney harbour.
They were actually standing here, and the background altered to make Cardiff Bay look like Sydney harbour.
There were 20 of us on the tour of all ages.
The girl on the left had a t shirt with the names of all the people who’d played the Dr.
In the background is the staircase from runaway bride.
There were about 60 locations we saw in total, I’ve just put up photo’s from the ones I thought were interesting.
The Welsh Assembly building has been used multiple times.
Our guide explained that Cardiff council were always incredibly helpful and supportive with filming of the show.
He said it was a shame the same couldn’t be said of the Welsh weather 🙂
Back inside the heritage centre, these wooden balcony’s look familiar.
Turns out this was the hospital used in the episode New Earth.
Our guide Connor was very friendly and well informed (which was significant considering the 20 people on the tour were borderline fanatics themselves).
One minor disappointment was the talk was normally given in pairs. He would speak, and his assistant would show a section of film from Dr Who or Torchwood to compliment the place we were seeing.
As the attraction is closing in 3 weeks, they are so short of staff that they are no longer able to do it.
These stairs were where the Master (played by John Simm) been elected as Prime Minister with his famous line “What this country needs is a Dr”.
Outside, the Torchwood Hub had a sort of seaside event going on.
But you could still see the water tower, which local estate agents call the Torchwood tower.
There were a few “wow” moments on the tour.
We were taken to a hotel called the Coal exchange.
Inside the guide asked if anyone recognised it. We didn’t…
Turns out, this is the vault where Missy is locked up in the early parts of season 10.
Once we’d been told that we instantly recognised it.
And best of all, the American Diner.
With post production help, its the place where the Dr says goodbye to Clara in the finale of season 9.
It was incredible to think that this could be re-rendered to look like its in the Utah desert, but that’s exactly what had happened.
Upstairs, the fine restaurant where Blon Slitheen asks the Dr not to report her and spare her life.
Realising that she has killed someone and taken their body. He replies “your begging for your life through a dead woman’s lips”.
In Torchwood season 3, a key character called Ianto dies.
This area is where (in the series) Ianto opened the door when pizza’s were delivered.
After his “death”, fans put up messages and pictures and setup Ianto’s memorial.
The council took it down, the fans put it back up, rinse and repeat.
In the end, the council gave up, but insisted a sign be put up to explain that Ianto isn’t actually a real person and the actor who plays him is alive and well.
The tour ended here. It felt quite sad, as the Dr Who experience would end 3 weeks later. I say my farewells to Connor and the other Dr Who fans.
But, it’s a beautiful day and I’m in Cardiff bay.
I wander around, get a few drinks and a bite to eat and celebrate.