Hello old friend, and here we are; you and me, on the last page.
This, sadly, is the final part of the A-Z of Matt Smith’s first Doctor Who Experience visit – a time capsule, if you will, that peers back through the vortex to October 2012. It’s been a trip through Cardiff in no less than five TARDISes. It also features the phrase, “I feel like Dexter.”
For those who have followed us on this journey, read on! But if you’ve missed the previous parts, and are wondering what’s going on, you can find them here and here…
Q. Queen and King.
Even those who hated The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe (2011, and so at the time of Matt’s visit, the most recent Christmas special to air) have to admit the Wooden King and Queen were incredible creations. And they are, indeed, amazing face-to-face. Strangely, they’re smaller than they look – considering that the King was played by Spencer Wilding, the likeable giant who was inside the Minotaur costume in The God Complex (2011) – although it might be because they are, quite rightly, sitting in their thrones.
All around them, of course, there are plenty of other famous (and occasionally infamous) creations, including the Face of Boe, a Winder from The Beast Below, and The Parting of the Ways’ Dalek Emperor. Turns out, though, that one of the first monsters Matt’s seen at the Experience is the Absorbaloff, as he reveals in our exclusive interview (which you can read on the DWC tomorrow):
“That’s actually the first one I’ve seen because I’ve literally only walked around this part of the Experience. So far! Because I came to talk to [the press], so, as yet, it’s unchartered territory!”
Even so, seeing all these monsters gets Matt reminiscing:
“It’s just weird to think; I work with these creatures, as it were, for about two weeks or a month or whatever – and then never see them again.”
One of the really cool things about the Doctor Who Experience is getting the chance to see items rarely glimpsed otherwise. A few exhibits, for instance, are in private hands, but have been kindly lent back to the BBC to showcase their beauty.
The Master’s robe from the 1996 movie is a fine example of this. Yes, he always dresses for the occasion, and that particular occasion saw the Eighth Doctor (wonderfully played by Paul McGann) face off against the evil Time Lord as he tried to open up the TARDIS’ Eye of Harmony – and thus suck the whole universe into nothingness. Fortunately, the universe survived, and the robe was acquired by a private collector.
I’m not sure whether it’s ever been showcased at an exhibition before (I can’t remember it in Blackpool, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in the Red Dragon Centre exhibit either), but it’s still a lovely glimpse into a much-ignored, but nonetheless vitally important, part of Who history.
It’s framed by an old Time Lord robe (also in the hands of a private collector) and Rassilon’s robe from The End of Time, as worn by Timothy Dalton. Gallifrey rising, indeed!
S. Steven Moffat.
We’re waiting for Matt Smith to join us and stick his hand in some cement. It’s not an everyday occurrence. I’m balancing on a small bit of floor, squeezed in by a gaggle of journalists and photographers and children and possibly some androids too, and I’m desperately trying not to bump into the 1980s TARDIS exterior. Imagine having to introduce myself for the rest of eternity as ‘the guy who knocked over the TARDIS.’
You can cut the atmosphere with a laser screwdriver, as Philip Fleming, BBC Worldwide Head of Communications, says:
“It’s my great honour, indeed my privilege, to introduce and welcome to the podium here someone who needs, I think, no introduction…”
Here comes Matt! Oh wait, Mr. Fleming’s got the wording wrong. He corrects himself: instead, there are two people who need no introduction. It can’t be. Somehow, I know. I know before it’s announced. Because, frankly, who else could it be?!
“Please welcome Matt Smith and Steven Moffat.”
The whole place erupts. As if today weren’t amazing enough already. Alongside the man who is the Doctor, my main writing inspiration sidles down the stairs.
The two obviously have massive respect for one another. Earlier, when Matt was asked whether he broke down when reading the script to The Angels Take Manhattan, in which Amy and Rory leave the TARDIS for good, he replied:
“No, I’m not a crier, really. I was moved by it. I was absolutely moved. And I think that Steven did a wonderful job of really marking their departure in a fantastic way. And they’re missed, y’know? I miss Karen and Arthur. [We were] great friends and I think the Ponds came to absolutely define an era. But y’know, he’s great at endings, Steven. I mean, how wonderful that he plotted young Amelia being on the box – on the case, rather, from episode one, The Eleventh Hour. That shot – looking up. He’s so clever.”
