With the inevitable closing of the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff potentially arriving soon, a fellow Whovian and I decided that the time to make the trip to the UK to visit it was something that required doing sooner, rather than later So we packed our bags and boarded airplanes headed to London to spend a week walking around in the world of Doctor Who.
One of us made it to London on time. Hint: it wasn’t me. I spent an extra day at the Atlanta airport, which was surely a sign from the gods that this would become the trip from hell. Regardless, I did eventually make it to London, where I caught a train to Cardiff, with nothing more but the hope that the delay would serve as the only hiccup during the journey.
Fortunately, Cardiff welcomed me with open arms. The city, and its people, were so very nice to me, that I soon forgot that I hadn’t changed my underwear in two days and after a hot shower and a change of clothes, I found myself walking down streets that all seemed so familiar. After all, both Doctor Who and Torchwood filmed there.
The first place we visited was a Forbidden Planet store, where I finally found a Star Wars General Hux Funko Pop. Yes, it’s not Who related, but I’ve been looking for one everywhere. But while at the shop, we ran into a fellow Whovian, who I later discovered lived in Nashville, literally about a three-hour drive from me. We friended each other on Facebook and it’s likely that we’ll see each other at future cons. Fandom is great, right? I went all the way to Cardiff to make a new local friend.
After shopping, it was time to visit Cardiff Castle. This is when I realized just how obsessed with dragons the Welsh are.
Ignore all the signs about soccer: the city was preparing for a huge match.
The castle itself is pretty impressive and features several locations on its grounds where Doctor Who shot scenes. Most importantly, it contains the TARDIS library (unfortunately, the castle doesn’t allow photographs taken in the library). To say that I politely geeked out upon learning that not only was I standing in a room of really old books (that wonderful smell!), but also really old books that belonged in the TARDIS, is stating it lightly.
We spent the following day wandering around Cardiff Bay, which is, literally, like walking through an episode of Torchwood. Obviously, you’ve got Torchwood headquarters at Millennium Center.
Unfortunately, the entrance elevator to Torchwood was blocked off by barriers because of that soccer match previously mentioned. But I’m going to just say it was aliens, because that sounds a lot cooler. The Roald Dahl Bridge area in front of the center was also blocked off, which sucks, because Peter Capaldi most recently stood there in an episode. So much for recreating scenes from Doctor Who, right?
One of the most interesting aspects of Cardiff Bay, though, is that there’s a location on Google Maps called “Ianto’s Shrine.” Yes, this is a shrine to a fictional character on Torchwood, who died way back in 2009. The shrine popped up shortly after Torchwood: Children of Earth aired, and it’s been there ever since. In fact, the shrine actually lasted longer than the TV show itself. How’s that for a lasting impact. I paid my respects the only way I knew how: why, Ianto, why?
We walked around the city a little more and came across one of the statues featured in the episode “Blink.”
The Doctor Who Experience
Although I loved Cardiff just for being Cardiff, the real reason for this trip was to visit The Doctor Who Experience before it closes (although no one seems to have any actual information on when that could happen). So before heading to London on our last day in Wales, we went to the Experience, which did not disappoint.
The beginning of the Experience takes you through a Doctor Who episode, featuring the 12th Doctor, a TARDIS and everything you can imagine. It was literally like being in an episode of the show, but the best part was getting inside the TARDIS and driving it. Yes, I GOT TO DRIVE THE TARDIS. And it shifts and moves beneath your feet as if you really are spinning through time and space. And it was wonderful! That was literally my favorite part.
Of course, there’s more to the Experience than the initial adventure, which means there were a lot of props and costumes to peruse at our leisure.
Cardiff was a lot of fun, and I would love to go back. But then we were off to London, where we both got sick and about the only fun thing we really did was see David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho. No, I didn’t meet him. Again. But that’s a whole other story.