Thursday, 22 August 2013

Journey to the Set of the TARDIS

Just a few days after my meeting with Neil Gaiman on Sunday, my poor fan-brain hadn't had time to cool down before I went off to Wales yesterday to visit the Doctor Who Experience, with its limited edition exhibit - a tour of the actual, proper TARDIS set!

After enjoying the fruits of the good ol' Experience - which now features some costumes from the latest series including the beautiful new Cybermen and Skaldak the Ice Warrior - me and a small group were taken into Roath Lock Studios that resides just over the road from the Experience building. With special passes we were able to walk through the studios past rooms dedicated to the other shows filmed there - including Wizards Vs Aliens, according to a sign I spotted a sign on one door - until we reached Studio Four, which was bigger on the inside...

Sitting in the front half of the studio is the set of the TARDIS, like a great wooden pumpkin (something that designer Michael Pickwood based this version on, apparently). The back half of the studio was veiled from view by a long black curtain. Behind it were sets ready for Peter Capaldi's first episode as the Doctor, to be filmed next month. It took a lot of restraint not to run off and have a look.

Split into even smaller groups, while waiting to go in the TARDIS, a man who works there chatted to us about Doctor Who's filming at the studios and his own personal connections to the show that made us all jealous; he played a Slab in David Tennant episode 'Smith and Jones', a dead body in a Torchwood and was the first fan Peter Capaldi shook the hand of at the live event that announced him as the Doctor. Then, we were led up some stairs to a set of Police Box doors. The TARDIS beckoned.

First and foremost, the TARDIS set is superb. I've heard it said by other fans who have visited the set that it seems small but, to my eyes, it was vastly bigger than it appears on screen. If I'm honest, I've been a little indifferent to this new model since it first appeared in 'The Snowmen' as I was used to the TARDIS being a more hodge-podge, home-y sort of construction but, after seeing it in the metal, it's completely won me over. When standing inside it, it really does feel alien but still has the sense of wonder you get from recent less sci-fi TARDISES.

This TARDIS has four levels - and the only one we weren't allowed on was the top one, used heavily in 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' which has adjoining doors that lead to the TARDIS' other rooms. Pity, I would have liked a wander round the library...

The third layer is a 'landing' between the main console floor and the bottom one, which holds the roots of the time rotor (the big glowy tube thing in the middle). You might recognise it from 'The Bells of St John', where Matt Smith pulls a chest of clothes from one of the compartments seen below.

And, after a few short, sweet minutes, we were escorted out. Sigh.

Overall, the experience was a wonderful one; although we didn't spend a great deal of time inside the set, the tour guide did allow enough time for us to take photos and tell us some interesting facts. Seeing that the exhibit has only been running for six weeks and closes for good (at least for this year) on Sunday, I feel very privileged to be one of a fairly small group of fans who have got to see inside the spaceship. I'd have liked it to take off and be whisked into time and space but I can't be too picky.


  1. Nice pun! I like the use of the oddly-familiar looking photographs ... keep up the good writing! *teacher-like pat on the face*

    1. Why, thank you! Yes, bless you for the considerate donation of your photographs for a very good cause. And cheers! *Smiles up at desk, shines apple on clothes and hands it to you*


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