They have fun while trying to cement their hands: donning a pair of gloves, Matt announces that he feels like Dexter and jokes that he can’t get his hand out; and Steven says, “I nearly had six fingers there.”
I feel a bit sorry for Matt, actually. The world actually does want to capture his every movement (and yes, I realise what an ironic statement that is). He desperately tries to plant his hands in the concoction, and everyone can see it’s quite a task. That’s when one photographer asks him to turn around for a picture. Matt tries his best and suggests it’s “Me looking hugely constipated.”
When Steven gets stuck in, Matt hovers over him with a phone, trying to get a photo of his mate making a historic handprint. Now that, folks, is a unique shot!
Actually, make that TARDISes. Aside from the TARDIS exteriors, there’s:
- The Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS;
- The Ninth/Tenth Doctor’s;
- The Fifth/Sixth/ Seventh Doctor’s, complete with Fourth Doctor scarf;
- The Silence’s attempt, seen in The Lodger and The Impossible Astronaut/ Day of the Moon;
- The makeshift TARDIS from The Doctor’s Wife.
That’s five TARDIS interiors and two exteriors. I told you it’s Doctor Who Heaven, didn’t I?
U. Up Next.
Philip Fleming tells the crowd:
“Content here is developing all the time. What you’re going to see here when you get to look around the Experience just a little bit later on is where we’re starting; it’s not where we’re finishing. You’ll see new developments added through next year and beyond: we’re going to be here for a while! Many of you have noticed that there’s a new landing station that’s been built outside the Experience here with a TARDIS on it. The water bus will be stopping there from next Spring, bringing tourists over here.”
With the Series 7 exhibits unveiled, the future of the Doctor Who Experience looked bright. Except, in 2017, it’s shutting. The future did look bright, and now, it’s finite.
Steven says he’d like to see the original William Hartnell TARDIS set at the Experience (and in 2017, that remark feels prescient. The Adventure in Space and Time console was added, and in Twice Upon A Time actually sees the return of the First Doctor, albeit played by David Bradley).
And what about the (then-) future of Doctor Who itself? SFX asks Matt what he’d do if he were in charge of the 50th anniversary celebrations. “Wow. Right,” he sets off. “I would fly the crew to somewhere exotic to do an episode in… Peru, going on the Inca trails, and there’d be some brilliant, exotic monster. And we’d shoot for six weeks. And I don’t know what the story would be, but it would involve another trip to… Australia and involve possibly Atlantis and the lost world.”
V. V for Victory.
That ‘V’ sign, used by Winston Churchill, is frequently resurrected by Matt. Here it is again, as he proudly shows off the new exhibits, and is surrounded by the two robots from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. He’s particularly impressed by them, in fact:
“I’ve not looked ‘round the whole thing yet. I’ve only looked on this floor – but on this floor, I think the robots are cool. I think the Silence are always quite hard to beat.”
I think it’s true that Matt’s the person who most embodies the Doctor. You can see it in him all the time. He can be quiet and considerate, but then fun and friendly, all in equal measure.
After all those tabloid newspapers saying that David Tennant’s shoes were too big to fill, maybe the ‘V’ sign really does mean ‘Victory.’ He’s won them around. He is the Doctor.
There’s no doubting it: Wales has been a good home for Doctor Who, and Matt certainly appreciates all the opportunities it’s given him… even if he’s not given much chance to explore. When asked about his favourite part of Cardiff, he replies:
“Well, to be honest with you, I don’t [have enough time to explore Cardiff], mate. I go to set and I come home. My favourite thing is my flat! But the people – I love the Welsh. I think they’re a great bunch. I love their sense of humour. I have great friends in Wales. And it’s a green city and I always feel very welcome here and you know… there’s a great Jamie’s Italian! I love [Cardiff Bay restaurant] Woods Brasserie; that’s always nice. There are things about Cardiff I enjoy, but the truth is, I don’t get to see much of it, really.”
He also mentions that he loves the Welsh language – and one name in particular: Popty Ping. “It’s such a great name for a microwave. It’s like the perfect name for a microwave.”
