From the October 2013 Gallifrey Guardian:
My Adventures with a Traveling TARDIS (not to be confused with The Legend of the Traveling TARDIS) By Julia Langston
Well, it took 35 years, but I finally got my dream vacation to Paris. Of course, with it being the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, I just HAD to work in a visit to England—and did I GEEK OUT. I hope you enjoy the accompanying photos of the TARDIS at sites related to Doctor Who episodes; I certainly enjoyed taking them. My first opportunity was at the Louvre, where you can just barely see the Mona Lisa, cordoned off behind thick glass. And no, I didn’t have a chance to check for “this is a fake” written behind the canvas, although I tried (and failed) to figure out a way to take a picture making it look as if it did!
My first night in London I arrived at my hotel late, exhausted, and hungry, but the lit-up skyline view outside my window more than made up for the four flights of stairs—the famous clock tower perfectly encircled by the London Eye. I had a list of 29 things to do and see in Great Britain, most genre-related, and managed to get to most of them. It helped greatly that the bus tour I took my first full day there drove past quite a few of my planned sights, hence the pictures of Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, the Shard, and the clock tower commonly referred to as Big Ben.
For the photos of The Globe Theatre and the Abbey Road crosswalk I took the Tube and walked. Public transportation in London is incredibly convenient, and a lot of sightseeing can be done on foot.
Obtaining the photo at Stonehenge involved a train ride to Salisbury, then a tour bus out to the site.
This got me halfway to Cardiff, home of the Doctor Who Experience and the next stop on my vacation, but more about that next month!
From the November 2013 issue of The Gallifrey Guardian:
The Doctor Who Experience
By Julia Langston
Although there is a bus stop within sight of the Doctor Who Experience, I got out at the millennium Stadium (familiar to Torchwood fans) to enjoy the walk around Cardiff Bay. The DWE brochure—printed in English and Welsh—included an excellent map, and signs pointed the way at regular intervals. It was a lovely stroll by a fascinating shore, with several artistic memorials along the way. As I approached the building, a young Asian tourist was having her picture taken by the entrance sign—a reminder of the show’s global appeal.
Outside the attraction, a TARDIS appeared to be precariously perched above a nearby dock. Inside, the lobby and eatery (aptly named The Blue Box Café) were decorated with murals of Cybermen, Davros, Weeping Angels, and the Master. A life-size Lego Dalek stood in one corner, Bessie was parked by the window, and display cases showed off various props and collectible merchandise. Gumball-style machines dispensed small toys, and a penny press gave one a choice of the TARIDS, K-9, or a Cyberman coin.
The Doctor Who Experience is really two attractions in one: an interactive adventure with the Doctor, and an extensive exhibit of Doctor Who sets, costumes, and props. Our group queued up and entered the Experience, which began with the Eleventh Doctor, on video, appealing to us for help. Well, actually, he was trying to reach Amy, but he settled for us. We went through several different sets, from an old museum filled with random but recognizable items from the Doctor’s past, to the TARDIS console room (I got to ‘navigate’), to an alien spaceship, and into a forest. Several of the Doctor’s foes threatened to defeat us, but we prevailed, freeing the Doctor and earning his thanks.
After the interactive adventure, we entered the exhibit, with the first ten Doctor’s costumes on display. Some were original, others ‘restored’ originals or replicas, but all were represented. There were multiple TARDIS console sets, a variety of sonic screwdrivers, and an incredible number of costumes and props, from the early days right up to the most recent season. You could even get your photo taken in front of a greenscreen and choose from several alien backgrounds for the finished picture. Upstairs there were even MORE costumes and props, including most of the aliens from Matt Smith’s tenure. There was a section featuring the Radio Times’ Doctor Who covers, reminiscent of the exhibit at the Museum of London. Several Time Lord robes and headdresses from different eras were featured, and wigs and masks from many different episodes. The larger items were especially impressive: the wooden King and Queen, Melkur, the face of Boe, the TARDIS, the Pandorica, a plethora of Daleks, and a tableau from “The Snowmen.” My favorite exhibit, however, was rather small: the Doctor’s cradle.
I exited through ‘a little shop’ with every type of Doctor Who merchandise you can imagine. I especially liked the jigsaw puzzle based on Vincent’s painting. Back in the lobby, I waited for the Doctor Who Walking Tour to begin—but that’s a story for the next issue!
From the August 2014 issue of the Gallifrey Guardian:
THE DOCTOR WHO WALKING TOUR
The Doctor Who Walking tour left from the Doctor Who Experience with our Amy-like (slim, young, attractive, and redheaded) guide. The first thing pointed out was the back of the film studios, which sometimes–but unfortunately not that day–offer tours inside. Some scenes from Voyage of the Damned were filmed on the site where the Doctor Who experience itself currently sits. The vacant lot beside the Experience was the location for the scene of the car driving into the retention pond in the Atmos episode.
