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Doctor Who’s Set to Stun: A Visit to the Gunnersbury Park Museum Exhibition

I was very lucky lately, having written an article last year about the announcement of the Set to Stun exhibit at Gunnersbury Park Museum, that I was finally able to visit it last week, just before it closed — though the Remembrance of the Daleks Dalek model will continue residing there until August.

Completely free, the exhibit in West London celebrated local history in its grand house setting as well as celebrating the area which has always been home to workshops and studios since the 1960s. Gunnersbury which is in North Acton — and was also where a lot of the rehearsal rooms for Doctor Who were housed throughout the 1960s-1980s — housed a number of amazing items and authentic props from the many science fiction projects the BBC has broadcast since the 1960s including Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, and Tripods.

I was lucky to visit with my friend Maria from over at The Doctor Who Big Blue Box Podcast. Being from London, I do rely on her a lot when I’m visiting but I’m getting better at getting around London, even if the underground is still a source of confusion for me… Being from the country and surrounded by ancient houses, I was also pretty interested in the history of the place that the exhibit was being housed in!

Its history goes back to 1347 and from then, the house had been owned by merchants and lawyers and prominent owners included the Frowykes, Maynards, and Furnese families. In 1762, the Princess Amelia brought the property and from then until 1917, it passed back between merchants and lawyers; then, in the 1830s, it was brought by the Rothchilds family. When Leopald de Rothchild passed away in 1917, the house should have passed to his son, but he had been killed the same year fighting in Palestine. And so the house would have fallen into wrack and ruin, but luckily it was brought by the Council in 1926 and turned into the museum and exhibit space we have today.

But we aren’t here for a history lesson — so let’s get back to the main topic! The exhibit was spaced out across the three floors open to the public accessible by stairs and a lift; you are left alone to explore the exhibits and not be pestered by other people which can sometimes happen in these old houses. It’s cleverly laid out so that not only are you looking at the exhibits but also learning about the history of the house with things in the grand ballroom, corridors, pantries, and old bedrooms.

The first room you start in is decorated with original set designs for the Third Doctor adventure, The Mutants — they were brilliant to see with designs from the Skybase, the prominent set for this story, all original and donated by the designer, Jeremy Bear. The main event though is the Voc Robot from The Robots of Death, standing proudly and looking like it’s waiting to reach out and live up to its name! Actually, we did have a heart attack because there are some effects with this exhibit including sounds and smoke which burst out when we entered the room, almost as if they heralded the Voc Robot stepping down out of its alcove with its hands outstretched…

There were brief pieces of information about the stories each exhibit was taken from and how things were made. Did you know that the Voc costumes were made from shower curtains which they then padded out to give it the pattern? It still looks so good up close and the only blemish to the original costume is a tiny slice down by its number plate, possibly done when Leela has to attack one?

Despite Doctor Who being the prominent feature here, there was a plethora of other items including Marvin the Paranoid Android — whose chest panel had also been used in films like Alien before being put to use on the iconic Hitchhikers design — masks, monsters, moon rovers, and tripods. There was something in every room to keep things interesting.

Upstairs, there was a room with a number of screen used Doctor Who props including guns from stories like The Face of Evil, Attack of the Cybermen, The Mysterious Planet, and The Happiness Patrol. Davros was even featured with a mask from his Eighties appearances.

The rest of an upstairs room was dominated by a design of a Sixties living room, with a huge Cyberman costume from The Moonbase, and then littered with 1960s annuals, Radio Times covers, books, K9 toys, puzzles, 1970s Top Trumps cards, and storyboards from The Invisible Enemy , framed on the wall. There was even the original hat and signet ring worn by William Hartnell in An Unearthly Child donated by his granddaughter Jessica Carney — it was amazing to see that those items still survived!

Unfortunately, the exhibit closed on 2nd June 2024 but the Dalek will still be there until August 2024; if you want to visit the museum and house, the nearest Tube Station is Acton Town and then it’s either a 10-minute walk or two stops on the E3 bus which stops right outside the car park to the estate.

It’s a great day out and a lovely place to visit, especially if you want to imagine being the lord or lady of the manor!

Jordan Shortman

Doctor Who’s Set to Stun: A Visit to the Gunnersbury Park Museum Exhibition

by Jordan Shortman time to read: 4 min
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