BBC Wales has a new home here, Roath Lock Studios, just by the Doctor Who Experience, and Matt’s asked whether he’d like to appear in Pobol y Cwm, the soap opera also filmed there. He says:
“Well, I think my Welsh, as we’ve just seen, would let me down. But you know, we’re all there together under one roof…”
Of course, now we all know about Dr. Simeon and his army of snow. But back in October 2012, we didn’t even know the name of the Christmas special! After her surprise appearance in Asylum of the Daleks, and with that famous red dress just a few metres away, Matt’s asked what he can divulge about Jenna-Louise Coleman:
“Not a lot. I mean, she’s working tirelessly hard; she’s settled in brilliantly well. It’s a hard thing to settle into, and she’s done fantastically well. I think the nation will adore her. She’s a wonderful actress and she’s a laugh. And that’s sort of what you need to be involved in this show, I think.”
How does the dynamic change for the Doctor? His relationship with Amy and Rory altered at various stages throughout their two-and-a-bit season tenure.
“I was thinking about that the other day. You forget: Rory used to take care of Amy a lot. And the Doctor sort of became the weird old Grandfather, didn’t he? Or even slightly ostracised from the group in some way, so it’s quite nice having a different dynamic, yeah.”
It was down to Matt to mime a small section of the episode, something which he describes as, “Cryptic to the point of… uselessness.”
Still, we did get to see Matt as the Doctor live. Which is quite something, right?
Y. You. Are. Not. Alone.
Another thing that makes the Doctor Who Experience so wonderful is that you get to see the massive sense of community amongst fandom first-hand. All these people are here because they love Doctor Who. Gary Russell, Michael Pickwoad – even Steven Moffat and Matt Smith. They all just love Doctor Who. It’s simply brilliant.
Steven’s asked whether the Experience is the sort of thing he’d like to have seen when he was a kid, and he jokingly retorts: “It’s the kind of thing I like to see now! In fact, I was hustled away from looking around to do this. I was very happily looking at Tom Baker’s first enemy, the giant Robot.”
Matt has obviously put a lot of thought and effort into the show, and when he’s asked whether he’s satisfied with the way he’s defined his Doctor, he replies:
“I have to be! It’s what I put my life into, y’know? And I think long and hard about it every day, so yeah, I am. I have a great writer behind me and I’m fortunate enough to work with great actors and that makes everything a bit easier, obviously. I think the Doctor has to be brilliant, clever, funny, a bit mad, a bit ridiculous, and you know, you can try to incorporate as many elements as you can. I mean, there’s more – there’s way more! The thing to remember about him is, you can’t define him. You can’t pin him down. It’d be foolish to think you can. It’s an open book still, really.”
Doctor Who isn’t just a show anymore. It’s a thoroughly-loved phenomenon that’ll last forever.
(And just before he shoves his hand in cement, Steven’s asked if he can identify which Seventh Doctor serial is being played on a television screen in the 1980s TARDIS. Naturally, he can.)
Now, you might think this is just a cop-out because ‘Z’ is a really hard one, and I’m only using it because there’s an impressive display of Cybermen, a creature that Jackie Tyler accidentally called ‘Zybamen’ in Army of Ghost/ Doomsday. Well, that’s where you’re wrong, because… shut up.
There is an impressive array of Cybermen at the Doctor Who Experience though. Some are replicas, but still give a good idea of what they would’ve looked like in the 1960s. It runs from the really creepy Tenth Planet ones to the not-Cybus-Industries-ones in Closing Time, represented here by the cyber-conversion section that Craig was inhumanly attached to.
With Daleks, Cybermen, an Ice Warrior, a Weeping Angel, and the Silence, the very best of the very worst are beautifully showcased at the Doctor Who Experience. It’s a place every Doctor Who fan should go to, again and again.
And finally, I’d just like to say a big thank you to Matt Smith, Steven Moffat, Philip Fleming and Claire Hudson; Christian Cawley; the ever-helpful Chris at BBC Worldwide; and everyone behind the scenes at the Experience. I’ll never forget it.
(Heavily adapted from an article originally published in Kasterborous Magazine #1.)