While not used for a scene in Doctor Who, we did also see the Norwegian church where Matt Smith began his Olympic run. Across the bay, viewed from afar, was the area where Turn Left and some scenes from Daleks in Manhattan were filmed. It also contained the neighborhood where Sarah Jane Smith lived, named Bannerman Road after Delta and the Bannermen.
A nearby restaurant was used in Runaway Bride and for a Torchwood exterior. For the Torchwood scene, 30 tons of sand were brought in, but rain washed it away overnight and more had to be brought in the next day. Another building provided the outside glass staircase of the proposal scene with Donna in The Runaway Bride.
The circle of huge columns near the Millennium Center were used in Boomtown as the location of the rift, and later were also used in Torchwood. The sidewalk overlooking the circle was where Jack Harkness revealed he had been known as the Face of Boe. The waterfall in the circle is directly behind the paving stones marking the entrance to Torchwood, with the ‘perception filter.’
Millennium Centre itself was used as the New Earth hospital, with the elevators providing the decontamination chambers. There actually is ‘a little shop’ off the Centre lobby, but it was CGI’d out at the beginning of the episode. The Centre was also used for The Girl Who Waited and The Sound of Drums, in the latter providing the staircase on which the Master announces “What this country needs is a Doctor.” The front of the Centre provided the museum at the end of Vincent and the Doctor.
Other buildings in the area were used in Day of the Moon, Doomsday, New Earth, Love and Monsters, and Boomtown. One building with an impressively large door was used as the police station in Blink, where actresses posed as Weeping Angels in the windows. I saw the outside apartment stairs filled by the supposed ‘jumpers’ with the same blood type in The Christmas Invasion.
Our guide explained that one particular street in Cardiff often doubles for London scenes, simply by adding red items such as a mailbox, phone booth, or waste bin. Apparently, audiences associate the color with London. At the farthest point of our tour, we saw the Techniquest building, which features an outside accent looking remarkably like a Sontaran spaceship. Our guide explained that we would not be going to Amy’s house, as it was too far to walk, but that the Cardiff Bay boat tour operator might go by it if asked.
We headed back toward the Doctor Who Experience, seeing more sights (and sites) on the way. These included Eddie’s Diner, which was used to represent an American diner in the ‘60s in The Impossible Astronaut (yummy onion rings!). The last place we visited was Ianto’s Shrine, which was covered with messages for the sincerely missed character. Someone had even hung a suit on the fencing a while back with a note which read, “It’s been four years, please pick up your dry-cleaning, Mr. Jones.” The suit had worn away to tatters, with help from the local seagulls.
The boat tour operator was not able to go past Amy’s house, as the theme for that day’s tour was Pirates of the Caribbean, but he gave me excellent directions and I found it easily. With the tour over, I had completed all but one of the items on the “5 Things Every Who Fan Should Do in Cardiff” list my daughter found on the Internet for me. The last was to visit the Bar Cwtch, which unfortunately I forgot to ask directions to; but then, I couldn’t have pronounced it anyway!
From the September 2014 issue of the Gallifrey Guardian:
The last Regenerations Convention took place at the Village Hotel in Swansea on September 21 and 22, 2013. At least 30 Doctor Who guests were there, along with several genre dealers, two full-sized Daleks and a K-9 unit, and lots of fans, many in costume. I arrived about midday Saturday, in time to watch a very impressive talking Dalek with glowing blue lights backing into the elevator, apparently on its way to get coffee. A group of fans viewed the complicated maneuvering, occasionally giving directions until the Dalek succeeded. It had used the elevator earlier that day and exited on the wrong floor, much to the surprise of the hotel guests!
I snapped a shot of some costumed participants before heading to the registration table. The convention hosts looked me up and graciously allowed me to check in without my copy of the registration form (why I had no registration form is a whole other story). They even took a photo of me with the second Dalek.
My first priority was the autograph room, where my Traveling TARDIS was signed by Terry Molloy, Michael Jayston, Peter Purves, Wendy Padbury (who said to tell my fellow WhoCruisers she sends her love), Barry Noble, Sylvester McCoy, Deborah Watling (who still has the most beautiful eyes!), Frazer Hines, and Sarah Madison. They all loved the idea of collecting autographs on the paper TARDIS, especially after it had been photographed at so many Doctor Who-related sites.
The dealers ‘room’ was actually in an open area outside the panel rooms. Bob Baker, creator of K-9, had a table there. One dealer already had some boarded color photos of Peter Capaldi in front of the TARDIS, and some of his autographs. The mobile, talking, lighted K-9 unit was making its rounds in front of the dealers’ tables when I caught the perfect “Aaawww” moment on camera.
The panelists area had a large screen at the back of the stage, flanked by standees of the 11th, 10th, 7th, 4th, 5th, and 3rd Doctors. Big Finish panelists included Sara Sutton, Paul Darrow, David Richardson, Matt Fitton, Ken Bentley, Sean Carlsen, Michael Stevens, and Lisa Bowerman. When a fan asked about getting the 4th Doctor and the 2nd Romana together in a BF audio, the story was told about how strange it was for Lalla Ward to receive text messages from her husband—voiced by Tom! On the subject of Tom Baker, Paul Darrow described him as larger than life, having a big personality, and a “raving nutter” (in the nicest way). Darrow also had a story about Star Trek’s Uhura and America’s first televised biracial kiss—and her offer to him: “Want to be the second?”
I caught just a little of Mike Tucker’s fascinating panel on special effects, but left early to find Anneke Wills, who had not been in the autograph room when I arrived. She had a table of her own in the dealers’ area, and was happy to autograph and pose for a photo with my Traveling TARDIS. She even insisted I be in the photo, too.
Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s panel was moderated by Lisa Bowerman, who pulled fans’ questions out of a fez. Sylvester told the story of his name (McCoy is from a naughty joke) and sang a song about it. The oddest question Sylvester ever received was, “Now that you are famous, are you worried about being shot?”
The oddest request Sophie had ever received from a fan was for an autographed dinner roll, which was auctioned off at a convention. Sophie borrowed an audience member’s glasses to read one of the questions, and they were so strong she exclaimed “Blimey!” and gave them back. (No, they weren’t mine!). After the fez was empty, Sophie took the microphone out into the audience for questions, putting her arm around the first fan, and climbing across the back row to get the mike to another fan with a question (to the delight of the entire row). Sophie admitted that she was scared of Cybermen as a child. Sylvester, wobbling his hat and wiggling his eyebrows, said he wasn’t afraid of them during filming—it seems there are often attractive models inside the Cybersuits. When the subject of “The Hobbit” came up, he said, “Never work with animals!” as he felt the hedgehog ‘stole his thunder.’ Toward the end of the hour, Sylvester was asked why he was seen loitering with Peter Davison outside the BBC. (Hmmm…could it have anything to do with a certain “Reboot?”)
I couldn’t stay for Louise Jameson and Nigel Fairs’ play, “My Gay Best Friend,” so after a dinner of ribs in the pub at the hotel, I caught the bus back to Cardiff. It was a wonderful convention, and such a shame if it truly is the last of Regenerations; I thoroughly enjoyed my first Doctor Who convention in the United Kingdom.
From the October 2014 issue of the Gallifrey Guardian:
MORE DOCTOR WHO VACATION STOPS
With my vacation falling during the 50th anniversary of the show, I planned as many Doctor Who activities as possible while in the United Kingdom. Besides attending a DW convention and visiting the DW Experience, I saw the Radio Times Exhibit at the Museum of London. The exhibit began with a sign reading “Radio Times at 90” next to several covers from the early years, but it was the centerpiece featuring a full-sized Dalek in front of a huge blowup of the “Vote Dalek” cover that immediately caught one’s eye. The first two walls in the area set aside for the exhibit had assorted covers and the story of Radio Times from its beginnings. Once a visitor turned the corner Doctor Who took over, with loads of covers featuring the Doctor and various villains, and a placard reading “An Adventure in Space and Times” (this was just two months before the special aired).
Next on my list was Sophie’s World, a photography exhibit of Sophie Aldred being held at Orbital Comics. It featured works by Steven Cook, many from Sophie’s days as Ace. The shots were gorgeous (as expected), but also gothic and imaginative. There were two fake ‘covers’ from apocalyptic magazines. A lot of the material related to the show, including a Radio Times cover, behind the scenes shots, and promotional appearances at various British attractions. Ever seen Ace posing with penguins at the Crystal Palace Zoo? –I have!
I also made a trip to Forbidden Planet, “The Cult Entertainment Megastore” and heaven for sci-fi fans! A Tom Baker standup was surrounded by other genre items in the window.
Inside, the store was HUGE—here’s a list of just the Doctor Who stuff I noticed: TARDIS keyring and cup, DW magazines, posters, 8” figures of the 3rd, 4th, 10th, and 11th Doctors and Amy and Jack, Victory Dalek Anniversary limited edition, 50th anniversary prints set, 4th Doctor time capsule boxset, Jack’s blaster, sonic screwdrivers, 5th and 2nd Doctor-shaped mugs, framed prints, lunch box and bag, even a Drashig and a TARDIS trash can! And they had an amazing stock of Doctor Who T-shirts: costume T’s for the 4th, 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctors, plus three TARDIS designs, several variations on “Keep Calm and …”, photo T’s of the 1st, 5th, and 8th Doctors, an Angels “Don’t Blink”, the Master, the High Council of Time Lords, Cybermen, Ood, the Victory Dalek, an exploding Dalek, CTRL ALT DEL (with a Cyberman), Davros, and the VanGogh TARDIS – whew!
On learning of my Doctor Who quest, a store employee told me there was a Doctor Who-specific store on Barking Road, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to check it out. Later that day I tried in vain to find 10th Planet, only to learn they had moved since I originally planned my itinerary. Ah well, it’s good to save something for next time.*
*Addendum not in the original GG article: I also went to Madame Tussauds hoping to get photos with the Doctors’ replicas, but they were not there! Of course, later I learned they had been taken to use for the ending of the 50th Anniversary Special.